Ozzie, with how free agency played out – a lot of additions to the defensive side of the ball. How much will the draft address the needs on the offensive side of the ball? (Jamison Hensley)
(NEWSOME) "First of all, we are going to take the best player. Having two more sets of meetings to go through, the board is not really set completely. We are still dealing with our 30 visits; we have some guys here today. So, to answer your question, if the best player is an offensive player, then we will probably take him."
Eric, for this year's draft … You talked in the past about 220 "draftable" players, versus 240 or 250. Where does this draft line up with that? And is it more of a defensive draft, with more players on the defensive side of the board, or offensive? (Ken Zalis)
(DeCOSTA) "We've got about 175 guys, which is a good number. I think the defensive board has probably more prospects. There are some good offensive players, but I think in terms of just sheer volume, the defensive board would be more attractive to most people. It is a good draft. A lot of juniors came out this year, and that always helps. Some positions are very, very strong this year in the draft, other positions are historically weak. There's definitely some really good players and we are in a good spot at [No.] 16 to get a very good player for us."
Eric, at No. 16, which wide receivers do you believe might be available at that time? Who do you think are some of the stronger ones in the draft? (Dave Ginsburg)
(DeCOSTA) "Obviously, Mike Williams is a great player. We saw him this year – what he did at Clemson. He's a guy that is probably going to go in that range, somewhere. I think John Ross from Washington is an explosive playmaker. He will be probably a consideration in that range, too. Those would be two guys who are very good players that probably warrant that sort of a draft grade. And then you have a bunch of other guys that are probably somewhere in there. Corey Davis from Western Michigan would be a guy that I think teams like. [JuJu] Smith-Schuster from USC is another guy that two years ago probably would have been a consensus, easy, Top 20 pick, and he's a very talented player, too. His numbers weren't quite as good this year at USC, but he's a player that a lot of people like as well."
Eric, at cornerback, could [Rasul] Douglas or [Cordrea] Tankersley step right in and start? And injuries to [Fabian] Moreau and [Sidney] Jones, would that take them off your board, since you would probably want these guys to come in and start right away? (Kirk McEwen)
(DeCOSTA) "When you say Douglas, you mean Rasul Douglas? (Reporter: "Yes.") Well, all those guys are interesting players, and specifically looking at Sidney Jones and Moreau, I think their injuries are predictable. We've had those kinds of injuries before on our team, and guys have come back from an Achilles or pectoral injury. It's disappointing, I think. There have been a lot of players this year that have had injuries and post-season surgeries, more than I can ever remember. But, I think those two guys, I think they are able to play and should come back, and actually, probably play this year and contribute. You mentioned Rasul Douglas, he is a big corner, he's a big, physical guy. He could probably be a corner, safety-type of guy who helped himself during the all-star period. And who was the other guy you mentioned? (Reporter: "Cordrea Tankersley.") Tankersley, a very established player – another guy that has played a lot of good football in a very good program. I think all four of those guys will come in as rookies and contribute right away, and they have the ability to help a team win games."
Ozzie, a lot of the great Ravens draft legacy has been your ability to get really good players in the later rounds. Second round, the last few years, not so much. Is that a source of frustration, or is that just luck of the draw? (Peter Schmuck)
(NEWSOME) "I think it has something to do with the draft that year, the players that are available to us. I don't know if I could pinpoint one thing as the reason why. Four years ago, we hit on Brandon [Williams], Kyle [Juszczyk] and Ricky [Wagner], and didn't do so well with Matt [Elam] and Arthur [Brown]. I can't pinpoint that. The process in 1996 was the same as it was then, and it's the same as it is today. We try to refine it. We put pressure on ourselves to get better, but to sit here and say why that happened, I can't pinpoint it."
Ozzie, given how much more information you have now, in terms of video being so much more readily available, it's easier to access information. Going back to 1996, how has that process … It's still the same, but it's got to be different in some regards, because you have so much more information and the ability to process it. Is that maybe more challenging, or at times better? (Pete Gilbert)
(NEWSOME) "You have social media now, so we have to add that to the process. We didn't have social media in 1996 as much as we have it today. So, we do add that to the process, but we can't minimize how a guy plays. How he plays on Saturdays or on Thursdays, or whenever they play. At the end of the day, that's what you have to look at."
