Ozzie Newsome's opening statement: "Just giving some thoughts about the upcoming draft… As I was looking back, I think I was probably still a player the last time there was no free agency before the draft. I think Plan B [free agency] came in during my last two years as a player, so that allowed some free agency. When you look at that, since we've come back from the Owners' Meetings, all 32 teams have just been preparing for the draft basically. We're still going through the scheme stuff, football-wise, but I think each and every team will probably be as prepared for this draft as they would ever be because of that [free agency] situation that they've always been able to do. What does that mean for the draft? We don't know. Is there going to be a lot of trades? Are there going to be no trades? We don't know that. But, I think teams will be as prepared as they've been before, and I think it's going to be another interesting three days."
The time period between drafting and signing a player could be shortened because of the lockout. What contingencies do you have in place to deal with the quick restart of operations once the lockout is over?
(NEWSOME) "I thought this was basically a draft luncheon. (laughter) Once the last pick is in, we'll operate as we are right now. We are in a lockout and we can have no contact with any of the players, which means contracts, getting them into football school – anything. They become just like the other players. So, they are out of sight and out of mind just like the other guys we have on our team. What does that mean? I don't know. Most of the contracts don't get done until right before training camp anyway. So, if we are able to have a training camp, it would be [important] to get guys signed and get them in on time."
How does the situation of having free agency come second impact your drafting? Does the lack of free agency change your motive in the draft?
(NEWSOME) "No, no. It was good to have Anquan [Boldin] on board before we drafted last year. Did that take some pressure off us in having to go out and get a receiver? Yes it did. I still think that at the end of the day, what we try to do is look at our board and try to get players to come into Baltimore that are going to be able to contribute early and then be here for a long time. So, not having free agency, I don't think it has really changed our mindset. We haven't redirected the board one way or the other, and we'll let it play itself out."
Is it the preferred method to draft first and then sign free agents later, or has it been the other way for so long that you're not sure which is better?
(NEWSOME) "There is a continuum of people in the league that would rather have the draft first and then free agency. But part of the problem in doing that is restricted free agency. If you have a restricted free agent, and he goes out and signs a contract with another team, you want that [compensated] pick in this year's draft and not next year's draft. That would be the only real reason right now why we don't do it that way. I think it will be interesting to see how this plays itself out. Not having Anquan going into the draft last year – what that would have meant to us – I don't know if we all can answer that question. So, I think it's a good situation and I think it's something the league will look at depending on what happens over the next two or three, four or five next months – whenever that [labor] thing is resolved. It could be something that could be unchanged."
Is it important to try to draft players who are ready to play immediately instead of guys who could be better in a few years?
(NEWSOME) "It's a learning curve for all of them when they come in, regardless of where they are picked or who they are. There are some guys who come in with a ton of ability, but to be able to acclimate themselves into the football schemes and everything that they have to do – the way we do business, the Raven way of doing things – it's going to take some change."
John Harbaugh's follow-up: "I think the main thing is you want guys who can play. You like guys who can play their rookie year, their second year. You only have them for four years, maybe with free agency. You put a premium on guys who are good players in college, who are smart guys who can pick things up quickly, who can play the way we like to play. That's probably always a premium for us."
When drafting, are you thinking more about other AFC North teams and choosing players who will keep the Ravens competitive with them, especially later in the season?
*(HARBAUGH) *"Well, I think we better. We play in the AFC North. We play those teams twice a year every single year. Obviously, we have a heated rivalry with all of those teams – especially Pittsburgh right now – because, as you said, two of the last three years it has come down to those kind of tiebreakers at the end of the year and stuff like that – home field advantage. So, we've got to find a way to beat the teams we play the most. You want to draft towards beating the teams at the top of the conference every year because the goal is to get to the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl. So, sure, that's a good point."
Is there more pressure this year to get the draft right because of the limited time to get players ready after the lockout? And, is it an advantage to you to have more time this year to assess the draft board because of the unknowns caused by the labor situation?
