Pre-Draft Press Conference, 4.22
General Manager Joe Douglas Video: Here
Assistant General Manager Rex Hogan Video: Here
JOE DOUGLAS: Hey guys, good to see everybody today. Thanks for coming. Exciting times, last week was a great week. We were able to have our entire college scouting staff as well as our coaches get together, really go through every position on the draft board. The meetings were outstanding. I want to take this time to just thank our scouts, our coaching staff, everyone in football administration, for the work that they did leading up to this point, especially throughout this year in these challenging times. Our group, they’ve done a great job of finding solutions with every obstacle that’s been laid out in front of them. I’m so proud of the work that everyone in this organization has done up to this point. And we feel good about where we are now and we’re just about ready to kick this thing off next Thursday.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Hey Joe, I’ll start it off. We were talking about Daniel Jeremiah yesterday, your old buddy, he did a conference call, and he kind of said if you guys take a quarterback at number two, your whole focus then should be about building around that quarterback. I was wondering, as a general manager, how do you balance that idea? If you take a quarterback, building around him versus, “Hey, the best guy on our board is a linebacker right now,” that doesn’t directly help your quarterback, but is that the guy you take? Just that kind of that balance you strike if you do have a young quarterback.
JD: Yeah, you’re right. That’s a great question. I mean, there is a balance you’re trying to strike. You’re trying to build the best team that you can possibly build. That’s offense, defense and special teams. There also is an importance to really doing everything we can to provide what we can to make a young quarterback successful. So, there is some balancing that goes into that.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Joe, how much is the evaluation is based on how well the player will fit into Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme, and Mike LaFleur’s offensive scheme? How much does fit play into evaluation?
JD: One of the best meetings we’ve had this off-season is when Coach Saleh and his coordinators and his position coaches all came into the draft room and presented their profile tapes on each specific position. And really, we were able to go through their critical factors, their specifics, exactly what they’re looking for. We were able to download that information as a personnel staff and really put it to use. Rex (Hogan), Chad (Alexander), Phil (Savage), Jon Carr, all of our collge scouting staff, they did an outstanding job of taking that information and applying it. And so that’s really helped us moving forward so that we’re able to really hit the ground running together as a group and [inaudible] these college players.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Joe, I have a two-part question on quarterbacks. So, I’ll just ask the first part here. When you’re evaluating a first round type quarterback, what sort of things do you look for? What sort of traits do you look for? And also, how important is whether he fits in your scheme?
JD: Obviously, scheme fit is important. There are so many traits you look for Rich. You’ve heard me say it’s the most important position in sports and there’s a lot that goes into it. And obviously there’s the physical traits that go into it: the arm talent, the athleticism. Then there’s the intangible traits: the intelligence, the leadership, the mental toughness, the physical toughness. So, there are really so many traits that go into every quarterback evaluation. And ultimately those traits are so important in determining a quarterback’s success.
(follow-up) And my follow-up to that is more along the lines of the intangibles you mentioned. So, obviously you’re going to pick a quarterback who’s going to become the new face of the franchise for what you hope is many years. How apprehensive or restrictive was it, not being able to work them out personally and go out to dinner with them and really get to know them on a personal level, considering how important this investment really is?
JD: Yeah, there’s no doubt. I mean, unfortunately this has been the new normal for every team, not being able to have those intimate interactions with each player, regardless of position. Not being able to have the private workout, not being able to have the player come into the building, meet all the different department heads, spend time, the dinner. But fortunately, we feel good about the relationships that this staff, this coaching staff, the scouting staff, have around the game of college football. And we feel good about these relationships and the information that we’re getting on the intangibles of every single player regardless of position in this draft.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Joe, with you guys having so many picks, second round, third round, fourth, fifth, all the way through, you’re in a position where if you wanted to move up from number 23, you could, and it wouldn’t, I don’t think it would hurt your future all that much. So when you’re in the draft room and when you and Rex are there, when do those conversations start happening where you would say like, “You know what, maybe we want to come up from number 23 if this player specifically starts to fall.” Can you just kind of go through how those conversations typically go?
JD: Yeah, Connor, I think we really start those conversations now. Not only in-house, but we start making the calls – or receiving the calls – to other teams, start greasing the skids, on maybe there’s interest in moving up or moving back. So, there’s groundwork that goes into these trades that happened before the draft. And then once you’re in the draft, you’re all together. A lot of it depends on who’s left on the board when you’re either the pick you’re trying to acquire or the pick you have, trying to move down. Most of it’s going to depend on who’s left. And if you, if you’re comfortable giving up what it takes to move up? Or are you comfortable moving back and feeling like you can get the player that you’re still excited about acquiring?
Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Joe, have you guys decided how you’re going to set up, as far as you guys being there? Will you be in the same room? In your offices? How would it go as to your and is it kind of going back to how it used to be? What are your plans for that, for draft night and beyond?
JD: Yeah, I think for our draft night, obviously we’re going to be back in the building, which is a good thing. Right now through the league mandate, we’re going to have 15 individual tables set up and we’re going to be in there with masks, and the group that won’t be allowed in the draft room, we won’t have enough room for in the draft room, we’re going to have them logged into a Teams call so that they’re still part of it. No different than last year when everyone was on a Teams call.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Hey, Joe, you’ve made, obviously, the big move with Sam and we all know a quarterback’s coming on Thursday. What’s the risk level for you there in your position, and obviously kind of, for lack of a better term, your legacy kind of rests to some degree where the direction this team goes with this pick at number two. Can you just address that element of risk there? Which there always is in drafts, but when you’re drafting this high, it becomes a little more ratcheted up.
JD: Yeah, no, I understand. I would say that I don’t look at it from a legacy viewpoint. I feel like every decision we make has risk. Obviously, the pick at number two, there’s a huge spotlight on that. We understand that. But with every decision you try to take the information and the information you have at hand to make the best possible decision that you can for the team moving forward. And so ultimately it goes back to our process that’s led us up to this point. We feel good about the process, the meetings, the work that’s been done leading up to this point so that we can make the best possible decision we can make.
(follow-up) If I could just follow up quickly with regard to, you looked at certain guys, but the guy that we all think you’re going to pick to some degree, was not very much in the minds of the football public, outside of your insiders like yourself only a year ago, and his stock certainly is shot up. Can you describe what is it about this time of year and how quarterbacks seem to, the stock seems to skyrocket at this time of year and everybody’s kind of tripping over each other in trying to get that best quarterback? Whereas some of these guys weren’t really in the spotlight, not long ago.
JD: Yeah, I think that it goes back to how important the quarterback position is in this game. I think we saw it last year down at LSU with Joe Burrow really coming out of nowhere, having a stellar season and just improving his stock. I think anytime there’s outstanding play at quarterback, it’s going to be noticed.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Hey, Rex, I got one for you. I saw a stat the other day that are about 660 players have signed with agents for this draft. That number is normally about 2000. With guys and being able to go back for an extra year of college, then letting them go back, how is that going to affect the depth of this draft and the late rounds?
REX HOGAN: We did a little analysis ourselves on the number of guys we wrote as a staff this year, and we’ve written over 800 players who have entered the draft and over 600 who have returned, so it correlates with those numbers. So, as a whole, you focus on the players that you have ranked as draft prospects. And obviously those numbers will increase next year’s stable of picks for that draft. But right now, it’s a solid class overall with the numbers that we have.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Rex, in that same light, when you guys are doing that analysis, and when you come and who those numbers and you kind of come to that evaluation, do you start to think about maybe trying to flip some of the later picks that you have in this year’s draft to later picks that are in next year draft where things, knock wood, should probably be a little bit more normal?
RH: Yeah, not trying to tip our hands obviously, but we put ourselves in a position for flexibility with the number of picks that we have this year and next year as well. So, depending on the options we have when we’re on the clock are moving forward throughout the draft, we’ve given ourselves that freedom to move.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: How important is it or how confident are you that whoever you pick at number two will have the mental makeup to be able to handle all the pressures of being the quarterback here where everybody’s been waiting for success for a long time? And how critical is that for the quarterback to have that?
JD: So I would go back to what we talked about earlier in that, and while we didn’t have the ability to go in and, and spend individual time, we were able to get a lot of great information from coaches, from staffs, at every school, across the college landscape. And not only that, we were able to put a lot of these guys into a high stress situations on these zooms calls and see how they would respond, how they process information within the play, their calls, their checks, just going through each play, going through different games. And so, while there were challenges, I felt like our process in terms of trying to really put some of these players in pressure situations, it was a good one.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: I have a question for Joe. Joe, you brought up Joe Burrow. It’s actually a really good analogy with, with Zach Wilson being kind of a one-year thing. When you have a one-year player like that, do you have to dig deeper and go back into previous years to how much do you have to find out why it was just the one year and also, might as well just ask you point blank, what do you think of Zach as a prospect?