Ozzie, are you confident you're going to pick up an impact wide receiver? You had talked about finding the complementary wide receiver. The way the division is set up, with the premier teams having the wide receivers they have in place … Are you still searching for that person? Or do you think he's already on the roster? (Jerry Coleman)
(NEWSOME) "I'd like to think that one of the guys we have on the roster may be able to step into those roles. But, we have the draft, then we have the after-draft free agency period where guys will be getting cut, and then you have when we get down to the [53-man roster]. This roster will not be complete until probably the third or fourth regular season game. There are still some opportunities to upgrade, practically every position, if we have to do it."
John, playing off that question … Do you think that what has happened in the offseason has made this team better than the one that ended the season in January? Some losses, some gains, but seemingly some instrumental gains. (Dave Ginsburg)
(HARBAUGH) "Yes, I'm excited about where we're going, for sure. Like Ozzie just said, it's a process and we are in the middle of it right now. We came out of the gates quick, we were aggressive, thought these three guys over here [Newsome, DeCosta, and Hortiz] have done a great job of just going to work and really turning over every stone. For every move we've made, we have probably had 40 potential moves we have talked about and scenarios we have gone through. We were just going over draft scenarios this morning. So, there's a lot of work that goes into it, and I think there's many more moves to be made, along the lines that Ozzie just talked about. So, I do think we're on our way to being better, and I'm excited about where we're going."
John, with Jabrill Peppers … Do you look at him more as a safety or as a combo guy? Could he be that inside linebacker? He's bigger than ILB Zachary Orr, so could he play his position? (Stan White)
(HARBAUGH) "Yes, Stan, all of the above. That's the beauty of Jabrill Peppers, to me. I think our scouts and our coaches all agree that his versatility is one of his greatest strengths. There's no doubt in my mind that he can go back and play safety. Now, some people are questioning that, [but] having watched him workout numerous times now, there's no doubt he can play deep. Then he brings the ability to play up. He can cover tight ends, he can blitz as good as anybody I've ever seen, and he can play the run as an inside linebacker at about 208 pounds [or] 212 pounds, maybe. He might be bigger than that right now, but I think if he's going to play safety, we are not going to want him to be too big. But he can line up there in your sub packages and play inside linebacker as well as anybody, so he's a very versatile player, and I expect him to be an impact player in the NFL."
Eric, the Ravens have talked about drafting high-character players. How much time do you have to spend, compared to previous years, delving into the background of some of these guys and really evaluating them from that perspective, as opposed to just as a football player? (Todd Karpovich)
(DeCOSTA) "I think that's one major change, probably over the last 10 years, is because of the internet and because of social media and because of all of these different things. We have spent more time looking at the player's personality, getting a feel for who he is. We challenge our scouts to go into schools and talk to at least four different people to generate a profile on who the player is off the field. We look at specific things like durability, personality, coachability, intelligence, football intelligence – which is a little bit different – leadership and things like that. That is a big part of being a scout – going in and doing that. It's not just watching tape. It used to be that we would go into a school and spend, probably, seven or eight hours watching tape and maybe one hour talking to people. Now, because of things like the iPad and the iCloud and video being stored, you can use your iPad and basically watch tape at any given time in the course of the day. So, our scouts go into the schools and really focus on some tape watching, but also talking to people, building contacts, and then watching the guy practice in the afternoon. That's a big part of it, and we're fortunate that we've got some really good coaches who have good connections to different college coaches, and we have really used that in the past, in terms of building relationships and just kind of creating a network of people who we know we can call when we need to get some information on a player."
Ozzie and Eric, do these short-term suspensions, like RB Kenneth Dixon this year or TE Nick Boyle in the past, do those affect you on draft day? And do those cause any character concerns in an ongoing sense, after the fact? (Stan Charles)
(NEWSOME) "If you think of Nick and Kenneth, both of those guys were vetted very well. I think there are some things within society that are leading to some of the problems that our athletes have. But, when we get involved in a situation like that, then basically, Kenneth Dixon is our 54th player. He will come back, we know he will go through training camp, and he will be fresh when that time comes – just as Nick was, just as [Darren] Waller was. But we do look to see if there are any indicators of that in their past or while they were in school, but a lot of times, there are not."
