Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Q&A with Eric DeCosta: Part I

Leading up to and immediately following the NFL Draft we will touch down with Ravens’ Director of Player Personnel, Eric DeCosta and gather his thoughts on the dynamic landscape of the NFL and of course the upcoming NFL Draft. We’ll also recap with DeCosta following the draft and collect his thoughts on the newest Ravens.

Tony Lombardi: The NFL Draft is now spread out over four days beginning Thursday April 22 (Round 1); Friday, April 23, (Round 2-3); and Saturday, April 24, (Rounds 4-7). What advantages does that provide a front office like the Ravens? Any disadvantages?

Eric DeCosta: We’ve been prepared for the new scenario for a year now and we like that we’ll have some time each night (Thursday, Friday nights) to evaluate the players still on the board. We think that gives us an advantage when it comes time to restacking our board and making our next picks.

TL: Most teams use scouting services like Blesto to help them populate their draft board. Yet teams like the Ravens, Patriots and Colts prefer to utilize their own scouts. Why?

ED: We train our scouts from a young professional age to learn our scouting system and our approach to player procurement. We trust our scouts and value their opinions more than we would any outside scouting services that are not really familiar with our philosophies. The services themselves [like Blesto] are costly. We prefer to use that money on our scouts. It all comes down to having a process and knowing what you want.

TL: Last year you moved up to select Michael Oher after the Lions picked Brandon Pettigrew a player that you coveted highly. This year a player coming off a knee injury, Jermaine Gresham is another highly touted tight end who might be available with the 25th pick. What do you know about the injury and can you compare Pettigrew and Gresham?

ED: Gresham suffered a knee injury and decided to have a significant surgery to strengthen the structure of the knee long-term to ensure a long playing career. He’s a fine player, probably not the blocker that Pettigrew is but more dangerous in the pass game.

TL: Paul Kruger is a player who didn’t see the field much in ’09 and I’ve heard him referred to as a developmental player. Do you ever consciously draft players based on projected ceilings knowing that they may take a year or two to develop?

ED: Our grading system is based on several different levels. The first level basically asks the question “Is the player a Pro-bowler, a starter, a backup, or a free-agent camp guy?”

The second level breaks the starter and backup categories (the two groups most players fall into) into different levels (i.e. first-year starter like Michael Oher, second-year starter like Ray Rice, potential possible starter over time like Dwan Edwards or Casey Rabach, backup for the Ravens like Haruki Nakamura, or backup for the league).

Our scouts are required to PROJECT players based on their college experience, personality, and background. Unlike a lot of teams, we don’t rank players based on round we would select, we rank players based on role both short-term and long-term. This is a significant difference.

So yes, we draft players with lots different levels of expectations. We don’t expect every player to start day one or even, in some cases, to ever be a starter. We take a more macro approach aimed at building the best possible team. That entails sometimes taking a lesser player with a great makeup who will be a great backup rather than drafting a really good player with a poor makeup who will be a terrible team guy or bad backup.

TL: Fans will look at the Colts and see young productive receivers like rookie Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon and wonder why the Ravens can’t find players like that. How might you address that for fans?

ED: The Colts are led by one of the most successful QBs to play in the past twenty-five years. I look at the Colts as somewhat of an exception, not a rule. I would equate Manning to Ray Lewis in that both players make the players around them so much better.

I’m not sure that Austin Collie comes to Baltimore and has a great impact, kind of like when we see free-agent Ravens go elsewhere and sort of founder. The wildcard in the whole debate is Joe Flacco. While we definitely recognize the need to get better at the receiver position, we also believe that as Joe continues to mature physically and improve as a passer and student of the game, he’ll have a huge impact on our receiver group (whomever they may be) as a whole, like Manning has had on Indy’s offense.


Jerry B said...

Loved this "Blog", TL, providing some interesting insight into the machinations of talent evaluation, etc. Particularly liked ED's comments re: Collie and Garcon, which congers up some age-old debates as to the "system" and or surrounding talent impacting the player or vice-versa! Obviously the QB plays a significant role in the development and success of his receivers; however, a receiver needs more than size, speed and good hands to succeed in the NFL - he needs the ability to get "separartion" and I'm not sure that's something any QB can influence. If there is one particular area that Ravens receivers seem to struggle with, it's getting "open", Mason being the exception to that statistic. So, one has to wonder: if Mason can get open as frequently as he does and the others can't, it would seem logical that it's the receiver and not the QB that is the problem!

Rainman said...

You have to love DeCosta's candor. Good stuff here and I look forward to following this series closely.

Tony I hope you inquire about free agents and also what the front office has learned from past mistakes like Cody, Pittman and Figurs.

Mr. Jones said...

It's nice when someone actually asks intelligent questions and someone of DeCosta's status actually answers them.

Looking forward to the rest to help fill this football void.

Anonymous said...

Not neccessarily Jerry B. You also have to consider the role that each wr is asked to play. Mason isnt asked to be a downfield threat and run deeper routes. He's also not a big YAC guy unless the defender completely wiffs on the tackle. He usually goes just beyond the first down marker. Most defenses will give that stuff up all day long, especially considering the amount of 2 wr sets the Ravens run. I agree we certainly need more consistancy out of our wr core, prehaps some more speed would do some good but I am also not convinced that the system isnt a part of the problem. I dont believe any of the 1st and 2nd year wideouts that have excelled ,so far, would have had the same success here in Baltimore, given the way we run our offense.

Harryos29 said...

HARRY OS 29 Feb 17th
...Eric is a very candid person and I'm glad you had the chance to interview ERIC, then put the results out on the BEST Ravens Site in Baltimore!
...Not sure what I think about the Stallworth Signing today? I need to give it some thought. I heard that he could be CUT in Training camp, if he does not perform. But, by the RAVENS making this off season move, regardless of this players past..it shows the FANs that they are willing to try anything to give FLACCO more Targets in 2010.
.. I can't wait for the Draft!!!