*(ERIC DECOSTA) *"I think, honestly, we treat the draft the same every year. We feel the pressure to get it right every single year regardless of all this other stuff that is kind of hanging out there right now. We have to nail the draft every single year. That's the lifeblood of this franchise, of what we are trying to accomplish here, is the draft. In terms of the actual draft and talking to Ozzie and John and Joe [Hortiz] and the scouts, we get together and we really do talk these things over very much. And things change from day to day. Our coaches and scouts do a great job of generating information on all these players. We spend a lot of time just talking about the players, all the auxiliary issues, and then we tweak things during the draft. Our list actually does change a little bit based on how the whole thing has transpired from Day One to Day Two to Day Three. It's a fluid process and it's changing all the way until the end. With all these things we can't control necessarily, we try to adjust on the fly."
What are your thoughts on this year's defensive linemen and the depth of the defensive backs in the draft?
*(JOE HORTIZ) *"It's a really deep draft in terms of D-linemen. All these mocks have seven or eight guys going up there, and deservedly so. There's a lot of different variety of guys. You have your nose tackles, your D-tackles and then you D-ends and pass rushers, a little bit of 3-4 guys, projections. From a talent standpoint, it's to each your own. I think the 4-3 teams are going to love some guys more; the 3-4 teams are going to look at those undersized ends more, but it's a really strong draft. I would not be surprised to see a lot of those names that are being projected right now in the top 32-35 picks to jump off the board."
Do you think it is possible that 10 or 12 defensive tackles/defensive ends will be picked in the first round?
*(DECOSTA) *"Maybe more. I think maybe 13, as you look at it. And in that group, there are some that we would consider to be outside linebackers that other teams may have as 4-3 ends. But, I think in the end, 13, 14 is probably a good number."
Can you tell us how your role in the draft process has evolved and changed since your first year as head coach?
*(HARBAUGH) *"I think you learn. I've had a chance to watch the master [Newsome] operate and really [learn] the process as much as anything. So everything kind of evolves and grows. But, it's not a lot different. The one thing about Ozzie Newsome is he's very inclusive. He utilizes the people around him very well – scouts and coaches. We work together really well, and he allows that. He gives everybody an opportunity to be involved extensively. It's kind of been that way from the beginning. So, just maybe, hopefully, I'm getting a little better at it over the last couple of years. I think as a group we are really growing together in terms of having a real good feel for the type of football team we're trying to build together. And that makes a big difference."
How many cornerbacks do you expect will be drafted in the first round? How does this draft class compare to other years in depth of cornerbacks?
*(DECOSTA) *"I think in the first round you're probably looking at three, maybe four, corners who have a chance to be selected in the first round. In the first three rounds historically there are anywhere from about 10 to 14 corners taken, and I would expect that to hold true this year. Possibly, 12 to 13 corners in the first three rounds, and then after that you'll see probably four or five other corners that get taken, six maybe, corners that get taken in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds as well. I think it's a decent year for corners. Typically, they come off the board quick. Anybody that has any kind of size and speed, typically, will fly off the board in the first three rounds, and that's almost been the case every single year."
*(NEWSOME) *"To your second part of the question, just looking back at last year's draft with [Kyle] Wilson and [Devin] McCourty going at the end of the [first round], that oddly added more depth to the number of defensive backs that went in the first round. But, if you look at it, probably what is going to end up happening is there is a chance maybe three, maybe four, that will go in the first round. Is that similar to when Chris [McAlister] and Champ [Bailey] came out? Possibly. Both those guys were in the top 10 because I think we picked Chris at 10 or nine. I don't know what it was." 
Does your final decision to draft a player come down to a gut feeling on the issue of character?
*(NEWSOME) *"I think gut feeling has a lot to do with it. Getting the opportunity to have been in this game for the years I've been in it, [knowing] the guys I've been with in the locker room, and then you add that to the number of guys who we have brought into Baltimore and some of the things that we've had to deal with with those players… And we run the gamut in what we've had to deal with with some of our own players, talking about the guy who is the face of the organization. So, what we try to do is we have a process in place and we try to get as much information as we can. That's the one thing not being involved in either Blesto or National that our scouts have to get all the information. We don't get information from the two [scouting] services; we get it from our guys. So, they have to go in and they have to dig deep to get the information. And what they do is they bring the information back, and it's good for the four of us to talk about it. And we add other people into the mix with us – including Steve [Bisciotti] – when we start to talk about a player. I think probably the most important thing is what is a player going to do once he gets to Baltimore? How can we make that player a better person and a better player for the City of Baltimore and this football team? And, that's what we try to look at. You can look behind, but you've got to look ahead also."
Do you ever second guess your draft choices, such as OLB Sergio Kindle, who was not able to even play last season?
