Opening statement from Ozzie Newsome: "I want to begin with we just signed Caleb Hanie to a one-year contract to come in and compete to make our 53-man squad. With that, we'll open it up for questions."
In this particular draft, do you have more flexibility with the number of picks you currently have?
(NEWSOME) "Having the additional picks allows you to move up, move back, to do some things if we feel the need to do it. And then, we have eight picks that we can actually trade; the compensatory [picks], we can't move those. So, it will allow us, if we choose to do it, to be able to move up to get a player or stay where we are."
Can you give a snapshot of the strengths of this draft? It's supposed to be a deeper draft from a depth perspective.
(DeCOSTA) "I think numbers-wise, we see an extra round, basically, and about 32 or 35 extra players that we think are draftable players in this draft. So, the pool of players is greater. I think the quality of player between [picks] 15 and 45 is excellent. I think there are players in every round that we like, slotted very well. Defensively, it's a very, very strong draft. Offensively, [it's] pretty good, too. Up front on the defensive and offensive lines, we see a lot of really good players. With the amount of juniors that came out this year, that really bolstered the crop of players. I think 74 juniors came out this year, and that really increased the depth as well."
Last year, I think six of the Top 7 picks made trades. Do you expect that kind of movement in this draft?
(NEWSOME) "It's hard to predict. Kansas City having the first pick … I think John [Dorsey] and Andy [Reid] did a very good job of helping their team this offseason, so sitting there with the first pick we have no knowledge of what could happen with that. I know Eric [DeCosta] is really close to David Caldwell in Jacksonville, which is the second pick, but there's no way to know up until people get on the clock."
Ozzie, you said before the draft that the middle of the defense was an area you could target. You've shored up that area through free agency. How did those moves adjust or change priorities heading into the draft?
(NEWSOME) "It will not. What we've done in the offseason thus far in free agency will have very little impact on how we have approached the draft, how we've stacked the board, and how we will take players off the board. We feel like if there are quality players on the defensive line, at linebacker or at safety, we feel like we still can add more of those players to our team."
In terms of adding Rolando McClain, just your thoughts on what he brings to the defense?
(NEWSOME) "Rolando is just getting an opportunity to come and make our 53-man squad. That's it."
Eric, you said last year that every draft has a theme, and last year was a depth draft. Can you share this year's?
(DeCOSTA) "I think we just want to draft players we like on tape. We watched a lot of tape; there were a lot of players to watch this year, which is exciting. I think our coaches and scouts have done a good job, and we're trying to get better. The idea of winning in the trenches always appeals to us, having a good offensive and defensive line. And then, being strong through the middle on both sides of the ball is really important as well."
Ozzie, you said one of the negative things about winning the Super Bowl is that you were five weeks behind at that point. Do you feel like you've caught up at this point, or have you had to rely on your scouts a little bit more than previous years?
(NEWSOME) "I think the second part of your question is true. Yeah, we relied on our scouts and our personnel department. But, I think since the owners' meetings, the world has slowed down for all of us. We've been able to have some great meetings last week where we got the coaches involved. I think the coaches are still able to do some football in the morning and then do draft and free agency in the afternoon. So, I think we have been able to catch up right now, and I feel very good about where we are, getting ready to get started next Thursday."
What do you think of the pass rushers in this class, including some of the "tweeners?"
(HORTIZ) "When you look at the ‘tweeners,' there's going to be value to those guys that play the 4-3 and the 3-4 – [LSU's Barkevious] Mingo, [Florida State's Bjoern] Werner, [Jarvis] Jones from Georgia. All those guys are talented with what they do in college and have had a lot of production over their college career. [BYU's Ezekiel] Ansah is obviously the darkhorse-type guy, where there's not a lot known about him in terms of the length of his career there. But, they all have ability and flexibility to make an impact as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end; it just depends on the team that takes them. But when you watch film on all those guys, I think you see a lot of them that have that versatility and ability to perform both."
Pass rushers are obviously something that every team is always interested in regardless of the guys you already have.
(HORTIZ) "Oh, yeah. I would say so. You can never get too many of those, right?"
Last year, center was a position of need, but because Matt Birk played all the time we didn't get to see a lot of Gino Gradkowski. Is center still a position you'd like to upgrade at?