Eric, there has been a lot of talk about the offensive line, specifically at tackle and it not being a particularly strong class – at least "media talk." Do you see that, and if you guys are going to find a starter, specifically at right tackle, do you feel like you have to take that player by the first couple rounds? (Ryan Mink)
(DeCOSTA) "I think last year was a very, very strong offensive line class, and I think we were recipients of that. Having gotten Ronnie Stanley last year was very fortunate, I think, for us. I think this year the numbers are probably down a little bit. You don't have the volume of players, but you have some very good players on the offensive line. What we try to do is really target specific players that we think might be options for us in various rounds. Looking at it from that standpoint, we have probably one or two or three guys at tackle that we would consider in the first round, second round, third round [or] fourth round. So, we have options. Now, we may not have the amount of players that we would like to have, but we do have options in every round. We have done a good job, I think, in the past of taking offensive linemen in the mid-rounds and then developing those guys in-house and seeing those guys become players for us. You don't have to necessarily take an offensive lineman in the first round to get rewards from that. You can take a guy in the second round, third round, fourth round, fifth round [and] put him through your process in-house with your coaching, and your offseason program, and these guys do get better and end up being pretty good players for you."
Joe, do you feel the strengths of this draft match up well with the perceived significant needs of the team? As in pass rusher, maybe linebacker and defensive back? (Jeff Zrebiec)
(HORTIZ) "Certainly from a defensive back standpoint, when you pull together the safeties and the corners, it is extremely deep this year. [It is] probably one of the deepest drafts I have seen in terms of volume of players in each round, where we will be able to address it if he is the highest rated guy. Pass rushers – it seems like pretty much every year we have a pretty good stack of pass rushers – defensive ends, outside linebackers, guys that can come in and help us. Linebackers – inside backers are tough to find some years, but we think there are some guys in each of the rounds. Maybe kind of like the linemen boards – [positions] that aren't quite as loaded, but there are guys that we can find in each round."
How much of a differentiator is that when you are on the clock? You want to have it all pre-determined as to what you are going to do, but when there is deeper depth – let's say at the cornerback or safety position. Do you say, "Well, we can get that later?" How much of that factors in when you are slotting the players that would not be there if you did not know that there were more players [at his position]? That you could skip the position and get it next time? (Nestor Aparicio)
(DeCOSTA) "You have to look at that. What we try to do is just really get the players lined up in the right order first and foremost. Who is the best player? Then, who is the next best player? That is the most sound way to do it. But then, there is a strategy at times that you will use – particularly if you have multiple picks maybe in a round, [or] close picks together – where you kind of assess the players that are still there. You look at the board and you look at the individual positions that you want to address. You look at the amount of prospects and then maybe you tweak it. So, there have been some times over the years where we may not have drafted the highest rated player on the board with a specific pick if we had several picks close together, because we are kind of playing the odds that that guy still might be there with a later pick. We still want him, but we are looking at the amount of players available at other positions, and we are gambling that we may be able to pass that particular player, take another position with maybe fewer prospects and still get that guy. We have done that in the past with some success, actually. It just depends on the individual board and how the picks are coming off in that particular draft."
For Ozzie and John, the word "playmaker" has been used so often. This may be a repeat of an earlier question, but do you feel you have someone of that nature already on the roster? Or is that someone that still is out there and maybe you can identify them through the draft, or as you said, after free agency or after the draft is over and players are released. (Jerry Coleman)
(NEWSOME) "Are you talking about on the offense? (Reporter: "Yes. Or the defense.") I think we have addressed some playmakers on defense."
