General Manager Jerry Reese’s Pre-Draft Press Conference: New York Giants General Manager Jerry Reese held his annual pre-draft press conference on Thursday in advance of the 2014 NFL Draft. The following is the transcript:
Q: What’s your overall view of the draft? What positions do you see as a strength and what do you see as maybe a weakness?
A: I don’t really look at drafts like that. I look at drafts as we’re trying to find seven good players for the Giants. We think there will be seven good players. I’m not sure if there’s great receivers or great running backs or great linemen, I just think there will be seven good players for us.
Q: Did you change anything this year with the extra time to prepare or was it business as usual?
A: It’s just business as usual I think. It gave us more time, in respect to free agency, the free agency period. We had a lot to do in free agency so we worked hard in free agency and after that, actually I liked the couple extra weeks to get ready for the draft.
Q: How has the work you’ve done in free agency affected your approach to the draft?
A: It really doesn’t have a lot of effect on it. The draft is what it is, it stands alone. We try to take the best players we can in the draft and really, in free agency you try to fill some holes, but in the draft you just try to pick the best players. That’s what we try to do.
Q: With the extra time, were you able to get out on the road a little bit more than usual?
A: I went to a few pro day workouts. You never get to go to as many as you want to go to but I went to a few, yeah.
Q: There’s a lot of talk that this is one of the strongest drafts overall in years. Do you think that’s true? Not specifically by position but in general?
A: Not really. I think all of the drafts have good players in them. You just have to be able to pick them.
Q: One of the things that John Mara said at the end of last year was that he thought that there were maybe too many risks in drafts in the past.
A: You try to limit what risk you take but any time you pick a player, there’s a risk. There have been can’t-miss players and people have missed drastically with players. We try to get more right than we get wrong but nobody is batting 1.000 in picking personnel.
Q: Do you self-evaluate past drafts and say, ‘We have to do this differently,’ or…?
A: We always take it hard when guys don’t make it that we think are going to be good picks for us. It’s always harder for you but it happens. We claim it, we move on and try to pick better players as we move forward.
Q: Does your risk tolerance just naturally sort of go up as you go farther in the draft? Are you more likely to take a risk later than say a first-round pick?
A: Yeah, you try to pick the cleanest guy possible in your first few rounds but you get later in the draft, guys have some warts to them in some kind of way in respect to injuries or maybe some off-the-field issues. You feel like you can take a risk on some guys, some talented players with some risk in the latter part of the draft. You try to limit the risk with the first part of your draft.
Q: What are some players that fit into that category for you through the years? Would Ahmad Bradshaw be one?
A: Bradshaw, I think it was well documented some issues that he had. I think we took him in the seventh round. For us to take him, I think we took him in the seventh round, actually I think we took him in 7b. I’m not sure what it was but there were some off field, some checkered background stuff with him but at that point in the draft it was worth the risk for us.
Q: How do you assess the state of your offensive line right now going into this draft? It was a major issue obviously last year.
A: We think we’ve upgraded in some places and obviously we’ll continue to look and see if there are more players available. We feel like we’ve upgraded some spots and got a little bit younger in some spots, too.
Q: Given the depth of this draft, do you anticipate there might be a little bit more movement, especially in the first and second round?
A: You never know in the draft. It’s always… it could be some movement, it could be no movement. You never know what’s going to happen, you just try to prepare for everything. But you never know what will happen.
Q: Does the 11th and 12th pick, those kinds of picks, hold a little more value to teams with the fifth-year option being sort of the cutoff right there?
A: You never know. You never know, I don’t know.
Q: You’ve said in the past that you try to marry your draft board and need. Having said that, how can you say that what you did in free agency does not at all affect what you’re going to do in the draft?
A: Again, the draft stands alone. You just try to pick the best players available in the draft. I don’t know how else I can say that to you. The draft stands alone. It’s not going to… what we did in free agency really doesn’t affect what we do in the draft. We just try to go in there and say, ‘Who’s the best player up there in the first row for us when it’s our time to pick?’ We try to pick that guy. We do like to get value and need, we like a combination of those things but it doesn’t have anything to do with free agency.
Q: You felt you’ve addressed some needs at some holes in free agency, correct?
A: We do.
Q: So does that give you more, freedom is not the right word, but that you could be even more pure in your intentions in the draft and just say, ‘This is the best guy, we’re taking him,’ and not, ‘Well, this is the best guy but we don’t have a real glaring need here.’
