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Transcripts: Pre-Draft Press Conference

Ozzie Newsome Opening Statement:

"OK, I'd like to begin [by saying that] over the past two or three weeks, we've experience some death within the family of the Ravens, and I want to talk about someone today for a moment that we had a unique history with, here with this organization, that being [agent] Eugene Parker, who passed away last Thursday night or last Friday morning. I can think back to years when Eugene probably had upwards of 50 percent of our defense. He had Ray [Lewis], he had Peter Boulware, he had Chris McAlister, he had Deion Sanders and he had Corey Fuller. He was a guy, especially this time of the year, [who we] would have a lot of conversation with, because he would be representing a lot of the top players. Our thoughts and prayers are going out to Eugene. I had a chance to speak to his partner Roosevelt [Barnes], and I'm assuming at some point later in the week, they're going to have a memorial service for him."

Eric DeCosta Opening Statement:

"And then the other guy I just want to recognize, that we're thinking about him … He covered our team for a long time, Aaron Wilson, who worked for the Carroll County Times *and, as you guys know also, The Baltimore Sun. [He's] now working at the *Houston Chronicle. [Aaron] tragically lost his wife, Samantha, last week, and Aaron covered us for a long time. As I think about Aaron, he'd always infuriate me, because he'd get a lot of the draft visits each year, and he did a very good job of getting that information, which we would always try to hide. (laughter) He did a good job, and he's a hard-working guy who has covered our team; and we're thinking about him in his time of sorrow right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with him."

Ozzie, you and your team this time of year, things you crave, a lot of picks, a lot of versatility with regard to possible transactions … The flurry you had in free agency right when the league year began – signing S Eric Weddle, WR Mike Wallace and TE Benjamin Watson – has that helped you with your goals? (Joe Platania)

*(NEWSOME) *"Well, anytime you can improve your football team before you get to the draft, it puts you in a better position to make better decisions. I was thinking, all those guys begin with a W: Wallace, Weddle and Watson. Did you realize that?"

(HARBAUGH) *"The writers, they notice that before we do, usually." *(laughter)

*(NEWSOME) *"Oh, they do? OK, all right."

*(HARBAUGH) *"They have to write the name."

(NEWSOME) *"OK." *(laughter)

* *

*(DeCOSTA) *"So does 'winning.'"

*(NEWSOME) *"Winning? Yes, winning goes with that, too. But no, where we are in the process, we've still got some of our 30 visits coming in. There were a couple guys in today. We've got some other guys coming in the rest of the week, and then our scouts will be in on Sunday, and we'll grind through the board with the scouts and the coaches. By the time we get to next Friday, we'll probably be 85 or 90 percent prepared, but then we'll have a couple of more meetings, and we'll be ready."

Ozzie and Eric, since 2008 when you took QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice, could both of you guys assess how you have done in the draft since then? (Mike Preston)

*(NEWSOME) *"I've got to think back. OK, we took Joe [Flacco] and Ray [Rice], and then, Joe [Hortiz], who did we get after that?"

(HORTIZ) *"Michael [Oher]. There you go, right down there. That's seven drafts' worth." *(hands Newsome a list of past draft picks)

*(NEWSOME) *"OK, then we took Michael Oher and [Paul] Kruger and Lardarius [Webb], Cedric Peerman. Then, the next year, we took [Sergio] Kindle, [Terrence] Cody, Ed Dickson, [Dennis] Pitta, David Reed, Arthur Jones and [Ramon] Harewood. [In 2011, we took] Jimmy [Smith], Torrey [Smith], Jah Reid, [Pernell] McPhee, Tyrod [Taylor]. [In 2012, we drafted] Courtney [Upshaw], 'K.O.' [Kelechi Osemele], Bernard [Pierce], Tommy Streeter, DeAngelo Tyson, and Matt Elam [in 2013]. I guess it would be easy to say, if you look at these drafts compared to '96 to 2004, I would say that they didn't measure up to those drafts. From '96 to 2004, we drafted three Hall of Famers [Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed], but I will also say that time, early on when you're picking in the Top 10 of the draft, you have a chance to be a lot more successful than it is when you're picking anywhere from 20 to 32, which [are] the positions we've been in. Unfortunately, we lost 11 games [in 2015]. Now we're back in the Top 10 again. But I would say it was not up to my standards, was not up to Eric's standards and not the Ravens' standard when you compare to what we did very early on."

Ozzie, how has your draft board changed after picking up S Eric Weddle, WR Mike Wallace and TE Benjamin Watson? Or has it changed? (Steve Davis)

*(NEWSOME) *"It really has not, and we have not had a meeting since before the Combine. As I said earlier, we'll get the scouts back in. But, getting those three players, it won't adjust our board, because we still believe in taking the best players available, regardless of position. So, it won't affect it that much."

