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Transcripts: Ravens' Pre-Draft Press Conference (4/9)

Eric DeCosta opening statement: "Thanks for coming. We are literally in the middle of Draft meetings. We started yesterday with our coaches. We took an early break today so we can come down here and grace you all with our appearance. We'll get started back at 1:15 [p.m.]. We'll probably finish our Draft meetings sometime on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, and at that point, the [Draft] board will be pretty much set. We'll have a few days the week of the Draft to just tweak things a little bit based on workouts and some additional interviews that we conduct, but I think by the end of this week, we'll be in very good shape to figure out who we're going to draft at pick [No.] 30. Questions?"

With three starters gone on the offensive line, how much will the Draft be used to address some of those holes? (Jamison Hensley)

(DeCOSTA) "I certainly think it's a big factor for us in terms of team building this year. We spent the entire day yesterday, just giving you an idea, all of yesterday, starting at 9:00 in the morning until 6:00 at night, was spent on the offensive line. That's not necessarily because it's a big priority for us as much as the volume of players at those positions this year took us a long time to cover through all those players and go through all the information to get them ranked. It's a very deep pool of players. We see a lot of different opportunities in different rounds to get players at tackle, guard and center, and we're excited about that."

How pleased were you to be able to re-sign OLB Kyle Van Noy? Where are you at outside linebacker with quite a few young players at that position? (Luke Jones)

(DeCOSTA) "First, we were very excited to bring Kyle [Van Noy] back. It was a great experience for us last year with Kyle, and I think Kyle would say the same. He's certainly a player that helped us quite a bit. [I] love his mentality, leadership, physicality that he brings [and] versatility as a player. I think it's great to have a veteran in the [outside linebacker] room. We do have a lot of younger guys. We have a lot younger guys that we think have a lot of potential, and we would expect those guys to reach their potential this year. We're very excited about all those young players. We've seen some quality play. We've seen some flashes of quality play, and we're very excited. We can't wait to get started."

How deep is this Draft with edge rushers? Is it difficult to see how their pass rush skills in college translate to the NFL? (Todd Karpovich)

(DeCOSTA) "I think it's an average Draft, I would say, for edge pass rushers. There are certainly some guys at the top. For us, we've had success throughout the years in finding some guys in the middle rounds that have been good players for us. It really depends on what you're looking for. You have your speed rushers. You have power guys, guys that can do both, guys that have to play in a three-point stance [and] guys that can play in a two-point stance. A lot of it has to do with your fit and what you're looking for. Our coaches play a big part in that in their evaluation. [Pass rush coach] Chuck Smith does a really, really good job of evaluating pass rushers and has done a good job for us coaching those guys as well. We'll get the [Draft] board squared away. There are certainly some guys at the top that probably won't be there when we pick. So, the challenge for us is going to be who's going to be that next-tier group of guys in that sweet spot between the 25th player to the 45th player that we have a chance to get either at [pick No.] 30 or at [pick No.] 62."

You currently have nine Draft picks. Is that a number you would like to be at or add to? How much value do you put in the fifth-year option for first-round picks, and how does that factor into the decisions to trade back? (Garrett Downing)

(DeCOSTA) "It's great to have additional picks. You certainly have to have players that you covet and that you want to Draft. So, that's always a factor with every Draft. You could have 15 picks, and sometimes you're there at the end of the Draft, and you're looking at the [Draft] board, and you have no idea who you want to pick. You just don't see anybody that you really covet. I always think about it as, 'What picks do you need to get the players that you want to take?' You can have some great picks, but if the board doesn't fall the right way, and you're looking at a bunch of players that aren't any better than the players you have on your roster, those picks don't really help you very much. I like the idea of having more picks, but I want to have more picks in a specific range in the Draft. If we can get that done, then I could see us being in a good position to really maximize our chances to find good players.

As far as the fifth-year [option] goes, yes there is an advantage to having an extra year [of the player's contract] if you want that extra year. All things being equal, if you trade out of the first round, I think that you should get a premium if you're going to do that to give up that additional year."

You are about a month away from the deadline to pick up WR Rashod Bateman and OLB Odafe Oweh's fifth-year options. Do you anticipate picking either one of those up? (Kyle Phoenix)

(DeCOSTA) "I think we're about a month away from that decision. So, that's probably when we'll make that decision, I would think, but we'll have more to say about that probably after the Draft."