A: Yeah, best player available. The draft stands alone and we’ll try to pick that guy.
Q: You’re obviously more in-tune to McAdoo’s offense and what it’s going to be. Does he need a play-making tight end?
A: Everybody needs a play-making tight end. I think all offenses… you want a playmaker at every position if you can. I’m not sure what you’re asking me when you say that. I think every team wants a Pro Bowl-style tight end, they want a couple of Pro Bowl wide receivers, they want a Pro Bowl running back. Sure, you’d like a big, strapping tight end. Sure.
Q: Is this system reliant on it?
A: We have a couple young tight ends and it’s time for those guys to develop and play. Obviously we’ll continue to look as we move forward. We want to get good players at every position.
Q: Any level of concern with Eli and, looking ahead, do you see him as having a good number of years of elite play in him?
A: I think so. Obviously he’s coming off the ankle injury and he’s going to be out of spring ball but Eli is a smart guy. I think he’s driven to prove that last year was just an odd year for him. I think last year was an odd year for him. I believe he’ll bounce back and have a terrific season.
Q: When you say out of spring ball, the plan is for him not to do anything but the…?
A: Well, he’ll be back when he gets back but we’re not going to rush him back. We want him for the summer. We know he’ll be back in the summer. That’s important for us, to have him back in the summer. If he can do something in the spring, we’ll be happy to see him out there but we’re not going to rush him back.
Q: The fact that McAdoo and the new offense… has anything about that changed the way you evaluate offensive players, not just in the draft but overall?
A: Not really.
Q: Those positions with stuff that he might do that’s different than his predecessor…?
A: We’re going to try to pick the best players, regardless of who the coordinator is, who the head coach is, who the D coordinator is. Let’s try to pick the best players.
Q: Last year no running backs went in the first round and there is some thought that one won’t go in the first round this year. Has that position been de-valued in the draft in any way?
A: I’m not sure why… you said no running back was taken in the first round last year? And they’re projecting none to go in this draft? I’m not sure. I think you have to have a good running back in this league to play and win games. I’m not sure why they haven’t gone; maybe people believe that you can get a good running back later on in the draft. Maybe that’s why they’re not taking them as early as you’ve seen in the past.
Q: As you go into this draft what are your thoughts on if you’re going to have David Wilson available this year?
A: Well, obviously if we have him, that it gives us more depth at the position. We brought (Rashad) Jennings in and we had Michael Cox from last year who we’re hoping is developing, but David Wilson, he’s really kind of a bonus for us if we can get him back and we expect him. He’s on schedule to be back and we’re very hopeful that he will.
Q: Do you expect to know before the draft? Is it something that you’re hopeful maybe…?
A: It’s not going to affect the draft regardless if he’s back or not back. It’s not going to affect us and how we pick. If there’s a good running back at some point and we think he can help us, we’ll pick him.
Q: Historically this team has relied on the tight end quite a bit. Would you be comfortable moving forward with the guys you have on your roster right now?
A: Historically we’ve relied on our tight end?
Q: Well, they’ve had a prominent role.
Q: I seem to remember the tight ends catching important passes.
A: Yeah, well, we think we have some tight ends who can catch some important passes. Prominent role? We want all of our positions to be prominent roles. I’m not sure if we had, if our tight ends had prominent roles in the past. We want a competent tight end. We think we have a couple of young tight ends that have been here for a couple of years that we want to develop and we’ll continue to look as we move forward. Was the question would I move up in the draft for a tight end? Is that what you said?
A: Ok, I’m sorry.
Q: Does what you look for in a tight end change? The position seems to be changing a little bit, guys that are spread out wide even more, in the slot. The rules kind of favor them in terms of being able to make contact with them. There seem to be bigger, more athletic guys at that position.
A: Everyone wants big, fast tight ends who can block and catch balls. It’s the same thing all over the league. Everybody wants those guys. Sometimes you can get a smaller guy who, I guess they’ve coined them as H-back kind of guys and receiving tight ends. We’d like guys who are big and fast and can block and can catch at that position.
Q: Victor Cruz the other day, I realize he doesn’t sit in on your draft meetings, but he said the other say that you really need a big outside wide receiver here. When a prominent player expresses a feeling that this is what you need, does that have any influence on your thoughts at all?
Q: Do you agree with him?
A: Everybody’s got an opinion, man.