Ozzie, to follow up on Mike Preston's question, do you guys look at all and see if any of that has to do with – not meeting your standards – to the game changing at all? And having to look at different players because the rules have changed and maybe some of the guys up front you've drafted in the past, the game doesn't need those guys in the trenches, because teams don't run the ball as much? Is there anything, I guess, with trends in the game that have changed how you have to look at the kind of players you target? (Steve Davis)

*(NEWSOME) *"A decade ago, I never would have thought the college game would impact our game as much as it has. A lot of what they do in college is now what we have to defend or what we have to deal with. Who would have thought we'd be dealing with the zone read in the National Football League? And we're dealing with that, because there are quarterbacks that are coming out that, not only are they real good passers, but they're very athletic. And so, they force us to have to defend differently. But sitting here thinking about that, I think back to how, initially, the defense was built. The defense was built in Baltimore because you had Mark Brunell, Kordell Stewart, Steve McNair and Jeff Blake that we had to play week-in and week-out in our division. So, we had to be able to tackle, but we also had to be able to run. That's how it was first initially built. So, now it's just more of those guys that are playing all over the National Football League. But also, you had Eddie George, you had Fred Taylor, you had tough running backs – Jerome Bettis. You had to be able to defend a full field, and that's the way the defense was designed. As we move forward here in 2016, hopefully we can get back to that."

Eric, this draft, there has been a lot of talk this offseason about adding playmakers, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Does where you pick and what's available set up for that, defensively? Are you seeing the type of impact players, defensively, that you'd like to have? (Jeff Zrebiec)

*(DeCOSTA) *"I think so. We're at a position at [pick No.] 6 where we think we're going to get a very, very good player. Defensively, you've got pass rushers, you've got corners; those are playmakers, guys that can sack the quarterback, guys that can intercept passes. There are four or five guys that we feel comfortable taking at six on the defensive side, and as we get into the second round, we're looking at pick 36, again, we see a lot of those kind of guys: playmakers, safeties, ball-hawking safeties, corners who can intercept passes and score touchdowns, pass rushers as either five-techniques or as outside linebackers who can sack the quarterback. So, it does shape up very nicely for us, based on that criteria."

Coach and Ozzie, for both of you in any order, when you interview guys at the Combine as opposed to getting them here in the building, do you feel it's a lot more effective once you get them inside here, in the building, as opposed to meeting them at the Combine, where he has to meet with multiple teams and probably get similar questions over and over again? Do you have a better indication of what the guy is all about when you get him here? (Jerry Coleman)

*(NEWSOME) *"Well, we only get 15 minutes at the [Combine], and it's a grind. We start at six o'clock, you get four interviews within an hour and sometimes we go all the way to 11 o'clock at night. It's really a grind on all of us for three- or four-straight days, but when we get them here, we get the opportunity to spend more than, of course, 15 minutes with each individual. I can take 20, he can take 20 or 30, Eric can take [more than 15]. So, it goes ... It's a little bit more intense when we get them here, and normally, in this surrounding, they're a little bit more at ease, also."

*(HARBAUGH) *"Yes, I think that sums it up. It's kind of an introductory thing [at the Combine]. When they come back – and it's usually for a reason – either they're right in our crosshairs as far as potentially falling to us [in the draft], either first, second, third round, whatever, even later, or there's a medical issue; or there's something that we really need to talk to them about and find out about. You've already met them once. They give you a big hug, "Hey, how you doing?' It's like you're acquaintances; you kind of already know each other. So, I think that Combine interview sort of breaks the ice for the more in-depth type of stuff. Most of the guys there don't have issues. You kind of just get to know then and confirm, 'Hey, that guy is a good guy, and he'll fit.'"

Ozzie and Eric, the condition of WR Breshad Perriman and sort of a lack of dependability with T Eugene Monroe's health, are those factors in what you do in a couple weeks? (Stan Charles)

*(NEWSOME) *"Right now, both of those guys [Breshad Perriman and Eugene Monroe] are under our medical care with the trainers. We're getting very good reports on both of them. I know Eugene was in there working out this morning when I was in there, and we've had a chance to see Breshad over the last couple of weeks."

*(HARBAUGH) *"He's here, too."

*(NEWSOME) *"And Breshad is here. So, those guys are still under medical care, and at some point, they'll be released to us; and we'll start to do our assessment at that point."

Ozzie, is WR Breshad Perriman running yet, fully? (Jeff Zrebiec)

*(NEWSOME) *"I honestly don't know the answer to that."

*(HARBAUGH) *"I don't think I'd say 'fully.' He's running."

*(NEWSOME) *"Right."

*(HARBAUGH) *"But to what percentage, I don't know."