*(NEWSOME) *"To have been able to sit here the day we picked Sergio and say that he was going to fall down a flight of stairs, I couldn't predict that one. But, that story is not written yet. And we'll wait and see how that outcome is going to be. But that story is not completely written yet."
Are you all in agreement in what the Ravens' most pressing need in the draft is?
(HARBAUGH) *"Was that for me? We can't agree on who should answer that question. *(laughter) We talk about this stuff every day, not just in the draft, but in the course of the season. Throughout the course of the last three years, all of us have had these conversations every single day. We understand what we need as a team. To say it's one, two, three, four… We might put it in different rank or order, but there are going to be factors involved, like free agency being a part of it, who comes back, who doesn't come back, who's healthy, who's not healthy. You can make an argument in a lot of different directions, but we all understand how we feel, and I know we know what we need to do to make our team better and what we're going to try to do."
Despite having a number of good veteran wide receivers on the roster, will you be looking to draft a good young receiver?
*(NEWSOME) *"Are you asking me if Julio [Jones] or A. J. Green were there would I pick them? Someone asked this question when we had the end of the season wrap-up [presser]: 'Are we looking for a big receiver?' We're looking to add to our receiving corps; yes we are. We've done a good job of stacking the board with some guys that have some size, some guys that have some unique quickness about them. Some guys have just got flat-out speed. It's a very good board for receivers this year, and I do foresee, unless something changes, of those nine picks we have, probably one of them will be a receiver."
What is your assessment of the offensive tackle class, and do you feel there is a strong tackle who will be picked in the first round?
*(HORTIZ) *"I think that's probably accurate. There's not your top-five, your Jake Long-, Joe Thomas-type guy out there. But, the collective unit of them is similar to years past where there's a good stack of players. In the second round you're going to get an opportunity to take a good one. In the third round [you will have a chance]. I would say the depth is pretty solid. It's senior-heavy. There's only one underclassman up there high, in terms of rankings and all that, and he's talented. But, probably in terms of your pure, top guy, he's not out there this year. But, I'd say in its overall depth, it's pretty strong."
How do you feel about the quarterbacks in this year's class? How many do you feel will be taken in the first round, and is there any possibility the Ravens would consider taking a QB in the first round?
*(DECOSTA) *"In terms of how many we have ranked, we're not going to talk about how many guys we have ranked at any position. I think the consensus would be two or three guys, possibly, for most teams, for most boards. Obviously, if a Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert… Some other guys, too, I think have a chance to be possible first-rounds guys. [Andy] Dalton from TCU is a name you hear a lot. Christian Ponder is another name you hear a lot. [Jake] Locker, [Ryan] Mallet, there are a whole bunch of guys. There are a lot of guys this year. In terms of us drafting a quarterback, I think we'll consider drafting [one]. I don't know how many years we've drafted quarterbacks, but I think you can never have enough good quarterbacks on the team. Obviously, if there's a good player at the quarterback position available at some point in the draft, we'll turn it in. It's just based on how they stack up against the other players on the ledger."
Would you consider drafting a quarterback in the first round?
*(DECOSTA) *"I would say it is probably unlikely that we would draft a quarterback in the first round. More than unlikely, I would say. It just depends on how they fall off. We have second-round grades on some quarterbacks, no doubt about it. We have some third-round grades, seventh-round grades. It's just basically depends on who the best player is at that time."
What would you be looking for if you were to draft a quarterback on the third day of the draft?
*(DECOSTA) *"It's a guy that plays well on tape, first of all. Our coaches and scouts have looked at these guys. Intelligence is important at that position and the accuracy is important. Experience, production, character – a whole bunch of different things, just like with every other position. Every position has what we call position-specific and critical factors. Again, we've ranked all these quarterbacks in value. Craig Ver Steeg has done a great job looking at all of these guys. We've got a good quarterback board, and if there's a good player at some point in the draft available, we could turn the card in."
How much consideration have you given to drafting a good young linebacker to replace LB Ray Lewis when he retires?
*(NEWSOME) *"The thing about getting a good young linebacker would be special teams. We want to have the best special teams in the National Football League. And if you get good young linebackers, normally they can run, they can hit, they can play in space and do some things. So, we'll always be looking for that. And whoever has that opportunity to be the one to replace Ray – I don't know whether that guy is here now or will be in another class that we would draft – but we will always be looking to draft linebackers because we want great special teams."
