Eric DeCosta opening statement: "Well guys, thanks for joining us tonight. We're very, very excited to get Rashod Bateman and Odafe Oweh – I think he goes by Odafe and also Jayson. They say that hope is not a plan. I think we had a really good plan, but we also had a lot of hope. We had some players that we really wanted to go after, and this is a year that things kind of fell the way that we wanted them to fall. We were very fortunate to get two players that we think are excellent players at their positions and really fill, also, some significant needs on our team in positions that we wanted to address. We're excited. I think the coaches had a big part … I want to thank the coaches and also the scouts for all the work they did to help us decide to bring these two guys to Baltimore. I can't wait to see these guys in two weeks. Questions?"
Eric, you mentioned the Draft sort of breaking your way. Would you say that there were a number of players that you guys were excited to take at both of the places that you were picking? (Childs Walker)
DeCosta: "Well, we had a good plan, and we thought that there would be some different combinations of players that we could get. It was just really a matter of us getting two players, so some of that was based on the positions available at the time at [pick] 27 versus [pick] 31. We tried to think of the picks as really being in tandem [and] what would be the best combination to ensure that we would get two players that we were very excited about. It would be easy to get one player, I think, at [pick] 27. But then the idea to get really the tandem [and] get two guys that we coveted; I think that was really the challenge. I think it worked out pretty well for us."
Eric, I have to ask you. A week or two ago, you said it was insulting that people said … disparaged the current wide receiver group. Was that any subterfuge? Were you looking at wide receiver the whole time? Or was this how the board broke? (Bo Smolka)
DeCosta:"We just take the best players. We feel really, really strongly about our receivers, and competition is great. We're trying to build the best team. We're not trying to collect talent. We're not trying to do anything special except add the best players we can who help us win the most games we can."
Eric or Joe, what separated WR Rashod Bateman from the other wide receivers that you were kind of looking at at that point? We just talked to him, and he talked about how he had COVID-19 and that affected his 2020 season. How do you balance out what he did in 2020 with kind of the limitations he dealt with as well? (Jamison Hensley)
DeCosta:"I'll talk briefly and then [director of player personnel] Joe [Hortiz] can chime in. We watch a lot of tape on all the players. We had a chance to watch Rashod [Bateman] in 19. He was used a little bit differently; he was used as more of an X-receiver outside. We also used some analytics, and we crunched the numbers. We listen to our people. We watched his workout, and we watched his Pro Day. We had the chance to interview him, and he really checked off all the boxes. It was, from my perspective, a very easy pick to make."
Hortiz: "I'd say knowing this year, he certainly did have some challenges, just like the rest of really everyone playing college football. But having that 2019 tape, seeing him play, like [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] said, outside, and then him showing the versatility this year to go inside and look comfortable and productive in there as well, I think were two attractive things about him. Eric mentioned the workout; he put on a great performance at his Pro Day."
Eric, you talked about the picks kind of being in tandem. Does that mean that you had no interest in trading back? Did the phone ring at all? How did you kind of attack that, especially at pick 31? (Jeff Zrebiec)
DeCosta: "Well, the phone did ring, and it was hectic for a brief period of time. We assessed the trades. We're fortunate that we've got four or five experts upstairs who look at the numbers, crunch the numbers and help us make the decisions when it comes to trades. We made the decision that we felt was best for the Ravens. We certainly could've traded, but we felt these players really were the right picks at the right time for the club. It's a challenging thing, sometimes, to assess the value of a trade back and the value of additional picks versus a player that you think could come in right away, contribute and help you win football games. So, what we typically do is, you know, I'll talk to Coach [Harbaugh] about it and talk to [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome], [director of player personnel] Joe [Hortiz] and [director of player personnel] George [Kokinis], and we'll make the best decision that we can. I think all of you guys know we do love to make trades. I love to make trades. I love additional picks, but this was one instance where I think being conservative and saying, 'These two guys are going to help us win football games,' was probably the smart thing to do."
Eric, you just mentioned on WR Rashod Bateman that you looked at the analytics and you crunched the numbers. Could you shed any more light into that and what went into that process on him? (Garrett Downing)
DeCosta: "Not really. I just think that it would be stupid for me to talk about that, but we've got a great group of people that work really hard here on the coaching side and the scouting side. They're able to provide value for [head coach] John [Harbaugh] and myself every single day, and it's helpful in a lot of ways. It gives you a different lens to look at, and it was helpful in this case."
