Originally written on Ravens Football Machine  |  Last updated 11/9/14

Eric DeCosta is the Ravens' director of player personnel... which is a fancy way of saying he's responsible for all scouting and due diligence matters regarding players the Ravens are interested in acquiring.

Eric DeCosta, Ravens Director of Player Personnel...

Garrett Downing did a nice summary report at Ravens.com (NFL website) of Eric DeCosta's constant struggle between nailing down a player pick based on either science or art.

The Ravens personnel department spends all year preparing for the NFL draft. Scouts watch countless hours of tape, conduct several rounds of player interviews, travel the country to see prospects practice and play, and ultimately come up with a series of rankings that they take into draft weekend.

But as much time as they spend analyzing the tape and crunching the numbers, sometimes a good draft pick simply comes down to gut instinct.  "We try to make it a science; we really do,”  Eric DeCosta said last week. “But in the end, it’s really probably more of an art than a science.”

Projecting the future performance of a football player is tricky business, which is why so many promising prospects never end up panning out. A number of factors – injuries, maturity, work ethic – all contribute to how a player develops at the professional level.

It’s up to the Ravens scouts to eliminate the inherent uncertainty as best they can. To put together their draft board and ultimately pull the trigger on a pick, DeCosta, General Manager Ozzie Newsome and the rest of the Ravens brass combine information from a variety of sources. They compile details from years of game tape, conversations with college coaches and a scouting combine performance, and try to assess intangibles like toughness and leadership.

“There’s a lot of nuance involved,” DeCosta said. “It’s a big-picture thing. It’s a lot of bits and pieces of information. It’s gut instinct. It’s experience, which I think is really, really important. It’s past things that have happened. It’s memories. It’s gut. And it’s also a little bit of science involved. It all kind of works together like a mosaic and you just end up doing the best you can and you have to make a pick – you can’t run away from a guy and you hope you hit on it.”

For the Ravens front office members like DeCosta, the draft is a culmination of a year’s worth of effort and arguably the single biggest weekend of the year.

“It’s a competitive atmosphere for me,” DeCosta said. “I take it very, very personally. The best thing is when you hit on a player and you see the fans wearing his jersey, like a Ray Rice, for instance. That’s an unbelievable feeling and it’s what keeps you trying to do what you do.

“It’s improvement, but it’s also for the fans, it’s also the brand, it’s selling, it’s everything. It’s the lifeblood of this organization and we take it very seriously.”



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