When you watch the sons of former NFL players who are playing in college today, do you see similarities to their fathers in the way they play?
(NEWSOME) *"Cameron [Heyward] and 'Ironhead' [Craig] are two different positions. So, it's a little bit tough. Maybe, with Walter and Jarrett [Payton] – and that was not a fair comparison trying to compare Jarret to Walter back during that – but, you know that they've had the opportunity to grow up around the NFL. Do they understand thoroughly what the NFL is all about? Some do and some don't. But, we had the opportunity to interview Heyward at the Combine, and I think [coach Harbaugh] has a history with his father. So, they were able to engage in some conversation – John and Heyward – at the Combine. But, we still look at each player as an individual. And, maybe when I'm gone and Michael is getting ready to get drafted, I will be sending out tapes and doing things myself. I don't know." *(laughter)
What goes into the decision to make a trade on draft day, and what is the likelihood of a trade happening this year?
*(NEWSOME) *"I could not put a percentage on what the likelihood of a trade is going to be. Normally over the course, we're probably a week out, I'll start making some calls to people in front and people behind just to get a feel for what they're willing to do. And we always try to put together a plan based on who's coming down the board. [For instance,] Michael Oher coming down the board [or] moving up to get [Joe] Flacco. We try to have a plan going in so that once we get involved in the draft we're not just trying to think of things to do. We have a pretty good plan already in place. But, the thing that I've learned from the very beginning is when you're picking [at No.] 26, you better have 26 players, because you may not get the opportunity on the trade and you may not be able to trade up, so you better have that 26th guy that you think could come in and contribute. That's where it stops. The rest of it takes care of itself."
How would you assess the overall strength and depth of this year's draft class compared to others?
*(NEWSOME) *"I think the only thing I could add to that is because of the lack of knowledge of what's going to happen with the rookie wage scale, we had more juniors to come out. I think we had the most juniors come out in the history of the draft. Am I correct on that? That's probably the only thing that I could say was any different than any other draft. He's talked about the defensive lineman, he's talked about the offensive lineman, but the only thing we can actually know for sure is [that] more juniors came out this year, and they were concerned about the labor situation, I'm assuming."
Do you feel the possible change in a rookie wage scale will make teams more likely to take a risk on players they select in the first round of the draft?
*(NEWSOME) *"I don't think so. And I definitely don't want to get fined by the Commissioner for talking about the labor situation, so I'd like to stay away from that. We will evaluate the board and we will draft. As I said at the beginning, I think 31 other teams are doing that because that's the only thing they've been able to do since the league meetings. So, how's it is going to impact what's going to happen once we get a collective bargaining agreement – and we will – I can't answer that."
Have you ever come across a situation where players were suspended and unable to play like what happened at North Carolina? How would you approach that?
*(DECOSTA) *"The first thing we do is watch the tape. We evaluate the players based on [the tape]. If they played in 2010, we'll watch the 2010 tape. If they didn't, go back and watch the 2009 tape. And then what we do, and I think our scouts do a great job, is they talk to people. We interview many different people at the school. We try to generate a profile on each player, and that's really the first… That's the fall part of the puzzle, so to speak. After that, we then go to the All-Star games and we go to the Combine [and] continue to dig and kind of build a puzzle together. [We] put the puzzle pieces together to figure out who these guys are and figure out what they did and if they got in trouble. [We] try to get a sense of personality. We talk to the kids if we're interested in them as prospects. We'll interview the prospects again to kind of get a sense of who they are as people. [We'll] talk to coaches at the school. Our coaches have a tremendous network of coaches in college football that they can rely on to get information. It really is a nine-month process, and at some point we have to put the guy up there on the board where we think he belongs, and we'll make the decision."
(NEWSOME) "We're fortunate in the sense that [defensive coordinator] Chuck Pagano was at North Carolina when a lot of those kids got recruited, so we have an in-house person that we can go to who knew those guys when they were in high school and when they were freshmen."
Have you seen the coaches help more with the draft evaluation process since they cannot be in contact with the current players?