With OLB Odafe Oweh, one of the first things that people will say is, "Oh, he didn't have any sacks this past season." In evaluating him, how much of that was a discussion? Overall, how do you think he fits in this defense? (Daniel Oyefusi)
Harbaugh:"You look at the stat … That's something we talked about, but we also watched the tape. Then you look at his athletic ability, and just for that very fact, we feel like he's a great fit in our defense. He's an aggressive player. He runs to the ball very fast. He's in the backfield constantly. He's knocking people back into the backfield. He's beating tackles into the backfield. He runs things down from behind. I think he's a perfect fit for our defense. I know our defensive coaches are excited. I think our players are going to love him. We're really excited to have him. Kind of, to what [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] was saying, sometimes you evaluate the opportunity to go back and get more picks, and sometimes the pick that you're looking at is the best thing for your team and has the most value. I think we all felt that way, and we're excited about this player. This player is going to make a difference for us."
Eric, I know you're excited about the two guys tonight. Are you comfortable waiting until the third round? Or is getting into the second round something that's going to be on your mind early? (Morgan Adsit)
DeCosta:"Well, that costs a lot of money, and I'm not really willing to spend that money most likely. I mean, never say never, but to move up from where we are in the third round is probably prohibitive. We do think that we're going to get two really good players in the third round at 94 and 104. We've had a lot of success in the third round over the years. I think we feel really good as a team right now and what our choices will be tomorrow. So, we'll probably wait."
Eric, was the phone ringing when you guys were on the clock at pick 27 and pick 31? Were you guys thinking about making a move at all? Or were you always just poised on making the pick? (Jerry Coleman)
DeCosta:"I'll tell you; we assess every situation differently. The phone did ring, we had some opportunities, but in the end, we felt the talent of the player and the fit of these players – their personalities and their makeup and all those different things – they really did make them the best possible selection at that time, and we decided not to make any trades."
Eric or Joe, OLB Odafe Oweh's athleticism … When you saw the show that he put on at his Pro Day, how much did that just kind of make it an easier pick for you seeing the raw athleticism that he possesses? (Ryan Mink)
DeCosta:"Well, Joe [Hortiz] was there. He can talk about that."
Hortiz: "John [Harbaugh] mentioned watching the tape. What you see on the tape, you see the explosiveness on film [and] the speed on film. Then when you see it happen again at the Pro Day live and in-person, I think this year, especially this year with COVID-19, our scouts … A lot of us didn't have a chance to go out and see these guys physically. To get up close … Myself and [outside linebackers coach] Drew Wilkins were there, and we were able to watch him perform right in front of us. To watch him bend, watch him explode [and] to turn the corner through the bags, it was really impressive. It just kind of matched up with what you're seeing on tape in terms of athleticism."
For Eric and John, we have not gotten to talk to you guys since you made the T Orlando Brown Jr. trade. How difficult of a decision was that in the end? With the first round pick today that you were able to make, do you feel like you're well on the way to recouping the value that you needed to trade a player of that quality? (Childs Walker)
DeCosta:"That's a hard one, because I think Coach [Harbaugh] and I both, we have really strong feelings about Orlando [Brown Jr.] as a person and as a player. I have no doubts he's going to Kansas City and he's going to have a great career. He's going to bring a lot of value to their team, and we wish him the best. I think every move we make is really predicated on the idea of what is best for the team. Sometimes that's kind of gray and nuanced, and sometimes you can consider different things. But given our situation, given our choices and given the reality of the salary cap age, for us to accumulate some picks and use those picks on young players is probably the smart thing to do. It's not easy to do that, but it's probably the best thing. I think as a GM, and I've learned from the best in [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome], you have to look at the roster in the short term, but also have to look at the roster from the big picture long-term perspective. It wasn't an easy decision for me to make [and] for us to make, but it was one I felt like we had to make."
Harbaugh: "Eric [DeCosta] just looked at me and I was kind of saying, 'Yes. I'm with you.' I agree."
DeCosta: "It's hard, you know?"