(HARBAUGH) "We're always going to try to be as good as we can be at every position, obviously. But Gino did a nice job last year. He played really well in the Bengals game, which we felt like that was a big test for him. We had an opportunity to see him against a really good defensive line, and he held up. He's a little more physical and stout than he may look, and he's got great feet. He's a smart guy and it matters to him. He's our center. He's at the pole position right now – he's got probably the edge there – but if we bring in somebody to compete with him, if it works out that way, that'd be great."
The Ravens have had a lot of experience drafting towards the bottom of the first round and have done quite well with it – Ben Grubbs, Ed Reed, Todd Heap, guys like that. Is there a way of trying to be successful at the bottom of the first round?
(DeCOSTA) "Well, we're not going to give away our secrets. (laughter) I just think we trust our scouts and coaches. We watch these guys starting in the fall, and we watch them in the All-Star games and the combine, and we listen to the reports, the background the information. We put it all together and we pick the best guy. It's just kind of creating an open environment where guys can share opinions and make good decisions."
Ozzie, you talk a lot about the draft process over 16 years of doing this. What is the process? What is "The Ravens' Way?"
(NEWSOME) "I think in the end, that everybody that has an opportunity to look at a player – whether it's a scout, coach, even sometimes our trainers – they get a chance to have some interaction with the players – [everybody] gets the opportunity to give their input. And their input is really valuable, and through the whole process, John, Eric, Joe and I, we try to gather as much information as we can, and then we let the information drive our decisions."
Ozzie, in terms of money to spend, is that a concern in terms with how many guys you have to draft and then the free agents you brought in having to possibly still sign some other players?
(NEWSOME) "With the signing of Caleb today, we're at 68 players. If we utilize all 12 picks, that takes us to 80. Am I correct with that Alabama math? (laughter) And we're allowed to have 90, which means we can go after 10 undrafted college free agents after the draft, because with the changes we made going 80 to 90, even the drafted players count whether they're under contract or not. But, coach [Harbaugh] is going to have the rookie minicamp the week after the draft, then we'll probably still be able to bring some guys in and give them an opportunity over a three-day period, and if they show us that they're worthy of signing a contract, then we'll make some personnel decisions at that point."
John, has anything been different for you this year after the Super Bowl, the late start and everything else, going through this process?
(HARBAUGH) "It's just been shorter. We've had to condense … It's interesting – and Eric mentioned it – it seems like there are more players to look at this year than in other years. So, there's just been more guys to watch and in probably a shorter period of time. But, it's been good and everybody has done a great job."
Ozzie, do you guys have it on your agenda to sign any of the guys who will be free agents next year?
(NEWSOME) "We always look to get ahead. We tried that with Joe [Flacco] a year ago. So, will we try to sign some of our guys that will be [unrestricted free agents in 2014]? Yes, we will try. It's a little bit more difficult in the last year, because they get the opportunity to start to smell free agency, and they see what happens to their peers that get into free agency and the market that they command. But, we will attempt to probably try to sign some of those guys."
We always ask a lot of questions each year about character issues. With the case of Manti Te'o at Notre Dame, do you characterize the issues surrounding him as character issues, or is it pure football questions?
(NEWSOME) "Well, we had that question in our first meeting, and what is the issue? I am asking you. (Reporter: "The issue of the fictitious girlfriend.") But is that beating women, is that using drugs, is it DUI? How do you clarify that? I couldn't. Eric, can you clarify it?" (DeCosta: "Nope.")
I guess the question comes in terms of leadership and do you trust him as a leader and a member of your football team?
(HARBAUGH) "I think we've answered that. Absolutely we do. We're comfortable with him. We had a great interview. You look at his body of work, what he has accomplished, who he is as a person, where he comes from. We feel good about Manti."
Do you think the trade dialogue will be different this year with you guys having the 32nd pick and maybe teams making a last-ditch effort to trade into the first round?
(DeCOSTA) "I think our options are always open. We've made trades, I think, two of the last four years in the first round. We've made a lot of trades over the years in the second round. We've traded up in the first once or twice – not too often – but a couple of times. So, we're always open, and what we try to do is come up with a bunch of different scenarios based on all the different things that could happen so that we're ready to make a pick or trade, if that happens. The phone lines are open, and I think we do a good job. [Vice president of football administration] Pat Moriarty handles all the trades for us. He does an awesome job, and I think we're in good shape."
Ozzie, how much did you count on people at Alabama to get you information on Rolando McClain? And did you have a conversation with him like, "I am an Alabama guy, you're an Alabama guy. Don't embarrass yourself and us?"
