Inside Stories From the Ravens' 2020 Virtual Draft


A week ago, Eric DeCosta was preparing for a draft that would be unlike any other in NFL history – the league's first virtual draft.

His home office, set up by the team's IT department and run on-site by Director of Research & Development David McDonald, had seven screens ready to each serve their unique purpose.

An hour before the draft kicked off, the DeCosta family – wife Lacie, daughter Jane, and sons Michael and Jackson – dug into a spread provided by Baltimore seafood restaurant Jimmy's Seafood, a favorite of many Ravens players and coaches.

"We love the board. We're in a great position," DeCosta said earlier in the day.

"I think we're in a great place. I'm excited about it. Hopefully I don't lose power. If I do, I think we've got a great backup plan."

No, DeCosta didn't lose power, but there were some adventures along the way. Here are some inside stories from the draft:

Lucky Charm 'Pandemic Pete'

Eagle-eyed draft viewers spotted a green T-Rex dinosaur toy on DeCosta's desk during the draft. Turns out, that was DeCosta's lucky charm, which he nicknamed "Pandemic Pete."

"That's my buddy now," DeCosta said.

It started when Lacie needed something to prop her phone up while she was on a Zoom call, so she grabbed the toy.

Well, DeCosta has been participating in a Facebook group of Lacie's in which he does a tutorial on how to make some of his favorite cocktails, including a pisco sour. "Pandemic Pete" made an appearance in the videos and it kind of became his signature.

"People liked it, this green dinosaur. So he kind of became the good-luck charm for me over the course of the three days," DeCosta said. "I had Pete and it was kind of like, 'OK, a T-rex. Let's be the dinosaur, let's be fierce, let's take this thing.'"

Secret Closet Meetings

DeCosta said the technical aspect of running the draft virtually – thanks to the work of McDonald and others – was actually pretty easy. The hardest part was not being able to physically sit next to his closest confidants, including former GM turned Executive President Ozzie Newsome.

"The conversations that you have about players and strategies … not having that was challenging," DeCosta said. "It probably, in some ways, made the draft a little bit less enjoyable for me."

That didn't stop DeCosta from calling up his long-time mentor, however. Only thing was he didn't want the whole world to see him doing it. The NFL/ESPN installed cameras into every team's "war room" to have footage of the general managers making the picks, but not everyone liked its presence.

So when DeCosta wanted to have a private conversation with Newsome or one of his other confidants, he went into a small closet inside his home office.

"I didn't like these cameras always staring at me. I called it my 'Panic Closet,'" DeCosta said. "Even though I was told these cameras didn't have any audio and couldn't hear me, I just felt more comfortable going to the closet."

Get Off the Video Games!

DeCosta didn't say when it happened exactly, but there was one internet scare during the draft.

At some point, McDonald busted into the room and said he, all of a sudden, didn't have WiFi.

"If David has no WiFi, it means everything could just fall apart," DeCosta said. "Because he's doing everything for all the other people – he's putting the draft board up, he's on all the different calls, he's basically the emergency guy in case something happens to me, he can turn the pick in."

DeCosta asked McDonald what could be making the internet signal so weak, and the guess was that one of DeCosta's kids was playing video games.

"So we go down to the basement and Jackson and Michael are both playing 'Fortnite' or whatever they're playing, so I had to lower the boom on them," DeCosta said with a laugh.

"'Guys, you've got to get off the video games! There are a million Ravens fans out there that don't want you playing video games right now, I promise you.'"

After the draft was over, DeCosta came out of the draft room, gave hugs, and told his boys they could return to their video games.

Power Outages in the Area

The other near scare was that there were power outages in the Owings Mills area the night of the draft. DeCosta mentioned them in his pre-draft check-in.

Kicker Justin Tucker, however, wasn't going to let Head Coach John Harbaugh and DeCosta be stranded.

A Family Affair

The altered circumstances around the pre-draft process certainly added more logistics to the entire process, but DeCosta enjoyed the "old-school throwback draft" without most pro days and official visits because it allowed him to spend more time with his family.

"I think sometimes you can get so much information that maybe you overanalyze a little bit," DeCosta said, though he did watch more tape than ever to make up the difference.

"I can say we haven't taken a break, really, so it's been a great distraction [from COVID-19] in a lot of different ways. It's been nice to have something to focus on. On the other hand, I think it's been amazing to be able to spend this time with my family, as well. To have moments during the day when I could go out and see my boys and my daughter and just spend time with my wife going for a walk or something and also to be able to do this job, has been something pretty special and unique, and I've enjoyed it in a lot of different ways."

That bonus time with family didn't end pre-draft. Lacie took video of her husband calling and making the draft picks for fans to see as the kids mingled in the room.

After instructing the Queen pick to be turned in and doing virtual handshakes with Harbaugh and others, DeCosta immediately turned and embraced his kids.

"I have to say, it's one of these things [that] will probably never happen again. So, it's a special thing. It's a special moment," DeCosta said of sharing the experience with his family.

"In some ways … I remember when I went to the Super Bowl in 2000, thinking to myself, 'I better really enjoy this, because I'll probably never have this again, professionally.' Obviously, we have, but I have to say, I don't think I'll ever experience another draft like this. And so, it's been really fun for my two sons and my daughter to be with me. To be honest with you, that's one of the best things about the last month – just the time I've been able to spend as a father with these guys. It was cool. I had to tell them to be quiet a couple times, but it's really a blessing, and I'll never forget it."

The Backyard Cheers

It's a pretty unique situation that the general manager and head coach are neighbors.

After the draft finished, DeCosta walked out his back door, across the lawn and met Harbaugh at a fence on the back end of his property for a celebratory cheers with purple Gatorade – of course from six feet apart.

The two immediately launched into how they envision the rookies jiving with the vets, with each other and how they'll manage this very different offseason.

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