(DECOSTA) "The coaches have been pretty busy. They went to more workouts this year. We used the coaches more to actually go out and look at players at the school. We spent a lot of time with players this year, more so than ever before. We looked at a lot of guys. I think we had more reports filed this year on players than ever before, which is probably one reason why our meetings lasted a little bit longer last week because we had more reports, which is a good thing. We had a lot more information. We challenged our scouts to generate more information. That was one of the things we focused on this year, was to get to know these players better than we ever had before, and I think our coaches were able to come in and really augment that process and really help us to get more information. It worked out really well."
While preparing for the draft, do you create a trade scenario for a certain number of slots or do you identify a certain number of top 20 players that might move down and rate them?
*(NEWSOME) *"Both. The league has a trade chart. I'm sure you all heard about the trade chart , but if not, there is a universal trade chart that we all use. But, Pat [Moriarty], along with Eric [DeCosta] – and this is Steve's [Bisciotti] baby – [is to monitor] that trade chart, moving up and moving down, I can ask: 'OK, New England is on the clock at 17. What will it take for us to move to 17?' Somebody can give me an answer to that quickly because they've prepared themselves for that. We will have our board graded to where if a player [like] Michael Oher – just go back to Michael Oher – starts to come down the board, then we will start to say, 'OK, he's the guy that we should go and get.' We'll utilize that trade chart, that information, to start calling teams, and we'll say, 'We're willing to give up a third- [round pick]. We're willing to give up a fourth- [round pick].' So, all of that will be talked about, and that's one of the things that Steve is very big on. He's very much a part of us trading up and trading back, and that's where he'll start to interject himself."
How much will the selection process change in later rounds because of the inability to sign undrafted players during the lockout?
*(NEWSOME) *"I think historically what we've done with that seventh-round pick is we can look at our board, and we know it's going to be tough to go out there in the undrafted college free-agent market and get players because we don't pay any money. We're one of those cheap teams when it comes to that, and we don't want to get into a bidding war. So, we'll go ahead and draft the player. We'll draft that player, and that way we know we have him. Is he a developmental player? Is he a special teams player? We'll have a role for him when we draft him, but we'll take him with that pick in the seventh round because we don't want to have to go and try to recruit and outbid people in undrafted college free agency."
How tough will it be this year since you won't be able to go after those players after the draft?
*(NEWSOME) *"That's uncharted territory. Once that last card gets turned in, then [it's] lights out. [There are] going to be a lot of good football players that are going to be available out there. It's uncharted waters. It's going to be interesting to see how it plays itself out."
Do you expect teams to try to trade for a spot in the bottom third of the first round to get a QB because there wasn't free agency?
*(NEWSOME) *"That's what some people are saying. I don't know. Some people are saying that people will try to get back into the bottom of the first [or] top of the second [round] to grab their quarterback. I can't answer that. If the phone rings, we'll answer it."
Are you less inclined to draft higher-ranked running backs like Alabama RB Mark Ingram in the first round?
*(NEWSOME) *"Where did Mark [Ingram] go to school? *(laughter) *We've got a pretty good running back here [in Ray Rice]. Matter of fact, we've got one, two, three, four, five pretty good running backs. We've got Willis [McGahee], we've got Le'Ron [McClain], we've got Jalen [Parmele] and we've got Matt Lawrence. But if there is someone that we think can impact our football team and help us beat Pittsburgh, get to the AFC Championship game and win a Super Bowl, we'll draft him."
At the Combine, a few running backs said that they entered the draft early because they were worried about the number of carries they received in college. Are you looking at that closely?
*(NEWSOME) *"The wear and tear on someone's body? We got that same answer when we interviewed running backs and we had Jamal [Lewis]. And Jamal played here, what, nine years, 10 years? That's the reality – the amount of hits those guys have to take. So, you can understand them using that as a basis for them coming out in the draft. It's getting to the point in the league now where most teams are using two backs. It's just something that's happened."
Do you think where pass rushers are taken in the draft could come down to how teams project that they could work with their defensive scheme?
*(DECOSTA) *"I think that's a big part of it. Scheme is very important. You don't want to try to draft a square peg if it doesn't fit. Yes, you look at the scheme. Obviously, you either have a 3-4 defense, 4-3 defense or a hybrid-type defense. You have your typical 4-3 ends, then you have some of these undersized ends that can be 3-4 outside linebackers. So, there is a lot of different variety of players. I think a big thing that you have to do is really watch these guys play, work them out [and] put them through different drills. Some guys can rush the passer, [but] they may not be able to drop in space and do all those kind of things. Some guys may be too undersized to play the point of attack versus the run. So, [there are] a lot of different moving parts, but I think scheme definitely has a big part in it."
