Now that we're just a few days away from Eric DeCosta's inaugural draft as the Ravens' general manager, my advice to him is short and simple:
Don't get caught up in the big picture of who you're replacing, what he accomplished, etc.
Everyone knows your predecessor, Ozzie Newsome, began his inaugural draft by selecting one Hall of Famer … and then another … before the first round ended … but don't think about that!
While you're at it, don't think about the fact that Newsome drafted a third Hall of Famer a few years later as well as several more players who'll receive serious Hall consideration when they retire, and in the end, landed 22 Pro Bowl selections in 23 years of navigating the draft process for the Ravens.
Yes, Newsome set a crazy-high standard while mentoring you and preparing you for this moment, but good news, that's not your concern now. You can go micro, not macro. Focus on the immediate task at hand – adding players who can help Lamar Jackson and/or contribute to the Ravens' efforts to defend their AFC North title.
OK, that ends my "sage" advice for DeCosta. And actually, there's more good news: No one is going to replicate Newsome's run, but amid the task of building a team for 2019, there are plenty of opportunities for significant drafting success; plenty of ways for DeCosta, 48, to earn the same kinds of kudos Newsome received.
The Ravens' pass rush needs help, for instance. Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith are gone. It's not clear whether their in-house replacements are ready to take over. If the Ravens land Clemson's dominating Clelin Ferrell in the first round, DeCosta's first-ever draft pick could be a high-impact selection.
The offensive line also could use a boost. It was an up-and-down unit in 2018, and with the Ravens shifting to a more ground-oriented offense around Jackson, the quality of the blocking has never been more important.
Conveniently, this year's draft class includes projected instant starters such as Texas A&M center Eric McCoy, North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury and Oklahoma guard/tackle Cody Ford, all of whom could be available when the Ravens are set to select No. 22 overall Thursday night. The class is so deep in interior plug-and-play O-line prospects that help could arrive in a later round.
If DeCosta ends up making the Ravens better and more physical up front this week, you won't hear me complaining.
Then there's the position I'll ruefully call the Permanent Talking Point, i.e., wide receiver. The Ravens have seldom needed a young receiving target more than they do now, as they've seemingly tired of patching over any shortcomings with "name" veterans whose best days are behind them. They currently have just three wideouts who have caught passes in the NFL.
As I've written before, if DeCosta lands a pick – in any round – that slays the Ravens' wide receiver beast, there's no better way for him to distinguish himself from his lauded predecessor.
The truth is Newsome and DeCosta have been so joined at the hip in recent years through the annual cycle of scouting, judging and selecting players that DeCosta insists this year doesn't feel that different even though he's in charge. Newsome, of course, is still in the organization as part of the scouting/decision-making apparatus, contributing to the sense of continuity.
Both definitely were in on the decision to draft Jackson last year, a move that changed the course of the franchise, resulting in a regime change at quarterback.
But Newsome, as GM at the time, ultimately was responsible, and that bottom-line role now falls to DeCosta. The Ravens want to build on what they started in 2018. They have eight picks, but just one in the first 84. They would love to accumulate extra picks, but they also could stand to add an instant contributor at No. 22. It's DeCosta's call.
The historical significance is impossible to miss. For as long as the Ravens have existed, only Newsome has drafted players – 193 in a row, to be exact. The switch is truly momentous.
But weirdly, with the moment at hand, it's the wrong time to contemplate the big picture. There's more important business to conduct. The business of trying to win.