(What follows is over seven pages and 2,500 words long. If you're interested in the gist of it, scroll down to the end.)
I did an overview on Eric DeCosta, but think I can do better and think you deserve better. Here's an attempt to hold DeCosta by the same standard I held Steve Keim. First I will look at his work as a Midwest scout for the Ravens from 1998-2002, and then his work as the director of college scouting from 2003-2009.
Baltimore did not draft a talent from the Midwest until 2001.
3) 92 Casey Rabach C Wisconsin
4) 126 Edgerton Hartwell LB Western Illinois
7) 231 Dwayne Missouri DE Northwestern
Casey Rabach might remind some of Seattle's Chris Spencer situation. Rabach was drafted in the third round by the Ravens but struggled to break through early in his career. He then signed with the Redskins and became the most consistent player on their offensive line.
Hartwell was a pretty good value for the round he was taken in. He started his second season and from 2002-2004 before leaving in free agency. His approximate value in those seasons is 9, 8 and 9. Atlanta signed him to a six-year, $26.25 million contract before 2005, but injuries sapped his ability and he was cut in 2007.
Missouri is a seventh round pick that never broke through.
2) 52 Anthony Weaver DE Notre Dame
4) 112 Dave Zastudil P Ohio U.
4) 123 Ron Johnson WR Minnesota
6) 206 Javin Hunter WR Notre Dame
6) 207 Chester Taylor RB Toledo
We see the rising influence of DeCosta in this draft, his last as a regional scout before being promoted. Weaver was a solid pick in the second. He was able to start his rookie season and started 16, 15 and 15 games before a host of injuries sidelined him in 2005. DeCosta scores twice on Weaver: For drafting him in the second and acquiring a Lawrence Jackson like end and for not re-signing him after injuries took their toll. Weaver looked like a stud back then, but fizzled away from Baltimore.
If you draft a punter in the fourth, he better stick and he better be great. Zastudil is not, by all accounts. His rookie season with Baltimore, the Ravens were below average punting the ball, and over his four season, he was twice below average and twice above average - almost in equal degrees. I am starting to think it is very hard to evaluate a punter from an outsider's perspective. I disagree with drafting a punter so early, but it seems Zastudil is, if nothing else, a competent punter that can be good.
Johnson never developed as a receiver or returner and was last a linebacker and receiver for the Cleveland Gladiators.
Hunter's career peak was a 63 yard kickoff return in 2002. He is not the same kind of flat bust as Johnson. Hunter started strong in the preseason and started three regular season games as a rookie. He ruptured his Achilles before the start of 2003 and was never the same player. Push.
Chester Taylor started his career as a third down back, but slowly worked himself into the running back rotation. Taylor was buried behind Jamal Lewis, but still produced, was signed by Minnesota in 2006, rushed for 1,200 yards, and was then buried behind Adrian Peterson. Taylor has been valuable throughout his career and is a huge win on DeCosta's resume.
Starting in 2003, we must assume DeCosta took a leadership position in the Ravens entire draft.
1) 10 Terrell Suggs OLB Arizona State
1) 19 Kyle Boller QB California
3) 77 Musa Smith RB Georgia
4) 109 Jarret Johnson DE Alabama
4) 134 Ovie Mughelli FB Wake Forest
5) 146 Aubrayo Franklin DT Tennessee
5) 173 Tony Pashos T Illinois
6) 182 Gerome Sapp DB Notre Dame
7) 223 Trent Smith TE Oklahoma
7) 250 Mike Mabry C Central Florida
7) 258 Antwoine Sanders - Utah
Suggs has been a baller from snap one. He was a situational pass rusher as a rookie and recorded 12 sacks. He has 56.5 for his career, 5 interceptions, 32 passes defended and 18 forced fumbles. Suggs is an elite player, still only 27, and a young 27, and a grand slam pick for DeCosta.
Boller is everything I said about Suggs, applied to a quarterback, inverted and intensified. A complete bust that looked the part of a bust, my only tempering of this massive misstep by DeCosta is that Brian Billick pushed hard for Boller, and in those days, Billick was a respected coach, and a force slapdicks shouldn't defy.
Musa Smith looked like a talented back on his way up before Roy Williams effectively ended his career with a horse collar tackle. Smith suffered a compound fracture of his tibia. The play directly led to the banning of horse collar tackles, but the damage was done for Smith. He played sparingly the next two seasons and could never reestablish himself. Push.
Jarret Johnson took a slow path to success, but has been a regular starter in four of the last five seasons. A very good pick that is still paying dividends for the Ravens, notably, Johnson's AV in 2008 was 10, better than Bart Scott.