What is the hardest position to judge from just watching tape?
(HARBAUGH) "By position? I don't know. I don't think by position there is just one category. Some guys jump off the tape, and some guys it's a little harder to find characteristics that you like. Every position is different, so I think you have to kind of get a feel for specifically what you're looking for at what position. One thing we try to do for the mid- to later-round guys who are a little bit tougher to predict is look at those characteristics like Eric is talking about. Do they fit with what we're trying to do here in terms of the way they play? What are the characteristics that you really have to have at that position to be successful? They're going to be lacking something. The perfect player doesn't exist, but he certainly doesn't exist in the fourth or fifth round. So, what are the qualities that this guy brings to the table for his position that gives him a really good chance to succeed, especially in what we do? I really don't have an answer for you for which [position] is the tougher one. I just think the later you go, the tougher it gets because it's not as obvious, and you still make mistakes early."
If you have a shorter time period to work with the team and get them ready, how will you prepare rookies for the season?
*(HARBAUGH) *"It'll be a challenge. If it gets to that point, it's going to be harder to get rookies on the field. There's no question about it. I think everybody's going to have the same problem. I think the question was posed earlier – would you want guys who were more ready to play early – which we always do. We're not really looking for projects too much. Maybe some of the later-round guys are more of the project-type guys. But, it will make it more difficult, no doubt about it. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. I still have my fingers crossed. I'm still hoping that we get here and we can coach."
Do the coaches get to be more comfortable with the draft picks since there was no free agency?
*(HARBAUGH) *"I don't think more [comfortable] because of the situation, in terms of like we're more worried because we don't have free agents to fill particular spots. Ozzie makes a great point a lot of the times [when] he says, 'We don't play until September.' We have an opportunity to fill needs right up until we play the first game, and even after that in some cases. The important thing is not to… I think the important thing for a coach, and especially a head coach, is not to overreact and push your organization into making decisions on guys before you have to. Let's bring the best players we can in here, and we'll find a place to play them. Even sometimes if they don't quite fit what we're doing, we can always adjust what we're doing a little bit for a good player and just build the strongest team we can around who we have. And then later, we've got a good track record here of adding guys late – Josh [Wilson] is a great example of that – that can help us right at the end if we need a guy."
Does Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith remind you of Chris McAlister?
*(DECOSTA) *"There's only one Chris McAlister. *(laughter) *Physically, Jimmy and Chris are about the same size, so yeah, they do look a little bit alike. I think what a good scout will do – what makes a good scout [and] one of the qualities of a good scout – is really being able to compare players to players in the past. [They have] that memory bank to say, 'This guy is like that guy.' That really helps when you're in the meetings and you talk about thousands of players. If you can do that to kind of paint a picture of the player, I think that's really valuable."
Are you more or less inclined to take a gamble on players who have had off-the-field character issues?
*(NEWSOME) *"When we took Joe Flacco out of Delaware, [who] had played in the shotgun for two years, was that a gamble? Most people thought it was. I think anytime you take a player it's a gamble. Whether it's physically, psychologically, from a character standpoint, there's a gamble that you are taking when you take the player. What you have to do when you take that player is to understand what their strengths and weaknesses are, and then put together a team of people around him to make sure that his strengths show up and his weaknesses don't ever show up. I think that's what we do. My relationship with John, with Harry Swayne, with our medical staff, with the way John rides the coaches about knowing everything about their players, with 'Mother' [John Dunn] and Bob [Rogucki] in the weight room, [there is] a whole arena of things that we do to make sure Ray Lewis is as good as he can be. So, it starts at Ray and it works itself down. To answer your question, there is a gamble on every player that you take, from my perspective."
*(HARBAUGH) *"Yeah, I agree. You're right."
Do you see a lot of WRs in the second tier who could make an immediate impact in the League?
*(HORTIZ) *"I'd say definitely. That second tier of guys are all different shapes and sizes. There are some big, vertical speed guys, there are some possession guys that certainly aren't as fast, but they know how to get open underneath. I think if you look at the contributions of rookie wideouts throughout the past couple years, there are guys in the fifth round [who have made an impact]. [Sixth-round pick] Antonio Brown last year made a big contribution for Pittsburgh against us. There are lesser guys, in terms of where they're drafted, that can make an impact. It's just in terms of how they pick things up, how they're coming in, working and acclimating to the pro game. But, I definitely think there are guys in that second – and even the third – tier of wideouts that will be able to come in and help their draft team."