Obviously, you guys want good players in the first round. John, could you just talk about with WR Rashod Bateman being a guy who's been successful on the outside and the slot, and then OLB Odafe Oweh being a guy who has potential to drop into coverage and do all the things you like your outside linebackers to do – just the value of the versatility you acquired? (Jonas Shaffer)
Harbaugh:"To your point, good football players are usually versatile football players. They're generally not one-dimensional players; they can do more things, and they do a lot of things well. Both of these guys are like that. I feel like Rashod [Bateman] is an outside guy, an X-type receiver that can play inside. He proved it this year there. He played well. I know people want to talk about 2020, but it's probably because 2019 was so good … 2020 was really good, too, and he played in the slot. So, he can do both. He's going to be a guy, I think, that Lamar [Jackson] is going to love, in terms of just him getting open out there and a lot of single coverage out there – he's going to take advantage of that. He's a tough blocker. He's a guy … You can run sweeps with him and different things like that. [Odafe] Oweh, [it's] the same thing. He's a pass rusher. You talk about the sacks, like we said, but he's going to get to the quarterback, [and] not just that. He's going to run screens down. He's going to chase from the back side, and he's going to set the edge at the point of attack. He's going to be an all-around football player. When our fans watch him run around and watch how fast he plays, I think they're going to be really excited about it."
This is for either Joe or Eric. People were wondering why you didn't take OT Teven Jenkins? Should we read anything more into that, like maybe somebody might be coming after a certain date to fill that tackle spot? (Kirk McEwen)
DeCosta:"I don't think anybody should read anything into anything. We took the best players at the time. We are not a team that's going to draft need specifically. We're going to draft best player available; it's been that way for 25 years. We're really, really comfortable with the team right now, with the roster. We're comfortable with the offensive line at this point. It doesn't mean we won't draft an offensive lineman or two in the Draft, but where we were, we felt like we got the very best players at the time when we picked."
Eric, you've taken a wide receiver with your top pick as general manager in two of your three years. Can you talk about your commitment and philosophy to adding young playmakers at wide receiver to grow with each other and with QB Lamar Jackson and spend big time draft capital to do it? (Ryan Mink)
DeCosta:"It's not like a specific plan. I think we just draft the best players that are available – I'll just keep saying that. We watched every single player. I think I watched … I don't know ... the Top 125 players this year that we had ranked. Coach [Harbaugh] does the same thing, and Joe [Hortiz] does the same thing. We scrimmage and we talk about these guys – their backgrounds, their personalities, their drivers, their motivations, their skillset and all those different things. We literally just rank the players and pick the best ones. It's not like we go into it specifically saying we're going to draft a wide receiver with this pick and a running back with this pick. We're just trying to get the best players to help our team."
Not that quarterbacks aren't football players, but the fact that you knew going in that five quarterbacks were going to go in this round, did that give you a more comfortable feeling that you would get the value you were looking for from the tandem of picks? (Stan Charles)
DeCosta: "I was just glad that we weren't in the market for a quarterback in the first round, picking at 27; I would've been sweating that. But you kind of can read the 'tea leaves' and figure out that those five guys are probably going to get picked, so then the challenge for us is to make sure that we have 22 other players that we want to take at 27. And at 31, we're basically trying to get to 26 players – if my math is right – plus those five to make sure that we can pick at 31. So, I think it's helpful to have players like that. We had a couple other players that we didn't necessarily have ranked in our Top 26 players, 27 players, but we felt like there was a chance they would get picked by other teams, and so you try to add those players. It's never a sure thing, but you look at it and say, 'This guy is probably getting picked before we pick.' And when that happens, it pushes down somebody to you, as well."
In years past, you had told us that you read a lot of the pre-draft reports, and over the past two weeks, we've seen that a quite a bit of them had WR Rashod Bateman and OLB Odafe Oweh going to you. Were you surprised that they were quite accurate this time? (Kevin Richardson)
DeCosta: "You know what? Sometimes people accuse me of lying, and sometimes people accuse me of telling the truth. I'm not surprised by anything. This time of year, there's a lot of 'smoke' out there. I look at all that stuff; I talk to a lot of people; I try to assess league value. I think that's an important part of getting ready for the Draft. But again, what we really do – I keep saying it – is we rank the players, and we pick the best ones, and we were fortunate, I think, that [Odafe Oweh] and Rashod [Bateman] were the two best guys at the time. We got really good players. And I saw our name – the Ravens – attached to other players, as well. That's kind of the nature of the business, right? The Draft and the mock drafting and all that stuff. But I felt like we got the guys that really fit us the best that were there at the time when we made the picks, and I think we're all excited about that."
