DeCosta: Gino Gradkowski Was The Favorite Pick

Courtney Upshaw will be the biggest steal and Ravens considered Vontaze Burfict.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink

Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta was asked which Ravens 2012 draft pick was his favorite.

And his answer may not be the one you would expect.

“I think the favorite pick was probably [guard/center Gino] Gradkowski,” DeCosta said during a live chat with fans.

“He was a sleeper player for us who was a consensus favorite amongst the scouts and coaches. I think he’s smart and a tough guy, physical, very good athlete.”

The Ravens took Gradkowski with the third pick in the fourth round (No. 98 overall), a selection acquired by trading back out of the first round on Day 1. The Delaware product picked up steam in the later stages of the recruiting process, and Baltimore was happy to snag him.

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King said that when he called around the league before the draft asking for players general managers and coaches liked, Gradkowski came up a few times.

“He’ll have the chance to solve a long-term problem for a gritty offensive team,” King wrote.

Upshaw Is The Biggest Steal

ESPN analyst Herm Edwards called Courtney Upshaw the biggest steal of the draft at the conclusion of Day 2.

DeCosta agrees that Upshaw was quite the bargain at pick No. 35.

He predicted Upshaw will be the Ravens’ biggest steal of this draft class when looking back three years from now.

“He’s a guy that should pay dividends for us as a pass rusher and run defender,” DeCosta said. “He comes from a top program and should fit in very quickly.”

DeCosta said the Ravens had Upshaw in their top-20 players. He would have taken him at No. 29.

“We had taken several trade offers and we were weighing whether to draft Courtney in the first round or roll the dice and try to get him in the top of the second,” DeCosta said. “In the end we decided to take the risk, knowing we would gain an additional draft pick.”

The Ravens made the right call, as five teams passed on Upshaw and Baltimore got its man.

Burfict Was On The Radar As A UFA

Arizona State inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict was one of the biggest lightning rods in the draft after he had a poor showing at the combine, and reportedly failed a drug test there. Still, he was largely linked to the Ravens by pundits as a possible late-round flier.

DeCosta was asked why the Ravens didn’t draft Burfict.

“There were other players who we felt had better qualities to be Baltimore Ravens,” he said.

So was he ever on the radar as an undrafted free agent?

“Yes, he was on our radar,” DeCosta said. “Unfortunately, we lost out to the Bengals.”

Ravens Look To Add Kicker, Not Returner?

Not surprisingly, the Ravens did not draft a kicker. But one will likely be on the roster this summer to compete with Billy Cundiff, DeCosta confirmed.

“We probably will,” he said. “Ideally we’ll bring a kicker who can also punt in training camp to save Billy and Sam [Koch’s] legs.”

DeCosta was also asked for his take on the Ravens’ returner situation. Head Coach John Harbaugh has indicated he would like to find somebody other than top cornerback Lardarius Webb, but they would go with him if needed.

“Webb is surely a good option,” DeCosta said. “We are also expecting David Reed to come back from his ACL injury; he’s been a proven kick returner. And we’re excited about Asa Jackson and his potential to return punts and kicks.”

The fifth-round pick averaged 14.06 yards per punt return, third-best among active FCS players. His 307 yards gained after interceptions was tops in the FCS.

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