FIRST-ROUND DRAFT REVIEW PRESS CONFERENCE
GENERAL MANAGER/EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OZZIE NEWSOME, HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH,
ASSISTANT GENERAL MANAGER ERIC DECOSTA & DIRECTOR OF COLLEGE SCOUTING JOE HORTIZ
Ozzie Newsome opening statement: "OK – thanks for staying! When we did not come down after we picked Hayden [Hurst], hopefully you all figured that we still were in business, and we were. [It's] been a long day. It was to me … I'm going to use a word that John [Harbaugh] uses all the time: It was 'masterful' – the way it happened in the draft room tonight. The trades came to us, and we were able to acquire some picks in the third and fourth round, then having the ability to go back up and get the quarterback at the end of the round – it was unbelievable. Hayden … We've added three wide receivers, now we've added a young tight end to the mix to continue to provide Joe [Flacco] with some targets. Then, anytime you can get a quarterback, you're building for the future like we can with Lamar [Jackson], then it just adds to it. It's been a great day, and it was unbelievable the way the room worked today. It was unbelievable."
Eric DeCosta opening statement:"Not a lot to add. I think just one of the themes since we were down in Florida back in January was 'playmakers' – guys that can make critical plays in situations. Honestly, we're just getting started. We've got some more opportunities tomorrow. We've got two more picks tomorrow, 65 and – which I consider to almost be a second-round pick – it's at the top of the third round, but almost a second round pick at 83. So we've got some really good opportunities tomorrow. Also, as we get into the third day, there are a lot of really good football players out there, and I think the scouts and coaches have done very well working together this year, and we're in good shape."
John Harbaugh opening statement:"Just to kind of compliment what Ozzie just mentioned, maybe from the coach's perspective … What happened in that draft room today was a masterpiece. Watching Ozzie lead it, and Eric and Joe [Hortiz], and I'll tell you what, Steve [Bisciotti] – Steve was a big part of it, too. It was really just phenomenal to be able to move down the way we did, pick up the picks we did and then add the talent that we did so far. Like Eric said, we're just getting started. I compliment these guys on a great job. I know one thing as coaches, we're very excited."
Joe Hortiz opening statement:"Just carrying on the theme … It was a lot of fun. It was a fun start to the draft, and we have a lot more to go, so we're looking forward to tomorrow."
Ozzie, were you considering taking QB Lamar Jackson at pick 16 when you were there and he was there? Was he a consideration at that point?* (Gerry Sandusky)*
(NEWSOME) "Well, he was among a clump of players that we had. So, was he a consideration at 16? Yes. But we also had probably four or five other players that we had liked at that spot, and then the trade came in."
The same thing at pick 22 then? They were all there again? (Stan White)
(NEWSOME) "Yes. And that's why we decided to move back again to acquire more picks, because we still felt like we had four guys that we really liked. Then when we got to finally pick at 25 … That's when we finally picked at, right? I think one player had gone off the board at that point, and that's when we decided to go with Hayden [Hurst]."
John, have you thought about how you can use QB Lamar Jackson? It's always fun to have different things, goal-line situations, different things. Is he a quarterback just for the future, or do you envision using him in certain situations? (Stan White)
(HARBAUGH) "The big thing is he's a quarterback, and that's the first thing to remember. He's a quarterback through and through, and he's a playmaker. When you look at stats and you evaluate him, he does all the things that any quarterback does. But we do some analytics, and when the ball is in his hands, there hadn't been a better playmaker, really, in the last few years coming out [of the draft]. He's a great quarterback – start with that. But Joe Flacco is our quarterback – that's the thing we have to remember. Lamar is going to have a great chance to develop. I think you get to this stage in a quarterback's career – you've seen it done in New England, we've seen it done in a lot of places – it's time to start thinking about drafting a quarterback. When the opportunity came to get a really good one, I think you have to jump on it and take it. This really doesn't change things in a sense that we're going to go with Joe, and Joe's going to roll. I can't wait for the season to start. But when you add a talented player like this who can come in and play if he needs to, and win for us, that's a big plus."