(NEWSOME) "No. The first person I talked to about Rolando was Joe Hortiz, and he went to Auburn, just for the record. (laughter) Joe has a very good relationship with the people that work at the University of Alabama. He is able to get great information, so Joe was the first person that I talked to about Rolando. As for how he is going to conduct himself here, he is coming here just to be a part of this football team. I think the guys in the locker room will be able to provide him with the proper guidance that he needs as to the way John wants his football team and his football players to be."
Eric, did you look at the Ivy League a little bit more than usual this year? Do they have some prospects you or other teams may be interested in? They don't have a great reputation [football-wise], but it seems like it's being enhanced lately.
(DeCOSTA) "Well, I think in general, small-school scouting over the last couple of years – we drafted three small-school players last year – I think teams are spending more resources trying to find some of those diamonds in the rough. There are players at all levels of football, and I think at the Ivy League this year there are a couple of guys: the [Mike] Catapano kid, who plays at Princeton, the local kid, [Brandon] Copeland, who plays at Penn, a Gillman [High School] product, who we had in a couple of weeks ago for a workout, is another guy, and then there is another offensive lineman up at Cornell named [J.C.] Tretter, who is a solid prospect who played in some All-Star games. So, I think there are some players there this year. I think our scouts do a good job of finding those guys, identifying those guys early, and we put those guys through the process of the draft and see how they hold up."
Ozzie, last year at this meeting, you mentioned that you were going to come out of the draft with a center. Is there one position you can tell us today that you're pretty comfortable you're going to come out of this draft with?
(NEWSOME) (Harbaugh: "Did you give that away last year?") I guess. (laughter) Are you sure I said that last year? (laughter) Not to give anything away with the board, but I think all four of us would agree that in all seven of the rounds, there is a safety we could take."
Ozzie, this is the first draft since the first year you got here that you haven't had Ray Lewis on the team when you're getting ready for the draft. Has that been odd at all?
(NEWSOME) "No, not really, because I think Ray is still here in spirit. I was at a local restaurant deli on Sunday and they said, ‘Ray just was in here the other day.' So, he is still in this community. Ray is still very much a part of this football team. John and I were talking about the number of players that were on the squad when he got here that have been here five years with John right now. Ray has impacted those kids, those guys in our locker room. Ray has impacted Torrey [Smith]. Ray has impacted K.O. [Kelechi Osemele]. So, his impact is going to be felt within this organization and in this locker room for a long time. We talked to Te'o, and they know about this locker room and Ray Lewis, so his impact is lasting."
You guys have always had success going the undrafted free agent route as well in years past. Being that this is such a deep draft, is that going to change in any way, or is there anything different about the undrafted portion that you guys have had success with?
(HORTIZ) "I don't think so, not the way we're attacking it. [National scout] Joe Douglas and [southeast area scout] Mark Azevedo are leading the charge in that, and all the area scouts and coaches are working on it this week. We've had so much success with it over the years, you don't want to change what you're doing. Obviously, it's tough to make a team in the undrafted route, but we've had success – even last year when we won a Super Bowl, we had three guys that were on our roster at different points of the year that were undrafted. I don't see any reason to change what we're doing. We just get more aggressive with it and try to find new and better ways to add to it."
I know every single draft has its own individual importance, but looking at this draft individually, how much importance does this one carry for you guys just in terms of continuing to lay the foundation for the future of the team?
(HARBAUGH) "I would say it's important. It's very important. I'm sure we could sit up here and say that every single year, but to me, this year, it seems like the most important draft, maybe because it's this year and it's the one we're looking at. With the transition and some of the guys that we're talking about that aren't here and the transition of our football team, it's going to be very important. It's going to be important to get the right guys. We're working hard at it, and I am really excited about it. I think our scouts have done a tremendous job. We were in those meetings for the last week, and you see the work they've done and the reports they read, and the consensus that we came to on a lot of different players after we hashed it all out, they were very prepared. They've just done a great job across the board, and that's what really makes the draft – that's where it all starts, like Ozzie was talking about. So to me, we've got a good foundation, a good basis for having a great draft because of the work they've done."
Eric, what do you make of the offensive tackle class? Obviously, there are a bunch of guys that are going to go right away, but what do you think of the depth after those guys?
