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Late for Work 3/26: Heading Into Draft, Eric DeCosta Preaches Patience

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DeCosta: ‘You Can Make Mistakes if You Act Too Quickly’

Eric DeCosta admitted that patience isn’t necessarily one of his virtues, but one would never know it based on the restraint he has shown this offseason, his first year since taking over as Ravens general manager.

The Ravens lost several key players in free agency over the past couple weeks, and with the majority of the top free agents no longer on the market, the team still has obvious needs to address. But DeCosta has shown no signs of panic or impulsivity.

“You guys know me a little. I’m not really a patient person,” DeCosta told a small group of reporters at the NFL Annual League Meetings in Phoenix yesterday. “But fortunately, I’ve got great people that advise me and help me make decisions.

“I want to build the best team, and I want to do it as quickly as we can, but I’m also aware that you can make mistakes if you act too quickly,” he added. “I’ve learned over time that I don’t want to act too fast. Sometimes the best decisions are the decisions you don’t make. We’ve seen that firsthand with the Ravens.”

As The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec wrote, it appears the Ravens are likely to fill their most pressing needs -- at wide receiver, pass rusher and interior offensive line -- in the NFL Draft, which begins April 25, while still keeping an eye on the free agent market.

“We want to wait and kind of assess the market, see how things play out,” DeCosta said. “I think we want to stay flexible.

When addressing what the Ravens are doing at wide receiver -- an often-asked question by Ravens fans over the years -- DeCosta replied, “I think patience.”

He added that the Ravens will draft at least one wide receiver and that some veteran pass-catchers could become available at a later date that might interest the team.

Who Are Ravens’ Best Options in Draft?

With the free agent frenzy having subsided, there’s an increased focus on what teams will be doing in the draft.

The Ravens have eight picks, beginning with the No. 22 overall pick and including two selections in the third, fourth and sixth rounds, as well as a fifth-round pick.

Russell Street Report’s Todd Karpovich wrote that it’s “one of the most important drafts” in Ravens history.

“Not only does GM Eric DeCosta need to find players that can help over the long-term, he has to fill immediate needs to compete in 2019,” Karpovich wrote. “The Ravens … have never selected players based solely on need. Rather, they’ve always subscribed to the philosophy of ‘best player available.’ DeCosta has extensive experience working the draft and might be willing to slightly deviate from that traditional plan now that he is fully in charge.”

Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens compiled a list of the Ravens’ best first-round options, but said the most realistic scenario is that the Ravens trade back.

“With no second-round selection, the Ravens will likely look to pick up extra draft picks while still hitting needs at better values,” Stevens wrote. “Given how quiet Baltimore was in free agency and the way General Manager Eric DeCosta seems to be building for the future, trading back is the wisest choice unless a top-15 prospect drops to No. 22.”

Alabama running back Josh Jacobs topped Stevens’ list.

“Though the Ravens added running back Mark Ingram, they could still use more at the position,” Stevens wrote. “Given their desire to be a run-heavy offense in 2019, they need a player who can break big plays, and they don’t have anyone on the roster capable of doing that.

“Jacobs is considered the top running back in this draft class for a reason. He’s a patient runner with great vision and instincts. He hits the hole hard and fast with burst once he gets to the second level. He’s also an accomplished receiver out of the backfield.”

Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler named five players that make sense for the Ravens to draft in the first round. Wide receiver Kelvin Harmon was No. 1 on his list.

“Harmon would be a player unlike any player the Ravens ever had,” Schisler wrote. “He’s a young wide receiver who runs routes well and creates open space in the passing game. … He’s got an ideal 6’2″ frame and is a naturally gifted athlete. Harmon has good concentration in traffic and while he doesn’t have Jerry Rice level hands, he’s pretty reliable.

“On an added bonus, he’s a willing blocker and he’s not bad at it either. You couldn’t find a receiver more tailored to the needs of the purple and black.”

Players that made both Stevens and Schisler’s lists were: Mississippi wide receiver A.J. Brown, Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry and North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury.

Pass Rusher Ezekiel Ansah in No Hurry to Sign

With the Ravens needing a pass rusher, former Detroit Lion Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah is the top option remaining in free agency, but he isn’t expected to sign anytime soon, according to a report by NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport.

Ansah had 14½ sacks and made the Pro Bowl in 2015, and had 12 sacks in 14 games in 2017. In an injury-shortened season last year, he had four sacks in seven games.

Despite his impressive statistics, Ansah still may not be a good fit for the Ravens.

“He might be more suited to play as a 4-3 defensive end, while Baltimore is looking for a 3-4 outside linebacker,” Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz wrote.

NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling noted that Ansah’s age and injury history are a concern.

“Ansah is already looking down the barrel of 30 after getting a late start to his football career,” they wrote.

Za’Darius Smith Surprises Mom With a New House

After outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith signed a reported four-year, $66-million-deal with the Green Bay Packers, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said that he was happy for the former Raven because he had an opportunity to “do something life-changing” for his family.

That’s exactly what Smith did, as he bought his mother a new house and told her that she can retire from her job as a correctional officer.

“I just surprised her with a house, so that's why she's sitting here right now,” Smith said on Glenn Clark Radio yesterday alongside his mother, Sharon, from her new house. “We had to cut the power on and the lights. I just did that for her and she started crying, man.”

Sharon Smith had lived in the Greenville, Ala., house that Za’Darius grew up in for 39 years.

“For me to be raised in that house and to be able to bless her with an opportunity to go out in the country ... it’s big, man,” Za'Darius Smith said. “And to see that smile on her face once I gave her the key, it means so much, to me and my family, also.”

Said Sharon Smith: “I’m going to miss Baltimore, too, but we have to go where the Lord sends us to. Words can't express how we thank everybody in Baltimore.”

Quick Hits

  • New Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust heard from Ravens coaches, players and others after taking the job, Kasinitz wrote. Locust served as a training camp intern for the Ravens last summer.

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