Eric DeCosta opening statement:"OK, guys. I just wanted to thank you all for coming and for spending your weekend with us. I can speak on behalf of [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] and [president] Sashi [Brown] and say that I thank the scouts and coaches, all of the employees, because I think it was a great weekend for us, [for] their contributions over the last nine months, helping us get ready for this weekend. The scouts, they've been traveling all over the country this past year under difficult circumstances. [In] a pandemic, it's not easy, as you all know, to travel, and these guys do it very easily [and] spend time away from their families. I have a lot of appreciation for that. Our coaches, we ask our coaches … This is a very challenging season as a football team. As you all know, our coaches finish up and literally the next week, they're going to the Senior Bowl. They're looking at players, [and] they're going to the Combine. We're asking them to get ready for free agency. I'm blown away by the attention to detail and the effort that those guys really put into the job. Also, I should just point out the analytics people. They're behind the scenes. They do a great job. All of the other people that really do play a big role as well, people like [director of football information] Megan McLaughlin, my assistant Jenn [Hoffman] and then Coach [Harbaugh] and [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and everybody else. It's been a good weekend. I think we're a better football team today than we were last week. You're never finished. We certainly still have some things that we need to address, and we will, but we're optimistic that we can. We added some very, very good football players at a lot of big needs across the board. We're excited about the future. I can't wait until next weekend, right?" (John Harbaugh: "Yes.") "Next weekend, when these guys all come in, and that's about it. Questions?"
With everything for these three days, from the trade to six picks in one round, where does this Draft, as far as everything that was involved in it, kind of rank? It seems like it was kind of a wild ride for a while. (Jamison Hensley)
DeCosta: "It was. I'm pretty tired right now. I think it's just … I'm glad it's over. A lot has gone into this. I think we've spent a lot of time thinking about this Draft and the opportunity that it presents. We had a good plan. I think we were patient [and] strategic, as best as possible. You think about every possible situation along the way. Obviously, the trade was something that created another level on anxiety that I was spending time on and have been spending time on for quite some time. But in the end, you just trust the process. You do your homework. You grade the players. You rank the board, and you talk about it. Coach [Harbaugh] would come in all the time, [and] we'd scrimmage things. I'd go down to Ozzie's office, [and] we'd scrimmage things. I'd talk to [director of player personnel] Joe [Hortiz] and [director of player personnel] George [Kokinis] and the coaches, and you just do the best you can."
Eric, you drafted a punter in the fourth round. First of all, what did you like so much about him? Second of all, what's the situation with P Sam Koch? Have you talked to him about his future and how that will play out? (Childs Walker)
DeCosta:"That's a good question. First, I'll address the second part of that. Sam [Koch] is … It sounds funny to say a punter is kind of iconic, but Sam is a part of this team. He's a part of the fabric of this team. He's been here since 2006, I believe. And probably, just thinking about it over the years, this guy was a sixth-round pick, non-Combine player [who] played at Nebraska, and I am very proud of that pick – as proud as any, really. So, we did talk to Sam. We've talked to Sam multiple times. We talked to Sam recently. We talked to Sam earlier today before the Draft started, of course, to kind of tell him that there was going to be the potential that we might draft a punter. I think what that means is we drafted a punter. Moving forward, we're not exactly sure what's going to happen. I really just want to celebrate the guy we drafted, [Jordan] Stout. He's got a big leg. He's a guy that we've known about. We spend a lot of time scouting Penn State. I saw Penn State play live several times this year; my daughter is at Penn State. So, he's a guy that we had highly regarded throughout the process. [Special teams coach] Randy Brown, one of the better evaluators of kickers and punters, not to boost him up too much, because he'll never let me forget it, but I think he did a great job of evaluating as well. Obviously, with John's [Harbaugh] background as a special teams coach, I feel like we're in really good shape to make these decisions, and we did."
John, how much … If there's a change eventually at punter, with this … Former special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg used to say P Sam Koch is the best holder in the history of the NFL. How much of doing homework and research on P Jordan Stout was holding emphasized in that? (Jeff Zrebiec)
Harbaugh: "[It was] a big part of it. We worked him out. We had it on tape. We studied the tape, in terms of the holding, but also, all of it. You watch Jordan [Stout], and he reminds you a lot of Sam [Koch] coming out. It's not just … The leg strength is a part of it. A lot of guys have big legs, but they don't have all the other pieces. So, you look in terms of the footwork, the technique, they get the ball out quick, the hands, the efficiency, where the drop goes, the ability to control the punt, right, left and then the depth of it. Those are all things that we look [at] with Jordan, and it reminds you a lot of Sam. With Sam, kind of underlining what [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] said, Sam is probably … I've never been around a better pro than Sam. He's more partner than player. He's more a player-coach, kind of, in a way. He's kind of our contemporaries, almost. Not quite, I'd like to think, but not quite. Sam is just one of the all-time greats. So, Jordan [Stout] will come in here and learn from him, and then we'll just see where it goes."