Is Tampa Bay WR Mike Williams an example of someone you are trying to pick up in a later round who could make an impact his rookie season?
*(HORTIZ) *"Yeah, absolutely. Mike had some things that people were worried about that pushed him down the board some. It was about finding the comfort level, like Ozzie was talking about, and knowing what his strengths are and how to get those strengths out of him. I think Tampa did a good job with him this past year. There are guys like that. You pay attention to Mike and see how he develops and you learn from that. There are definitely guys like him that can help us."
Ozzie, having played in the SEC, does Auburn QB Cam Newton remind you of anybody?
*(NEWSOME) *"Joe (an Auburn alum) is a little more of an authority on that one than I am, but I will speak to it. I saw what [Newton] did to Alabama when they were down 24-0 in Tuscaloosa against Nick Saban. You don't do that unless you've got some rare, rare ability. He has some rare ability. How he's going to translate himself into the National Football League, we'll see. I think if you want to start to do any comparison, Vince Young came up. He also put on a performance in that  National Championship game, pulling out a win for Texas that year. Joe is the authority on all of the Auburn guys, and I just ride alongside."
*(HORTIZ) *"What [Newton] did was awesome. Simply put. I was at the game the week before – the Georgia game – and it was a similar situation. They were down I think 21 in that game, maybe 17. He had a unique knack all year of coming back. And [Ravens Southeast area scout] Joe Douglas mentioned it: I think he brought his team from behind four times. There were seven games where they won by seven points or less, where they needed game-ending drives to win. Every time he was asked to step up he did it, either with his arm or his legs. Vince Young is a great comparison in terms of the dual-threat. Personally, I may be a little bit biased, but I think Cam is a little more poised and he's got more passing ability than Vince coming out. [He's a] really rare-type player."
Does having picked more offensive than defensive players in the first round since 2006 enter your mind at all during the draft process or affect what you might look for?
*(NEWSOME) *"No. We set the board. The thing that Eric and Joe and the scouts do is they do a great job of setting the board. We look for players that we think can come in and contribute to our football team. Do we go in thinking that it's definitely going to be an offensive player or a defensive player? No, we don't. We just want to get good football players, because if you get a good football player, like coach [Harbaugh] said, they'll find a way to get him on the field and let him be a productive player. To tell me that we've drafted offense since 2006, I can't remember who it was."
What do you think of the safety class in the draft?
*(DECOSTA) *"The numbers are down there for sure at that position this year, but there are some good players. Obviously, Rahim Moore is a guy with a lot of pick production in his past. [He] had his past 10 picks as a sophomore and came out this year as a junior. [He's a] great player; great instincts [and] ball skills. Jaiquawn Jarrett from Temple is a real physical, box-type guy, strong safety. He's a pretty good player. There are some guys that are going to be first-, second-, third-round-, fourth-round-type selections that are going to help you win football games, no doubt."
In your reviews, what are some characteristics or reasons for why certain players you drafted have not performed as well as expected?
*(DECOSTA) *"It could be a lot of different factors. Toughness and durability are a big one. Sometimes you just can't control [if] a guy comes in and gets hurt Day One. He can't be a player. You can't play if you can't play. So toughness, durability, and I think sometimes maybe the mental aspect of the game, is tough. Our guys spend a lot of time studying football [and doing] classroom work. That's a big thing. You're approaching the offseason, getting yourself ready to play. All those intangible things work together. It's not just specifically one thing; it's a lot of different things. There is some luck involved, and then sometimes we just simply get the player wrong. Evaluating the player, he's just not as good as we thought he was. We have some instances of that as well, where it just doesn't pan out for the guy. Obviously, you try to hit as many home runs as you can. Sometimes you hit a single and sometimes you strike out."
Will the new kickoff rules alter the emphasis on kick returners or special teams players in the later rounds?
