Eric DeCosta opening statement:"Thanks for coming. Today was a good, solid day for us. [We] tried to – in the early part of the day – address the defense, which was our plan. In Tavius [Robinson], I think we got a guy who plays very, very hard. [He's] big, you guys will see when you see him – 6'6", 250-260 pounds. [He] runs well, very, very physical, long reach. From a comparison standpoint, [he is] probably more like a guy like Za'Darius Smith. [He] can kick inside, can play outside. [He is] physical.
"Kyu Blu Kelly is a player that we've scouted for two years. [Director of college scouting] David [Blackburn] has scouted him at length, as well [as] Corey Frazier upstairs, our west coast scout. [He is] a very, very polished, efficient mover. [He has] good eyes, physical, has good size, can play zone, can play man. [He is] a very experienced player, durable guy.
"Then, Sala [Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu] – I'm not going to try to pronounce his name – is a guy who, again, we've scouted for two years. We looked at him last year; we thought there was a chance he was coming out last year. [He is] a very, very large offensive lineman. He's played some left guard, he's played some right guard, primarily has been a right tackle. [He is] a very, very good athlete for his size. [He] can pull, can play on his feet. We look at him as a real strong developmental guy. [He has] a lot of upside potential. He's young, and he fits us very, very well. In most cases, we're going to try to draft an offensive lineman every year if we can. We just think it's good, and you like to have that pipeline of guys every single year, the younger players. [Offensive line coach] 'Joe D' [Joe D'Alessandris] does an amazing job developing offensive linemen for us. So, [I am] very happy where we are right now, and over the next couple hours, we will continue to build the team. Questions?"
Eric, can you talk about the emotions and significance of this whole week, from signing QB Lamar Jackson to adding this Draft class? (Jamison Hensley)
_Eric DeCosta: _"It's been emotional. It really started … I would say this month, a lot of work has gone into this month, starting with Odell [Beckham Jr.]. Really going back to the owners' meetings in March, it's been a whirlwind of different emotions. We've worked very hard to get going, and I think at some point, we started to build some momentum which was nice, and here we are. I think we would all say we're pretty tired, but it's a good tired. There's a bad tired and a good tired, and this is a good tired. I think we'll sleep well tomorrow, and we'll enjoy tomorrow with our families – all the coaches and scouts – and we'll get back to work on Monday."
In terms of cornerback right now, do you feel like CB Marcus Peters is a guy who's still in your plans right now, or other veteran corners in general? (Cordell Woodland)
_DeCosta: _"As we've said, the roster is never set. I think what you'll see is in the coming weeks, there are a lot of potential moves for us to make: free agents, guys that we've had, guys that we like who are available. The other point I think – which is a fair point to make as well – is we drafted two young corners last year, and both guys kind of wrestled with injuries this past year. [Jalyn] Armour-Davis and [Damarion] Williams, both. We feel the same way – if those guys were in this year's Draft, we probably would have drafted them in the same spot, and they're good, young players. That being said, would we like to potentially add a veteran corner? Yes, I'm sure we would. It's an important position. What we've seen is you can never have enough good corners to start the season and throughout the season. That's a fast way to get beat, is to not have enough corners on the field."
With only making five picks, was that a statement about not seeing as many total draftable players, or is it not that simple? Was it more because of how opportunities played out? (Childs Walker)
DeCosta: _"Well, we only had five picks, so we could only make five picks. _(Reporter: "Right, but you could have traded.")We could have – and to be honest with you – I have to look at that because we didn't get as many calls this year. I think when you have a lot of picks, people call you because they know you have a lot of picks. The way that trades work is it's based in combinations; it's just simple math. If you have a lot of picks, teams can look at you and say, 'We can do a trade with Baltimore because we can figure out the combination of points.' When you don't have a lot of picks, it's tougher. So, we didn't have a second-round pick; we didn't have a seventh-round pick. Sometimes, we have multiple picks in a round, and so a team that may be lacking in picks can call us, and the math works. We didn't get a lot of calls; I'm not really sure why. Did we have some opportunities? We did, [but] we didn't like the math. So, it's just one of those things. I would like to have had more picks … Still might. We're going to go upstairs; the seventh round is just starting. So, this might be an unusual year – who knows? The fact is, we just didn't get a lot of calls. Looking at the team, we really do – in most cases – we look at the roster, and we like the way it looks. We don't see a lot of big, glaring holes, and we have solutions as well still out there in free agency, potentially. So, if you're not going to have a lot of picks, this is probably the year to not have picks. We were able to fortify. We brought some guys back that played for us last year that we like, that we're excited to bring back, guys like Justice Hill as an example of one guy. There were a lot of other guys that we brought back. So, as we looked at the roster, we didn't see the big holes on the roster that we felt compelled to fill."