How has former Ravens director of player personnel Joe Hortiz's absence affected your Draft process? (Bo Smolka)

(DeCOSTA) "There's definitely more leg room up here." (laughter) "I'm probably more comfortable, because [former Ravens director of player personnel Joe Hortiz] was always butting into us. It's been a change for me, definitely. I miss Joe. I miss his personality. Joe's a great evaluator. First and foremost, for me, the comfort that I would have with Joe saying, 'Take a look at these guys and let me know what you think.' [He has] great instincts [and] great feel as an evaluator. In saying that, we have other guys that excel at that as well. [Head coach] John [Harbaugh] is a great evaluator. [Executive vice president] Ozzie Newsome's a Hall of Fame evaluator. [Director of player personnel] George Kokinis, [director of college scouting] David Blackburn – our coaches do a great job [as well]. We definitely have guys who can pick up the slack. I was thinking about it today coming in. I think this is my 20th year running the Draft. I think my first year was 2005 – the [former Ravens WR] Mark Clayton Draft. It's crazy to think that everything that goes into it [for] 20 years. Joe was with me for 19 of those 20 years. Obviously, it's a big change, but I think one that is exciting. We certainly have people who can step up and really get it done."

What are the challenges of picking this late in the Draft with the 30th pick of the first round, with having to let the board play its way out? (Cordell Woodland)

(DeCOSTA) "I don't see any unique challenges picking early [or] picking late. It's really the same. It's just having the players that you really want be there when you have to pick. If you have a typical Draft, if you're picking 10th, you maybe have four or five guys you really want. If you're picking 28th or 30th, you might only have 15 or 20 guys that you really want. The way your brain works, is you [assign] a value to players, and you're hoping to get that value at that pick. You really want to get value. For us, it's just you hope and pray that one of those top 20 guys might be there for us at [pick No.] 30 so we have some additional value associated with that. In the end, you just grade the players, and you rank the players."

What has it been like collaborating and discussing with your staff about Draft picks? Have there been any differences of opinion about players? (Jerry Coleman)

(DeCOSTA) "That's just a part of it. One thing I learned from [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and watching him over the years with Coach [Ted] Marchibroda and Coach [Brian] Billick and then with Coach [John] Harbaugh is it's a partnership. You work together. You discuss. I love my day-to-day meetings with John and his coaches talking about our players, talking about the Draft [and] talking about strategies. That's one of the very biggest joys of this job for me, day to day. We disagree sometimes – John and I disagree. But I think we appreciate each other's perspective on things. We trust each other, and we both know that we're coming from the right place. For me, that's one of the most rewarding aspects of being a general manager."

There's so much attention on offensive line and who could you draft. I know you don't like to use the word comfortable, but are there internal young options now that are on the roster already that you feel like are ready to step in and be starting offensive linemen?(Jeff Zrebiec)

(HARBAUGH) "Yes, absolutely. It's going to be competitive. There's going to be competition for those spots. Whoever plays the best – we always say, 'Who's the best player' – it's the player who plays the best. You could have been the best player five years ago, but you're not the best player now. So, every day, you go out to practice every game you play, there's an accumulated established aspect of it. But right now, we're a little more open, so those guys that you're talking about are going to be competing with whoever comes in here, and we'll just see who does it. But I think those guys are ready to compete and do well. They'll be in here Monday [for the start of the offseason conditioning program]. I can't wait to see them. It's going to be great to see those guys Monday working hard, and [we'll] see what happens."

Last year, you jumped back into the Draft and selected G Andrew Vorhees. Could you go back to recount how that came about. With his year layoff, where is he at, and what can we realistically expect? (Bo Smolka)

(DeCOSTA) "I did that because I knew you guys wanted to go home, so I was hoping I catch you guys as you were leaving the facility to say I'll have to come back and cover the Draft."* (laughter) *"But seriously, Andrew [Vorhees] was a guy that I've seen on tape, and I thought that he was a good player and that he would have a chance long term to be a player for us and be a starter for us potentially. [He's a] physical, tough guy that loves football. So, we were just sitting there, and we hadn't made a trade, and he was still available, and I just had this idea if we ... Because we had already had our kind of end-of-the-day press conference, and I was watching. And I thought I was going to go upstairs and just call the ... It ended up being [Cleveland Browns general manager] Andrew Berry, which typically we wouldn't do a lot of trades with divisional opponents, but he was happy to do it and so it made all of the sense in the world for us to do it. So, it just seemed to me that we would get some value with him as a player that had he been in the Draft and been healthy, he would have been a higher pick. I saw ability potentially for him to be a starter at guard in the league, so we'll see. He's done a fantastic job with rehab. He's very, very strong and physical – if you guys have seen him. The strength coaches and the trainers and the doctors are all very excited about him. So, we'll see what he does."