(DeCOSTA) "I think the three guys at the top are obviously elite players, elite athletes, outstanding players. Other guys, I think Menelik Watson [is an] interesting story – right tackle at Florida State, one-year player basically, interesting guy. I think Brian Winters from Kent State, left tackle, solid player, good prospect for the NFL, tough, gritty guy … I think Justin Pugh from Syracuse, another left tackle, I think he is a solid prospect – junior, tough, physical. And then Ricky Wagner from Wisconsin – right tackle, left tackle, flexibility, big, long guy, good pass protector, tough smart. So, I think there's very good depth, and again, you basically have different players slotted in every single round. I think there's quality depth all the way through the draft."
And Terron Armstead, the Arkansas-Pine Bluff guy as well?
(DeCOSTA) "Yes, small-school prospect, good athlete, went to the Senior Bowl, had a good week. [He went to the] East-West [game], had a good week. Lots of potential there as well."
And Joe, a similar question: Just your opinion on this year's wide receivers?
(HORTIZ) "It's pretty solid. It's probably bigger and thicker in the middle than in years past. There are a couple of top guys. Obviously, Tavon [Austin], who everyone is familiar with in this city, and then the Tennessee wideouts [Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson] are two talented guys who have some explosive playmaking ability. Really the whole draft, there are guys in each round that can help us. There is a really solid core group of guys in the middle rounds that I think will go in the second or third round that will be solid, dependable starters in the NFL."
There are a lot of guys projected in the mock drafts to be late first-round, early second-round picks: Robert Woods, DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen. What is your take on those guys?
(HORTIZ) "Robert is a very polished receiver. He has been doing it for three years out there [at USC]. His first year at USC, I remember him when he wore No. 13, and you are just blown away by this young kid, and then the next year you go back and you see No. 2 playing for USC, and you're like, ‘God, where'd they get this guy from?' You realize that it's the same guy. He has been a talented player. He has been really productive this year. Some of the spotlight was taken off of him by an underclassmen, but every time he was called upon, he delivered. Keenan Allen is a talented player. He is big, physical. He has real good route-running instinct, good hands and just a really big frame. He knows how to work the below area underneath. DeAndre Hopkins is kind of a blend of the two. He plays inside and outside – good size, good playmaking ability, can finish with the ball in his hands. Those latter two guys probably didn't run as fast in terms of some of the other wideouts out there, but when you put on the film and watch them play and how they attack the ball and they run their routes and they compete, all three of them are solid players."
Eric, are there any traps out there with the underclassmen that you really have to be on guard for because they are not fully developed?
(DeCOSTA) "I think historically, juniors have been a little more volatile than seniors, just prediction-wise, because of the lack of experience. You touched on it – they don't have as much experience, so there is a little bit more guess work. What we try to do is spend as much time as we can with as many juniors as we can at the Combine, and then I think our scouts really do a phenomenal job of getting information between January and March on all the juniors as much as we can to really build a profile. We have the advantage of spending nine months really getting to know these seniors and really only two months getting to know these juniors. So, there is a lot of work involved in a very, very short span of time, and hopefully, we get as much as we can to make good decisions."
How much has scouting changed from the time you joined Bill Belichick to now?
(NEWSOME) "The information that's available, the Internet, all the different things like that have changed, [such as] players coming out [as underclassmen] into the draft. I think our scouts go out and scout the same way that they scouted when I started. I know they do. They're just able to get so much more information in a lot of other ways where you used to have to be able to only get it from the strength coach, the trainer, maybe an assistant coach. Now, our guys talk to academic advisors, they have behavioral trainers at the school, so there is a lot more information that our guys have to gather when they go out there. At the end of the day, the real good scouts are the guys that can grade tape because that determines how good a player is going to be."
We talk about character as if it's always a negative, but obviously, there is a positive side to it. Have you developed a feel or formula to identify the guys that are going to be great character guys?
(NEWSOME) "I see Joe shaking his head. I think the thing that we have here – and I think coach can attest to it, and he was attesting to it – is that both of these guys [Hortiz and DeCosta] started out picking guys up at the airport, just like we have those guys that are in today, and they worked their way up through our system. When they work their way up through, they learn and understand what it takes to be a Raven, what [former head coach] Brian [Billick] wanted and now what John wants from their players, what [former owner] Mr. [Art] Modell wanted and now [owner] Steve Bisciotti now wants. And I think they get a great feel for that. We only have maybe two or three scouts that we've brought in from other places, so having those homegrown guys allows us to be able to groom the type of scouts that we want, and I think they have a very good understanding as to the type of player that we want to come into the city of Baltimore and play for this team."
