General Manager Joe Douglas and Head Coach Robert Saleh, 4.28 (2022 NFL Draft Round One)
[please click photo for link to the video]
Joe Douglas: We got better tonight. What a great opportunity, a lot of credit goes to our coaching staff and our scouts for all their hard work to make an opportunity like this come to fruition. I feel fortunate that we were able to get three players that we feel can really help this team now moving forward, three players that were in our top eight, so excited about that.
Dan Leberfeld, Jets Confidential: With the selection of Sauce Gardner, philosophically, historically, you’ve played that Pete Carroll-type system of a lot of zone. Are you tweaking things at all? How does he fit in in terms of your philosophy over the years?
Robert Saleh: He’s a great zone corner, he can play man, he can do it all. Football still comes down to third down, third and four, game on the line, everyone knows you’re in man coverage, everyone knows the ball is being thrown and who’s going to win. Sauce can do everything. He can play zone, he can play man, he can win in crunch time, he can run with the fastest guys, he can defend the biggest guys. He’s elite and really fortunate that we got him at four.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: For Joe and Robert, can you talk about the importance of the receiver piece there and trying to build around Zach (Wilson) a little bit, how critical that was for you to get someone that high?
JD: Yeah, I think last time I was with you guys talking about the importance of Zach’s development and getting guys that can help. I feel like all three of these guys can help Zach in different ways whether it’s helping him on the field on offense or getting the ball back to him as quick as possible. Feel great about Garrett (Wilson) at the value we were able to get him. His play making ability, his explosiveness, ball skills, run after catch, he’s a very talented young man.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: You mentioned you guys had a top eight grade on all three players, so how surprised were you that Jermaine (Johnson) was still there at 26? At what point did you guys start talking about let’s go back up and get him?
JD: We were very surprised he was there in the late 20’s. Coach and I got together and let’s start getting him, probably around 15, let’s start trying to make a move to get him.
Andy Vasquez, The Record: How stressful is that when you know you want to go get him but you’re not sure how long he’s going to last?
JD: Very. You’re trying to make fair offers and see who is willing to dance with you. Took a little bit, but we were able to finally get a deal done with Tennessee.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Robert, was there any talk before you guys made the pick for Wilson on potentially trading that selection to the 49ers for anything involving Deebo Samuel?
JD: I’m not going to get into discussions. I’ll say this, when we were on the clock at 10, we didn’t field any calls.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Joe, you said you and Robert started talking about 15, could you say, obviously not specifics, but can you say how many teams you spoke to between 15 and 26?
RS: All of them.
(follow up) You talked to every team between 15 and 26?
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, what do you like about Jermaine?
RS: Big, long, explosive. He’s got great athleticism, violence to his game. Very smart, he’s probably the most pro ready of all the pass rushers this year in terms of having a repertoire to his game and something we can add to. Really a perfect fit for what we do defensively with our wide-nine system, putting him on an edge, getting him firing off the ball and attacking. Really going to be a great complement to the group that we already have.
Mike Giardi, NFL Network: Joe, was there any talks of taking (Johnson) at 10?
JD: We put our list together, we put our top, really our top 32 together for today and we just went down the list. So, we stayed true to our board.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: What changed for you guys philosophically? Because you guys wanted to build from the trenches out, and it seemed like with a top four pick you were going to do that, but you guys ended up going corner. What changed? What made Sauce so much different that made you guys say, ‘Ok, let’s go get this gamechanger?’
JD: I don’t think there was a philosophical change because there were quite a few o and d-linemen in that top group, but we just stayed true to our list, stayed true to our rankings and Sauce was a guy that we were very excited that he was there at four.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: With the changing landscape in the AFC East, you have Tyreek (Hill) twice, Jaylen Waddle and Stefon (Diggs), how does getting Gardner impact that and also the way you can defend those teams?