You have about 20 picks if you include comp picks between this year's Draft and next year's Draft, somewhere in that neighborhood. I'm curious how important is that, given that the financial constructs of the roster now, and I'm sure it's intentional, but just maybe the value of that from your perspective at least this year and next? (Brian Wacker)

(DeCOSTA) "Right. So, looking out last year, we felt like we could trade a couple Draft picks last year, [and] we did that, [and] we got Roquan [Smith] with the idea that we would have to start to build up again. You guys have covered us for a long time, [and] we've always been a team that's built through the Draft primarily. We've always had a lot of Draft picks. We probably have had – if not the most Draft picks in the last 10 years – definitely in the top quarter of all the teams in the league, probably near the top for sure, and that's by design. We feel that's the best way to build your team long-term from a cost standpoint, obviously, [Draft picks are] cheaper players. But also, [they are] young players that you know a lot about who can develop and become good players. And so, we see this year's Draft, and we see next year's Draft as real opportunities for us to begin build that depth up again. This past year's team, we had tremendous depth, and the challenge now as for these younger players on the roster right now to be a part of that depth and for us to find additional players who can come in and compete to start and be good depth players for us moving forward."

There's been a lot of talk about the offensive line class and the wide receiver class. We haven't talked a lot about the cornerback class. How do you view that group? (Ryan Mink)

(DeCOSTA) "I think it's a solid class. Certainly probably not at the level of the receiver and offensive line – very cyclical. But definitely, [there are] some players who can come in right away and probably compete to start for us. We would love to add a talented corner at some point in the Draft whether that's first round or second round or third round, whatever that might be – a talented player who can help us. That's a position, as you all know, that typically, you never have enough due to injuries and different things – guys will break down through the course of the season. Our depth has always been tested in the secondary. This year was no exception, and we were blessed to have some guys, like for instance Ronald Darby, to come in and really help us. So, yes, if we have a chance to draft a corner this year, you can count on us doing that."

How relevant is it over the last several years, you select one position in the first round, wide receiver three times in the recent past. Does that inform the conversation this year where you say, 'We've done that three times already in the last five years?' Is that part of the conversation, or is it best player regardless? (Pete Gilbert)

(DeCOSTA) "Well, I think it depends on the best player and also team need, both. So, if there's a player that's there that we think is too good to pass up on, we're going to take that player. We've proven that; We've shown that. That started with Ozzie Newsome, and that's going to continue as far as I'm concerned, as long as I'm here, we're going to take the best available player. So, now that being said, if you're picking in the first round, and you have an MVP quarterback, and there's a quarterback that's the best available player, chances are, we're not going to draft a quarterback. But all things being equal, we're going to draft the best available player when we're on the clock."

In terms of evaluating, with this new kickoff rule, does that change how you evaluate potential returners or the skill sets are what they are, and the evaluation process won't change at all with those players? (Bo Smolka)

(DeCOSTA) "Well, that's a good question. And I would say this, that I've been blessed to have a head coach who's a special teams coach, and we have excellent specials teams coaches upstairs. Those guys are really valuable to me whenever we discuss special teams and what these rule changes might mean and the type of players that we're looking for and the skillsets that we're looking for. So, we want athletes, and we want playmakers. They have to catch the ball. They have to be able to break tackles. They have to be able to make guys miss. So, I think we're in the process of addressing that in different ways. There's certainly some skilled guys in the Draft, some excellent returners – we've talked about a few guys already – and I think we'll be in good shape in September."