How have these guys that have processed the new assessment to the P.A.T. [Perceptual Ability Test] … How does that factor into everything? What are your impressions?
(NEWSOME) "It was introduced to our 32 teams at the owners' meetings. We're having it. We're trying to utilize it. I think five years from now it will be a better tool for us than it will be [now]. I think all 32 teams right now are trying to get the understanding of how to use it. You have no way of saying, ‘To be able to take that information and compare it to last year's or four years ago ...' I think when you ask this question to me five years from now, I will be able to talk to you for about an hour about what that test does or doesn't do."
Is that something that you share with the entire staff or who actually has access?
(NEWSOME) "No, the league only allows one person to be able to get that information per team. They want to protect it that way, like some of the other tests that we get from the Combine."
Where you guys have had the most turnover this season has been on the defense. With that being said, do you think this could be a defense-heavy draft or is that kind of the focus with your 12 picks?
(NEWSOME) "To say we aren't going to take the best player, that would be wrong. But like at the outset, they talked about us taking some interior defensive linemen. We could do that. Could we take some inside linebackers? We could do that. Could we take some safeties? We could do that. We won't pass up a good corner. You don't ever have enough good corners. You don't ever have enough good pass rushers. So, could we come away and say out of the 12 picks – if we use all of them – seven or eight could probably be on defense? Yes. But, they will be the best players at the time we pick them."
Can you talk a little bit about how encouraged you are? I know the offseason workouts just started, but certain people maybe outside of the organization were worried about the places the players are. How encouraged you are by the turnout and how much teaching you have to do. Like Ray Rice and Vonta Leach are both not particularly happy about the new rule for running backs. How much teaching goes on with these guys to adapt to that rule of not being able to lead with your head?
(HARBAUGH) "As far as the first part of the question, I don't think that's an issue at all. We have hardworking guys. Our guys feel like they have a lot to prove. We have humble guys, hungry guys – to borrow an Under Armour term. That's what we are all about. The other part of it should not be an issue, because our guys really don't run that way. I don't know if I've ever seen Ray [Rice] lead with the crown of his helmet – square up on a defender, lead with the crown of his helmet. I don't think you could find a clip where Ray has ever done that in his career that I'm aware of. Ray still has to get behind his pads. He will still have to get down and protect himself, but there's never been an instance where he has actually used the crown of his helmet to target a defender. So, we should be OK. We feel good about it."
Looking at left tackle, is there a timetable for considering Bryant McKinnie still, and is Kelechi [Osemele] someone who factors in at all at left tackle?
(NEWSOME) "I've had conversations with his agent prior to today. I have a good relationship with his agent, Michael George. John [Harbaugh] and [run game coordinator] Juan [Castillo] have both been in communication with Bryant. It's a process. We use that all the time, but it is a process with Bryant. Could we open up our first game this year – wherever that is, whenever it is – could he be our left tackle? He potentially could be. Could K.O. [Kelechi Osemele] be our left tackle? He could potentially be our left tackle, too. I think we are very open. Like I said, the dialogue has been very good with ‘B-Mac' [Bryant McKinnie] from my standpoint, and I think John would echo the same thing. If we had to line up today with the group that we have, I think John told [owner] Steve Bisciotti that K.O. would probably get that opportunity."
You have been working with Ozzie for how many years now?
(DeCOSTA) "I've been with Oz, this will be the 18th year. (Reporter: "Do you see any signs of this guy slowing down at all?") Not really. He just got an iPhone. (laughter) He's adapting, if anything."
Does he go after it just as hard as when you started?
(DeCOSTA) "He's competitive. That's what makes him great."
You were a college football coach and did recruiting. Does this kind of take you back to your roots when you have the chance to write letters or text with the guys that may not be drafted that they can say when they get a text from you that that means something to them in terms of recruiting parts of the job?
(HARBAUGH) "What did you say about not giving away our secrets, you (looking at Newsome) and Eric [DeCosta]? I think we all work really hard at that. That's something that Joe [Hortiz] talked about earlier. The college free agents are huge. What an advantage when you find a guy like Jameel McClain that can make your team and become a starter. It's a big part of our puzzle. We want to accomplish that, so we are working hard at it."
