Eric DeCosta opening statement: "I was told I need to smile more tonight and look happy and not look as tired. So, it was a long day, but I think we're very happy with the outcome. We feel that we got two players that really check a lot of boxes for us and definitely fill some important needs. [The] two players that we had targeted today … Ben Cleveland [is] a big, physical road-grading offensive lineman, power gap-scheme-type of guy that really fits us [and] really fits our identity. We've had a lot of success with guys like him in the past. In [Brandon] Stephens, we got a guy that is a very versatile player. He's a former running back at UCLA, transferred to SMU. He's played some corner. He's played some safety. [He has] a lot of upside potential. [He's] a big guy. He runs very well. He's very physical. [He] should contribute right away on special teams and he's the kind of player that we look for. So, we'll open it up to questions."
John, with G Ben Cleveland being a guard, does he have a chance to compete for a starting job right away? How does that maybe affect where G/C Bradley Bozeman might end up as well? (Jamison Hensley)
Harbaugh: "Sure, I think the line you're thinking about is something that we're thinking about as well. He'll definitely have a chance to compete at left guard. All those guys will compete. We have our veteran guys there. You talk about Ben [Powers] who played there last year in the offensive line as a starter toward the end of the year. He'll be involved in that. Of course, Ben Bredeson will be involved in that. We'll have to see how the rest of it shakes out, but all those young guys will be fighting and [Ben] Cleveland will be right there in the middle of it. Sure, it gives us the chance possibly to move Bradley [Bozeman] to center. Again, we'll see how that goes. We still have Pat Mekari, who did a great job at center for us, and Trystan Colon-Castillo at center. So, we have a lot of young guys for spots. As a coach, that's just what you want to have. So, I can't wait to see those guys fight it out."
Eric, you talked about CB Brandon Stephens playing running back and playing corner and seeing him maybe playing special teams. Do you see his position being safety or corner? (Kevin Richardson)
DeCosta:"That's a good question. I think I defer to the coaches on that one. Right now, we probably would say that we like his potential as a safety. He's primarily been a corner with some safety play this past year, but he really fits the profile of a free safety-type of player. The thing I like about him when I watch him is with his background as a running back, he really does like contact. He comes up, he's physical. He'll force the issue, and he can close the gap very quickly."
Can you just talk about the kind of fit … You talked about a little bit with the power and gap-scheme that G Ben Cleveland provides you. Did this guy just jump off as looking like a Ravens-type of blocker? (Ryan Mink)
Harbaugh:"Yes, I think we have a pretty well-defined and clear understanding of what we want to be on offense, so you look for players that fit what you're looking for and what you want to be. He fits that. Just as you talked about, it's certainly the gap-schemes. It's the Zone-schemes as well, the combination blocks. He's a pretty good puller, too, for a man that big. That's a big, strong, powerful guy that likes to rough people up, and that's how we want to play."
Eric, you mentioned these were two guys you eyed at the beginning. Take us through, you've said before how excruciating it is to sit through the second round without a pick. Was it difficult? Were you tempted at times to move up worried that you may not get your guys? How did that kind of play out? (Jeff Zrebiec)
DeCosta: "Well, it wasn't as bad as [the] 2019 [Draft]. I think the reason for that was that we had two first round picks this year. So, every time I'd get frustrated, I kept thinking, 'We got two players yesterday. We got two players yesterday that were in our Top 20.' So, I think it was probably easier this year. We saw a lot of good players come of the board, but we knew that was going to be the case. We went into that knowing that was going to be the case. So, we just kind of relaxed, I think, really until we got to the third round. And then we did have some players that we were eyeing up that we were excited about [and] they came off the board. What I can tell you is at the start of the day, if you had told us that we would've gotten Ben Cleveland, we would've turned it in right then and there. So, this has happened in the past. It's incredible to think, but you can actually have a guy, or two guys, or three guys that you target at the beginning of the second or third round, then you get those guys in the third round. That's not usually the case in the first round, just because everybody is picking exactly the same players. But as the Draft grows, you see slippage and other teams start taking other players, and you end up getting really, really good values that you have high on your board at good spots."
Along those lines, it looked like it was pretty celebratory in the Draft room when you guys made the pick for G Ben Cleveland, when they showed that clip on TV. Was that because you guys were kind of anxiously awaiting to see if he was going to make it to you? (Garrett Downing)
Harbaugh: "I've got to make a confession. Ben [Cleveland] was a guy who we really, really wanted to get. I think we all wanted to get him. I know I was being a little bit of a 'Nervous Nellie' there for a bit, and I kind of wanted us to trade up. [Executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta], he staved off the temptation, we held tight, and we got our guy, so it was definitely celebratory."
