When Ravens Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta talked during last week's pre-draft press conference about the qualities that the Ravens look for in college prospects, he mentioned several times that the Ravens seek out toughness.
"You want guys that are tough," DeCosta said. "We want guys that bring something to the table for us in Baltimore. And they have to be fast, they have got to be tough, they have got to be coachable, smart, tough, disciplined and durable."
Finding players to embody that toughness is a critical piece of the equation as the Ravens scout hundreds of prospects each year going into the NFL Draft. The front office wants to find players who embrace the physical brand of football that John Harbaugh expects from his team.
But quantifying that toughness is a challenge.
"I think that's one of the tougher jobs that our scouts have," DeCosta acknowledged.
Unlike other key attributes like speed or strength, NFL scouts don't have an exact number to determine a player's toughness. There are no stats, or 40-yard dashes or bench press reps that indicate how tough a player will be at the NFL level.
So how do the Ravens measure it?
"You look for a lot of different things on tape," DeCosta said. "You look at guys that are playing just as hard in the fourth quarter of a blowout game as they would be in the first quarter of a tight game. You're looking for guys that tackle consistently on defense."
Part of the equation is durability.
All players endure some type of injury over the course of the season, but the Ravens look for prospects with a track record of playing through pain. That is part of the reason that General Manager Ozzie Newsome has a habit of taking players out of his alma mater Alabama, where the Ravens believe the Crimson Tide helps instill that mindset.
"You're looking for guys that play through pain, durable players that don't miss games because of injuries, that practice all the time even if they are banged up," DeCosta said.
The Ravens can get a sense for a player's mentality during interviews leading up to the draft. They meet with hundreds of prospects between the Senior Bowl, scouting combine and pre-draft visits, and all of those interactions allow the scouts or coaches to go beyond what's seen on tape.
"A lot of times you have a chance to talk to the guy, and you can gauge his personality and his demeanor in an interview setting," DeCosta said. "Does he compete? Does he compete for the football? Does a smaller guy play big? Does a bigger guy play small? There are a lot of different things we look for. You get a sense for it."
DeCosta has said on numerous occasions that the draft is more of an art than science.
Measuring toughness certainly falls into that category.
"It's nuanced, but you get a sense for a tough guy when you watch them on tape, when you talk to a guy, you talk to his coach, you talk to the trainers, strength coach, all the various people," he said. "Does he compete in everything? That's what you look for in a player."