Do you have an update on Jameel [McClain]? And, we saw Lardarius [Webb] in there. Is he on schedule, everything going well with him?
(HARBAUGH) "Yes, Lardarius is on schedule – at least – maybe ahead of schedule. He looks really good. He should be ready to roll [for] training camp, it looks like. We are going to make sure we don't have a setback. That's the most important thing. Jameel [is] the same way. It's nothing but positive from the doctors about Jameel. He's in training mode. He's actually going to head out for a week to Los Angeles. There's a certain type of trainer out there that he's going to work with for a week out there. That will be important for him. It's just a healing process. There's a certain type of a bruise that happens that caused his issue, but it's going away on schedule. We don't know for sure, but I'm approaching it as if Jameel is going to be out there for us, and it looks like he has a good chance to do that – a really good chance of doing that."
Ozzie, so much turnover with the roster and you know there was so much panic for a while. This is the first time we've had a chance to speak with you. After all the dust has settled here, you have to be pretty comfortable with the guys that you brought in despite losing some.
(NEWSOME) "This is the first opportunity that I've had to talk in front of you men and women. What happened after we won the Super Bowl, that's something that Steve [Bisciotti], John [Harbaugh] and I probably started talking about in October, November, as to what this team was going to look like in 2013. It wasn't that one day we woke up and decided that we were going to let a lot of really good football players walk away and play for other teams, but we had a plan in place. We had to allow the plan to unfold. It unfolded after we won the Super Bowl, which makes it really ,really nice, but it also makes it really, really tough when you go to battle with guys, and then you have to see them walk away from your organization, because we have to prepare for '14, '15 and '16. Steve has put the four of us in charge of making sure that we remain a competitive football team, even over the course of that."
How much of that knowledge is based off of what happened after Super Bowl I, the one you won back in 2000?
(NEWSOME) "I think you learn from it, and I will say this and I still believe it: If we don't lose Jamal Lewis [to a knee injury], we win back-to-back Super Bowls. I just felt like we were that good. We might have been better that next year. I think in anything you do – whether it's drafting players, coaching players, making decisions on Sunday like John and the coaches – you learn from what you've done before. I think we've learned from that. I think we like our football team this year. To say that where this team is going to end, I'd like for someone to be able to tell me that we aren't good enough to go to the playoffs right now. Can anyone say that? OK then. I think what we did is we just wanted to make sure that when we look downstream that we were able to keep the Torreys [Smith], the [Dennis] Pittas – guys that we wanted to keep. If you don't make tough decisions this year, then it will be tougher to keep those guys in years to come."
What are some of the challenges or differences in coaching guys fresh out of college or new free agents coming to your system and trying to teach them "The Ravens' Way?" What are the differences and challenges there?
(HARBAUGH) "The free agent coming from another team has a better pool of knowledge to draw from, so he can relate a lot more information. Basically, it becomes more language. There might be some technique things that are new, but for the most part, he's been through most of everything you are teaching him before. How is he going to apply it, and how is he going to put the defense or offense together? A rookie coming in almost all the time is learning things for the first time. The basic parts of the offense or defense are familiar to him, but the nuances are not. College football is not schematically as complicated as the NFL's, so they are learning for the first time."
So, is it not easier to start with a blank canvas, or in some cases, is it?
(HARBAUGH) "No, I think it's not easier to start with a blank canvas. You just have to fill up more. Plus, experience, these guys have had experiences, so they know how to play. For instance, you take an inside linebacker. He has seen all the schemes in the NFL that he can see. Or, a defensive lineman, he knows all the blocking patterns. In college football, especially nowadays with all the spread offenses and stuff, it's a little bit more one dimensional in terms of what he has seen before. Experience is the best teacher, and the more veteran guys have that experience."
What have you seen in the safety class, and what do you think about just in terms of the guys' flexibility to play in the box or cover?
(DeCOSTA) "The safeties, I think it's a great group of guys. Obviously, Kenny Vaccaro from Texas is a fine player, senior prospective, outstanding, probably a first-rounder. I think you have guys in the second round: Matt Elam from Florida, [Jonathan] Cyprien from Florida International, [D.J.] Swearinger from South Carolina. You have [J.J.] Wilcox from Georgia Southern, [Bacarri] Rambo from Georgia, Shawn Williams from Georgia. There are a lot of guys this year. We've looked at a lot of them, obviously. We spent a lot of time on all of those players, and I think it's an exciting group. Ozzie [Newsome] has already said that there is a good chance that we will take at least one safety at some point in the draft. Numbers-wise, I think, that's very accurate."