Ozzie, did you contact QB Joe Flacco and tell him this was happening?* (Jeff Zrebiec)*
(NEWSOME) "No, but I think when Joe had his press conference when the offseason program started, he said that he knew at some point we would draft a quarterback. But coach [Harbaugh] has reached out to Joe. Coach has reached out to him, yes."
Ozzie, when you take a quarterback in the first round, a lot of people wonder about QB Joe Flacco and his future. What does this mean about Joe and his future with the team? (Jamison Hensley)
*(NEWSOME) *"We're trying to win this year. In order for us to win this year, we need Joe Flacco. That's why we went and got the receivers. That's why we went and got the tight end – to give Joe some help. So we want to win this year."
Ozzie, what part of the process were you thinking about going back into the first round to get a quarterback? When did that start going through the room? (Terry Ford)
(NEWSOME) "After we made the pick with Hayden [Hurst], we started to target some areas. We had already talked about moving up in the second round, then just made a call to Philadelphia, and they were open to it. They just told us to hold on, wait for a while. But we started to put that process in place right after we drafted Hayden. That's why we didn't come down and do the press conference."
Did the fact that you were so familiar with the scouting department in Philadelphia play a role in this deal? (Stan White)
(NEWSOME) "No. You know what? They saw value. They didn't have a lot of picks in the second and third day, so it gave them the opportunity to get some picks. And also, they are probably going to have some compensatory picks next year, and now they have an additional second."
Ozzie, can you give your evaluation of QB Lamar Jackson and what you saw from him that made you want to make that jump? (Ryan Mink)
(NEWSOME)"No. 1, the person. When he came in and sat with me on his 30 [college player] visit, I came away feeling very good about the kid, the person. Then you watch the tape … And yes, there is some development [to make]. But every player that we take, regardless of position, needs some developing. So, he just falls into that category."
Eric, was it attractive to get QB Lamar Jackson in the first round because of the contract status and because you now have him for possibly five years, and it maybe buys you an extra year of development? (Jeff Zrebiec)
(DeCOSTA) "That's a factor. [President] Dick [Cass] pointed that out a couple of times – the advantage to doing that. The biggest thing is we just saw value with the player. We think he's a unique talent, and we saw an opportunity to get him. And we had been able to trade back. I think a big part of us being able to do this was us trading back a couple of times and gaining the additional capital that we could then use to come up to get him. So I think it made sense, and we're excited about that."
Eric, did this first round play out the way you expected, or were there a lot of surprises? (Jeff Zrebiec)
(DeCOSTA) "I think we worry about a lot of different scenarios, and we really saw an opportunity for us if we had the chance to trade back. We thought we could go back, and this is a unique draft from the standpoint of we think the third and fourth rounds are really loaded with players. So, we saw that opportunity, and we were just hoping that the phone was going to ring. Ozzie was calling teams for the last week, talking to different GMs and just trying to look at interest that might come up, maybe go back or whatever it is. And we had probably seven different players in mind with our first pick at 16 that we would've taken. And then when we got back to 22, and again, there were probably five or six players right there that we thought would be good picks, but we had another chance to go back again, and most of those guys were still there. So eventually, we were like, 'OK, we'll do it and we're going to get one of these guys.' And we still had additional draft picks that we had gained, so coming up it made sense."
Eric, were you surprised to see QB Lamar Jackson sitting there at the bottom of the first round? (Jamison Hensley)
(DeCOSTA) "You know, it's the draft. I think at this point – it's my 22nd draft – nothing really surprises you. So, we just look at it from a value standpoint. Can we gain value? Can we add value for this football team? And in this particular case with Lamar [Jackson], the opportunity was there, and we had the resources to do it, so we did it."
**Joe, what do you like about TE Hayden Hurst especially? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *
*(HORTIZ) *"His versatility. They've played him in so many roles down there. Flexed out, on the line, they've used him as a wing, and I think you guys have probably seen the highlights of him actually lining up in the backfield. He's productive in all of those roles. He's a good blocker, obviously, the way they use him. But his athleticism as a receiver and then his hands, he just doesn't drop the ball, and he makes some spectacular catches. He can run after the catch. So, he's just a versatile and talented athlete who can help us in pretty much all phases of our game."