Ozzie, you make a lot of trades; you've made a lot of trades during drafts. Do you go in, with No. 6, will you listen to offers immediately, or are you already getting offers? Or is this one of those things where you'll see who is taken in the first five before you consider trading? (David Ginsburg)

*(NEWSOME) *"I think we've always – whether we're picking four, six, 10, whatever – we'll have six players graded. So, if the phone rings or doesn't ring, we'll be prepared to pick at the sixth pick. Will we be open to listen? Yes. But, you have to be prepared to pick, and we will be prepared to pick at No. 6."

When you look at the draft class, is there any position that you look at and say, 'We're definitely going to take somebody at that position or multiple guys at that position? (Garrett Downing)

*(NEWSOME) *"I think that's you, [Eric]."

(DeCOSTA) *"Me?" *(Reporter: "Well, either.")

(NEWSOME) *"Oh, I thought he said 'Eric.' I'm sorry. I thought you said 'Eric.'" *(Reporter: "Is there any position that you look at, and you say, 'We're going to take somebody at that position or multiple players at a certain position?'") *"Are we going [to draft] multiple positions?" *(Reporter: "Or, a player at ...")

* *

(HARBAUGH) *"He wants to know if you're going to give away who you're going to pick." *(laughter) (Reporter: "Is there any position that you can pick somebody at that position that's in the draft?")

*(NEWSOME) *"I honestly couldn't answer that question right now. What one position that we may or may not draft a guy or we may draft? I don't know. I don't know how the board is going to fall. I really don't. I'm sure not going to give you the answer to the question that you want, but I cannot say that there's a position that ... Well, will we draft a punter?"

(HARBAUGH) *"No." *(laughter)

* *

*(NEWSOME) *"OK, and a kicker? I don't know, never know. *(laughter) *So, I can't honestly answer that question."

* *

Going off that a little bit, is there a position that is easiest or toughest to evaluate, whether production or measurables will carry over into the pros? (Mark Selig)

(NEWSOME) *"[With] a lot of experience, I think what we've learned over 20 years is what *not to look for. If you take a receiver, do you go with just production? And sometimes, production is not the answer. If you take a quarterback, do you just go with arm strength? Sometimes, that's not the answer. And if you take a running back, he's good with the ball in his hands, but he can't pass protect. I think what we've learned over the years is what *not *to look for, rather than what to look for."

* *

Joe, one of the players you guys have been linked to is Joey Bosa from Ohio State. How do you project him? Did some of the drills he did at the Combine help you with your projection? (Jamison Hensley)

*(HORTIZ) *"Yes, he definitely projects well. You guys can actually see him on film dropping off on occasion – the zone drop, far zones and all of that – and he looks certainly capable of doing that. His Combine workout and then his Pro Day workout, he showed the ability to bend. He actually, at the Pro Day workout, did a full D-line drill; did the whole thing in D-line drills and it was a longer workout, and they got after it. He took a blow, got some water and then jumped in the middle of the linebacker drills once they got into drops. So, he definitely looked capable of doing that. He's certainly a good enough athlete. He's long, he's rangy, he's got enough speed. So, I think that he projects to either spot, 4-3 and/or 3-4 outside backer."

With DeForest Buckner, is he a guy that projects as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 system? And then also Myles Jack, do you see him as an inside linebacker? Other teams have talked about him maybe even as a safety? Where do you see him projected? (Ryan Mink)

*(DeCOSTA) *"I would say Buckner – you kind of answered your own questions – he's a 3-4 defensive end. He's a big, athletic guy who can rush the passer on the inside. We think he can develop as a two-gapper. He's a young player with tremendous wingspan and growth potential – physical, plays hard. Myles Jack, we look at him primarily as an inside linebacker. [He has] tremendous speed, athletic ability, great hips, knee-bender, he's a good tackler, he can rush the passer, he can blitz, he can play in space, he can cover – he can do all those things."

John, when you first started coaching the team, the defense had five defensive backs on the field about 40 percent of the time. Now it's over 60 percent of the time. Is that because of the rule changes, the college game? And how does that impact how you look for people in the draft? (Stan White)

*(HARBAUGH) *"That's a great point, and it goes back to the question that was asked earlier. It changes your roster a little bit and how you look at the roster. How many defensive linemen, how many nose guards, how many big guys do you want to put on the field and how many reps do they get throughout the course of the season? How many linebackers? How many [defensive backs]? How many defensive backs that are versatile? How many true safeties? How many strong safeties are really going to play over the course of the next five, six or 10 years? Is it going to be safeties that have corner ability that can cover – rangy guys? We really have to think about how we build our defense, because you're right, it's over 60 percent [with] five defensive backs … It's really the personnel that the offense is putting on the field and you're matching it, and then people put base on the field and still spread you out. New England is a great example, and of course we're always thinking about who we're going to play. They have the two tight ends, and they're going to line those guys up in formations that you're going to have to defend the run, but you're also going to have to defend the passes if those guys are wide receivers. So, it's going to create the need for more versatile players. Guys like Myles Jack, who was mentioned earlier, comes to mind – a guy that can play multiple positions. Guys like Joey Bosa who can rush the passer, but can still drop; those guys are going to be really valuable."