When you look at your roster now, what part of it do you think could be filled through the Draft that maybe you're kind of edging a little bit with your opinions that you're trying to perhaps get? (Morgan Adsit)

(HARBAUGH) "I feel like you're trying to get Eric [DeCosta] ... The one [question] he won't answer through me on that. To see if I'll give it up and maybe Harbaugh will chirp, or he's a canary. I'm a canary I guess." (laughter) "Best available player. Isn't that what we said? It depends again. It depends on ... We do have some needs. I have my depth chart; there's no doubt, and Eric and I talk about that all the time – where the blocks are and where the goals are specifically for those guys. [It's] kind of what type of player do we need and what type of spot to build our team from the top to the bottom. There's a lot of thought that goes into it, [and] a lot of conversation that goes into that. So, it's not just a position. It's not just a, 'Hey, we need an offensive lineman, a guard, a tackle, wide receiver, a corner, a pass rusher, tight end or whatever.' It's what type of player do we need and what roles do we need filled? Even right through – from offense or defense right down through special teams – these are all the jobs that need to be done and who fills those jobs the best in a way that can win for us. [It's] not just, 'He can do that,' it's usually who's going to excel at what. And that is the team-building process, and that goes with the scheme, too. So sometimes you get players that are a little bit different, so you want to move your scheme that way. Sometimes you have a way you want to play, you have needs on your roster, so you move your Draft a little bit that way. I think that's the art of the whole thing."

We talked about this a couple weeks ago with QB Lamar Jackson providing his insight on receiver, we saw that obviously last year WR Zay Flowers. What's that dialogue been like as you guys get closer? We know that you guys had some guys here for pre-Draft visits and so forth. For that position, are either one of you looking at Lamar Jackson's input there? (Brian Wacker)

(HARBAUGH) "Yes. We talked right at the beginning of the offseason and right up to the season about the type of guy or type of role that he felt like would fit. We were all on the same page with that part of it, in terms of our roster, kind of what would be comfortable, and who we're looking for style-wise. But it doesn't always work out that way. So, Lamar [Jackson], he's been tasked over the text world with a couple of assignments. So, we'll see who he likes, and he looks at guys on tape, and he's never been shy about giving his opinion on free agents or the Draft. So, he hasn't weighed in quite yet, but he will."

You talked earlier about G Andrew Vorhees, a guy you drafted last year, hoping that he would have an impact this year. ILB Trenton Simpson is another one of those guys. How do you feel about that linebacker spot? Is that another spot that maybe you could look for depth in with this Draft as well? (Cordell Woodland)

(DeCOSTA) "First, I think Trenton [Simpson] is going to have a great season. He has a great attitude. I think he grew as much as anybody this year. It's tough for young players. He showed up on special teams. When he played on defense, he made some plays late in the year. [He] has a lot of talent. He's as talented as any inside linebacker in this year's Draft class, for sure, so I'm excited about him. I think we've got some other young players that can emerge, as well, that we're excited about at that position. [In] the Draft, we've looked at some guys. [There is] definitely some talent in this year's Draft class. I think it's a pretty good [class]. There are no Top 10 inside linebackers in this Draft class, but there is a lot of depth in the second, third and fourth rounds. So, [it's] certainly a position we'll look at, particularly if they can play on special teams and help us that way, too, which is a really important part of the inside linebacker position, evaluation-wise, but we like our young guys that we have. [We're] excited about those guys, and we'll see how the whole thing kind of plays out."

Along those same lines, running backs probably haven't been the primary focus in this year's Draft talk. When you look at that group, do you see some players that you could get maybe on Day 3 that could come in right away and help? (Childs Walker)

(DeCOSTA) "I think so. I think it was an interesting dynamic this year [for running backs] in free agency. You saw whatever it was – maybe nine or 10 guys – get signed on the first day of free agency. I think part of that was probably how people looked at this running back class in the Draft. There are no top-tier, first-round, necessarily, type talents this year. That being said, there are a lot of guys – if you are looking at the prospects in maybe the second, third or fourth round – there are a lot of those guys, particularly [in] third-, fourth- [or] fifth-round clumps, so we've looked at those guys very closely. We're excited about some of those players. There is probably a pretty strong chance that we will draft a running back at some point; [the] round is obviously to be determined, but we do think there is a chance for us to get a good, young player who can help us in different ways; as a running back, in the passing game and also on special teams."

You guys were one game away from the Super Bowl last year. You made some acquisitions to retain some players. This phrase is going around the NFL a lot; "all in." Are the Ravens "all in" as far as 2024? (Jerry Coleman)

(DeCOSTA) "I'd like to think we're always all in. In this business, if you're not all in, then you're all out, as far as I'm concerned. So, we're going to be in every single year. I know that's what [head coach] John [Harbaugh] expects, that's what I expect, that's what [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] expects, and I think that's what our fans expect. So, you should expect that, too."