It looks like going into the draft this year that you guys have a more spots up for starting spots than you have had in recent memory. We'll assume safety, linebacker maybe wide receiver, maybe some place on the offensive line … Is that fair to say that you have more jobs open for grabs in the starting spots than previous years?
(HARBAUGH)"I have not counted it up. Maybe I should, maybe it would be a good comparison to make, but I have not counted them up. I think as a coach, you kind of assume … You really think that every position is up for grabs. I'm pretty sure that Joe [Flacco] is going to be our quarterback this year, but you never know. (laughter) You have to prepare for every potential possibility. We'll do that, but I like competition. As many jobs that are up for grabs, that's better for our football team. That will make us better."
Can you talk about when you are doing homework on a kid? You have a good feeling about him, and then you draft them. How rewarding is it seeing him develop into a starter and potentially a Pro Bowl player. How rewarding is it to do all that work and have it come out?
(HORTIZ) "I'll speak on behalf of the scouts on this one: I think our guys, the amount of time they put in, Ozzie [Newsome] mentioned, talking to academic advisors … You spend so much time getting to know the players, not only on the film, but as people. I think when our scouts go into a school and really feel like they have a guy nailed, and they come back here, and they present them in the meetings, and he ends up where he is on the board, and we draft him … Once we draft him, you are excited about him just to begin with, because you have done the work, and you know what you are getting, and he shows up here. When you see that transpire on the field and him develop as a player, it is tremendously rewarding – individually and really more collectively as a team – because we know we did it as a group. It started with one guy who went in their first, and he spread the word, so to speak. We all had a chance to look at him and identify his strengths and weaknesses. To watch it play out in front of you is really fun to see."
John, as you've watched, with your coaches, different tape, are coaches around the NFL using, this year maybe more than ever, to watch also how teams are defending the spread, the read options and the college offenses that have kind of matriculated more into the NFL the last couple of years?
(HARBAUGH) "Probably. You notice stuff on tape, but you really don't have an opportunity to do that when you're watching tape. You're watching the player and your focus really is on the player. As Joe said, the scouts do a great job of unearthing the guys and building the guy to a point where the coach has a chance to kind of put the finishing touch on the evaluation. Maybe it's the final five percent, is all it is. But, it takes a coach, everything he's got, to put that final five percent on there. So, that's what his focus is. It's draft time, you focus on the draft. Our guys do the morning, they do football – Ozzie alluded to that. So, we're spending time on the read option stuff as well as all the other parts of our football. And then the afternoon is devoted to the draft."
Anyone had a chance to grade Jacoby Jones on his efforts on Monday nights?
(HARBAUGH) "I gave him a 9. I was a little disappointed in [Dancing with the Stars judge] Len [Goodman]. I don't know what Len's thinking. Is pigeon-toed a bad thing all of the sudden? (laughter) He's a little biased against pigeon-toed, Len. You all know who Len is, right? It was low, it was a low grade."
In the end, are you happy he's out doing it? Just to move the brand forward, have some fun, and he's probably staying in pretty good shape.
(HARBAUGH) "The brand [aspect] doesn't matter. The brand matters!! (laughter) Steve [Bisciotti], the brand matters!!! (laughter) Was there a question there?" (laughter)
Has it been good to see him do this and stay active and stay in shape, even though you probably weren't the biggest proponent of it at the beginning?
(HARBAUGH) "Yes, I wasn't. But, Karina [Smirnoff] talked me into it. Once she came in and made the case, I was OK with it. Actually, I think it's going to be good. I really do. He's working hard, I know that. They prove that every week. We're pulling for him. We're pulling for him here in the building. Guys do talk about it. Guys are excited for him. We've got texts going back and forth, and I kind of look forward to Monday night. We'll see how he does. How'd she talk me into it? She didn't have to say a lot." (laughter)
If [Jacoby] Jones is getting more snaps as a receiver, do you want him on the field less as a returner?
(HARBAUGH) "I think that's a good question. We'll have to wait and see how that plays out. That goes for every position; the more guys play in one area, the more it probably lessens their time in other areas just because you can only get so much time on the field. But we can also say he's so valuable as a returner, we need to lessen or control what he does on offense. We'll definitely be doing a pitch count for him. We'll just have to see how it plays out, how some of the young guys do. We've got some young returner options who are pretty talented, so we'll just see how it goes. That's a good point."