Eric, your thoughts on this draft class of players versus the ones from the past? (Bill West)

*(DeCOSTA) *"I like the players I see at the top, because we haven't had the chance to pick these kinds of players in a while. I think it's strong. Just in general, overall big-picture, I think it's a strong defensive draft. We see more defensive players in this draft than in the past few years – about 35 extra defensive players that would be considered draftable players. Overall, the numbers are better. We had a lot of juniors declare this year. Obviously that's going to be a strength of the draft in the first round. But I think overall, there's not a big hole in the draft board. As we look at a lot of draft boards typically, it's a little thin in one particular area, one particular position maybe, or one particular grade. This year, I think it's pretty evened out. It hasn't thinned out, and we'll have a lot of chances to pick good players."

Eric, I know in the past sometimes you've talked about when teams pick high in the draft, they can't really afford to miss on a pick. Is there a different feel from the room this year? Or pressure to make sure you get that pick right? Or is it just a luxury that you have a pick that high this year? (Bo Smolka)

*(DeCOSTA) *"We feel the pressure, honestly, regardless if we're picking sixth or 32. We've picked both. I think the players are better, but we still feel the same pressure. We felt pressure last year when we picked 26th last year; we felt the same pressure. Honestly, we're looking at a different level of ability in some respects. I'm actually probably feeling more pressure at pick 36 than I am at six. I feel like if you're picking sixth, you really only have to look at four or five players, and you're just going to have to iron those guys out and you rank those five players. At 36, there's a lot more volatility. There's a lot more different players you're going to be looking at, a lot more combinations. So, I've been spending a lot more time thinking about 36 actually in the last couple of weeks, because there could be a lot of different players. We have to look at these guys and study these guys and scrutinize these guys on the field, off the field, the intangible work ethic, durability, football intelligence, ability, all of these different things to make sure we nail that pick."

Did you guys talk about analytics and what role that plays in the draft preparation? (Scott Garceau)

*(DeCOSTA) *"We considered everything. We're talking about objective criteria, subjective criteria, statistics, personality, things you can measure, things you can't. It's a little bit of nuance. It's both. It's not a science; it's more of an art. You take some of that objective data, you take some of this objective data that we see all the time – your scouting reports, your workouts, your Pro Day – you can look at all these different statistical criteria, yards per carry, yards per catch, all of these different things and blend it all together and then try to come up with really a consensus amongst the group on how you feel about the player. There's no exact science. Its football, it's a game of toughness. It's a game of instinct and intelligence, work ethic; it's everything. There is some statistical, I think, criteria that we can use to help us make decisions, but in the end, it's really how the guy is going to mesh with the other 10 guys on the field and can you win with that player."

Eric, you've mentioned over the years the intangibles, toughness and desire, have you gotten better at discerning that or will that remain a mystery? (Mark Viviano)

*(DeCOSTA) *"You try, but it's human nature and you make mistakes. You think you know somebody, and you don't. It's like with your own children. You expect them to act a certain way, and then you come home and find out they haven't done their homework. So, you're betting on people, and there's a lot of different things that go along with that. We try our best; we look these guys in the eye, we shake their hands, we look at their body language, how they conduct themselves. We have all of this information that we get from various sources at the school, people that we talk to. I think our area scouts do an amazing job of getting information on players. We use our coaches that have a network of different sources as well, and then we spend time with these guys and we just do the best we can. But it's challenging. I think the whole aspect of social media has created some opportunity, but also some other things that make it even more difficult for us. You just do the best you can."

How does that change in the evaluation of Noah Spence's off-the-field issues? (Ken Zalis)

(DeCOSTA) "Everything a player does we consider, good or bad. Every player has a different story; every player has a different book. We talk to people. We trust people that we have built relationships with. That's a big thing that our area scouts and coaches do, is we build relationships over time. In some instances, especially with some of our coaches, they have 20, 25 years history with some of these coaches in college football and we talk to those people and we consider everything. We never make a decision in a vacuum. We look at everything, every piece of information that we get, good or bad. We have people here that help us make decisions, support staff here that can help us make decisions, as well. We consider everything differently. In Noah's case, we've interviewed him at length, we've studied him and we'll continue to do that up until the draft and make the best decisions we can for the team."