When you do lose about a dozen players in free agency, how do you view where this team is? You hear terms like "retooling" or "reloading," but as the guy that is building this team, what description would you say explains where this team is right now?(Jamison Hensley)

(DeCOSTA) "We're in the same place as we were last year at this time. Go back and look at what some of you wrote last year and see how we ended up. We have a lot of time to make moves. A lot of these players that we lost [are] excellent players. A lot of these guys were acquired in August, right? Some of these guys were acquired in September, so we're still building, and a big part of that is going to be through the Draft, which is why we're all here today. There are a lot of different opportunities along the way to add players. We've traded for players, we've drafted players, we've signed guys, [like] unrestricted free agents, we've signed guys, [like] 'street' players, who have made it, [and] we've worked guys out. [Director of player personnel] George Kokinis and [assistant director of player personnel] Mark Azevedo do a phenomenal job of bringing players in. Our coaches do a great job [of] working guys out [and] giving us a chance to find guys like – I'll mention him again – Ronald Darby [and] those types of players [like] Arthur Maulet and players like that, so I think we're just really getting started. A big part of that is certainly going to be the Draft, but the destination is September, not May."

Where does that philosophy of waiting to sign players in August – or like in the case of OLB Kyle Van Noy after the season started – come from? A lot of these guys have panned out, and some of them are at premium positions. Where does the patience and philosophy come from to wait until that time of year? (Cordell Woodland)

(DeCOSTA) "Well, No. 1, I'm not a patient person. I've learned from [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome], who is extremely patient, to be more patient, but I don't think it's a philosophy necessarily as much as an opportunity. So, I look at every single year as being different. Every opportunity is different, every situation might be different, but we've got to be able to pounce when there is an opportunity that we think is beneficial to the club. So, whether that's doing something in March or April or May or September or November, we're going to do that, given the parameters of the situation and where we are as a team at that time."

There are not a lot of underclassmen in this year's Draft pool. How is that affecting how you look at Day 3? Do you guys feel like you do enough homework by looking at next year's Draft pool to decide if you don't like where you are in the sixth round, for example, to maybe look ahead into next year's pool? (Jonas Shaffer)
(DeCOSTA) "Yes. It's a good question, and there are less juniors this year. I think guys, for whatever reason – I think [it's] because of COVID partly and because of NIL – this whole Draft landscape has changed. There are less players in the Draft this year. There are less probably 'draftable' players this year on our board. [There are] less juniors [and] less underclassmen, so yes. I think it is, and we have talked about doing this. We haven't done it as much as maybe I'd like to do it, potentially. We've talked about the idea [that] as you get into the later rounds of the Draft, if there is nobody there that you covet, potentially trading that pick for a better pick. That's one of the nuances of the Draft; when you trade a pick in a given round for next year's pick, you get the benefit of increased value. So, if you trade a fifth-round pick this year, you'd get a fourth-round pick, hypothetically, next year. That discount is actually, if you think about it, it only makes sense because the pick is a year away, but a pick is a pick, so it's hard to wrap your [mind] around the idea that you get more for next year's pick even though the pick is worth whatever it's worth. So, there is opportunity there, and some teams do it pretty well. We always tend to look at the board and see players that we like [and] that we covet, and we haven't done it quite as much. We've done it a couple of times, but that's always an interesting thing. I think [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] would love us to do that. He's excited about that. His idea would be – not to give anything away – but he has what he calls 'The Bisciotti Reign of Terror,' and that would basically be that you trade a seventh-round pick in any given year for a sixth-round pick next year, and then take that sixth-round pick and trade it for a five, and then trade that five for a four, and so, in seven or eight years, you'd have a first-round pick. We've always talked about that, but we never get to that point."

How many times has that worked in NFL history? (Jerry Coleman)

(DeCOSTA) "That's why it's called 'The Bisciotti Reign of Terror.' It's unique."

