General Manager Eric DeCosta's home office has been transformed into a draft war room.
When DeCosta attended the NFL Scouting Combine in February, he could not have anticipated that his home would become the organization's command center for the draft. But the COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly changed virtually every aspect of life. When the draft begins Thursday night, DeCosta will have everything he needs to communicate and make decisions, thanks to creative work by the Ravens information technology department.
DeCosta gave fans a virtual tour of the office where he will work the draft.
Simply put, DeCosta's setup is sweet. He has seven video screens, each with specific functions and purpose. One screen will track each player that comes off the board. Another screen will list all the players who have been selected.
"Every time a player gets picked, his name's going to disappear right off that screen," DeCosta said. "It will end up on this screen over here. We have a timer up here, the countdown for all the picks. This monitor's going to list the picks by team."
DeCosta will be in constant communication with Owner Steve Bisciotti, Head Coach John Harbaugh, President Dick Cass, Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome and other front office members, coaches, and scouts. Each NFL team will submit its picks to all-32 website, which shows the official time that each team has remaining to make its selection. If a team experiences a technical glitch, the NFL will have the option to stop the clock to give a team extra time.
In a normal year, a large group would be with DeCosta on draft night inside the war room at the Under Armour Performance Center. Social distancing and mandated restrictions during the pandemic will make the usual large face-to-face conversations on draft night impossible. However, DeCosta believes the Ravens are well-prepared to communicate just as effectively.
"I'll use this laptop to be on with Steve, John, Ozzie, (Senior Vice President of Football Operations) Pat Moriarty, (Director of Player Personnel) George (Kokinis), (Director of Player Personnel) Joe (Hortiz), the normal guys that are in the draft room helping me make decisions on draft day."
There is also a landline phone for DeCosta to receive calls from teams interested in making a trade.
"If other teams call in, they can reach me on this line specifically for trades, which will work out well," DeCosta said. "I also have my cellphone that people can call if they can't get in on the hard line."
When the Ravens make a pick, the plan is for DeCosta to contact Director of Football Administration Nick Matteo, who will turn in the pick to the league office. DeCosta and Hortiz will also have authorization to submit the Ravens' pick to the league.
"There's definitely fail safes in place," Hortiz said on "The Lounge" podcast. "There's multiple platforms to make a pick. If Nick has problems, I'll turn it in, or Eric will turn it in. (If) everybody goes dark, Eric can pick up the phone and call the league."
Hortiz said he does not expect the fact that the draft is virtual to affect how many trades will occur.
"Most trades are executed via the phone, if not all trades," Hortiz said. "I think people will still make trades. Maybe they'll be a little more proactive and call a little bit earlier. I do think you'll want to make decisions a little bit quicker. The hardest trades to make are when you're sitting on the clock and you have five minutes left and the call comes in. But I don't think they'll be a difference in terms of trades."
If there are technical glitches, Hortiz said the Ravens are well-prepared after going through dry runs, and he purchased a new router for his home last month just to be certain he could handle more internet demand.
"I feel pretty good about my internet speed," Hortiz said. "During meetings last week, we had a lot of guys on, a couple of times where the feed would get a little bit choppy. If I felt like it was coming from me, I'd step out and say, 'Is anyone on the Xbox, or watching YouTube or Netflix, streaming something?' But for the most part it went smooth and we didn't really have any problems with anyone through the week of meetings."
DeCosta will clearly be working the draft from a comfort zone, one that includes his favorite purple (or grey?) chair. This draft will be different for everyone involved, but DeCosta looks forward to the process every year with great anticipation and passionate preparation. He views the NFL's first virtual draft not as a time to make excuses, but as an opportunity to make things happen.
"We're very excited about the process," DeCosta said. "We've got 185 players ranked. We love the board, we see great opportunity to make our football team really strong. We embrace it, we're lucky, we're so fortunate to be in this position that we can actually focus on something like this during this period."