Q: How tough is it when you have second and third-round picks in your system to marry that combination of wanting to groom them as quickly as possible for starting roles but the pressure to get them on the field and then also develop them.
A: Your first… I’ve said this a lot of times to you guys. Your first three picks, you want to get some guys who can come in and contribute right away. You probably can get a couple starters out of your first three picks. After that, those middle rounds and latter rounds, most kids are… actually sometimes in the second round, first and second round, some of the kids you draft are developmental. But after the first couple of rounds, you get into those fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh rounds, most of the kids are developmental.
Q: Obviously where you pick, who’s going to be available, a lot of it could be decided by how many quarterbacks are taken before you. What’s your take on that? How many do you think possibly could be taken in that range from 1-11 and how much do you kind of gauge that in order to go forward and kind of guess who’s going to be available?
A: I have no idea what’s going on in other people’s draft rooms or draft boards right now. You have no clue. We have a chart up of what we think people’s needs are but that doesn’t mean that they’ll take the quarterbacks early. Who knows what will happen? There are some teams that look like they need some quarterbacks but, you know, are the quarterbacks good enough to take them that early in the draft? Who knows?
Q: When you’re out at other pro days, do you find yourself curious? Do you look at some of the quarterbacks in person? The ones who are there.
A: Absolutely. When I go to pro days I look at everybody there. It’s not that I’m going to just see one person. We look at everybody when we go to the pro days.
Q: What do you gain when you go to a pro day and you see a guy performing who’s expected to go a lot higher than where you pick? What can you gain from evaluating that player? Is it something that, you know, three years down the line, two years down the line, you can go back to those notes that you took then or is it just keeping all options open?
A: It’s just a confirmation to go to the pro days and see guys perform and do different things you might not have seen them do at the combine. Sometimes you go to the pro days because a guy didn’t work at the combine, so you just try to go to confirm some things that you saw on the tape or you saw in a game or just confirm some of the things that your scouts saw.
Q: After supplementing your defensive secondary in free agency, now with Will Hill’s apparent situation, does that change that you might target a safety in the draft where you might have been unlikely to before?
A: Not really. If there’s a good safety up there… We’re not afraid to pick another safety if there’s a good safety on the board at some point when it’s time for us to pick. The Will Hill situation, there’s an appeal process and we’ll respect that process as it plays out. We’ll make some decisions after that after we see what the appeal process is.
Q: Does his future here depend on whether there’s a…?
A: All I can say about that is that we’ll respect the appeal process and we’ll make a decision after that.
Q: When you pick 12th, which you guys haven’t picked that high in a while, do you say to yourself, ‘Whoever we pick day one is a starter for us because of where we’re picking him.’ If he’s the 12th-best player in what everyone believes to be a pretty strong draft, he should be able to step in immediately.
A: Again, you would like to think that the 12th pick would be a player that can come in and contribute right away but you have to earn your positions here. We don’t give guys positions. We don’t draft you in the first round and say, ‘OK, this is your position.’ You have to come in and earn your spot just like everybody. I think that’s how teams grow and get better and create competition. You pick a guy at 12, you expect him to come in and make some contributions right away.
Q: Some of your middle to late-round picks haven’t panned out in recent drafts. Have you examined that and have you maybe made any changes in how you guys are approaching it?
A: There are different reasons why guys don’t make it. Sometimes you just miss on guys, and we’ve done that. Sometimes there are injuries as to why guys don’t pan out and some of the guys have panned out. Again, it’s personnel and there’s nobody batting 1.000 in personnel. We sure want to do better that what we’ve done in the past, in the last few drafts, with the middle and late-round picks.
Q: Do you feel like the combine may have become too regimented over the years? Guys know all the drills now, they train for them specifically. Maybe it’s less of a natural way to see players. I know you trust a lot of tape but would you like to see maybe some more different drills and surprise drills at the combine?
A: When you go to a pro day some of those drills are different. There are pretty scripted, we call them gym drills, at the combine. Most guys can perform well on them because they’re practiced on them a lot. Still, some guys, regardless of how much they’ve practiced, they can’t do them that well. But it really all comes down to what guys do, how productive they are for their team and how they play for their team. That’s what’s most important for us. The combine is just part of the puzzle. What’s most important for us is how guys play for their team.
Q: In terms of this new calendar, what is going to happen when you pick these guys? Are they just going to come right in and be dropped into the offseason program?
A: Yeah, they’ve got to get in here right away and start working, start learning on how to be a pro and get going.