(HARBAUGH) "To me, the answer is yes to both. It is not an 'either/or.' Yes, we have playmakers, and yes, we need playmakers. You are basically asking do we have a No. 1 receiver? Is that what you are asking? (Reporter: "In a way, yes, and I am just curious, who would you classify as a playmaker currently on the roster?") Well, I am hoping Breshad Perriman develops into a playmaker on the roster. Mike Wallace is definitely a playmaker on the roster. Ben Watson, when he is healthy has proven to be a playmaker. Dennis Pitta is a playmaker. I think Terrance West and [Kenneth] Dixon are developing into playmakers. [Danny] Woodhead is a proven playmaker. Joe Flacco is a playmaker. So, we have playmakers. But, we want more, right?"
(HARBAUGH) "We want more. What we are trying to do, I think, is find the right kind of fit, too. The right guy that complements the guys we have and try to put together a group that can just be a very explosive offense. Really, the same thing goes for defense, too. That is what we are in the process of doing. We are still looking, no doubt. But we have guys, too. I don't think that you can sit there and say that we don't have any playmakers. But we want to put them together in a way that we can move the ball and score points."
Was LB C.J. Mosley the guy you were thinking of defensively, Ozzie? Would he be one of the guys? (Jerry Coleman)
(NEWSOME) "As a playmaker? (Reporter: "Yes.") Yes. I think Brandon [Williams] is a playmaker, I think [Michael] Pierce is a playmaker. I think [Terrell] Suggs can make plays, I think [Matthew] Judon can make plays. Eric Weddle can make plays."
Ozzie mentioned a little bit about the number of players with surgeries and getting hurt on pro days. How much of that factors in and does it drop a player knowing that there are certain players who had surgeries that might not be available until training camp? How much does that go into the evaluation and maybe slide them down on your board? (Jamison Hensley)
(DeCOSTA) "It drives me crazy when you get a guy that you really fall in love with out of school and maybe track for nine months, and then he goes and gets hurt, or has a surgery and might miss six weeks to start the season, or ten weeks to start the season, or gets hurt at his pro day. It is just one of those things where we can't control it. It seems to be a little bit more epidemic this year. It factors in at times, but again, if the injury is predictable and we have a good feeling that the kid is going to come back at some point, and we have had players that had this type of injury, then it is OK. We have not in the past … I am trying to think; I can't remember us taking a guy that had a legitimate injury and just could not start out as a rookie. But, it is happening more and more with teams. It just seems to be something, now these guys are having surgeries after they are done with their college careers and getting injuries fixed and things – which is a good thing – but it may not necessarily be a great thing for a young player to come in if he can't practice right away. There are so many players now that I think teams are all faced with that. How do you handle particular guys and what is the extent of the injury? When is he coming back? Just all of those kinds of things. It happens. It is frustrating I think, but it is just one of those things. The defensive board for instance, we had a lot of corners that we thought were really, really good players and then in a blink of an eye, in over a two-week span, two really intriguing guys, Sidney Jones and Fabian Moreau both got hurt at their pro days. That is just a challenge that we have to overcome."
With Sidney Jones though, knowing his extent of injury, how do you think of that? How do you work him as far as an evaluation where in everybody's minds, he was going to be a first round pick. Now, if he has to miss a full season, how does that factor? (Jamison Hensley)
(DeCOSTA) "Hopefully he won't have to miss a full season. He had an Achilles injury, which I think we have had four or five players and some scouts that have had that injury. (laughter) Some of us came back and were jogging in three months. (laughter) First of all, you have to figure out how you like him as a player and what your threshold is, where you take him. We have taken … I have seen players go in the first round that had serious injuries. Way back when, Willis McGahee. There have been players that have gone very high in the first round with injuries like that. Sometimes they fall a little bit, but he [Jones] is a really good player, and I don't think it is going to affect him that much."
(HARBAUGH) "I have a question from a durability standpoint. Ozzie, you have been doing this for how many years? (Newsome: "Since '96.") Have you ever torn your Achilles scouting?"