Eric, with T Daniel Faalele he talked about how T Orlando Brown Jr. is a guy who he kind of looked up to, and the size comparison is easy to see there. What stood out to you about him, and do you see similarities with Orlando to a certain extent? (Garrett Downing)
DeCosta: "Yes, well he's a guy that I first noticed on '19 tape, and it was unclear whether he was going to come out or not come out, and then he opted-out last year due to COVID-19. The first thing you notice is size, but then you're like struck by how well he moves for that size, and then he's just consistently knocking people off the ball. [There's] kind of an unusual story about him, his whole background, how he was discovered. [Head coach] John [Harbaugh], you can talk about that, actually – it's kind of close to home."
Harbaugh: "Yes, it was something. If you remember when [Michigan head coach] Jim [Harbaugh] did the camps all over the world. He did Hawaii, then he did Australia [or] New Zealand, I think it was, and Daniel [Faalele] was at the camp. And he was there as an athlete, as a rugby player, and Jim's like, 'You ever think about playing football?' He ended up going to a Hawaii camp, then he got noticed. Then he ended up coming back to IMG [Academy], in Florida, and then Jim didn't get him as a recruit; I don't know what happened. (laughter)[Minnesota head coach] P.J. Fleck got him. But you think about that. I remember Jim took a lot of heat for that; 'What's he doing these camps for? What's going on.' He provided this guy an opportunity and kind of opened the doors a little bit for the NFL. So, it's a great story."
Eric, what do you like about the two corners that you were able to draft in the fourth round? And given how many veterans departed from that position group this offseason, is that still a position where you'd like to ideally add another veteran to the mix?_ (Luke Jones)_
DeCosta: "I think both guys [Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams] have the athletic ability and the cover skills that you look for. When you're getting down to the fourth round, there's a reason why those players are usually available, in some cases, especially corners – [they're] probably lacking something, maybe. But you want traits, and you want guys who can cover; that's important for that position. And if you get a guy that's willing to come up and tackle, that's even better. And so, you're trying to find the perfect package of size and toughness and ball skills and all that, and you're trying to really find a guy that has the most skills that you can at the position at that point. We thought the board kind of shaped up nicely this year for us in the fourth round, and we actually had discussed the fact that we would probably take two corners in the fourth round if we hadn't already taken a corner. And so, that's just kind of the way it shook out. Jalyn [Armour-Davis] is a guy that … When you watch him, the first thing you notice is his feet and his coverability, really, his speed down the field. Damarion [Williams] I think is a feisty player; I think he's a smart player, scheme-versatile, as well. So, both guys really fit us. A few weeks ago, Coach [Harbaugh] was working through the board, looking at corners and came in and said, 'You know what? I was really nervous about the position, but now having seen these guys, I feel like there's enough guys that we can take a few of these guys and really improve our depth.' We may not be done, but we do see that now we have guys that can go out there and practice right away. We know we're going to get Marcus [Peters] back; we know we're going to get Marlon [Humphrey] back; but these guys provide a nice buffer for us in the short term."
Coach, what about TEs Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar and how they upgrade the tight ends room? And do you envision a scenario where you may be carrying four tight ends?_ (Todd Karpovich)_
Harbaugh: "Yes, to the second part of it. And he [Charlie Kolar] is a big target. He's a receiving tight end whose got … He's willing to block. He'll go throw it up in there – he's not afraid. But he's a … Bottom line, he's a big receiver. He's got great catch radius, great body control; he's good over the middle; he can catch it in every kind of direction; [he] makes big plays; [he's] a very smart, tough guy. He's a big receiver for us in the middle of the field."
I wanted to ask about the other tight end, Isaiah Likely, and I'm just curious, is he a guy that could project as a big-bodied wide receiver at the next level? He seemed to be so explosive._ (Ken Weinman)_
Harbaugh: "I'll turn to [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta], because Eric really has a great feel for this player, and I agree with him. This is a very intriguing player. I remember watching him on tape early on. It was just like, 'Man, this guy is making plays all the time.' He lines up as a receiver; he's catching the ball as a wide receiver. He lines up at tight end. They motion him. They run him in boots – in the drag boots and things – and he's just really electric. He runs downfield. Sometimes he blocks people and knocks them off their feet downfield. It's just an interesting guy, but you watch him, [and] it's not like an obvious position fit; he's just kind of a playmaker-type guy. So, I think he's really intriguing, and it's going to … We're excited about trying to figure out exactly where he fits, but he definitely fits as a playmaker. Would you agree?"