Q: How important is versatility to you when you look at a lineman? Does that really factor into the equation or is a guy that plays one spot just as valuable as a guy who can play different spots?
A: I think we like guys who are versatile, versatile players, if a guy can play guard and tackle. We’re not going to pass up a left tackle who we think is only a left tackle because he can’t play guard or center or different positions, but the more you can do in this league, the better off you are. You can save yourself a roster spot if you can get a guy that can swing from guard to tackle or from center to guard or something like that.
Q: What was your thinking on bringing in Josh Freeman? Are you unhappy or uncomfortable with the number two position at quarterback?
A: No. There’s competition at the number two spot. Obviously Eli has the ankle, we wanted to have more competition in the spring and we think Josh is a talented player and we wanted to create some competition. We like Nassib, he hasn’t really had a chance to do a lot for us so we’re going to take a real good look at him in the spring but we think he’s still a good player. He hasn’t had a chance to really play yet, so he’s going to get a lot of work this spring and obviously he’ll get a lot of work in the preseason, along with Curtis Painter, there’s competition, and Josh Freeman. Curtis just had the knee scope so we brought in another quarterback.
Q: Are you determined to keep Ryan Nassib to give him a shot in the spring or would you listen to trade offers for him?
A: We keep all of our options open.
Q: It’s going to be a different offense; different things are going to be asked of your quarterback. Does what you look for from your quarterback kind of change with what you guys are going to be doing?
A: We expect him to compete for the number two spot. I don’t think there’s any changes in respect to him. We expect him to compete for that number two spot.
Q: I’m sure over the years different coaches have taken different… in terms on lobbying for a guy they want. With McAdoo, who at least I don’t know at all, do you have a feel yet from draft day, draft weekend how aggressive he’ll be in saying, ‘This is the guy I need for my system, we need for our system.’
Q: All coaches want a guy. In the draft room, all coaches want a guy at their position. Defensive coordinators want defensive players, offensive coordinators want offensive players. But I think all of our coaches are team guys and whoever we pick, they’re all on board. It’s a team process.
Q: Forgive me for crossing the boundaries into specifics but with Zack Martin, do you see him as a guard or a tackle?
A: I just see him as a good offensive lineman. That’s how I see him. I think he has some flexibility to play both but I just see him as a good offensive lineman.
Q: Can he play center, do you think?
A: I’m not sure. I don’t think he’s ever played that position for Notre Dame. It probably could be a possibility that he could play center, yeah.
Q: Do you think cornerbacks have a harder time transitioning from college to the NFL? Is there a reason why maybe it takes them a year or two longer?
A: I don’t know if it’s harder than any other position but the hardest positions, for me, in the National Football League… number one is quarterback and the number two is corner. Those two are the two hardest positions, I think, to play in the National Football League. It’s a tough position to play. Everybody else is running forward and you’re running backwards. That’s not easy.
Q: For a team that hypothetically could use an outside receiver and also a pass-catching tight end, could the kid out of North Carolina be that hybrid? I don’t want to make Jimmy Graham comparisons, but if he can be a threat, not the conventional tight end, a threat like that, would you evaluate him differently where you’re picking than you would say a tight end that didn’t bring those playmaking capabilities?
A: There are good tight ends in the draft. We’re going to evaluate them all the same. If somebody’s up there for us to pick, if it’s a tight end, if it’s a receiver… we could use a good player at any position.
Q: You exercised the option on Prince? The fifth year?
A: We did.
Q: What was the thinking behind that?
A: We think he’s a good player so we exercised the option.
Q: At the center position you signed J.D. Walton and you lost a couple guys. Do you have enough right now or do you need to add another a guy, whether it be in the draft or another avenue?
A: We always want to have depth at every position. We’ll continue to look at depth at every position.
Q: Who do you consider here as other guys that can play the position? Behind Walton.
A: Dallas Reynolds is a center and there are some more guys. Snee could even play center if we wanted him to play there. He takes snaps in there in practice at times. We’ll continue to get depth at every position.
Q: The tackle from Michigan has had some issues off the field. Would he be discounted for that or do you just judge him without the…?
A: We’re going to keep all of our options open. We’ll respect all of the players in the draft.
Q: Obviously when you talk about red flags and character stuff there are various degrees of that. When you’re evaluating a player is it all just an individual case or do you have a line somewhere that a player, if he does this, you can’t consider him?