Mughelli didn't break through right away with the Ravens, but is now considered one of the best fullbacks in football. He was good in his final two seasons in Baltimore, but lured away when Atlanta offered him big bucks. A minor success for what they got.
The hits keep coming: Franklin was a valuable rotational player for Baltimore, even starting once, and is now a starter for San Francisco. Mike Nolan targeted Franklin, which says something about his perceived value, and though he never fully broke through with Baltimore, he was playing behind Kelly Gregg. Not a horn-blowing success, but very good value for the pick.
Pashos is what a right tackle should be: cheap and good enough. A good player for Baltimore and eventually Jacksonville, Pashos is a good run blocker that was a great value for the Ravens.
Gerome Sapp couldn't stick with the Ravens, signed with the Colts and then signed again with the Ravens. He played nickelback. Neither a bust nor hit, but a pick spent on a semi-talented player that just didn't fit on the roster.
Smith, Mabry and Sanders had no noteworthy NFL career.
2) 51 Dwan Edwards DT Oregon State
3) 82 Devard Darling WR Washington State
5) 153 Roderick Green LB Central Missouri State
6) 187 Josh Harris QB Bowling Green State
6) 199 Clarence Moore WR Northern Arizona
7) 244 Derek Abney WR Kentucky
7) 246 Brian Rimpf T East Carolina
Edwards is still a sometimes starter, sometimes rotational end for the Ravens. He is neither a bust nor a hit, but a semi-valuable player acquired with a semi-valuable pick.
Darling never produced for Baltimore, and that's quite an achievement, because the 2004 Ravens leading receiver was Travis Taylor. Taylor had 421 yards receiving. Darling was last in Kansas City. His current whereabouts are unknown, but, presumably, not in Kansas anymore.
Green struggled to produce, was stabbed July 2006, subsequently released and is now out of the league.
The rest of the draft barely made an impact and all four are now out of the league. After ruling draft day, DeCosta's second draft produced no starters, and only one regular.
1) 22 Mark Clayton WR Oklahoma
2) 53 Dan Cody LB Oklahoma
2) 64 Adam Terry T Syracuse
4) 124 Jason Brown C North Carolina
5) 158 Justin Green RB Montana
6) 213 Derek Anderson QB Oregon State
7) 234 Mike Smith LB Texas Tech
Clayton had a strong rookie season, an even better sophomore season and has since spun his wheels into the mud. The 22nd overall pick, Clayton is not a prize, but surely a value, still young, and maybe has better seasons ahead of him.
Cody was a fine prospect whose career has been eaten by injuries. He started 42 games in college. Best to call this a push, as the injury seemed unpredictable and traumatic.
Terry was a second round selection that never fully broke out of spot starter duties. Terry has not played in 2009. This is another pick muddled by injuries and therefore hard to evaluate.
Jason Brown started his second season and is a highly regarded center. St. Louis threw smarts to the wind and signed him to googolplex dollars this past offseason, but, for three seasons, he was a cheap and very good center for Baltimore.
Justin Green was a special teams contributor.
Anderson was waived his first season and claimed by the Cleveland Browns. He then had one of the great fluke quarterback seasons of all time, before retreating into his well furnished mansion of suck.
Smith contributed briefly for the Ravens on special teams.
1) 12 Haloti Ngata DT Oregon
2) 56 Chris Chester C Oklahoma
3) 87 David Pittman DB Northwestern State-Louisiana
4) 111 Demetrius Williams WR Oregon
4) 132 P.J. Daniels RB Georgia Tech
5) 146 Dawan Landry SS Georgia Tech
5) 166 Quinn Sypniewski TE Colorado
6) 203 Sam Koch P Nebraska
6) 208 Derrick Martin CB Wyoming
7) 219 Ryan LaCasse LB Syracuse
Ngata is considered one of the best 3-4 linemen in football. He has played end and tackle, is just entering his prime, and should the conditions be right, could be entering a lengthy run of Pro Bowl appearances.
Chester was recruited as a tight end, drafted as a center, converted to guard, converted again to tight end and then converted back to guard again. He has 32 starts in his NFL career, and if never a stand out on his own, has been a good part of some very good offensive lines.
Pittman had two interception in 2007 and a forced fumble. That about summarizes his NFL career. He now plays in the UFL.
Williams is a field stretcher that has never come into his own as an actual receiver. He is not a bad player, and is valuable for his draft position.
Daniels was put on injured reserve prior to his second season and never recovered.
Koch is the Ravens current punter. This season the team is slightly above average punting.
Martin is a talented young defensive back that was buried in Baltimore and now plays in Green Bay. Baltimore traded Martin for offensive tackle Tony Moll.
LaCasse never factored.