David, what made an impression on you about CB Kyu Blu Kelly when you first started scouting him? (Jeff Zrebiec)
_David Blackburn: _"My first exposure to him outside of practice was I attended a live game in '21. It was at USC, early season game. They had Drake London, and he [Kyu Blu Kelly] impressed me because he basically went toe-to-toe with a future Top 10 pick and did more than hold his own. He got his hands on two or three PBUs, had a pick-six later in the game to kind of ice it. So, that was kind of a statement game. It stood out as far as an exposure where a guy was able to really step out there and make a lasting impression on me. So, throughout that process, that's your baseline. You're like, 'Well, if he's doing that, he's going to be able to do it in the league.' I actually thought that if he had come out last year, he would have easily been a Day 2 pick, in my opinion, but I'm happy to get him in the fifth round right now. I think he's going to be a great Raven, great fit. [He is] one of those high-floor prospects. [He is] going to come in. His dad played in the league; he's been around ball. [He is] a Stanford kid, smart, tough, competitive, can play man and zone, has good ball skills. He's going to come in and do the right things. He loves ball, so to get a guy like that at this stage in the Draft, we consider that a value pick."
Do you see OLB Tavius Robinson as an ascending player? He comes from Canada, fills in at Ole Miss and seemed to get better over the course of his career. He has really good measurables. Does he look like a player who is ascending? (Garrett Downing)
_Blackburn: _"I'll let [director of player personnel] Joe [Hortiz] answer that. I think Joe kind of has a better feel for Tavius [Robinson] than I do. But to answer your question, yes."
_Joe Hortiz: _"If you watched his [Tavius Robinson's] progression through his career at Ole Miss … And then [he] obviously went to the Senior Bowl – had a really good Senior Bowl – his performance at the Combine and Pro Day … He just seems to be on the rise. [Executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] talked about the player he is. He's very physical. He's got a great motor; I mean, [head coach] John [Harbaugh] preaches run to the ball with our defense, and he's always running to the ball, making plays downfield. So, the Raven mentality is there, the effort is there. He's a developmental player in terms of playing ball in the [United] States versus Canada, but he's grown tremendously at Ole Miss, and we still see a lot more potential for him."
When you put on the tape of T Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, what do you like about him? And do you envision him as more of a guard or a tackle at the professional level? (Kyle Barber)
_Hortiz: _"When you watch him [T Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu] play at Oregon, he played both positions, [and in] some games he'd flip in during series into guard. He was primarily a right tackle for them. I think he can play both. [Offensive line coach] Joe [D'Alessandris] will get him and find the best spot for him, in terms of starting him out, but I do see flexibility with him. The things that stand out with him [are] he's huge, he's got explosive power, knocks guys down on down-blocks. He runs really well for a big man. When you watch him pull or get out on leads on the frontside plays, he can really cover ground. He plays with a great temperament. So, [there's] a lot to like about a big man who plays physical – our brand of football."
There aren't many 6'6" outside linebackers. Is OLB Tavius Robinson a guy you feel like can play multiple positions? (Cordell Woodland)
_Hortiz: _"Yes, and they do it with him [Tavius Robinson] there [at Ole Miss]. He plays everywhere from a 4-I-technique inside, reduced down, all the way to a 7-technique, and you see that versatility. He gives you some inside pass rush flexibility, but he can also get in a two-point stance and knock back tight ends. He's really physical taking on tight ends, kind of creating a new line of scrimmage behind the existing line of scrimmage. So, [he] does offer versatility in that sense."