DeCosta: "[Head coach] John [Harbaugh] has been talking about [Ben] Cleveland for like two months, really. So, it was relief for me to actually see him available when we picked. (Harbaugh: "I'm off your back now.")This was John's pick, and this is the type of guy that we look for on the offensive line, and we're all very happy that we got him. We think the competition at the guard spots is going to be fierce. We've got some good players. You can take a guy like Tyre Phillips, Ben Powers, Ben Bredeson and 'Pat' [Patrick Mekari], and we've got a bunch of guys, and they're all really good, and they've all played a lot of football. And this guy is going to come in and get mixed in with those guys, and we should have a really good, deep offensive line."
The narrative around this Draft, and then next year, is that you guys will have more information on prospects next year, so some teams might be looking to trade into the 2022 selection. I know you guys pride yourselves on finding advantages where other teams don't, and I know you're not going to give away your Draft plan, but just your thoughts on what advantages you guys might get by looking to trade to a year where you might have more information? (Jonas Shaffer)
DeCosta: "Yes, I understand that question. We have a lot of picks next year, and I think that we have the best scouts in the league, and I'm proud of our guys. A lot of our guys are highly experienced. We get great information. We've also got an advanced analytics staff that helps us, and an unbelievable coaching staff that really does a phenomenal job evaluating, so that's our advantage. The fact that we care so much, and we have a culture, continuity with John [Harbaugh] as our head coach. We understand what we're looking for in terms of players, and that's our advantage. And so, whether it's this year or next year, I always feel that if we're competing against the other 31 teams, we'll do as well as anybody."
Eric, are you getting the trade itch, possibly, for tomorrow? You haven't' made a trade yet. You have five selections. Do you anticipate any kind of moves for tomorrow? (Jonas Shaffer)
DeCosta: "I was thinking about that, and I don't know the history of us making trades. You'd have to research that. Has there ever been a draft when we didn't make a trade? I don't know the answer. My guess is probably yes. But we did make a trade a couple weeks ago, which was pretty significant. So, I don't feel compelled to make a trade. If it falls our way, we'll do that. I do think that we're excited about potentially getting some good players tomorrow. I think it's a good day for the scouts. Really, tomorrow is a scout's day. We'll pick some players that the scouts like, and that's always a good thing. Those guys deserve it. So, if the situation presents itself, we'll look at it, but to have those picks tomorrow is a really good thing." (Reporter: "For the record, the only Draft I can see is 2017. The Marlon [Humphrey] one was the only one without a trade.")
Joe, can you tell us about scouting CB Brandon Stephens? And what do you like about him, and how did he sort of come on your guys' radar? He was a guy who changed positions and was once a pretty high-level running back recruit. (Jeff Zrebiec)
Hortiz: "Our scouts went in there in the fall – or not in there – but [evaluated] him in the fall. Obviously, we're doing it via Zoom, talking to staffs and all that. They identified him early on as a developmental corner, a player who, like [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] mentioned, played running back at UCLA. The thing about him was he wanted to play corner, and that's what drove his transfer. He wanted the opportunity play corner, and he was able to get to SMU and play. And over two years of playing corner, he had 21 PBUs [pass breakups]. He's a big, physical, athletic kid, who got his hands on a lot of balls. And [we] really just see a lot of raw talent, and you really saw him get better throughout the season if you watch his games in chronological order. So, he's a guy who gained steam through the process [and] put together a good Pro Day. [Pro scout] Corey Frazier, I believe, was down there and saw that. So, he just kept stacking good exposures on top of each other and made his way to us."
G BEN CLEVELAND CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT
Can you just talk about your emotions? It's been well-documented that the Ravens are looking for offensive line help. Were they sort of a team, as you saw as they were coming up on the board, that you were eyeing? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes. I definitely felt like I was pretty high on their radar, just from our meetings and things like that, but it was completely kind of unexpected. Emotions were definitely running high. I don't have a big group of people here, just close family and things like that. But emotions were definitely running high right there during the moment."
What does it feel like to now get a shot to compete to block for and protect QB Lamar Jackson? (Shawn Stepner) "It's a dream come true, honestly. This is everybody's dream as a kid growing up who plays football. There's no place that I'd rather be. I fell in love with the coaching staff and the program that the Ravens have. So, I think it's going to be a great fit for me. It's really just a dream come true."
Can you just talk about your power blocking style and your mentality as a blocker? (Ryan Mink) "That's kind of what we prided ourselves on at Georgia, was being able to run the ball downhill and being able to force our way any way that we wanted to go. So, that's something I've [taken] great pride in over the last five years. It's definitely going to fit in just as well in the NFL as it has in college."
I don't know if you saw, but right before your pick was announced, they showed on TV the Ravens' Draft Room really fired up to have you. What do you think when you see that, that they're clearly excited to have you? Did you get a sense of that on the phone call with them? (Garrett Downing)"Oh, yes – no doubt. I talked to three or four different guys in the room on the phone during that first initial phone call. I think they could tell that I was just as excited as they were. So, it was awesome for me to be able to kind of see that reciprocated. It definitely makes me feel like that was the right decision for them to make."