In the end, has that been paralysis by analysis? Are there things you tune out that another teams are taking seriously? (Nestor Aparicio)

*(NEWSOME) *"I think we've tried to make the process better over the years, but I think the one thing that the four of us will agree upon, and all of our scouts and our coaches, eventually you have to watch them play. The tape doesn't lie. Over the course of the next 20-something days, and I know in the past three or four weeks, there's a lot of tape being watched in this building to see how they play, because eventually, they have to play on Sunday, and that's really the telltale."

* *

During years when you have traded down draft picks, do you get the call weeks before or the day of? Do you anticipate hearing something new to reconsider trading? (Cliff Brown)

(NEWSOME) "Two-part [answer]: Majority of the trades, as it is, would be with us. You talk to a team but you would only make the trade if your player made it to that spot. You can have some dialogue, but it always ends 'if my guy gets there.' It goes back the other way, there may be some teams that may be considering moving up in the top 10 but right now, they're still doing all of their work and it still will come down to 'if he makes it to your pick, then we will have some interest in making the trade.' We go ahead and talk about what it would take, but that caveat is always there."

Can you talk about the difference in Ravens coaches' – from Ted Marchibroda to Brian Billick to John Harbaugh – involvement in the draft process? (Stan Charles)

*(NEWSOME) *"I think in that first group, the majority of those coaches, Kirk [Ferentz], Mike Sheppard, Richard Mann, Jacob Burney, I was a coach with those guys under [Bill] Belichick, so there was a comfort level that I had with that group. Ted [Marchibroda] was a guy that because of his wisdom, he could eliminate some things right off the bat. He, in his own mind, felt like this is what he felt like was going to be a good player based on the number of years he had been in the league. When we got Brian and that crew, when they came, it was still very similar, because I think Marvin [Lewis] was still with the defense. The process still has been the same. It has been a very open process, because that's the process that I grew up in, being a guy that was on the field and having to work with the draft during the offseason. Now with John [Harbaugh], we've just continued that. There's value having John and his coaches offer their opinions and go out on the road. Like Eric said, they have contacts out there that go back 20 and 25 years to get all that in. For me, I think we've tried to do it the same way since 1996, and a lot of that was started because I learned under Ernie Accorsi and Belichick."

Is the pass rush position one you will have to strike early, or is there enough depth at that position to find talent in later rounds? (Jeff Zrebiec)

*(HORTIZ) *"I think there's some depth at that position, especially when you look at it, there's pass rushers as five-techniques, and there's pass rushers as outside 'backers. Between the two positions, I think you can find value in the later rounds, if you don't strike early."

How has the scouting process changed for offensive linemen evolved with so many spread offenses in college? (Luke Jones)

(HORTIZ) *"It's a challenge, certainly, especially when they come from the spread offense, just because they're a little bit different. The three-point stance, whether they can or can't, they're not going to be comfortable maybe initially or not as used to it. I think the rules of some teams throughout college, maybe the depth of their protections, what's instilled in the players, is why some of these guys take a little bit longer, and then your guys from the pro-style offenses in college are going to be a little more ready to play mentally. But really it comes down to the kid, his work ethic, his intelligence level, what scouts feel like they're getting from the school in terms of mental preparation, mental ability. That's probably the hardest thing to overcome when you come from a spread offense is just the adjustments in the game, the protections and the schemes." *

* *

Eric, with Myles Jack, is there someone you would compare him to when you watch him on the field? (Jamison Hensley)

*(DeCOSTA) *"He's a great athlete. He only played in a few games this year because of the injury, but he's a guy that can do a lot of different things. I think athletically, he can cover probably as well as most guys you'll ever see at the linebacker position. He's gifted that way. He's a little bit undersized, [but] he's a good run defender. He's an excellent blitzer. He's a guy that can do a lot of different things; he's a talented player. But there are a lot of other talented players at the top of the draft as well. He happens to be one of those guys. There are probably six to eight players this year that are very, very talented players at their positions."

Ozzie, this is a conversation about projections for college players, but are there similar uncertainties when signing veterans? (Mark Viviano)

(NEWSOME) "I think when you acquire players, there's always the opportunity that that player may not play as well as he has in the past or may not develop the way you would want him to develop if you take him in college. If you deal with a guy like Ben Watson, if he continues to train, get the proper rest, proper nutrition, then he can continue to play at a certain level. Eric Weddle is the same way. We've seen it with other veteran players, but then you get the other young guys, when we bring them in, our draft choices, the way John [Harbaugh] and his coaches, with Bob [Rogucki] and now we have Steve Saunders, who is going to be a part of our recovery and performance, hopefully those guys will be able to grow a lot faster and be able to get on the field. I don't think – if you're asking is there a magic formula? No. It's a lot of people that I respect in this business that make a lot of decisions and nobody bats 1.000. Nobody bats 1.000. What you try to do is to limit your mistakes, and hopefully you make more good decisions than you do bad decisions. The other real important aspect of it is having John and his staff be as good as they are. We have a very good staff. John has a very good staff."