Do you guys see LB Trenton Simpson as a guy who can cross-train at outside linebacker, or do you like him off the ball? (Jonas Shaffer)
_DeCosta: _"He [Trenton Simpson] is a good pass rusher, he's a good blitzer, and he can do some of that. As we think about him, we probably envision him as more of an off-the-ball guy. But that being said, with [defensive coordinator] Mike [Macdonald's] defense – and this is kind of a growing theme in the league – the defensive coaches are very multiple in what they do, so if you have guys who can do more than one thing, you can really mess with the offense. And what we like about Trenton is just he's a very explosive blitzer; he's good with his hands; he closes very quickly. So, that's a great skill for a linebacker to have, and that's something that both Roquan [Smith] and Patrick [Queen] both have – they're all excellent blitzers. So, it just gives us a lot of multiple looks on defense."
One of the narratives around the NFL Draft just a couple of weeks ago was surrounding the S2 Cognition Test. Do you guys see any value in those kinds of things? (Jonas Shaffer)
_DeCosta: _"We do. So, we don't subscribe to that test [S2 Cognition]. The Ravens, historically, we've been independent, going back to 1996. We've never belonged to a scouting service. We don't belong to National; we don't belong to Blesto. The reason, really, honestly being, is we don't want to share our information with other teams. So, what we try to do is kind of create our own tests. [Scouting information & research manager] Steve Clagett, who works with us upstairs, he helps us. We use a lot of different people in analytics; we interview; we train our scouts. We spend a lot of time really figuring out what's most important to us when we assess these players, and we just do it our own way. And I think it's great, because we trust our people more than anybody else, and the information stays in-house."
When you look at all your picks, is there something that kind of jumps out at you as a collective class? (Jamison Hensley)
_DeCosta: _"Well, I would say that every single guy on this list has played starter-level football and we think can be a starter in the NFL. Our scouts … These players, the five of these players [Zay Flowers, Trenton Simpson, Tavius Robinson, Kyu Blu Kelly and Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu] graded out very high. There are some years where you have a lot of picks, and you sort of deviate a little bit from your sequence, because you're trying to fill specific needs. The mindset for me this year was just, 'Try not to worry as much about the needs, and just draft the best guy that's there at every single pick,' and I think we did it. Honestly, I can't 100% say that we did it exactly, but I know it's pretty damn close. And the reason we might not have is because, for instance, we might have had an outside linebacker rated slightly higher than Kyu [Blu Kelly], but we did just take an outside linebacker [Tavius Robinson]. So, what we try to do with our sequence is that player may not be picked, because we just took a player at that position. But in general, the thing I think about [with] this class is at that pick, as I look at the sequence, every one of these guys was the highest rated guy on our board."
In past years, you've talked about how every team in the Draft seems to have a similar board. Did you feel like that was the case this year? I know coming into the Draft there were some analysts who felt like this was a very difficult draft to predict. How did the board fall in relation to your expectations of it? (Garrett Downing)
DeCosta: _"I would say that this year was a little bit unusual. As you got into the second, third and fourth rounds, there were some ebbs and flows and crazy picks. I saw more volatility – lower-rated guys being drafted high, guys outside our sequence. It had more of a 2007-type-of-Draft feel. Just in general, with proliferation of mock drafts and the internet and social media and information sharing, a lot of Draft boards look pretty similar, and that's why a lot of times, when we're finished with the first round [and] second round, we see that there aren't a lot of players that we have in the Top 64 still available at the end of those two rounds. It used to be different. This year was a little different, I would say, [director of player personnel] Joe [Hortiz]." _(Director of player personnel Joe Hortiz: "Yes.")"I don't know. But there seemed to be some different picks. I think this is a tough Draft to evaluate. This was an unusual Draft. We're still dealing with the ramifications of COVID, in some ways. There are a lot of older players in this Draft class. [It's] very unusual, but there are a lot of guys who are 24, 25, 26 years old. So, if you think about it, there are guys who are 20 years old in this Draft and guys who are 26 years old, and we haven't seen that big of a spread in terms of the numbers, so that's kind of different. But I would say, yes, [this was] more of a tougher Draft to predict in the second and third day."
