MOBILE, Ala. — Eric DeCosta is searching for playmakers.
Toward that goal, the Baltimore Ravens’ director of player personnel has spent this week at the Senior Bowl scouting some of the top NFL draft prospects.
One year after landing blue-chip offensive tackle Michael Oher in the first round, the Ravens are looking for another impact player. They hold the 25th overall selection.
DeCosta was promoted to his current position last year working under general manager Ozzie Newsome after spending the previous six years as the Ravens’ director of college scouting.
He declined an opportunity to interview with the Seattle Seahawks for their general manager position that went to John Schneider.
“Eric DeCosta is ready to be a general manager,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “Eric is one of the best talent evaluators in the league. I think he’s very loyal to the Ravens, and I think they are fortunate to have him.”
DeCosta conducted the following interview with 24×7 on Wednesday at the Senior Bowl.
Aaron Wilson: Has Penn State defensive lineman Jared Odrick been turning some heads?
DeCosta: “I think he’s impressive. I think he’s a guy that has had a good week making plays. He’s a big 3-4 type guy. He can help you as an interior defender and as a pass-rush guy. He had a great career at Penn State. He’s a solid player.”
DeCosta: “You’ve got Anthony Dixon from Mississippi State. He’s had a really nice week. He’s been making some plays, running extremely hard. He’s a physical guy. He’s really helped himself this week. I think another guy who has really helped himself is LeGarrette Blount from Oregon, 245 pounds, physical, downhill guy, tough to tackle, good pad level, move the chains type guy.”
AW: How is Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams doing?”
DeCosta: “Another big wide-bodied guy, has some pass-rush ability. Good run player and two-gap potential. He’s a guy who has the potential to slip into the first round for sure.”
AW: Is Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon in that versatile mold?
DeCosta: “Explosive guy, can play inside and outside. Delivers a good punch. Good lower body, strong, explosive guy. Good tackler, aware, instinctive and he can run.”
AW: What do you think about Troy defensive lineman Brandon Lang?
DeCosta: “He’s an upside guy, an interesting guy, a developmental guy. I think he can be a good player down the road.”
AW: What do you think of Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson?
DeCosta: “He’s had a good week. He’s made some plays. He’s shown some quickness and speed and ability to finish and tackle well. He’s a good prospect.”
AW: How’s Florida wide receiver Riley Cooper doing?
DeCosta: “He’s a big guy, catches the ball well, physical. He’s got good size, the size that you want. He’s more of a possession receiver. He’s more of an inside guy.”
AW: What’s your opinion of USC safety Taylor Mays?
DeCosta: “Very, very gifted guy. Good size. Tremendous ball skills. A physical guy, hasn’t made as many plays as you would like to see probably the last couple of years. The raw potential is off the charts.”
AW: Are there enough pass rushers in this draft to help your team?
DeCosta: “We’re always looking for pass-rush guys. If we find a guy who can help us get off the field on third downs, that would be of definite interest to us.”
AW: How much upside is there with University of Massachusetts offensive tackle Vladimir Ducasse?
DeCosta: “He’s a big, huge-framed guy. Good feet, raw technique. There’s going to be a learning curve. He’s a guy that has natural ability. He has a chance to develop into a pretty good player.”
When you get a guy who has been through some things before they’ve been in the NFL, typically, they have an easier time making it in the NFL. We’ve seen that in the past before with a lot of the guys that we’ve taken.”
AW: Is this a deep wide receiver draft?
DeCosta: “That’s going to be our hope. We try to slot guys into different rounds so we have some flexibility so we’re not committed to one specific player. I think with the influx of juniors there’s going to be six, seven, eight receivers that get into the mix that we haven’t studied as closely. So, between the seniors and juniors, our hope is that we have guys in every round and we have the flexibility to move up, move back to get the guy that we want.”
AW: Did Michael Oher exceed all of your expectations?
DeCosta: “Yeah, probably so. Michael was a guy who was a linchpin for us on the offensive line, a stabilizing force. Very physical, tough guy. We’re excited about the future?
AW: How important is this offseason for defensive end-outside linebacker Paul Kruger?
DeCosta: “I think the impact will be in the offseason, getting stronger and developing as a pass rusher. We like him as a run defender. He’s got good technique. He’s got a good motor. He’s a relentless guy. We’d like to see more consistency as a pass rusher. We’d like to see more relentlessness in becoming a better player on special teams as well.”
AW: What are your thoughts on cornerback Lardarius Webb?
DeCosta: “We were impressed with him this year. We think he’s got a lot of room to grow, but we think he’s going to be a good player for us. Obviously, the biggest thing right now for him is getting healthy and getting back to the level that he flashed this year during the season.”
AW: Where do you feel like you’re getting better as a personnel department?
DeCosta: “I really enjoy the dialogue we can have with coaches and talking about players and always looking at different ways of doing things and talking about what makes players good. Why are good players good players versus bad players, creating a sense of communication to reach decisions is really, really important.
“Sometimes, you have a tendency to put your head in the sand. I think the best decisions are made when you can build a consensus after careful thought and everybody has a chance to express themselves in a clear fashion. If you can do that, then I think most of the time you’re going to make good decisions.”
AW: What do you like about the Senior Bowl?
DeCosta: “This is one of the fun parts of the job, coming down here and getting a chance to see these players and having a chance to evaluate them. It’s exciting. We enjoy it. It’s why we do what we do.”
AW: For you to ever go to another NFL team, how perfect would the fit have to be?
DeCosta: “I think the only thing I can say is I’m committed to Baltimore. I love the team and the organization and the community and I plan on being here for a long time.”