You never really heard anything negative at all about his game. The only question you ever heard was the age. Was that ever an issue with you guys at all? (Jeff Zrebiec)
*(HORTIZ) *"Not really. We took Dennis [Pitta], and he was almost identical in terms of age. Dennis was actually a couple months older at the same point in his career. Really, it didn't faze us in terms of our grades. You acknowledge that he's 24 years old, but it happens every once in a while."
(DeCOSTA) *"You'll get some older tight ends that can play for a while and still make plays." *(referring to Newsome, laughter)
Ozzie, is there any irony that your last first-round picks, the first one you make is a tight end? (Gerry Sandusky)
(NEWSOME)"Yes, it was. It was a tight end, but also in this draft, as it was in the first draft, we got two picks in the first round."
Hall of Famers? (Gerry Sandusky)
(NEWSOME) *"Don't know." *(laughter)
You guys just extended QB Joe Flacco two years ago, and I know he's your quarterback this year, but with a first-round quarterback, the writing is typically on the wall. What have you seen from Joe that makes you feel you needed to make this move for the short-term future? (Luke Jones)
*(HARBAUGH) *"You can't make a lot of assumptions like that. The Patriots drafted a quarterback; they traded him. Second round, wasn't it? I think so. You take it one year at a time in this league. So, predict the future, say what's going to happen down the road – nobody knows. We have a great quarterback in Joe Flacco – there's no doubt about it. Now we have another great quarterback. We have probably three great quarterbacks; RGIII was pretty darn good for a couple years until he got hurt, right? So, you want to put as many good football players on your football team as you possibly can at whatever position. We've drafted corners when people didn't think we should draft corners. We've drafted lots of positions – tight end – two tight ends one year, right? So, you draft the best players, and when you get a chance to get a talent like this, I don't think you can pass it up. It doesn't say anything other than we got a lot better as a football team, and all the predictions down the road … You want to predict the future? Great, that's cool, I get it. But the future is going to come and it can predict itself, really."
TE HAYDEN HURST CONFERENCE CALL
On his emotions when he saw it was the Ravens who had selected him:"I was sitting on the couch, and I saw the area code pop up. It was Baltimore, Maryland, and then Mr. [Ozzie] Newsome was on the other line, and my heart was about to beat out of my chest. I figured this was going to happen, but until you get that phone call, I mean, there are so many emotions I can't even put words to it right now."
On if he figured it would be the Ravens who drafted him: "I told my agent I had a really good feeling when I went on my 30 [college player] visit up there. They had liked me. The facilities up there are great, and I really wanted to be a part of it. The coaches said they liked me, and I guess they thought I was a good fit. And I could not be happier right now."
On if he sees himself as a good fit for the team, which is missing its tight end who in 2017 led the team in catches:"Absolutely. They said they needed a guy, as far as a tight end and to stretch the field vertically. I think that suits me perfectly. I want to come in and compete, get in the group of tight ends and see what I can do. And I hope we help the team."
On how his baseball background serves him as a football player:"I think it helps me in a lot of areas. My hand-eye coordination … I feel like tracking a baseball is a little bit harder than tracking a football, so I think that carries over. I think that the biggest thing that I carry over from baseball is just the maturity. I've experienced some things that some guys haven't with failure, and I've been through a lot in those three, four years with the Pirates. It's just a different maturity factor, and I think that's only going to help me in my career."
On what his conversations were like with the Ravens and Ozzie Newsome being that he was once a tight end:"He wants me to come in and contribute. He wanted me to confirm that I was the best tight end, and that's what I was telling him on the phone: 'You've got your guy. Absolutely, I did it in the SEC, and I'm going to come and do it up there. I want to come in and play and compete.' When I was up there on my 30 [college player] visit, I had this strange feeling that it was kind of a perfect fit. And sure enough, a couple of weeks later, here we are. Again, I could not be happier."
