Eric DeCosta is in his third year overseeing college personnel for the Ravens and has been with the organization since it moved to Baltimore in 1996. DeCosta manages the Ravens' draft preparation and coordinates the evaluation and ranking of hundreds of NFL prospects.Ed, Ocean City: I perceive the positions on the Ravens that need more help being offensive line, defensive tackle and linebacker. What positions do you think need the most help?
Eric DeCosta: Well, I would say they're all valid concerns. Offensive line, we're trying to find a developmental tackle who can eventually play left tackle someday in place of Jonathan Ogden and/or play right tackle to back up Orlando Brown this year. Then we also need help at center, and also at guard. We've lost some free agents the last couple of years. We lost Casey Rabach this year. We lost Bennie Anderson this year. So we need some depth, and we're trying to find a guy who may be able to play guard and tackle, or guard and center, a flip guy that can provide some versatility.
Linebacker, obviously we lost Ed Hartwell to free agency. We're trying to find a guy who can come in and contend for the starting position. I think signing Tommy Polley was a good first step, and we're trying to find another guy who can come in, play special teams initially, give Tommy a run for his money and eventually develop into a starter.
Defensive tackle, we feel pretty good about the position. Dwan Edwards is a guy we took last year in the second round, and we feel like he's going to develop, improve and play quite a bit. We also saw great strides last year from Kemo (Maake Kemoeatu) and Aubrayo Franklin. Both of those guys improved quite a bit last year, so we're encouraged by that. We'd like to get a guy, maybe at some point on the second day of the draft, but I can't say it's as big a need as the offensive line and linebacker positions.
Flynn, Owings Mills: Eric, as a self-professed draftnik and personnel director wannabe, there are several players available in the upcoming draft that I find intriguing. Among them are WR Vincent Jackson (N. Colorado), WR Courtney Roby (Indiana), WR Roddy White (UAB), WR Chris Henry (West Virginia) and Adrian McPherson (Florida State). What are your thoughts on these individuals, and any chance the Ravens will be selecting any of them?
Eric DeCosta: I think Roddy White is probably going to be a first-round pick. He has great speed and size and a lot of potential. Receiver is one of the deeper positions. In the first round, you have five guys - Mike Williams, Braylon Edwards, Mark Clayton, Roddy White and Troy Williamson. They're all very good players.
Courtney Roby is someone who is on the rise, and Chris Henry will probably go somewhere in the second round. Adrian McPherson is an interesting guy who played quarterback in college and spent last year in the arena league. Some other guys to look at, a guy like Roscoe Parrish out of Miami. He's not as big as some of these other guys, but he's fast and has good hands. He could be like an Antwaan Randle El-type player in the NFL. And also Vincent Jackson from Northern Colorado, who you mentioned. He's tall and fast, about 6-5, 240. He's got a lot of potential.
Dan, Baltimore: Why do you test players using 225 pounds on the bench press? Secondly, why are there so many guys who cannot do it at least 20 times? Any athlete that lifts regularly and weighs over 200 pounds should be able to do 20 reps easily. Why are there so many weak players at the combine?
Eric DeCosta: Well, with the 225 pounds, there has to be some sort of a standard, so that's what we use to test everybody, across the board. That's what everybody has to do, and that's what we look at. To be honest, for an offensive or defensive lineman, if they can't do 20 reps, we're probably not even going to look at them. But for a defensive back or a running back, 20 is pretty good.
Richard, Baltimore: A lot of fans have become obsessed with Arkansas' Matt Jones, the QB who diplays such freakish skills for a man his size, but who has near zero experience at positions other than QB. Do the Ravens value potential enough to overcome lack of experience?
Eric DeCosta: I think we look at both, because you want someone with a good mix of playing experience and potential upside. With Jones, you have to weigh his potential, but obviously you want to see a guy play the position that he projects at. We got a little bit of a look at him at the combine, and obviously his numbers were off the charts. He has great size and outstanding speed. But he doesn't have the experience, and that's obviously something we value. I think someone will probably reach for him, and he'll go maybe a little higher than he should. I think he's going to be drafted between 30 and 40.
Joel, York, Pa.: When the Ravens are on the clock and you want one player and Coach Billick wants another one, who casts the deciding vote?
Eric DeCosta: Coach Billick has a certain amount of input, but what it really comes down to is Ozzie and me, and ultimately Ozzie. I may not always agree, but he's got the final say.
Over the last couple of years I've had the opportunity to kind of learn on the fly. Ozzie and I have had a lot of good discussions this year, and I feel excellent about the work that everybody's done. I've spent a lot of time looking at players. I've basically graded about the top 175 players that we have ranked. I think the process that we have in Baltimore has been proven over time to be a very good process. And we've really deviated very little from that process. Time will tell, but I think we're in a position to pick some good players this year.