How close, heading into the draft and with the additions in free agency, is this team to being a contender again? (Brett Hollander)

(NEWSOME) "I think I can probably answer that better after about the third preseason game. You know we have a lot of guys coming off injuries that it will be up to the medical staff when they can get to the field. I just won't be able to answer that. I know John and his staff have put in countless hours working on schemes and how to prepare themselves to be better to play. Now they're working on the opponents that we're going to play against. But, it will be around the third or fourth preseason game [before I can answer that question]. And then, if you listen to some of the other people in the business, it normally takes you through the first four games before you find out what team you really have. So we will take that same path in trying to find out where this team is going to be. Based on our acquisitions so far and hopefully the health we'll get back, we should be better. We lost a lot of close games last year, and maybe guys can make a play or two to help us out and we can win some of those games that we lost."

Eric, I know you guys do a lot of work getting intel on what other teams are doing in the draft. Is it easier to figure it out what they're doing with only five teams ahead of you or is it still difficult because of some questions about quarterbacks? (Jeff Zrebiec)

(DeCOSTA) "I don't know. I haven't really started working on that yet, the covert aspect of it. I have some friends up in front of me that I know are lying to me right now. *(laughter) *You get a little bit of information, but honestly, it comes down to your list, how you rank the guys and how they play. We take everything into account, but in the end the guy is either a playmaker or he's not a playmaker, and you have to get the list right and pick the right guy. You're not in control of who's in front of you, who's picking who. All you can control is the pick you make. We'll try to know if you can get any information beforehand that might help us out a little bit, but in the end we've got to be ready to make a pick. I've heard Ozzie say that for 20 years, and we'll be ready to make a pick."

John, a follow-up from the owners meeting: First was the instant replay. You had a compelling argument about that. When you discuss this with other coaches, what are they saying and how did you arrive at the list of eight reviewable plays? (Steve Davis)

*(HARBAUGH) *"That's all the conversation that people have. As far as the coaches, some want it, some don't. I talked to Jon Gruden; he wants replay completely out: 'Why do we even have replay?' My answers is usually because of these smartphones and these devices and it's not 1998 anymore. The fans are watching the game on TV. That's the most compelling argument, is the credibility of the game. If the fans perceive outcomes as being fair and correct, then you have credibility, it's more exciting. But if the fans perceive outcomes as being incorrect and therefore unfair, if they can see that the team won that game that shouldn't have won the game because of a blown call that could have been corrected that they saw, in real time, on TV, in their device on their TV screen, fans aren't going to accept that. To me, that's just a given. It's going to happen eventually. That's why I said, it's going to happen eventually at some point in time. Let's go, let's get on board with it and get control of it. We just tried to put a proposal out there that was reasonable. I'm OK with everything being reviewed, but I can see the argument [for] holding, pass interference, illegal contact, those things that you look at even when you go to replay and you can argue about [how it] probably shouldn't be reviewed. Anything that you can look at – here's how we came up with the eight – anything that you can look at in instant replay and not argue about, that you can go, 'Boom, that's clear!' then that should be reviewable. That's what we're calling judgment calls are the ones that in replay …  Then where it gets kind of confused and muddled is that some on the Competition Committee want to make the argument … Not Ozzie, but some of his friends on the Competition Committee want to confuse what's a judgment call and what's not. And to me, it's easy. It's, when you look at replay and it's black and white, it should be allowed to be looked at and be reviewable. If an offensive lineman is not set when the ball is snapped, it's obvious in replay. Look at it and make the call and make it right. There were 22 votes for actually going to more reviews. Just if you get one wrong, you get the second review back, which I think makes a lot of sense. I've seen Rich McKay dismissing that one out of hand, that that's not going to go. It's going to come to that, too. Let's go, let's get on board, because it's for the fans, it's for the credibility of the game."

So your eight reviewable plays is an olive branch to those who don't want to compromise? (Steve Davis)

(HARBAUGH) "Yes, that would be one way to describe it. The other way to describe it would be along the lines of the premise that you should set the replay up for what can be determined clearly in replay. Safety is a good one. If a player gets hit in the head or doesn't get hit in the head, you can see that replay a lot better than the official can in real time. So if an official, for instance, thinks that there was helmet-to-helmet contact, he's not going, 'Was it? Or wasn't it?' He should just be throwing the flag. Then the coach can look at it up on the screen and go, 'He didn't get him in the head; I'm throwing the flag. He got him in the head; I'm not throwing the flag.' To me, it makes the officials …What's happened to the officials in a way is because they're being second-guessed in real time, in the moment, on the screen and in replay, in the moment they're going to have a little bit of hesitation. Now they know they're going to be corrected, so call it like you see it in real time, throw the flag, don't throw the flag, and that gives the coach or the system a chance to correct it and replay if it's clear cut and everybody can see it."