A tight end is obviously probably not an area that you guys would maybe do early, but is that a position you might want to address maybe at some point in this draft given that Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are in contract years?
(HORTIZ) "Yes, I'd say it's really a lot like the other positions. It's a position where you could take a guy really a lot of the rounds. You're obviously going to have the [Stanford Zach] Ertz and the [Notre Dame Tyler] Eiferts and the [San Diego State Gavin] Escobars, who are probably your top guys, but then you get into those middle rounds, and you'll have another cluster of guys that you'll consider. I do think we can get a good, solid tight end anywhere from the first to the fifth, probably sixth round. It just depends on, as always, if he's the best guy available."
Ozzie, with what John was talking about with Jacoby, and the idea of kind of trying to have him on a pitch count, with balancing him as a returner and as a wide receiver, does that make it any more of a priority to add a wide receiver, so that maybe you can keep Jacoby in the return game, as well?
(NEWSOME) "Well, no. I think it's an opportunity for Deonte [Thompson], for David [Reed], LaQuan [Williams] and for Tori Gurley and Tommy Streeter. Those young players get an opportunity to get on the field to see if they can give us the type of production that we need. I like all of them. I like all of their chances of playing this year. But, just as in any position, could we come away with a receiver? We probably could, but I can't wait to see when those four or five guys that I just named get their chances to play in the preseason."
Ozzie, you mentioned David Reed. David was obviously somebody that you guys re-signed earlier in the offseason. What do you like about him? What does he bring to the table as a receiver?
(NEWSOME) "David [Reed] is a guy that … He's already proven that he can be a real good [special] teamer for us as a returner on kickoffs and as a cover guy. But, when he got the opportunity to play some more offense, he showed some quickness, he showed the ability to get open, and he made the catch when that opportunity was presented. So, if he could just stay healthy and get through this offseason program, get into training camp, then I think we're all looking to see what David can do for us this year."
Just to clarify, are there any positions in the draft that are really thin and absolutely suck?
(DeCOSTA) "What do you want me to say? (laughter) You can ask questions about are we going to draft this position, are we going to draft that position. It really just comes down to watching the tape, ranking the guys and just drafting the best player when he's on the clock. And we say it every year: We're going to draft the best player. If that's a tight end in the first round, we're going to draft a tight end in the first round. If it's a defensive tackle or corner or safety … There are players at every single position that we like in this draft, so it just comes down to where they get picked, who's available, do we have a trade option and what are we going to do."
What did you guys see in Caleb Hanie to sign him, and are you open to having three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster?
(HARBAUGH) "Yes, we are open to having three quarterbacks on the 53. A conversation with [offensive coordinator] Jim Caldwell and the offensive coaches probably led to that more than anything. We felt like it would be important to bring a quarterback in at this point in time in order to learn the offense from the ground up. He's a talented guy. He's played in games, maybe hasn't been in the ideal situation for him yet, but based on the evaluation of our pro department with [director of pro personnel] Vince Newsome and our coaches, they feel like he fit us pretty well. So, I'm looking forward to seeing him. I don't know him that well personally, but I can't wait to get to know him as a player. And if he fits the bill, he could be our third quarterback."
Bryan Hall's really transformed himself to move to linebacker. Is there any other players that you've kind of encouraged to change the way they look a little bit to play different positions or anybody that should be on the radar?
(HARBAUGH) "No, no position changes. Ozzie, can you think of any?"
(NEWSOME) "No. Well, Pernell [McPhee] has gone from an end to a rush [OLB], but he's still an end."
(HARBAUGH) "Right. With our defense, you can talk about Pernell a little bit, because are we an odd team or an even team? We're kind of a hybrid, 4-3, 3-4 team, so we're going to emphasize Pernell a little bit more at outside linebacker in Terrell Suggs' spot and see how he does out there. But, he'll still bounce. He's an outside linebacker that can play defensive end, and he'll be a defensive end/pass rusher in our even fronts, in our pass-rush scheme. He's the only other guy. But, Bryan has done a great job. He's already lost 20 or so pounds; he looks really good. And, he played linebacker in high school, and he's excited about it."
Ravens pre-draft luncheon transcript
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