(Newsome) "No." (laughter) )
"Joe, did you ever tear your Achilles scouting?" *
(HORTIZ) "No." (laughter) )
As a collective group, there is one position we know that you are not going to draft this year that is going to have an impact immediately, and that is the quarterback position. Can you discuss sort of philosophically how you approach trying to always be on the lookout for somebody that could be a developmental candidate? (Stan Charles)
(NEWSOME) "We will evaluate the quarterbacks, and they are slotted where they belong in our sequence. If we get to a point that the best player is a quarterback, even though we might have needs in another area, we will mandate it by Steve [Bisciotti], our owner, to take the quarterback. Because the other aspect of that is if you have a good, young, rookie quarterback, you have him on a rookie contract for four years. So, that allows you to be able to invest money in other positions when you have that. Then that could be a resource that you could trade at some point. We don't just not evaluate the quarterbacks. They are plugged in right where they belong."
Eric, going back to the corners, you talked about even though there have been some guys that have some injuries there, do you still feel like you are confident that if you choose to go in that direction in the first or second round, that there will be a good enough player there that is worthy of being taken at that spot? (Garrett Downing)
(DeCOSTA) "Yes, I think there are seven or eight corners that I think in the first couple of rounds will come off the board. It is a deep class, regardless. Yes, you have guys that are probably top 10 picks, and then you have guys all throughout the first round where you will feel really good on the value of the player and such. You go into the second round, you have the same thing; you have probably five or six guys. This is a very strong year, corner-wise. I feel confident that we will have the chance to address that position in the first three rounds if we want to, depending on the other players that are there and the value of the other players at other positions. I feel like unlike some other years where we were really trying to draft a corner and just could not get one because they go off the board so quickly, I really feel like this year that we will have the chance to draft a corner based on the fact that he might be the best player there. It could be that another player is just a better player, and we decide not to draft the corner. He will be worthy of that pick, but there might a better player there that we might take at another position. That is what makes this year kind of unique, I think, from the cornerback position."
Ozzie and Eric, you talked a little bit earlier about social media and some of the changes. There is also the constant expanding body of analytics. Is it easier now compared to 15 years ago to have a sense of certainty about what other teams are going to do throughout the first few rounds of the draft that can affect what you do? Is it easier to get a sense of what they are doing? (Peter Schmuck)
(NEWSOME) "There is a lot of information out there, and I would say I am really close to probably 12 [or] 13 GMs. I have no clue what they are doing. I really don't. I know Eric [DeCosta] is really close to a lot of them, and he feels the same way. So is Joe [Hortiz], and John [Harbaugh] talks to a lot of the head coaches. They are like us; why would you tell someone what you are thinking about? Because if you are like me, then I will just jump you and get the player from you. There is a ton of information out there about who is going and what round and all of that, and to me, you just set your board and pick."
(DeCOSTA) "One thing I would say is that one thing I have noticed in the last few years is I think there is less volatility in terms of drafting. It seems like when we do our list of players, other teams seem to have a very similar list. It used to be that you might have your Top 100 and there would still be players available at the end of the draft maybe. Now, it seems like those players … We get wiped clean. Everybody is sort of drafting from the same players. There are not a lot of surprise players. They seem to be coming off in the same general area. I think that has a lot to do with the internet, and all the mock drafts, and so much is being written about these players, and so much information is there, that I think it has created more maybe parity or sort of the same thing. It never used to be like that. In the last few years, I have been amazed that when we look at our list of players, basically every player that we had ranked was drafted. It used to be different – quite a bit different."
Eric and Ozzie, with the DT Timmy Jernigan trade, do you get the sense that you have moved up almost an entire round in jumping 25 spots? And was the strength at the top of this draft a part of the driving force behind wanting to get a fourth pick there in the Top 80? (Bo Smolka)
(NEWSOME) "The strength of the draft was one reason. But we think it is prime real estate when you are picking in the Top 10 picks in a round, because the phone normally rings. You have a chance to either pick a player that you really want, or you can probably trade back and acquire more picks if you so choose. To move up that far of what we did with Timmy, but also based on the research we did and the knowledge that we have, we got the value of what we thought Timmy was worth."
I'm curious about Reuben Foster. After the incident at the Combine, did your opinion change with him or did you have to dig a little deeper? (Jarrett Bell)
(NEWSOME) "Well, he goes to Alabama … He went to Alabama, so I think I have the inside on most of that information that comes out of there."
Did that incident change your opinion in terms of what type of person he is or raise any questions? (Jarrett Bell)
(NEWSOME) "Did it change where he was as far as on our draft board? No."
