DeCosta's dream to piece together a team is now reality with Ravens

Rise to club's top scout not easy but well worth it

Pro Football

April 23, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The confidence that Eric DeCosta exuded in finalizing his first draft board comes from nine years ago, when it wasn't a matter of examining some prospect's character but his own.

On the day the Ravens offered him a job to be their player personnel assistant, he was accepted into the University of Connecticut Law School. The decision boiled down to pursuing a degree or a dream.

"From my earliest times as a boy, I always dreamed of someday being able to put a team together," DeCosta said. "I didn't look at it as a risk; I looked at it as a chance to see where it would take me. I felt once I got down here, I would impress people. I was confident in my abilities, and I knew I could do it."

At 34, the NFL's youngest college scouting director has been on the league's fast track but not an easy one.

As an intern with the Washington Redskins, he helped organize the team's first training camp at Frostburg State, delivering refrigerators and mattresses. He even went room to room hooking up the boxes for cable TV.

"It was great because if it didn't work out for me in scouting," DeCosta said, "I could always go work at Comcast."

Joking aside, it was a humble start for DeCosta, who would soon have his master's degree in English and his 175-page thesis on King Philip's War (a conflict between American Indians and the English colonists in the 1600s) published in the archives of Trinity College.

But a summer spent cutting up highlight tapes on players and interacting with scouts got him hooked.

"A little light bulb went off and it was like, `If I could do this and work my way up to do this, that would be awesome,'" he said.

In his first full-time NFL job, he began as the Ravens' personnel assistant/driver, shuttling players back and forth from the airport for free-agent and pre-draft visits.

His duties also included being a stand-in for Ted Marchibroda, wearing the headset on the sidelines for the old-school coach and briefing him between plays on what the assistants in the booth were discussing.

By 1998, DeCosta was promoted to Midwest-area scout where he recommended future starters Tony Weaver, Ed Hartwell and Bennie Anderson in a five-year run.

Then, when Phil Savage became the Ravens' director of player personnel in 2003, DeCosta got the title of director of college scouting. But it wasn't until Savage moved on to the Cleveland Browns' general manager position three months ago that DeCosta truly became the Ravens' top scout.

"I think he's extremely bright," Savage said. "We had a lot of jogs together and talked about different players and different situations. I think he learned from me, and I learned a whole lot from him. As time goes on, he's going to establish the way he wants things to work, and I think he will be innovative."

DeCosta could have immediately followed Savage up the ranks.

At the Senior Bowl in January, new San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Nolan inquired about DeCosta becoming the team's top personnel executive. DeCosta declined.

"I personally felt like we have some unfinished business here," DeCosta said. "I want to have my chance to really cut my teeth here in Baltimore.

"I hope over time that when I take on more responsibility ... I might have a chance to run a team someday. If that happens, I hope I'll be ready. Until then, I'm excited about being here. I feel like the Ravens have trained me and brought me up. I feel like I owe them."

Ravens' needs

Jamison Hensley's look at the Ravens' draft priorities based on an assessment of their personnel at each position:

QB (moderate): Need a third-stringer on Day 2. Maybe UConn's Orlovsky in Round 4.

RB (moderate): J. Lewis, C. Taylor and M. Smith are in final year of their deals.

FB (low): Ricard is underrated; Mughelli is a former fourth-rounder.

WR (high): Despite picking up Mason, team expected to take WR in first three rounds.

TE (low): Team's deepest position with Heap, T. Jones, Wilcox, Dinkins and T. Smith.

OL (high): Will draft a tackle early; first-rounder could compete for starting RT spot.

DL (moderate): Could use more depth and pass rush presence at end.

LB (moderate): Strong with their starting group, but lack of depth is an issue.

CB (moderate): In search of young nickel back to go with McAlister and Rolle.

S (moderate): Adding thumper could elevate secondary to an elite level.

Special teams (low): All specialists are back; Sams was welcome surprise as returner.

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