1) 29 Ben Grubbs G Auburn
3) 74 Yamon Figurs WR Kansas State
3) 86 Marshal Yanda T Iowa
4) 134 Antwan Barnes LB Florida International
4) 137 Le'Ron McClain FB Alabama
5) 174 Troy Smith QB Ohio State
6) 207 Prescott Burgess LB Michigan
5) Jared Gaither T Maryland
Baltimore built their left side with this draft and in impressive fashion. Grubbs is a promising young starter and on the short list for best young offensive guards in football.
Yamon Figurs returned a kick and a punt for a touchdown in his first season, but could never stick as a receiver. Once the Ravens found a better return man, Figurs was cut, and is currently a free agent.
Yanda is a spot starter at guard and tackle that may have outright won the right guard position this season after starting the last four games and playing ably. I'm a big fan of Yanda.
Barnes is a rotational linebacker and special teams player for the Ravens.
McClain is a fullback better known for his rushing than blocking, but so what? He was astonishingly valuable in 2008 and the 11-5 Ravens leading rusher. This season he is buried behind Ray Rice and Willis McGahee. McClain's is a curious story to say the least. I am not sure he will ever repeat his 2008 performance, and certainly some of that performance must be credited the Ravens line, but for that year alone, we must credit DeCosta with another fullback find.
Smith was a member of the jobbers row of quarterbacks Seattle fattened against in 2007. He is now a Wildcat quarterback.
Burgess has split time between the Ravens and Patriots, and is, essentially, depth and a special teams player.
Gaither is the crown jewel of this class. DeCosta got Gaither for a fifth round pick in the supplemental draft, and now he is their starting left tackle, and franchise tackle of the future. Gaither isn't in the class of young Turk left tackles taking over the NFL, but he's close, a rare physical specimen (the tallest man in the NFL), a powerful drive blocker with developing pass pro skills. He was available in the supplemental draft because of bad grades, and available in the fifth round of the supplemental draft because a lot of other GMs didn't do their homework.
That leads us to the last draft we'll look at in detail.
1) 18 Joe Flacco QB Delaware
2) 55 Ray Rice RB Rutgers
3) 71 Tavares Gooden OLB Miami (Fla.)
3) 86 Tom Zbikowski FS Notre Dame
3) 99 Oniel Cousins T Texas-El Paso
4) 106 Marcus Smith WR New Mexico
4) 133 David Hale G Weber State
6) 206 Haruki Nakamura FS Cincinnati
7) 215 Justin Harper WR Virginia Tech
7) 240 Allen Patrick RB Oklahoma
Joe Flacco is a franchise quarterback.
Ray Rice is one of the best young running backs in football.
Bart Scott's replacement doesn't fill a stat sheet, but Tavares Gooden is starting for a top ten defense in his second season. It's premature to pass judgment on T-Good.
Everyone's favorite boxing white safety is mostly a special teams force, but in three starts this season, he has two interceptions and four passes defended. I liked this pick when it was made, but it's, again, a little early to project his future value.
Cousins has started the last two games at right tackle, but through force of attrition rather than eminent skill. Nevertheless, one injury ravaged offensive line to another, Cousins seems more capable than some of Seattle's replacements.
The next three players are special teamers, and Allen Patrick was cut.
2004 was a hot mess, and, tellingly, occurred after DeCosta swept the 2003 draft. So, all GMs and potential GMs have their highs and lows, but DeCosta's highs certainly seem to outnumber and more than compensate for his lows. If we wanted to put a stamp on his career in Baltimore, I would stamp it a success, but let's attempt something a little more nuanced.
He seems to excel at drafting offensive line talent. He has never invested major resources into the offensive line but still acquired Rabach, Pashos, Terry, Brown, Chester, Sypnewski, Grubbs, Yanda, Gaither and Cousins. He also has had several successes drafting defensive linemen, linebackers, running backs, fullbacks and safeties. His run of backs is particularly impressive. He doesn't trend towards a specific region and seems to have no major leanings towards small schools or big schools. His success at drafting quarterbacks is mixed. Kyle Boller was an inexcusable failure, but Anderson and Smith were decent value for their pick position and Flacco is a young stud. Truthfully, I'm not wild about Flacco's profile, and though he's stepping into this own, the big bodied, big armed profile DeCosta seems to favor is notorious for producing busts.
What excites me most about DeCosta is not his drafting record, but the prolific picks he secures. Few teams enter draft day so consistently stocked with picks throughout the draft, and unlike other GMs that will burn those picks to move up and select their guy, DeCosta stands pat and picks many players. He has benefited immensely from trawling the draft and seeing what value shakes out.
His high profile and history of finding offensive line talent should make him a favorite for the Seattle position. I don't know that DeCosta is the "Z" we desire, but on second inspection, he is a young, well connected executive with a diverse portfolio of success.