A: There are some lines. We try to keep all of our players on the board so we can see them. Back years ago, we used to take players off the board. We keep players on the board now so we can see them. If we have this player who’s having some issues in respect to whatever the situation might be over in our first row and we’re over in the seventh row and he’s still sitting there, we’ll go back to this guy and say, ‘Well, why can’t we take this guy? What’s the risk at this point? Why can’t we take this guy at this point?’
Q: There’s no player where you say, ‘There’s no way we would touch him.’
A: There are a few guys like that, yeah.
Q: Who’s the backup at left tackle behind Will Beatty? What’s the timetable there on when you think he will be ready to jump in?
A: We brought some offensive linemen in. The kid from New Orleans that we brought in, he played a lot of football there. Right now he’s probably the next option there behind Will. You could even move Pugh over there if you wanted to. Brewer is a kid that has talent to play out there if we had to play him out there. Again, we have work to do still on the offensive line. We brought some offensive linemen in but we’re still going to try to get players on the offensive line, the defensive line, linebacker. Every position can be upgraded more for us.
Q: How seriously are you thinking about moving Pugh over?
A: We’re just keeping all of our options open. Again, Pugh is one of those guys that can play all over your front. We like the flexibility he brings.
Q: In terms of where Chris Snee is, does the true evaluation to find out how much he can contribute have to take place later on in the spring and even in the summer once he gets out on the field or do you have a pretty good idea of what he’s going to be able to do for you guys?
A: You never know with a guy coming off injuries like he’s had in the last couple years. Chris could probably be the best judge of that of anybody. I think Chris will be honest with us and if he feels like he can’t do it, he’ll definitely let us know. But he’s feeling really good right now and hopefully he’ll continue to feel good and he’ll be back for another year to help us out.
Q: The draft is obviously a lot of work for quite a long time, is it fun for you and which parts of it might be the most fun or the most energizing part?
A: it’s always fun. It’s like game day. I’ve said this to you guys a few times – it’s game day for our scouts. Our scouts are the guys who really go out and do the legwork for us and find players. They’re on the road for around 200 days out of the year and it’s game day for them, to be able to go in there and do this work and find the players and help put our draft board up and get all the information that we need on the players. It’s fun to see them rewarded with players that they feel like are good players for us and we get a chance to win a championship. Again, I’ve said this to people a few days ago, they were asking me about scouts and scouting, you never see any of the scouts on the podium at the Super Bowl. You never see any scouts up there holding the trophy but they’re really kind of the lifeline of what we do. I have a lot of respect for our scouts and what they bring to the table for us.
Q: There is a lot of talk about Johnny Manziel, obviously, a big name in the draft. How unique of a guy, he plays differently than most quarterbacks’ style, how difficult is a guy like that to evaluate?
A: The landscape is changing a little bit in respect to those kinds of guys coming into the league. You see it all over the league more and more with the spread offense, it’s really pretty much all you see in college football these days. There are a few teams that still run traditional, pro-style offenses but most of them are the spread-read kind of offenses. You’re starting to see these guys come into the league. If you commit to that system, obviously you can win with it.
Q: How do you feel right now about your defensive line? A couple key contributors in Joseph and Tuck gone from last year.
A: We have guys who need to step up. We brought in some defensive linemen in free agency, we have some guys from last year, Jenkins, we have Hankins from last year, we have Kuhn coming back from the knee injury so we have some defensive linemen, Jason Pierre-Paul is coming back from his injury. So we have guys that we like, Damontre Moore. Our defensive line, we want to upgrade everywhere. We’ll try to upgrade our defensive line as we move forward as well.
Q: How important is size and weight in there? Interior linemen, there’s a lot of talk about Aaron Donald, his production sort of pops out but at the same times he’s a little on the lighter side for the usual defensive tackle. How do you guys look at that in regards to weight and size? How important is that on the scale for you guys?
A: Well, it’s important but making plays is important as well. It’s a combination. We like guys who can make plays, we like big guys, we like fast guys, we like smart guys, we like tough guys. That’s what we like.
Video of the press conference is also available at Giants.com.
Bear Pascoe Signs with Atlanta Falcons: Unrestricted free agent tight end Bear Pascoe (New York Giants) has signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Terms of the deal are not yet known. The 28-year old Pascoe played five seasons with the Giants (2009-2013), playing in 66 regular-season games with 32 starts. He caught 38 passes for 333 yards and one touchdown.