For the fans who have never seen you play, what type of player are they getting here in Baltimore? (Kevin Richardson) "Somebody who is overly physical and just never quits and is always going to compete to the highest level and just do everything that's asked of me. I've always taken that as a very high sense of pride – is to be very coachable. [I'm always going to do] what's asked of me to do. [I'm] just somebody who shows up to work every day and is going to go out there and give it all I've got."
You're now the second "Big Country" on the team with G/T Tyre Philips, offensive lineman who the Ravens drafted last year. He also has that nickname. How are you going to determine that? And then a second question for you: Have you played left guard at all during year career in college or high school, or have you always been at right guard? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, so, I mean, the nickname, I'm sure is something that'll … It might go in and out. I might pick up a new one or something like that, so it'll be interesting to see where that goes. But, no, I've flip-flopped around a good bit, especially this past season with all the uncertainty and things like that going on with COVID-19. We wanted to make sure that everybody was versatile enough to play any position, so I was able to flip around and play [the] left side quite a bit, just to become comfortable with that. And I picked it up very easily, so I don't have any concerns with that."
Just to conclude this, how would you describe the raw emotion of the moment? (Garrett Downing) "It's kind of hard to put it into words, honestly. Obviously, the excitement and the happiness that came with everything is very hard to describe. But it's something that, definitely, I feel like is well-deserved and is definitely going to be celebrated."
CB BRANDON STEPHENS CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT
Can you talk about your emotions tonight? When the Ravens called and told you they were drafting you, were they kind of a team where you expected you could land? (Jeff Zrebiec) "My emotions were all over the place, honestly. Just to see my phone light up and see the Baltimore area code, it was … Man, it was great. It was great. Just to talk to Coach Harbaugh on the phone, it was … I don't even know how to explain it. I actually woke up this morning and my mom was sitting at the kitchen table, and I said, 'Baltimore might be one of the teams I go to.' So, just to see it happen and it come to fruition is amazing."
You're joining a really deep group of cornerbacks with a lot of veteran experience and a lot of success. How much are you looking forward to being able to learn from guys like CB Marlon Humphrey, CB Marcus Peters and CB Jimmy Smith? (Luke Jones) "Man, I can't wait. I can't wait. The names that you just mentioned, they're great at what they do. I have a ton to learn from them just to better my game. So, I definitely can't wait to get into that room with them and help the organization win games."
Congrats, Brandon. I just wanted to know why you wanted to switch from running back to cornerback? (Ryan Mink) "I've always had a love for defense and playing DB. I played a little bit in high school, so that's where my love for the position really started. I just really felt like it was just the better option for me. I felt that that's where my head was at [and] that's where my passion was. So, I just had to bet on myself and go with where my heart was at."
Staying along the lines with the move to corner, by being drafted in the NFL in the third round, do you feel that kind of validates your decision to make that move? I mean going from running back at UCLA to cornerback at SMU, that's a pretty tremendous move. Do you think getting drafted validates everything for you? (Jamison Hensley) "Man, it definitely does. There was a lot of doubters when I made the move. Some people didn't understand why I was making the move, but I did. This just goes to prove what I saw and what my vision was going forward."
Congratulations on getting picked. Obviously, you're coming to a team where you have familiarity with WR James Proche II. I think he tweeted out a congratulations to you. Just what is your relationship like with him, and how did he help you along this pre-draft journey? _(Daniel Oyefusi) _"Oh, yes, James [Proche II] – that's my boy. He was … Actually, right when I got the call … We were texting throughout the Draft – today's Draft – and I just texted him, 'Let's go.' But that's my boy. We competed every practice at SMU, and we just try to make each other better. And so, just to team up back with him, one of my brothers, is an amazing feeling."
Congratulations. Could you just talk about the challenges of making that switch from running back to cornerback? You're going from studying one part of the playbook to an entirely different playbook. What has been the biggest challenge for you, and what did you embrace about everything that's come your way? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"Yes, when I made the transition, I knew it was going to be a challenge, but it wasn't a challenge that I was going to step away from. So, for me, it was just focusing on the playbook and just learning the terminology at SMU, because that was my first time learning a defensive playbook. When I came to SMU, the only thing I knew was man coverage, so I would say that was one of the challenges at first."
We asked executive vice president & general manger Eric DeCosta about cornerback or safety. How comfortable are you moving around in different roles in that secondary? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"Yes, I pride myself in playing multiple positions. I played corner, nickel and safety. So, wherever the team needs me to play, I'm willing to play."
Can you talk about maybe the nervousness you felt at the end of the third round? Where did you expect to get drafted, and as you're getting close to the end of this day, what were the emotions going through your mind? Were you always expecting to go in the third round? What were your thoughts at that point? _(Garrett Downing) _"Yes, I was expecting to go in the third [round]. The emotions, like I said, were all over the place. But yes, I was definitely expecting to go in the third."