Looking at the draft board right now and talking to some of the guys, is there a particular player after seeing their film or talking to them at all that the player is a lot better than what you thought? (Bill West)
(DeCOSTA) "I am not going to answer that question. (laughter) I mean, maybe after the draft we can talk about that. But we are trying to get the board set and we are trying to find value and trying to find players that maybe other teams don't like quite as much and you know, we try to assess the value of the player. When that drafting slot is appropriate for us, we are going to pounce. There are a lot of guys you watch and you say, 'Oh my gosh, this guy is really, really good.' But to share that now, I think would be counterproductive."
Going back to trades, are you any more or less likely to move in the first round than in previous years? (Garrett Downing)
(NEWSOME) "We will evaluate that when we get to the pick. It is always based on the player that is there, and then what has been offered and how far we want to go back. All of that comes into play. We have had some calls already about teams that are willing to move up to our spot, but they always qualify it by saying, 'If our player gets there.'"
Ozzie, you mentioned that you guys put pressure on yourselves to get better. Understanding that every draft is important, given that the last three or four years have not been up to your standards, is there spoken or unspoken, more pressure or greater urgency about getting this to where you believe it should be? (Mark Viviano)
(NEWSOME) "No, because I think historically, for me – and it started back when I played for [Alabama] coach ['Bear'] Bryant – you always feel like you can get better. Whether we were 'so called' drafting really well, then to me, I had to get better. Whether those last two or three drafts have not been maybe equal to some of the other ones, to me, you have to get better. You always have to get better."
Speaking of your connection with Alabama, and this for all of you, Cam Robinson is a guy that has gotten a lot of attention. Do you view him more as a guard or is he a right tackle, left tackle prospect for you? (Ken Zalis)
(HORTIZ) "I would say he can play either one – all three spots, really. He does a pretty good job against the best conference in college football playing left tackle for three years. Certainly, he can play right, and then you look at his body type and his power, and just girth and mass and you can also project him inside to guard. I think he has that type of versatility."
Joe, you guys talked a little about offensive line and the challenges there from college to pro. How does that translate at the center position with making protection calls and I guess identifying those prospects? How would you assess that position as far as this draft class? (Luke Jones)
(HORTIZ) "I think when you are projecting guys at center, it is important … I think we have done a good job of sending our coaches out to work the guys out, put him through situations where they are going to have to make a call, make an adjustment [and] get some other bodies out there for the guy to have a look. Obviously, snapping is key, both from under center and then shotgun snaps is vital. Especially as the league is spreading out, we are playing more gun snaps, so that is very important. You just look at a guy's intelligence, his ability to assess things, adjust things, communicate along the line of scrimmage. You can find out about some of that in the fall even if he is not playing center, but I think putting him through workouts and spending time with the individual really helps."
Eric, obviously the goal is to get a guy to come in and contribute immediately every time you make a pick. With what is available at the top of the draft, does that make the challenge a little less daunting, especially when you are picking four times in the Top 78 with the class of players you have available this year? (Jeff Zrebiec)
(DeCOSTA) "It is always daunting. You feel the pressure. We want to find good players. It is a strange thing, but if you are picking at 30, then you only really like 15 guys. If you are picking at 16, you might really only like eight guys. It is just the way that your mind works. We really want to get a specific level of player on the board if we can. A lot of times it doesn't happen. Sometimes it does. The year that we got C.J. [Mosley], we were very lucky to get him based on what our grades were. That is what you want. Some years you have 16 players and you are picking 16 and you might get your 16th guy. Other years, you are picking 16 and you might get your seventh guy. It is always a challenge. I remember one draft – the Haloti [Ngata] draft actually – we had a player that I thought was our safe pick. I thought there was no chance anyone else was going to take this guy. So, if Haloti got picked, maybe we would take this guy. The guy I am talking about got picked before Haloti and we were just flabbergasted. You just don't know. You always get antsy about it and you hope you get some luck. You hope that some players that you don't like get picked. And that happens sometimes, and that is a great feeling."