On what played into his decision to leave baseball and play football: "When I was with the Pirates, I just didn't have a lot of success. I struggled through a lot of stuff for three years. And again, just sitting down there, spinning my wheels, and not having success, it kind of wears on you. I definitely needed to make a life change. Football had always been in the back of my mind. The struggles with baseball happened, and I knew I could be doing good with football and being successful. One day I just kind of made the leap of faith and here we are."
On why he chose to walk-on at South Carolina:"One of my good friends from high school – his name is Perry Orth – he was the backup quarterback [there]. He's from Jacksonville, so we grew up playing against each other. Things were kind of heading south with the Pirates, and I made a phone call to him. He's really the one that got my foot in the door and got the ball rolling with me at South Carolina."
On what about his game gives him confidence that he can immediately contribute: "I think the SEC prepares you. You play college football at the highest level, [and there are] some of the best athletes. You see these guys getting drafted in the first round year after year. Playing and competing at that level for two years definitely has me ready. I know the NFL is an even different beast, but I feel extremely prepared having done it for two years in the SEC."
On if there is still room to grow: "Absolutely. I've done it for two years, but then again, it's still really new to me. I'm still picking up on things; my body is still adjusting to lifting like a football player again. I really think I'm just tapping in to what I'm going to be able to do."
On what NFL tight end he compares his play to: "For me growing up, I was always a Miami [Hurricanes] fan. So the two guys that I really modeled my game after were Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey. I watched Greg a lot; and I think he does both things extremely well. He blocks well, sticks his face in there, is not afraid of contact and then stretches the field vertically. He's definitely one of the guys I watched growing up."
On why he's the best tight end in the 2018 NFL Draft class:"I think I do both things the best. I have no fear when it comes to [the] running game. Yes – there's some stuff I can clean up, but it'll never be a question of 'want to.' Whatever the coaches want me to do, I'm going to do it 100 percent. I fly around at a high speed. Whether it's a walk-through, practice, whatever it is, you're going to get 100 percent out of me. I stretch the field vertically. People underestimate my speed – my speed for my size – and I think that's where I kind of hurt teams."
QB LAMAR JACKSON CONFERENCE CALL
On what his emotions were like waiting for his name to be called from the green room:"It was a whirlwind, wondering, 'When am I going to get picked? Am I going to have to go home?' But the Ravens, they picked me up, and I'm just ready to get to Baltimore."
On if he had a feeling he could be drafted in Baltimore after visiting there:"Yes, sir. I did. I had a great visit with [quarterbacks] coach [James] Urban, also the offensive coordinator [Marty Mornhinweg] and coach John Harbaugh. We all had great meetings, and it's just an honor for them to believe in me and to select me in the first round, last pick. I'm just ready to be a Raven and go to Baltimore."
On if he thought the Ravens could be selecting him when he saw them trade up to the 32nd pick:"Well, actually, the phone rang at first, and then I heard about it. So, it was quite eye-opening for me. I was just happy that they selected me in the first round."
On his mindset going into the NFL knowing he may not be starting as a rookie:"[I want to] just learn as much as I can from the vets – Joe Flacco, RGIII [Robert Griffin III III] – let the coach believe in me and just go out there and compete. It doesn't really matter to me; I just have to learn from a veteran and just go from there."
On if there is kind of a chip on his shoulder:"Oh, absolutely. Absolutely there is. You don't even have to finish the question; there is a chip on my shoulder. Both shoulders, yes sir."
On if he has a chip because of the way he fell in the draft or because some people said he wouldn't be an NFL quarterback:"All of it. It's just motivation. I'm not mad, it's just motivation. Let's just go into the offseason ready to play."
On what his conversation was like with Ozzie Newsome:"It was pretty cool. It was a pretty quick interview with Mr. Ozzie. He just asked me questions about my background and stuff like that, like all the other coaches did. Then he just felt like there was something he'd seen in me and that he believed in me."