Eric, do you have your Top 6 in order now, and will that change? (Ryan Mink)

(DeCOSTA) "It's going to change a lot. We're just meeting with players now. We're watching tape. Our coaches haven't turned their reports in yet. Our scouts come in next week. Over the next two-and-a-half weeks, we'll have a lot of debate on these guys and we'll get it all ironed out. I'm still sleeping. We haven't really started a lot of the heavy lifting to come over the next couple of weeks, and we'll get there."

On the vote amongst you guys on the way the draft is conducted over three days? Do you like it now opposed to the way it used to be? (Stan Charles)

(DeCOSTA) "I love it. I didn't really look forward to the changes, because I didn't know what it was going to entail, but I actually like the new format quite a bit."

(NEWSOME) "I've learned when you don't have the opportunity to have a say in that decision, I can spend my time finding out who the six best players are because the Commissioner is going to make that determination."

Can you find a nasty guy further down in the draft at left tackle? Is there anyone you see coming right in as a left tackle? (Kirk McEwen)

*(HORTIZ) *"There are a number of guys. Left tackles in the league are different. You talk about mean and nasty left tackles, Eric Flowers is a mean and nasty left tackle; he started for the Giants. You don't have to be an elite athlete to play left tackle. [If] you're big, long, strong, physical and have core strength, you can protect the blindside. Yes, there are going to be some tightness issues with some guys; they may get beat inside on occasion. Even the great ones, except for Hall of Famers, they all get beat. It's about the guys that get back up, keep competing. To answer your question, yes, there are tough, physical guys that can play left tackle beyond the top two in the draft, and we feel pretty good about those guys."

John, I've got a question about the kickoff rule change, out to the 25- [yard line] now. It seemed like they want it to be a safety issue, but a lot of people looked and said someone as talented as Justin Tucker, rather than kicking it through, will get a little bit more air under it. Why just surrender the 25? Will the game plan change now for how he practices? (Steve Davis)

*(HARBAUGH) *"Sure, we're going to try to do everything we can do to win and to create favorable situations. Surrendering the 25-yard line is going to be hard to stomach. I'm sure there are going to be times where we're going to do it. If we feel like there's a chance they're going to return it past the 25, we'll probably put it in the end zone. If we feel like we have a better chance of putting them down at the 15-yard line, then why are we just going to surrender the 25-yard line? I kind of sat that one out. It's like Ozzie said, we'll just do whatever they want to do on that one, and we'll try to do what's best for our team to win games."

Eric, a lot has been made of the wide receiver corps in this draft as it's not a speedy class. How much do you guys look into that? They made a big deal about Mississippi wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and he only ran a 4.65. What's most important when you're scouting a wide receiver? (Ken Zalis)

*(DeCOSTA) *"Catching the ball. We want guys that can catch the ball, make plays. Guys that can play inside, guys that can play outside, fast guys, big guys, slow guys, competitive, run after catch … There's a lot of different things we look for, but in the end, the guy has got to be able to make the play. He has got to be able to catch the ball and get what he can get. They come in all different shapes and sizes. We've had some really good receivers over the years. They've been big guys, other guys have been possession guys, other guys have been fast guys. There are a lot of different guys you look for. I think, this draft, is there a Jerry Rice in this draft? Who knows? If you see the mock drafts, people will say, 'Oh it's not a great year for wideouts.' But, every single year, there's a guy that gets drafted in the draft in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth round at wideout who emerges as one of the best players in the draft. Our task is to find that guy this year and get him on the team."

You mentioned mock drafts. How much time do you spend looking at them, and how seriously do you take them? (Mark Selig)

*(HARBAUGH) *"More time than he'll admit." *(laughter) *

* *

(DeCOSTA) "I look at all that stuff a lot, because I think, at least, I believe – every team is different – but, I like to try and get a sense for league value, how other teams see players. I think mock drafts are sometime indicative of that. I think that's something that you should pay attention to."

*(NEWSOME) *"And you can't watch the [NFL] Network or ESPN without getting Daniel [Jeremiah] and Charles Davis and Bucky Brooks and [Mike] Mayock's [mock drafts]. They all, they just scroll under there the whole time. They do influence kids coming out [of college early], and I don't think that's fair."

