First Time Is Charming


As the Ravens' director of college scouting since 2003, and after 12 years of professional scouting experience, the NFL Combine is old hat to Eric DeCosta.

On the other hand, last week's event in Indianapolis offered something a little different for Head Coach John Harbaugh.

Despite his tenure as the Philadelphia Eagles' special teams coordinator from 1998-2006 and secondary coach in 2007, this year marked his first as a head coach. Harbaugh said that his experience with special teams offered somewhat of a prep course for the workload that comes with his new title.

"It's more analogous to doing special teams, because with that unit, you're looking at the whole Combine," Harbaugh said from his Owings Mills, Md. office Wednesday. "You're interviewing a broad spectrum of guys instead of focusing on the corners and safeties. It's more concentrated on that one group.

"To be honest, it's just more work," he added with a laugh. "We were there looking at every group, really covering it all."

One day removed from the event, Harbaugh clearly felt that the Ravens' efforts in Indianapolis were successful, making a point to credit DeCosta, whom he called Baltimore's "head coach" at the Combine.

DeCosta agreed. It was the sixth Combine where he's coordinated between the Ravens' personnel department and coaches to maximize their evaluation of all 300-plus prospects. Having 13 new coaches on hand didn't make things any easier this year, but DeCosta's plan and Harbaugh's mantra of "team" came together as the Ravens representatives went through the week.

"Overall, I thought it was a great week," DeCosta explained. "The coaches and scouts did a great job of working together. I thought the interviews, considering that we have a new coaching staff, were outstanding.

"The coaches had the chance to spend some time with the players that we're very much interested in. From an evaluation standpoint, everybody did a great job for us. Everyone is very eager and excited about this draft."

Both DeCosta and Harbaugh know that there is still a lot of work to do before selection weekend on April 26-27.

Over the next month, coaches and scouts will travel all over the country to attend workouts of players the team is interested in. Some of those players - like former Nebraska punter Sam Koch, the Ravens' sixth-round draft pick in 2006 - may not have even attended the Combine.

In addition, 30 prospects will be invited back to Ravens headquarters for a full day of meetings. After personally interviewing 60 candidates at the Combine, and more at January's Senior Bowl, the Ravens believe they can better gauge if a player is worth an investment by seeing them on their home turf.

"It's crucial to have them in and get a sense of their personalities off the field," he said.

And then there is the game film, which will be dissected from every angle by DeCosta, the area scouts and the coaches in order to form three varying opinions on each player.

"The challenge now is to get down to the tape," DeCosta said. "The coaches are in that process formally now, where they start to really grind watching tape.

"Each scout is responsible for a position, and their job between now and the draft is to watch tape of every player at their position so they are able to rank these guys efficiently. We'll have three different rankings: the position coach's, the scout's and my own ranking. It's good to have that system to make the right decisions come draft time."

The drafting success of DeCosta and General Manager Ozzie Newsome is well-documented, and Harbaugh is excited to become a part of that tradition.

"It's a great system," he said. "To me, I was part of the evaluation team. They have a role for the head coach and every other coach. I plugged in and did the best job I could."

From the evaluation team to the coaching team, Harbaugh is looking forward to that philosophy trickling down to the locker room as his entire team is built.

"For me, the important thing is to determine which guys you really want in your program and which guys maybe aren't a good fit for the program," Harbaugh continued. "You don't want anybody here that isn't going the have a chance to be successful."

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