RS: It helps a lot, obviously. You can’t forget D.J. Reed in there, too. To have two corners, getting Jordan Whitehead and Lamarcus Joyner back, really excited about the secondary, the improvement that we’ll get out of the safeties that were here a year ago with Ashtyn (Davis) and Elijah Riley. There’s a whole group of guys that are really going to help this secondary ascend. But the d-line, also, being able to add Jermaine and getting Carl (Lawson) back. The reality is if the quarterback can’t throw the football then the receivers don’t matter. So, it’s a really good day today. Joe was phenomenal in working the phones. He said he was nervous, I was the one with the towel wiping my head off. He was calm and collected, but it was a good day.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: This is probably going to be, unless you guys throw a total curveball, the last time we ask about trading for a receiver. But A.J. Brown was dealt today to the Eagles, obviously a team you’re pretty familiar with. Was that something you guys discussed at all? I know you kind of talked about being aggressive when the opportunity was there or was that just a player you didn’t necessarily support as much?
Again, I’m not going to get into the specifics. There was a lot of discussions that happened over the last couple weeks. We felt at the end of the day this was the right path for our franchise and the right direction for our club moving forward. Feel good about the three players we added tonight.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Hey Robert, when you compare the way you envisioned tonight going versus how it played out, how would you characterize that?
RS: Oh man, when you get three in the top eight, you’re not expecting it. Like Joe said, we were fortunate we’re in a position to take our best available players as they come off ranked, so Sauce was a very easy decision. Then getting to 10 with Garrett Wilson, it was a very easy decision. When we got to 15 and it was like, ‘Well shoot, our top guy is still there.’ Joe working the phone and being able to get him, you get three impact players at three premium positions. You dream of it happening, but it was a really good day, a really good opportunity for these guys to come in and help this team get better.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, what kind of impact do you think Wilson can have in your offense like you and Mike (LaFleur) talked about?
RS: He’s another speed guy, he’s got the whole repertoire in terms of the route tree, he’s got great body control and he’s a lot stronger, you see him, and he looks a little slight, but he’s actually very strong. He plays the game very strong, he’s got great range, he’s got really good speed. So, he’s another guy that he can win one-on-one, which, obviously, when you look at Buffalo, New England, Miami, they’re man-to-man coverage teams and being able to add him to Corey (Davis) and Braxton (Berrios) and Elijah Moore and the rest of the receiver core, along with our tight ends and our backs too, with Michael (Carter) and Tevin (Coleman) and Ty Johnson, it’s a group that is really ascending and a very young group that has a chance to grow together.
Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Joe, do you have any idea why Johnson might’ve fallen that far? I mean a guy that was so high on your list, did you think, was it just how the board was falling for other teams? What was your thought on that where he kept getting closer to the bottom and you guys could trade back in?
JD: I think we feel great about all the work we’ve done on every single player in this draft and so, look, teams have different needs, different boards, different rankings. I felt like going into this draft that you could ask 31 other teams how they ranked the wideouts, tackles, corners, every position and there’d be a different ranking. We hope that there would be something screwy like that that happened that maybe we could have an opportunity to attack, and we did. A really good player fell for a short amount of time.
Brian Costello, New York Post: All of the offensive lineman were still available at four, (Ikem) Ekwonu, (Evan) Neal, (Charles) Cross, you guys passing on them, is that a sign of confidence that you guys have in Mekhi (Becton) and him bouncing back this season?
JD: Yeah, I’d say our thoughts, my comments on Mekhi, nothing has changed there. Again, this was really how the board fell. Again, we had several different positions in our top 10, top eight and, really, we just went with the best available player at each of those picks.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: There was only, I don’t know what the Vikings just did, but I think there was only one quarterback taken in the first round tonight. Do you think that could potentially open up opportunities for teams to try to trade up for your second-round pick potentially to take a quarterback and you can recoup some of the draft capital?
JD: Yeah, I think what’s great about the new format is teams can really take tonight and tomorrow, take a breath, kind of regroup, get their stack together for round two to round three. In that time, there’s a lot of calls made. The last couple years especially, you’ve seen jockeying for position when it comes to the top 10 picks in the second round. We’ll see how tomorrow plays out. We’re going to get together as a staff in the afternoon, kind of restack our board, take inventory of what’s out there and put a plan together for tomorrow night.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: I know you haven’t had a chance to necessarily do it yet, but last night you were able to find Elijah there in the second round, who I know was a player you guys had a really high grade on. Just, for how you left the board before you came down here, is there talent like that out there? Are there guys that you’re really excited about still being available?
JD: Absolutely, yes. Absolutely. I don’t know, who do you guys want to draft? You guys tell me.