You guys have always had tremendous good fortune with the undrafted folks after the draft. At this point, are you at the point where you know pretty much who is going to go undrafted and whether or not you think there is a lot of good talent out there? (Stan Charles)
(DeCOSTA) "There is a lot of talent. We don't know who is going to be drafted and who is not. We try to look at everybody the same. We realize that we only have seven picks, so we start the process of recruiting guys and we do some things that I think make us unique that help us. We have a track record, which we can sell to agents that want to send their players here because they think they have a really good chance to play on a really good team, in a really good city, at a really good facility, with our coaching and they see all that. It is hard to say who is going to be picked and not be picked. A lot of times we will have guys that we are really excited about as free agents that we feel like we can get, and it might be pick 247 in the seventh round and we are like, 'We are going to get this guy as a free agent.' Then, he gets picked. That happens every single year. That is the unpredictable nature, so we try to just have a process in place where we can recruit these guys. I think our coaches do a great job. [Northeast Area Scout] Mark Azevedo helps organize all of that with [Southeast Area Scout] Andrew Raphael – they work in scouting. They kind of coordinate a lot of that with Joe [Hortiz's] guidance, and I think we do a good job."
Ozzie, you've been at this a long time and you've talked a lot about how much video has changed, the Senior Bowl has changed, the Combine has changed, all of that. Seeing all the changes, what would make it better? Is there anything still missing? (Nestor Aparicio)
(NEWSOME) "Not that I can think of. I will say this – and I've got to be careful what I say – we did have a major discussion at the owner's meeting with the owners, head coaches and general managers about the Combine. And I just have to stop there, because it was a confidential meeting. But we had a very good discussion about our Combine."
You're happy that there is input about trying to make it better? (Nestor Aparicio)
(NEWSOME) "Yes, to make it pure. To respect the players who are candidates, who are involved in the class. The process has to remain pure, and I think that gives the players the time and the opportunity that they need, and it gives us what we need to properly evaluate the players."
With ILB Zachary Orr's retirement, LB Kamalei Correa becomes a lot more important. And I'm wondering how DE Bronson Kaufusi is coming along? (Kirk McEwen)
(HARBAUGH) "Yes, it's based on two things, with Kamalei it's his time. We certainly would have wanted him to play more last year as a second-round pick. He's a guy that really likes football and he's a hard-working guy. A lot of times the biggest jump, we've talked about, is between the first and second year. And I'm really looking forward to seeing him coming back April 17 and see how he looks, see how he's been working and where his head's at and everything. But, a talented guy, we all liked him when we drafted him last year, and we have high hopes for him for sure. Bronson has been in here with the rehabbing and the training right on through, and I can tell you, he looks good. He's looks big, really working on his lower half because he had the broken leg, and the trainers are doing a great job with him there. But when you see him, physically, you're going to like the way he looks. I think he's another guy … Those are two guys that were second- and third-round picks last year that didn't play much for us last year, so those guys are just like drafting new guys in a sense. [They're] coming in and adding to us, and they can be a big boost for us."
Eric, even with more knowledge and experience, there are still undrafted players who make the Hall of Fame, and first-round picks who never make it at all. What would you describe as that inexact science as far as what you guys do that leads to those extreme cases? (Mark Viviano)
(DeCOSTA) "They happen a lot, Mark. I think it's just the thing when you're dealing with people. It's not an objective business that we're in, and we try to take objectiveness, and statistics and analytics and all of that. But I think it really comes down to some of that and your experience as evaluators, and the past, and the type of person that you're looking at and then making decisions. And there's also a luck factor, which I think is sometimes the most frustrating thing. You know, why do some guys go out there and get hurt in their first practice and maybe miss the season? And another guy that was hurt a lot in college plays five years and never gets hurt? And a guy that's never been hurt goes out and tears his ACL? So, there are a lot of different things that we look at and try to predict, and it's very tough to do. I think in the end you just have to work together, try to take in as much information as you can, be right on the football-side of it, the evaluation of the guy, and then get to know the guy. Is he passionate about the game? That's a big thing. Does he love football? Does he have off-the-field baggage? All those kinds of things factor in and we just do the best we can."
