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Derwin James was close to being Ravens' No. 16 pick

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When Derwin James slipped to the Chargers at No. 17 overall, the Florida State safety was widely acclaimed as one of the draft's early-round steals.

If the Ravens hadn't traded out of the No. 16 spot, however, James wouldn't have landed in Los Angeles as a godsend for Gus Bradley's defense.

In a Thursday interview with BaltimoreRavens.com's podcast, The Lounge, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta revealed that he and Ozzie Newsome would have drafted James had Baltimore kept the pick.

When the organization's top decision-makers met at owner Steve Bisciotti's Jupiter, Fla. home after the season, DeCosta explained, they discussed the importance of adding playmakers on offense.

"I thought Derwin James was one of the best players in the draft," DeCosta added, "but ... the value of this draft was really the third, fourth, fifth round. So for us to go back and get additional picks made a lot of sense. As hard as it was moving away from Derwin James, we felt like it was the right thing to do for this club."

Taking a panoramic view of the offseason approach, Newsome and DeCosta have done a masterful job of overhauling an offense that had grown stale enough to halt Baltimore's annual march to the postseason over the past few years. Starting with the trade down for tight end Hayden Hurst and a trade up for quarterback Lamar Jackson, Newsome earned praise from coach John Harbaugh for a draft class that might just rank as one of the best in franchise history.

Don't make the mistake, though, of labeling it Newsome's final draft class.

Although Newsome is stepping down from his GM role after the 2018 season, he is slated to become "the highest-paid scout in America," Bisciotti quipped in February.

"It's not Ozzie's last draft. Let's put that to rest," DeCosta emphasized Thursday. "But the dynamic is changing. It will change next year."

Here's what else we learned from DeCosta's interview with The Lounge:

1. DeCosta joined Harbaugh and Newsome in the insistence that Jackson is no immediate threat to Joe Flacco's job security.

"There's no bigger believer in Joe Flacco than me," DeCosta said. "I know Joe can lead this team into the playoffs this year. ... I've got no doubts in Joe's abilities.

"And with Lamar I think that we've drafted a guy that is a great athlete, a great kid, just an unbelievable college player with a skill set to provide us with tremendous insurance and someday be a really, really good player in this league."

2. The decision to draft Hurst over Alabama wideout Calvin Ridley was "agonizing," DeCosta acknowledged.

The free-agent additions of Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead factored in, along with the team's research on positional production.

"First-round tight ends historically have done much better than first-round wideouts, a much more volatile position in the draft," DeCosta explained.

3. Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown saw his stock drop precipitously after a nightmare performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. What DeCosta saw, however, was a "shutdown tackle" on game tape. When the Ravens scouted him during the season, they thought he was first-round caliber. They expect him to compete immediately for the starting right-tackle job.

4. The Ravens had designs on selecting a running back, only to get foiled by teams selecting ahead of them in the middle and late rounds of the draft.

5. It's safe to say DeCosta is a fan of the Bears' first-round pick. While the Ravens traded out of the opportunity to select James, they wouldn't have passed up the chance grab Georgia's Butkus Award winner.

"If you've got a chance to get a guy like Roquan Smith," DeCosta said, "you should probably take him."

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