DeCosta: "I would. And I think the thing you notice is he runs by people consistently. He did it at the Senior Bowl, in the practices, and he's got very good hands, very good ball skills, he's a fluid athlete, and he's from Massachusetts." (Coach Harbaugh: "Because so many great players come out of Massachusetts." – laughter)"I will say this now, Coach, we have had two outstanding players from Massachusetts over the years. Can you name them?" (Coach Harbaugh: "No.")"One is on the team now – Pat Ricard. And the other one was Mike Flynn. So, two pretty good players." (Coach Harbaugh: "Over the 25-year history." – laughter)"We're going to take one every 10 years." (laughter)
John, what was it like being in the room for the fourth round?_ (Jamison Hensley)_
Harbaugh: "It went quickly, and it was really all about – what's the word [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] uses?"(Executive vice president & general manager Eric DeCosta: "Standard deviation.")"Standard deviation. It was all about standard deviation. And the theory there is that once you get into that round, people have different strokes for different folks, and you have a chance to get the guys you really like. And the interesting thing about standard deviation [is] it was working, because as it kind of fell off, we did get the players that we liked, especially early. Towards the end of the round, it gets a little wider, but all the guys we got were guys that were really highly rated – guys that we were hoping to get in the round. There wasn't anybody that wasn't on our top list to get in the round, so that's the best thing about it. It kind of fell for us in a good way."
Was it chaotic? I can only imagine that it was kind of like a pick, pick, pick-type thing._ (Jamison Hensley)_
Harbaugh: "Wasn't there one where you couldn't get the guy on the phone for a minute, and we had to …? That got a little nerve-wracking."
DeCosta: "We did have one situation where the number that we had was actually the agent's number, and then the agent couldn't find the player's number, and we were on the clock. So, we did … We got ahold of the agent, and then the agent searched for the number. There was about a minute left, [so] we had enough time to do it. We would have picked another player and then waited and then gotten back on the clock and maybe picked that guy. But there was a little – I wouldn't say confusion – just anxiety, but it was fun. The nice thing about the fourth round was that pretty much every five to seven picks, we were making a pick, so it went by very fast, because we were always discussing or looking at the list, trying to iron out which guy would be there and how it would work and what our strategy might be. The hectic part, I would say, was that having all those picks, the phones were always ringing, teams were always kind of coming up because they saw all these picks." (Coach Harbaugh: "Yes, they were trying to grab picks.") "So, every time we'd get close, three phones would ring; 'Do you guys want to trade back?' And we kept … We maybe discussed it once or twice, but we just decided, 'You know what? We've got six picks; let's use them.'"
Harbaugh: "I would say the other part of that – just to add on – is that [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] was cool as a cucumber, because you're juggling a lot of things. I got nervous when we couldn't find the phone number – that was a little nerve-wracking – or the agent couldn't find the phone number. But the calls are coming in, the clock is running on the picks, and he never blinked for a second. But then the other thing is, every time we came up, and we had an opportunity to trade out, we had the player there that we wanted. There was always a player there that we wanted, so it didn't make any sense to move out."
Coach, you don't have a history of anointing rookies as starters, but in looking at the picks and when they're made, do you look at a guy and say, "That guy has the potential to be a starter for this team?" (Jerry Coleman)
Harbaugh: "Yes, I mean … Really, I'd look at this whole board and tell you that they have potential to be a starter – Eric had mentioned that earlier on. Right down to Tyler Badie, they all have a chance to be a starter. I would say the higher you get picked, the better your chances. But nobody is going to be given anything, obviously. Everybody has to earn their spot, and then you have to hold onto it, because there's always someone coming to take your spot. I think that's what our guys understand. We talk all the time; it's like waves. Have you ever seen the ocean? The waves of players, the competition just keeps coming, every single day. To play in this league and to play for very long, you really have to understand that you have to bring it every day."