During the whole Draft process, whether it was watching film or talking to WR Rashod Bateman or OLB Odafe Oweh, was there anything that stood out during that process that made you think that these were guys who you really liked? Are there any kinds of stories along those lines that made those guys stand out to you guys? (Jamison Hensley)
DeCosta: "We interviewed both players, and those conversations will probably remain private. I think both guys have really good stories. I think both guys have overcome different types of adversities in their lives and just have been consistent players, good, solid citizens with great football character from good programs, and I'm just very happy to have them both. Specifically, stories, that stuff – nothing that we could probably share."
WR RASHOD BATEMAN CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT
Congratulations on being selected in the first round. What is your excitement level of coming to the Ravens and playing with a talent in QB Lamar Jackson? (Jamison Hensley) "Man, I can't even put it into words right now. Obviously, I look up to Lamar [Jackson] a lot, just being able to get on the same field as him and being able to be his teammate and learn a lot from him. So, I'm just excited to get to work with him."
Can you talk about just what you feel like you'll bring to this offense? What kind of wide receiver is Baltimore getting? (Ryan Mink) "I feel like you're getting the whole package, most definitely. I put on film that I can play outside and inside. I think my work ethic just helps me become a better football player each and every day. So, whatever the team needs, I feel like I'll be that receiver, be the best teammate to my teammates, help out in any situation possible."
Can you talk about your NFL dream and at what point you thought this could be a reality, and what you know about the Ravens other than QB Lamar Jackson? Any thoughts about who they are and what they've accomplished, as maybe you've seen them from afar? (Mark Viviano) "I definitely knew that this was possible when I got to college. I was just taking my career milestone after milestone, so when I got to college, that was my main focus – was to work hard and get to the next level. Now that I'm here, it's definitely a blessing. I definitely have been watching the Ravens the past couple years, and I've seen nothing but amazing things. I'm just excited to be a part of a hungry team, so I'm getting ready to chase a Super Bowl."
Congratulations. We've heard a lot about your excellent feet and your ability to get open. How did you kind of learn to be that technician at wide receiver? (Childs Walker) "I just think I had good coaches around me. Working with Coach Simon [Minnesota co-offensive coordinator / wide receivers Matt Simon] and Coach Fleck [Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck] in college, they definitely put an emphasis on that. So, just having the good coaches and just also working on my craft in the offseason, in season, just getting better. And also, it takes studying receivers; I do that a lot. So, it just continues to make me better."
Obviously, you're the first Minnesota Golden Gopher to be drafted in the first round since 2006. Is that something that you were conscious of? And what does it mean to you to make that history for the program? (Andy Greder) "It definitely has always been in the back of my head. I've also been just focused on taking the next right step. Now that it has been done, it means a lot to set the standard, be that example for the University of Minnesota, also my hometown [Tifton, Georgia], just to show everybody that no matter what, anything is possible. So, it definitely means a lot, for sure."
Could you just take us through how much interest you remember the Ravens showing during the pre-draft process and what you remember from being in meetings with Ravens' staffers and the front office guys? (Jonas Shaffer) "I remember meeting with them a couple times. All the conversations went well. I just felt like the Ravens had good people in their organization, so I'm really excited to be a part of that. I communicated back and forth with my agent; we had a good feeling about it, and it just ended up working out."
I think you talked about how over the summer, you contracted COVID-19. How much did that affect your 2020 season? And can you also explain what you're wearing around your neck? (Jamison Hensley) "COVID-19 definitely had an impact on me, because I have asthma, as well, so I lost about 10 pounds, and it just affected my body, the way I performed, the way I fatigued and things like that. So, it definitely feels better to have my weight back up and to feel fully healthy. Across my neck, I've got my uncle. He was like my father figure in my life, and in 2019, August 30th, he passed away before the season. It's definitely one of the biggest losses that I've had. I knew I had to wear this chain today. I know he's happy, he's looking down on me, and I know he's proud of me."
You just talked about your uncle, but when you do look back to your earlier days, who are maybe some of the other people who put it in your mind that you could do this and that you could become what you are? (Childs Walker) "I would definitely say my mom and my godparents. My mom and my godparents, they've always supported me since Day One. They come to every game. We had conversations about this day a lot, so to see that it's finally happened, it just shows that hard work pays off."
OLB ODAFE OWEH CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT
When you ended the season this year and didn't have a sack, did you expect that that would hurt your draft stock? (Kevin Richardson) "No, because I knew that people that really understood and watched football, understand what I was doing out there, and that sacks weren't where it ended with me. I was very disruptive; I caused a lot of havoc; I was very stout in the run game; I was beating my man; I was always there. So, people really understood that the zero sacks thing, that had no definition of who I was as a player."
