Late for Work 4/16: Eric DeCosta’s Draft Philosophy: Innovative, Aggressive, Creative 

041619_LFW

Eric DeCosta’s Approach to NFL Draft Will Be Uniquely His

Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta told sportswriter David Ginsburg in the latest issue of PressBox that while he will rely on input from predecessor Ozzie Newsome, Head Coach John Harbaugh and scouts for his first NFL Draft as the team’s ultimate decision-maker, his approach will be uniquely his.

“I’d like to think I'll be innovative, aggressive and creative,” DeCosta said. “I intend to question things we’ve done in the past and question why we did it, what we can do to improve and what are the areas we need to exploit to make us better than our opponents. If you just do the same things all the time the same way, they’re going to catch up to you and beat you. You’ve always got to stay ahead.”

In nine days, DeCosta will make his first selection as Ravens GM. It’s a day he knew was coming since 2007, when Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti first spoke with him about taking over for Newsome one day.

“When Steve asked me to be his GM way back then, I was extremely flattered and I knew he would stick to his word,” said DeCosta, who declined interviews with several other teams over the years for their GM jobs. “So I told him I was in. I tried to use that time to learn and to work and to observe Ozzie more closely.

"Then, around 2013, it became more apparent that it would be around this time [2019]. I felt like I was on the clock. Everything got ramped up. I spent more time making connections with agents, talking about contracts, looking at how other teams operated. Things like the salary cap, analytics, the non-traditional scouting things that we do, those become priorities for me. Even though I was frustrated that some of my peers were getting these GM jobs and I wasn't, I looked at it as a unique opportunity to get the most amazing on-the-job training.”

While the Ravens have several obvious needs, DeCosta said the draft is “an opportunity for us to get better quickly.”

“We’ve got some really good picks,” DeCosta said. “We know how to do the draft. We’ve got the best scouting staff in the league, and I’ve got an adviser in Ozzie who’s probably renowned as the best drafting GM in the history of the NFL.”

Best Wide Receiver Fits for Ravens in Each Round

You may have heard, but wide receiver apparently is a position the Ravens should target in the NFL Draft. With that in mind, Ravens Wire’s Wola Odeniran took a look at which wide receiver best fits the Ravens in each round based on who is likely to be available at that time.

He begins with Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler in the first round at No. 22.

“It seems unlikely either D.K. Metcalf or A.J. Brown will be available that late in the first round, meaning Baltimore might have to settle for the top of the second tier of talent,” Odeniran wrote. “Butler is a ‘Madden’ create-a-character on paper. He’s too big and tall for cornerbacks to get physical with on a consistent basis and he’s too fast for linebackers and safeties to match up with in the slot.

“He isn’t an easy guy to bring down, as he creates yards-after-catch opportunities on offense, which is something Baltimore has lacked for so many years. Having said that, Butler does have issues with dropped passes, which makes him a risky selection for the Ravens.”

The Ravens don’t have a selection in the second round, but if they trade for one, Odeniran views North Carolina State’s Kelvin Harmon as a good fit.

“He was once considered a first-round pick, but that status is likely in question, with him being viewed more like one of the better second-round prospects,” Odeniran wrote. “But at 6-foot-2, weighing 221 pounds, Harmon has good size as a receiver and he certainly displayed over the course of his college career that he can run every route and can make contested catches. What Harmon may lack in speed, he makes up for it with the ability to fight for the ball, along with the fact he isn’t easy to bring down.”

In the third round, where the Ravens have two picks (Nos. 85 and 102), Oderinan taps Georgia’s Riley Ridley.

“Riley Ridley is a receiver who runs quality routes and doesn’t allow physical contact from defensive backs to disrupt his route running, either,” Odeniran wrote. “He also has a quality trait of being able to beat press coverage, which would aid a Ravens’ offense that has struggled in this category. … If Ridley falls to Baltimore in the third round, he is a quality pick that could immediately start.”

In Rounds 4-7, Odeniran chose: Notre Dame’s Miles Boykin (“The perfect developmental prospect who teams hope can learn the position better but creates mismatches right now, so he can be utilized as a rookie.”); Baylor’s Jalen Hurd (“A player that will take time to teach the intricacies of the position but can be put into the lineup — especially in the red zone — early on.”); Louisville’s Jalen Smith, a former teammate of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (“The chemistry already there might make Smith a more intriguing selection in the sixth round than his current talent level dictates.”); and Wake Forest’s Greg Dortch (“Dortch’s special teams ability, sure hands, toughness and production make him an interesting late-round prospect.”)

Ideal Picks, Dream Scenario for Ravens

NFL.com’s Chad Reuter and Lance Zierlein identified the ideal top two picks in the draft for every team, and for the Ravens, they chose Florida State edge rusher Brian Burns (Round 1, No. 22 overall) and Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin (Round 3, No. 85).

“After years of having good/great pass rushers along the edge, the Ravens have a need there and Burns is an ideal candidate to fill it,” Reuter and Zierlein wrote. “They're not scheduled to pick again until later in Round 3, but McLaurin would be a nice find if he's still on the board.”

In his assessment of Burns, Zierlein wrote: “While some view him as a pass rusher only, it might be a waste not to utilize his blue-chip athletic ability in space as a hybrid linebacker.”

McLaurin, who ran a 4.35 40-yard dash at the Combine and had 35 catches for 701 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, has been projected as a first-round pick in some mock drafts, including one by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., who had McLaurin going at No. 26 to the Indianapolis Colts.

Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner listed his dream scenarios for every team. For the Ravens, he went with Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams.

“Williams continues to fall down mock draft boards,” Renner wrote. “Taking receiver here would provide little value in a run-heavy attack, so beef up that line for Lamar.”

Would Ravens Draft a Center in First Round?

The Ravens have never drafted a center in the first round, but that could change this year, ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote.

“Given how much the Ravens ran last year and plan to do so with [quarterback Lamar] Jackson this season, bolstering the interior of the offensive line is just as important as finding a playmaking wide receiver,” Hensley wrote.

A number of mock drafts have centers Garrett Bradbury of N.C. State and Erik McCoy of Texas A&M going to the Ravens.

“Both are expected to be available when Baltimore is on the clock for the No. 22 overall pick, and one could be there in the second round if the Ravens traded back,” Hensley wrote.

Hensley noted that only 16 centers have been selected in the first round since the Ravens’ inception in 1996, but centers have been a safe bet.

“Six of the last nine centers drafted in the first round have reached the Pro Bowl: Nick Mangold, Alex Mack, Eric Wood, Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey and Travis Frederick,” Hensley wrote.

Quick Hits

  • Ravens safety Earl Thomas made Bleacher Report’s Maurice Morton’s list of previously injured NFL players who will return strong this season. “The Ravens should have a well-rested, high-end safety with a point to prove after last season's contract disputes and unceremonious conclusion in Seattle,” Morton wrote.
  • Speaking of the Seahawks, the Ravens’ visit to Seattle this season is one of NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison’s top 19 games of 2019. “Everything is cool about this game, from the Russell Wilson-Lamar Jackson dynamic to Earl Thomas returning with the bird ... to the birds ... for the birds ... never mind,” Harrison wrote.
  • The Ravens once again were pegged as one of the teams most likely to trade down. This time it was by USA Today’s Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz.

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