*(HARBAUGH) *"That's a great question because it's kind of what Ozzie says: It's uncharted territory. We like being in uncharted territory because maybe we can find a way to take advantage of it. Is the kick returner going to be less valuable or is he going to be that much more valuable? Is a kickoff guy going to be less important or is he going to be that much more important because you have a chance to get kickoffs? Does that mean that you'll maybe keep a kickoff guy and have one less kickoff cover guy on your roster? Probably everybody will approach it a little bit differently based on who their kickoff guy is and where they kick and those kinds of things. It's yet to be played out. We're just trying to use it to our advantage. We do have Billy Cundiff, so that's a plus. I'm pretty sure we're going to try to find… We have David Reed back there and some other guys that can [return]. We'll just have to see how it plays out. But I know one thing: We're going to try to be as good a kickoff return team as we can. We're not going to just throw up our hands and say it's going to be a touchback every time."
What are your thoughts on Maryland WR Torrey Smith?
*(HORTIZ) *"One, he's a great kid. I think he was featured in that *Washington Post *article. Aside from the talent, he's really a great kid. It's amazing what he's overcome [and] what he's had to deal with and grow up through. I think it says a lot about the person. As a player, we all know him; we've all seen him here. He's made a lot of big plays for Maryland. He's got explosive speed. I think if you watch the N.C. State game, it was like a highlight reel, and it could have been more, [but] a couple balls didn't get out there to him. But he's a big, explosive guy who has got playmaking ability for sure."
Do you have any theories for why so many defensive linemen or pass rushers are projected to get drafted in the first round?
*(DECOSTA) *"I don't know the answer to that. I think you just have good players. It just happened to be a year where you had a really good senior class, and then you had a bunch of juniors who came out this year. And you know what? They're all pretty good players. They're all a little bit different, but they're all good players. It really does make this first round a very strong first round from a defensive perspective. If you're looking for a defensive player, this is a year where that probably meets up pretty well."
What is the final process to get ready for the draft between now and Thursday evening?
(NEWSOME) *"We have up until tomorrow night to still bring draft-eligible players into our facility. We will entertain some tomorrow to get the opportunity to spend some more time with them. Our scouts left on Saturday, and they will be back on Monday. They left with some assignments, some extra work that they had to do. Also, it was the opportunity… Over the past four or five years, I've been able to give them six or seven guys that potentially could be our first-round pick, so this allows every area scout the opportunity to have taken a look at the guy that we potentially could draft in the first round. They'll have those guys to [look at]. Then, we'll all get back together on Tuesday with the offense, and we'll go through the board again with all the coaches and all of the scouts, and anything that you have to say, you get the opportunity to say it at that point. We'll do the same thing on Wednesday with the defensive staff. We'll be talking about special teams and both phases of that game. And then, on Thursday, we're playing a 'night game' I guess you could say. [The draft] starts at 8 [p.m.]. The boss [owner Steve Bisciotti] comes in, and he likes to know the plan, in that he's gained more knowledge over the last three or four years. He doesn't just want to know what the first-round plan is, he wants to know what rounds two, three, four and five are going to look like. So, that meeting has become very good. I enjoy talking with the boss [and] getting him up to speed. He reads and hears everything that you guys [reporters] write and talk about, so he's got a lot of questions. If you all could hold it down a little bit, that meeting would be a little bit shorter for us. *(laughter) That's what we'll do. Like I said, we'll also be talking with teams about trade-ups, trade-backs. We can't talk about trading players this year because we're not allowed. Then, we'll just have a lot of anxiety up until the Commissioner says, 'Baltimore is on the clock.'"
Once the draft is complete, what is the focus of the coaches?
*(HARBAUGH) *"From a football standpoint, I think it's more of the same. We haven't had players here [this offseason]. We've had them here in the past. We've gotten more involved in the draft – as Eric said – as a coaching staff, probably more than ever before, but we've always been involved in it. We've probably gotten more involved with football study than we've ever been able to before. [We're] studying ourselves, kind of a re-authoring and re-building all three phases from a 'you have to evolve and you have to continue to improve' [standpoint] and looking at opponents and looking at different schemes that people do around the league. If we don't have the players here in May, which is your question – and there is never enough time – there are plenty of things that we would like to do that we don't get a chance to do. So, we'll be digging deep in football, one way or the other. We're hopeful that some things get resolved. We're coaches; we want to coach. We like to have the players around and have somebody to coach."
Will there be more Alabama or Auburn players drafted this year?
(DECOSTA) "I'd say Alabama. But, it's going to be close." (laughter)