Congratulations. Can you talk about your start in football – when and how it happened – and whether you feel like you have a whole lot of upside left as a player, even though you're already a first round draft pick? (Cliff Brown) "Yes, I feel like that's the intrigue about me, and that's the crazy part about me. I still have so much in the tank, so much untapped potential that, me, I don't even know, and the people that drafted me don't even know yet. I feel like I can be the most dominant defensive end, the most dominant player – defensive player – in this Draft, just off of me learning how to get better, learning the scheme better and just getting more experience as a player. I've only been playing for five years. A lot of these other guys have been playing their whole life, so you can do with that what you want."
Welcome to Baltimore. You just mentioned wanting to get better, and one thing the coaching staff talked about was that they see a lot of potential versatility in you. What do you think you do best right now in your career, and what would you like to improve upon the most? (Luke Jones) "I'm just very active, always in the picture. I move well vertically. I move well horizontally. And then I'm very strong. A lot of people think that just because of my frame, that I don't have that strength or power, but I'm very strong, so I can hold that edge, and at the same time, I can cover and drop in coverage, as well. So, I have potential as a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker, so I feel like that's where my strengths are. Where I would have to probably work on is general technique and experience in the game. Like I said, I started five years ago, so obviously, I'm playing catch-up, but I love to learn, and I'm willing to learn. That's what sets me apart."
What's the atmosphere at your place? I hear people screaming. Did you think you were going to be a first-round draft pick? (Kirk McEwen) "My family is over here – everyone that helped me grow up, helped me get to this point are here. It was a tough first 30 picks, and I was just waiting to be given that chance, and I'm happy Baltimore believed in me. I believe in my potential, and I believe in who I am, so I felt like could drafted in the first round. I felt like I could be [picked] in the top of the bunch, so my family is ecstatic. They're still screaming, still celebrating, and there's definitely a lot more to come."
Can you talk about how much interaction you had with the Ravens in the pre-draft process? Knowing they had two picks there, did you think they were a likely suitor for you? And what about their defensive mentality fits you. (Jeff Zrebiec) "I talked to them a lot earlier in the process. I had a lot of good film sessions with them, a lot of good talks with coaches – outside linebacker coaches – so I've always had a great relationship with them throughout the process. But in regards to their defensive philosophy, I'm just ready. They get after the ball. They do it in all types of ways, so I'm ready to assert myself in that position and help them in any way I can."
As you're patiently waiting and you've had those conversations with the Ravens, is that stressful, Number One? And Number Two, how meaningful is it to go to a place that has the need, automatically, for what you do and with the hopes that you earn that spot? (Morgan Adsit) "It's just a lot. It's just very humbling for me, because I'm a very competitive guy, and I love to work for whatever I have, so that puts me in a great situation to be in an environment where I'm thriving and just being able to work hard and really earn it. And I'm in a situation where they need it, so I need to give it to them. I'm ready, I'm ready to do that for the Ravens, I'm ready to be everything I can be and unlock my full potential with Baltimore."
First of all, what was the wait like, waiting to hear your name called? Are you glad you didn't go to Cleveland and have to wait in a room? And also, where does the name Jayson come from? (Jerry Coleman) "It's terrible. It's crazy, man. I'm not going to lie. People told me that was probably the toughest thing to go through. As someone who could potentially go first or second, that wait is maddening, but it was all worth it. Just when I got that call, I was shaking. I just couldn't control my body. Everything I worked for, it was coming to fruition. So, the wait was worth it, but I definitely didn't want to go through it again. Jayson is my middle name. My first name is Odafe. I'm of Nigerian descent. People were having trouble pronouncing Odafe, so I went to Jayson my earlier years, but I don't care anymore; you're going to have to learn how to pronounce it." (laughter)
Congratulations. You've referenced several times that you picked up football fairly late. What kind of gave you the nudge to pick up the sport? And who were maybe a few of the people who were most important in shaping you as an athlete? (Childs Walker) "What gave me the nudge was God. He just told me at the right time, it was time for basketball to be done and really focus on football. It's crazy how it happened. It's crazy how I decided to try it out, and I fell in love with it, but it's really just God and his plan. It's really crazy how it happened, but I'm happy it did, and I'm happy to be a Raven."