Ozzie, how so? Do you think it influences ... (Jamison Hensley) 

(NEWSOME) "I think juniors are making decisions whether to come out, and then all of the sudden they see Mayock's list, or that they're going to be the 16th player taken, and the process is probably not even 50 percent over at that point. And then those same guys come out and end up being in the third or fourth round, and it becomes our fault versus those guys that are just making some early assessments."

*(DeCOSTA) *"You used to never see that. If you think about 10 years ago, you'd never see juniors in mock drafts in October and November. But because of the internet, all these guys, now it's an industry. They put these guys out there in October and November, and a lot of those guys are declaring. That's why, one of the main reasons why, you see so many juniors now is because they see their own names in October and November on all these different websites."

**Ozzie, as you talk about the philosophy of staying with your board. Is there such a thing as a tough decision? Is it as simple as saying, "If our top guy is there, we just take him?" Is it really that easy, or are there still some moments of uncertainty? *(Mark Viviano) *

(NEWSOME) "Well, no. There are tough decisions, but we've already made those decisions before we get on the clock. That's what's going to happen in the next three weeks. We're going to have a lot of debate, and as Eric talked about, a lot of discussion. There's going to be a lot of disagreement on where a player should be placed. But, once we get to the night before the draft, Wednesday, we'll have a number somewhere between one and 150 players and that'll be our number and we'll stay with it. But between now and then, anybody that has watched a player and had a chance to talk to the player gets the opportunity to express themselves. There's no one, including myself, that makes a determination [saying], 'No, I'm doing this.' I've never done that. I think we allow everyone to have input and we let that input end up in our decision as to where we want to put the guy."

Ozzie, how tough is it when your guy is there and you get a call about trading that draft choice then? Trading the pick when that guy is there that you want and they make a really generous offer to you about trading that draft choice? (Stan White)

(NEWSOME) "You know what? I think this only happened, really, once, where we were on the clock and someone had a very enticing pick for us. And we picked Jamie Sharper instead of taking San Diego's pick that would have been a 'one' the following year – ended up being a Top 5 pick. So for the most part, what they're trying to get you to move away from, we feel like that player has more value than picking up an extra fifth- or sixth-round pick. They don't call you, and there are very few trades like what happened between the Redskins and the Rams, where all of the sudden it's too good to pass up."

Joe, with Florida corner Vernon Hargreaves, what stands out about him? And some people say, because he's under six feet … Is size a concern when you watch him play? (Jamison Hensley)

*(HORTIZ) *"No, size is not a concern. He's got really good ball skills. He can play the ball in contested situations. He's a really good athlete and he's a coach's son. His father coached at Miami, South Florida, I think he's at Arkansas now. So, the kid has grown up around ball, he's been on the field down at the U [University of Miami] since he was a toddler, probably doing backpedaling transitions. He's very schooled, and you can see it in his play. Athletic kid, he understands fundamentals of the position, he's got instincts. Yes, he's a little undersized – everyone wants a 6-foot, 6-1 corner – but, he's certainly fast enough and his instincts and ball skills make up for his lack of size."

Hey Eric, just to follow up on you saying you look at mock drafts – you look at them because, some of those guys, you think, are good talent evaluators or you look at them because you think some of the guys are connected, and as a result, might be able to give you some insight for what certain teams might be doing? (Steve Davis)

(DeCOSTA) "I just like to see the players that are consistently showing up in the mock drafts. Trends, I like to look for trends. Players that either consistently show up in the mock drafts or players that possibly just consistently don't show up in the mock drafts, because it helps me, a little bit, just get a sense for when we have to take a guy versus when we can stretch. I would prefer to stretch, in most cases. Get the guy when I think we have to take him, not take a guy too early, before we really have to take him. Maybe take a better talent. Sometimes we lose out on a guy. I can think of one instance when I really thought we had a chance to get a guy in a given round, and he went earlier than that and he ended up being a good player. I'm still mad at myself that we didn't take him earlier. You do the best you can. I think just try to get a sense for how other people think about that player. It helps you decide when you really want to take them – what your threshold is to take them."

Joe, [Notre Dame offensive tackle] Ronnie Stanley is another guy who has been linked to you guys a lot in these mock drafts. How do you evaluate him as a left tackle and his strengths and weaknesses? Is he a guy who is ready to step in and be a starting guy? (Cliff Brown)

*(HORTIZ) *"Yes, sure. When you watch the film on him, he's big, he's long, he's athletic. He's an easy mover. He's really developed over his career. He's done a good job of it. He toyed with the idea of coming out last year, and I think coming back [to Notre Dame] really helped him just hone his game up, in terms of fundamentals, play strength. You can see the improvement with how he played last year versus this year. Athletically, he is certainly talented enough to play left tackle. He's a competitive kid. He does a good job of working with his fellow linemen on blocks. Certainly, I think he's capable to challenge right away and to step in."

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