Eric, with pass rushers, it seems like there are five or six names you see possibly going in the first round. Not mentioning names, in your mind, how many of those have separated themselves into the top tier? And is there a reason why those pass rushers have separated themselves among that other group? (Jamison Hensley)
(DeCOSTA) "There are probably four or five pass rushers that could go in the first round. They're all different; some guys probably fit a 4-3 scheme better than a 3-4 scheme, and some guys may fit a 3-4 scheme better than a 4-3 scheme. You've got your interior pass rushers, you've got your guys that can do both. I would say that the Combine, at times, has something to do with guys who separate themselves based on testing, and speed, and jumping and explosive things. I think sometimes the medicals factor in as well for guys who kind of emerge or kind of fall off a little bit. So, that kind of all factors in, but just in terms of being able to rush the passer, there are probably 10 guys maybe in the first couple of rounds that have the ability to come in and help a team do that."
Eric, what is the biggest lesson you've learned from Ozzie Newsome regarding this whole process? (Stan Charles)
(DeCOSTA) "Patience, probably. Just don't panic. Take your time and consider everything, and don't rush the process. Don't create something, let it come to you. I would say that."
How hard is it to ignore injuries from previous draft picks at certain positions when it comes time to select a player, or do you do that? How much does it weigh into the decision? (Pete Gilbert)
(NEWSOME) "I think you have to start with every player has to stand on his own. To start comparing – I mean, we have data about players, and what injuries can re-occur and stuff like that. But in this game, injuries happen. They just happen. We wish it didn't happen, but you have to take each individual player and evaluate that player."
Is it harder to do given recent history though? (Pete Gilbert)
(NEWSOME) "You use your historical factors; we try to. But you would not sit there and take a player off your board or move him up the board based on … You know, deal with him just as who he is and what he's done in his now three years in college and then high school. You've still got to look just at that body of work. Now, we have historical perspective – we do. But you have to look at that player's body of work."
Ozzie, with seven draft picks right now and the strength of this year's draft class, would you say that you're in a mode where you'd like to acquire more picks or you're happy with where you're at? (Ryan Mink)
(NEWSOME) "I think we have to be prepared to pick at [No.] 16 and pick at [No.] 47 and [Nos.] 74 and 78. We have to be prepared for that. But, as we will start to move forward on the day of the draft, we will have a plan that if we move back five spots, who do we have a chance to get? [Or] if we go back 10 spots? And the other thing that we found out last year is there may be an opportunity to move up to go and grab a player and give up one of our resources because we feel like we can take some of the other picks we have and move back and gain what we gave up. So, I think we'll be open, but first and foremost we've got to be ready to pick at [No.] 16."
Does the fact that you drafted WR Breshad Perriman in the first round two years ago have any bearing on whether or not you would take a wide receiver in the first round this year? (Garrett Downing)
(NEWSOME) "No, that would have none. If we feel like the best player is at [No.] 16 and he's a wide receiver, and we feel like he's going to come in and help Joe [Flacco] and help the other guys, then we'll turn that card in in a hurry."
Ozzie, do you expect to get any free agent additions added to the roster before the draft? (Jeff Zrebiec)
(NEWSOME) "We're working. We're working, and I could say there is a high probability of that, yes."
Ozzie, how frustrating has it been over the years to not find that No. 1 wide receiver and being able to develop him through the system? (Bill West)
(NEWSOME) "In that I was a wide receiver coming out, I guess you could say yes, but then I got moved. So, maybe I don't know much about wide receivers. I don't know. But then you could say … Well, Joe [Flacco] has had the opportunity to play in two Pro Bowls, so I guess you couldn't say I haven't drafted a Pro Bowl quarterback. Are receivers the only position where I haven't drafted a guy that's been in the Pro Bowl? Is that true? I guess it is, so does that drive me to want to draft a receiver and have him go to the Pro Bowl? Would that be the last hoorah [and] once I do that I can ride off into the sunset and life would be good? (laughter) My job is to build the best 53-man squad and use all the resources, and the draft is just a part of it. When you pick up other players like we have that have come in and contributed, I'm just as proud of those guys as I am the draft choices."