Do you anticipate any moves being made in the next couple of weeks that could impact your prominent needs heading into the Draft? (Jeff Zrebiec)

(DeCOSTA) "Oh man, you never know. You just never know. It just depends. If the phone rings, maybe there is a move to be made. If there is a player that a coach comes in and says, 'This guy is really good,' or [director of player personnel] George [Kokinis] comes in or whatever it might be, then we could make a move. In general, [re-signing] Kyle [Van Noy] was one of the last things on my checklist. [I was] trying to get that done, because I think he checked off a lot of different boxes for us. [He's] a veteran presence of defense, [he can play] multiple roles on defense, [and he's] just a good, solid player for us at a position where we could use some depth, so I don't know that we'll do a lot in the next couple of weeks, other than really kind of polish the board up and get ready for the process."

Analytics have become such a big part of the game and this process, and that probably started to blossom a couple years ago. I'm curious, how has that shaped your philosophy when it comes to Draft picks and so forth, and are there any examples of where analytics have swayed you with a prospect or direction? (Brian Wacker)

(DeCOSTA) "It's a tool. It's a tool that we use, like anything else. It's a part of the process – evaluation process. We've got some really skilled people upstairs who help in a lot of different ways. We have so much information now that processing the information and organizing the information, I think, is extremely important and critical. In the end, in my opinion – I'm an old-school guy – it still comes down to turning the TV on and watching the player over and over and over and over again, until you know exactly what he is. And I think that's a really important part of the scouting process, and that will always remain a very important part of the scouting process."

I know you guys brought back QB Josh Johnson to be the backup quarterback, and you still have QB Malik Cunningham. We saw him play a little WR at the back end of the season. Is the plan still to develop Cunningham as a quarterback, or will there be a transition? (Cordell Woodland)

(HARBAUGH) "That's a good question. I think it remains to be seen. We're going to take a look at [Malik Cunningham] and see how he does and just get to know him better and evaluate him. He's definitely developmental as a quarterback, [and] he's developmental as a wide receiver, too. But he's a good athlete, [and] he's a good person. He's a competitive guy, and he wants to do well.

"I was just thinking, [as I was] listening to the questions back about the team and the parts and all that and the math of the whole thing ... I think it's really interesting and good to look at the parts. Like, you say, 'OK, they lost this many guys, they add this many guys; they're not going to be as good of a team,' or, 'How are they going to fill these pieces?' And that's kind of a math equation. But in the end, it's not just about the parts; it's about the sum of the parts. Can the sum be greater than the parts? And it's how you put the parts together and how you piece them together. So, the process is ... It's about getting the best players you can, and I do agree ... They say, 'It's not about the X's and O's; it's about the Jimmies and Joes.' That's really clever, and it rhymes, but it really is about more than just the Jimmies and the Joes, too. It's how the Jimmies and the Joes fit together and how they're pieced together and how you build the schemes and how you build the whole machine. So, we've got the parts, but we're also building the whole machine, and we've done that in the last three months with our scheme, [and] you do that with your culture, with your work ethic, with your character, the type of people you bring into your program, what type of vision you have, what type of identity you're going to have as a football team. All those things go into it, and it's not just a math equation at the end of the year. Like, [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] said, these same questions were being asked last year, [and] they were being asked the year before and the year before that, the year before that, the year before that – all the way back. Every year it's the same questions, and it's kind of a rolling type of a thing. Some years, you're going to lose more free agents, but you're going to pick up more compensatory picks. Then, two years from now, you're going to have more picks in the Draft. Then, you're going to get younger, and you're going to have younger players who cost less, but you're going to have to pay the guys that turned out to be great players that you want to keep – as many as you can. So, that ongoing process is part of this whole big picture, and the goal is to be in, all in – to the question [before] – every single year, as best as you can be. You can't just be, 'Oh, we're going to put all our chips on the table this year, and next year, we're going to fold and not play any games.' No, we're going to try to win the championship every single year – as many games as we can. And it's the sum of the parts that we put together and what we build around those guys [to] go out there and play on Sundays and lay it all out there, and with a bunch of fans yelling and screaming in the background to support your football team. That's what we're all about. That's what football is. It's not just a math equation. It's more than that, and that's what makes it so exciting and so interesting. And we're going to have a heck of a team next year – you wait, and you watch. You wait and see what we do."

What positions in this Draft do you feel have more value and depth for Days 2-3? (Kyle Phoenix)

(DeCOSTA) "I think offensive line is pretty stacked across the board in most rounds. I think [wide] receiver is a really deep Draft this year. Those would be two. I mentioned running back; I think that you'll see a lot of running backs get drafted, probably, starting in the third round through the seventh, [and] you'll see a lot of guys get picked. Those would be positions that, when I look at [and] assess the Draft, I think are pretty deep positions in the Draft this year."