Eric, you didn't pick a receiver, unless TE Isaiah Likely would be characterized as that in your mind. Is that an area maybe where you could look for a veteran? Or can you explain, did the board just fall that way? Why didn't you pick a receiver? (Jeff Zrebiec)
DeCosta: "It wasn't for a lack of effort. I think, honestly, the fact that there was a run of receivers in the first round like there was … I wouldn't say it was a great receiver class in general, compared to some of the years. There were very good players at the top. So, for us, it was a good draft, and there were really good players at other positions. There were some receivers that we liked; we tried to take a couple guys at different points. But, again, one of the phenomenon's that we've seen is that those receivers get picked really, really early now. Similar to corner, they just fly off the board – in some cases, maybe a round to a round and a half earlier than you'd expect. I said this last year, but we like our receivers, we do. We've seen growth, we've seen our guys mature and develop. I can just say, I really think … We took 'Bate' [Rashod Bateman] last year; he was our first-round guy, and I think he's going to show you why. Devin [Duvernay], we have a theory that guys that end up playing on special teams and being really good special teams players end up being really good position players. We think Devin is a great young player. We took Tylan [Wallace] last year, and kind of the same thing. He's a young player and we were very excited to get him last year. He's a guy last year that we got in the fourth round, that we probably would have taken a round and a half earlier last year. Then we have James [Proche II], and James made a jump last year and made some critical plays in games. So, we like our group. We will add players to the mix. We're doing that right now, and we'll look at veteran players as well. It wasn't really by design that we wanted to create a hole on the team. I don't look at it that way, but in this business, you pivot, you dodge, you weave – you're always really going to be chasing a need. Every team in the league would tell you that you're chasing needs. That's what you do in this business. You're always trying to fix your biggest needs and move forward, and you want to get as strong as you can. We'll continue to address it or look at it. There will be opportunities for us – teams will call us – maybe some possible trades moving forward. [There will be] undrafted free agency, free agents on the street, and we'll build the best team we can."
Eric, you got interior pass rusher DT Travis Jones, and the unknown with when OLB David Ojabo is going to come back. Are you satisfied with where you are from a pass rush standpoint, and could you foresee bringing in a veteran or two in that position? (Ken Weinman)
DeCosta: "We could. That's something that we'll continue to look at. Travis [Jones] is a player that … We haven't spent much time talking about Travis, but Travis is a player that we're excited about. He's a very, very good athlete for his size. He's a physical guy; he can play two-gap, he can also rush the passer. So, we're excited about him. Obviously, with David [Ojabo], he'll be out for a while, but we know the cavalry is coming, so-to-speak, and we're going to be very, very excited when he's on the field. And we also think and strongly believe that Odafe [Oweh] will continue to make a big, big jump this year. And Tyus Bowser over the last couple of years has played great football. Not to mention some of the other guys we have who haven't even played much; Daelin Hayes is a guy who we're excited about that flashed last year when he had the chance. So, there are going to be opportunities for us to improve at that position as well."
Eric, we might not talk to you for a while. So, we know as players come in, one of them will be QB Lamar Jackson. Obviously, the negotiations are a big storyline. Is it kind of still status quo there with you guys and his camp? (Jonas Shaffer)
DeCosta: "Yes, nothing has really changed on that front. I'm really excited, because … We're excited about Lamar [Jackson]. He's been working quite a bit out in California [and] down in Florida. We are getting great reports. We talk to him all the time. We check in with him all the time. We talk to other players. I believe – and I think coach [John Harbaugh] feels this way – that we are poised to have a great year on offense."
Eric, everyone talks about how great value, overall, with the picks you got. Do you feel that way as well? Why do you think that was this year where it seemed like … Especially early on in the first three rounds, you got just exceptional value. (Jamison Hensley)
DeCosta:"We really do try to draft the best players – we really do. I know sometimes people say, 'They don't just draft [the] best available players,' but we really do try to do that. I know I try to really stack the board that way. The first part of the process is to just line up every single player, and that takes nine months. You're talking about 200 players. We get the list ironed out and you just do it, you just sort the list. It takes a long time. Coach [Harbaugh] will tell you – we spend 10 hours a day for weeks talking about these guys. That's the first step of the process. And then you have to spend time really understanding the mentality and the personality of these guys, and their motivations, and their drivers, and all that kind of stuff. That's the second part of it. Then you need to assess where you'd like to take them. It's just like value investing [with Berkshire Hathaway Inc. CEO] Warren Buffet – when the value of the player … If you think the player's value is greater than where he is available, you take him, you buy him. That's what we do. Sometimes, we miss out on guys. It happens all the time. Our pockets have been picked many times. It's a horrible feeling. But every once in a while, you get really good players that fall to you, and it's an exciting thing. That's the fun of this job and the part of this job that's also maddening at times."