Eric, with NIL maybe taking away some undrafted guys who might be there, do you still see as big of potential to have down-the-line contributors in previous years or has that kind of changed the landscape? (Jonas Shaffer)
DeCosta: _"That's a great question. I don't know how that's going to affect undrafted free agency. I will say this, that I have a lot of faith in [assistant director of player personnel] Mark Azevedo, who's upstirs. He kind of organized this thing for us, and [director of player personnel] Joe [Hortiz] and [director of college scouting] David [Blackburn] and the coaches and the scouts. They'll be cranking. When the time comes – they haven't started yet – but when the time comes, they will be cranking. They'll be hitting the phones. We've done a lot of prep work. We've started recruiting guys weeks ago, and we'll be in a great place. We'll get a good class of guys. It's going to be fierce competition to make the team. It's going to be hard. It's not like back in 1998, 1999 when four or five undrafted guys would make it [the roster] every year. [ESPN.com_ reporter] Jamison [Hensley], you're the elder statesman, you remember those days. The historian remembers those days when those guys – we had a lot of those guys make it. Now it's like maybe one guy or two guys a year, I think. So, it is challenging, but we take a lot of pride in it. We think we do it better than anybody else. I think probably other teams think that, too. But we take a lot of pride in the way that we do it. Mark [Azevedo] is highly organized in what he does, and our scouts and the coaches do an amazing job. I do think we have an advantage this year because we have some college coaches that we brought in, and with that is the recruiting aspect of the job, which is a big advantage."
Eric, going into the Draft a lot of analytics said Eric DeCosta likes to trade so much that there's no way he would just stick and make the five picks. The Ravens love drafting so many players. There's no way it's just a five-player class. How does it feel to you to just stay and pick five? (Ryan Mink)
DeCosta:"We just zagged. We didn't want to zig this year, I guess. We always trade and we didn't trade this year and I would expect people would think that we would trade this year. But we like the players, we like the roster, and as I said, the phones didn't ring. There's actually – honestly, we have new phones, as you know. We have new phones, right? And they weren't ringing and I'm like, 'Are these damn things working?' (laughter) Because they weren't the old phones that we're used to using in the Draft room. They brought these new, like, internet things. (Joe Hortiz: "Digital phones.") Digital phones and I'm like, 'Are they really working, Joe?' Honestly, we're calling them and they're ringing, but the only people calling are us. It was the strangest dynamic. But it's one of those years. But I will say this, what was good about this year was that in most cases the player that we wanted – or a player that we wanted – was there when we could pick. Some years that's not the case and that's a helpless feeling. So, it was OK that the phones didn't ring quite as much."
David, we didn't get a chance to ask you when WR Zay Flowers was drafted, but what kind of stood out to you about him in the whole scouting process? (Jamison Hensley)
Blackburn:"I mean, everything. He's [Zay Flowers] just a fun evaluation. He's electric. You can't help but keep your eyes [on] him when you're watching the tape, and it's even better in person as [director of player personnel] Joe [Hortiz] and I saw in Vegas at the East West [Shrine Bowl] game. [He's] explosive, fast, sudden, dangerous. He can hurt you on all three levels. He can get deep. He's great after the catch. He's a tough tackle. He's physical. He can play through contact. He can make more contested catches than most guys his size can make. He's very productive, and he doesn't shy away from the moment. Again, when you're 5-9, 180-some pounds – coming from a shorter guy – you have to be wired a certain way to dominate, especially in the National Football League. You can't be meek, and he has that mentality. He has that Raven mentality that we desire, and it shows on the field and it's infectious. You want that guy on your team, and we're extremely lucky to have him here. We look forward to seeing him play on Sundays."
A week ago, there were a lot of questions about what this team may look like going into the season. I know that you guys aren't done, but with the QB Lamar Jackson signing and the Draft now over, how do you feel about the view of this team going into this next season? (Cordell Woodland)
DeCosta:"I think we all feel pretty good, but we also understand and realize that we have more work to do. We have four or five months – whatever it is – and I remember last year being on the beach with my dad when we signed Justin Houston in July. So, there's going to be opportunities along the way to sign players and we'll do that if we can. If we have the opportunity and we have the resources to do it and it exists, the potential, we'll do it. The roster is going to look different than it does now – hopefully better. But it is going to look different, and we're going to keep building and building and building until we can build the team that can go as far as possible."