How do you feel about the new kickoff rule? What do you like about it? And what are the challenges of teaching tackling without using the hip-drop technique, which has been eliminated? (Pete Gilbert)

(HARBAUGH) "As far as the new kickoff rule, I love the fact that kickoff returns are going to be back in the game. I'm kind of on record saying [that] I wish they would have looked at a couple other things before taking the line of scrimmage out of the kickoff [and] kickoff return play, because the onside kicks and all that are still pretty cool, and they had already taken the wedges out and the double teams out. If you create some space for the kickoff return team to operate, maybe that would have slowed the kickoff team down; that was a theory. But they went all in with this new rule, and I'd rather have this than what we had in the past, where they were going all in for fair catches; we were never in favor of that. So, I think [commissioner] Roger [Goodell] really wanted kickoff return back in the game, and that's good; that's a good thing.

"As far as the hip-drop tackle [and] the challenge of [teaching] tackling, I don't even understand the question. The hip-drop tackle ... When did you ever hear about the hip-drop tackle until like two years ago, three years ago, right? That's because it was discovered, probably, in rugby and started being executed as a standalone technique. It's a three-part movement, [and] you've got to execute that play. You've got to be close enough to that ball carrier to actually get him around the hips, pull him close to yourself, swing your hips through and drop on the back of his legs. If you're that close, wrap him up, tackle him and take him to the ground, like Ray Lewis used to do and everybody did for 100 years before that. But you're talking about a tackle that the ball carrier has no method of escape from; he can't escape. So, when you drop down on the back of his legs, it's a mass ... And it's 25 times more likely to have a serious injury. So, it's really a bad play, and it needed to be out. And guys are going to tackle just fine without the quote-unquote hip-drop tackle, because they tackled just fine without it for 100 years of football before that, when you never saw it, really. So, that's my answer to that."

There are going to be a few offensive linemen prospects that could fall to the bottom of the first round, because they don't have as much starting experience as some of the other guys taken earlier. What's the challenge of projecting offensive linemen who may not have as much game film as some of the other guys? (Jamison Hensley)

(DeCOSTA) "Yes, that's always a challenge at any position. Lack of production – whether that's catches, tackles, interceptions, ball plays, starts as an offensive lineman – that's always ... In my opinion, one of the greatest challenges is that, [and] the other one might be ... Level of competition is a big challenge, too, I think, as an evaluator. So, those are things you just fight through, and you watch, you talk to people, you assess, you watch the workouts, and I think, [in] some cases, positional workouts are very, very important. You go back, and you watch as much tape as you can. Maybe that means you have to go back to other years and watch a guy play, as well. [You] talk to people, talk to coaches and things. But that's definitely a challenge, for sure."

Last year, at the Draft, you announced the QB Lamar Jackson contract extension. Does going into this year's Draft feel a little bit lighter now that you don't have to drop any big news? Do you feel a little bit more clearheaded going into the Draft? (Valerie Preactor)

(DeCOSTA) "Well, right now, yes. I mean, it's been great."

(HARBAUGH) "We still have two weeks, almost. There's still plenty of time for stuff to happen." (laughter)

(DeCOSTA) "[Head coach] John [Harbaugh] and I were down last week at the [NFL's Annual League] Meetings, in the pool, hanging out, drinking champagne cocktails, getting some sun." *(laughter) "No, it's been a good vibe so far. Obviously, it's always hard to see some of your favorite players go to other teams; I mean, that's been a challenge. But in terms of just being in a good spot, the vibe has been good. We're building this team the right way. We're very excited to get started up next week with our players coming back [for the offseason conditioning program], and we think the future is extremely bright."

Given the fact that some depth has left the building this offseason, and with the team having more Draft picks this year, could this rookie Draft class be primed for bigger roles? (Tim Barbalace)

(DeCOSTA) "Oh, there's no question. Opportunity is what it's all about. And so, we'll have some opportunities, for sure. There are going to be some spots that can be filled, and I think the burden is on me to find those players who can fill it, and fill it with winning football, and we've got the coaches and support staff to put them in position to succeed. But we've got to find the players that have the right makeup and the right ability to actually perform and do that."