JD: Yeah, I would say, when you go back into the process, in terms of Joe, you have to have a comfort level on why was it a one year, where there’s a lot of circumstances that go into it, whether it’s a transfer, whether it’s an injury. There’s a lot of different factors that go into it. And ultimately at the end of the day, you lean on your staff, you lean on your eyes when you’re watching the tape to make the best decision you can. There’s a lot of good quarterbacks in this draft. There’s a lot of good quarterbacks that have gone through adverse situations and whether it’s been transfers, whether it’s been injuries. It’s not specific to only one quarterback in this draft. So, obviously the NFL game is going to present a lot of adversity. And so you want to see how, how these, these young men have handled it so far, because that’s usually a good precursor to how they’re going to handle adversity in the National Football League.
(follow-up) I just wanted to ask you what you think of (Wilson) as a prospect?
JD: Look, I really don’t want to get into any individual assessments of any prospect right now. I feel like we’ll have plenty of time to discuss any prospect we decide to choose after we choose them. Like Rex said, we don’t want to give everyone answers our test.
DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: My next question is for Rex. Last year, the offensive line, wasn’t the best, it struggled a little bit. So, from an offensive line standpoint, what are you looking for in prospects that help improve the offensive line, to help out whichever quarterback you bring in? Because the better the offensive line is the more time the running backs have to get through the holes, more time the quarterbacks got to throw the ball, etc. So, what type of offensive linemen will you all be looking for?
RH: Yeah, so we’ve obviously changed scheme with new staff and with Coach LaFleur coming in and Coach (John) Benton, they’re going to install the wide zone scheme. So, we’ll focus more on offensive linemen who fit in that in the future as we continue to build the line. But we feel good about the group we currently have right now and at their ability to make the adjustment to this new scheme.
Joe Mauceri, PIX11: I’m curious, how you look at the players who opted out this season and evaluating them when it comes to their draft day status.
JD: So, I think we saw it professionally in college. Obviously, players, multiple players chose to opt out for the year. Obviously, they had their reasons, for family and personal reasons and you respect that. In terms of the evaluation of that, there’s obviously a challenge of going back and what you’re watching 2019 tape on guys, but you’re still seeing them play at a high level and you’re still seeing them play in a regular season. So, in some ways you could argue that there’s even more value in watching the ’19 tape. But, at the end of the day, you respect each and every person’s decision on whether or not they wanted to play or opt out.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Joe, you mentioned how you’ve been trying to put these prospects through pressure situations in Zooms and when you’ve talked to them. Your friends over there in Philadelphia made a comment about playing rock paper scissors to check their competitiveness. Do you guys do anything like that?
JD: I haven’t seen any good rock paper scissors battles yet. It’s not all business. We try to have a little bit of fun with these guys when we’re on the Zoom calls with them too.
Bob Glauber, Newsday: Joe, you’ve got a lot of picks throughout this draft and next year’s draft. Obviously we focus on that number two, but do you look at this as a deep draft that will match up with the number of picks you have and the needs that you have, and you feel confident that your drafting is going to hit in even those lower late first round and then second round and beyond?
JD: No, we feel good about the position we’re in with the picks where they are. We’re in a good position with the pixel we have inside the top three rounds. And we do feel like with the process we’ve had with the conversations we had with the collaboration, with the coaching staff and scouting staff, that we’re going to be able to let the board come to us and make a lot of good decisions.
Kim Jones, NFL Network: In this market, and with the Jets more than 10 years removed from their last playoff berth, have you considered how much pressure is going to be on that number two pick to be outstanding and to be outstanding pretty early in his career?
JD: Yeah, I mean I think there’s pressure on all of us. I think there’s going to be pressure on every pick. Obviously, like you said, there is a spotlight on the top picks. But I think the good part about the system we have, the coaches that we have, the people that we have already in the building, all this pick has to do is be himself. And I think that’s going to be the most important thing. And we’re going to do everything we can to, to help not only pick two, but pick 86, pick 228, every pick, be as successful as they can be.
(follow-up) And Joe, if I could follow up with that, please. We all know who we think you’re going to pick, but will the rest of your draft, to some degree, be crafted to get players who will compliment your new quarterback?
JD: Look, I think we talked about it a little bit earlier. There is a balance between helping the quarterback, and part of helping the quarterback is having a great team around him, not just on the specifically on the offensive side of the ball, but offense, defense, and special teams. But at the end of the day, we’re sitting here with a lot of picks. We have a lot of options, a lot of flexibility. And I think where we are, we’re in good position to take the best player available and take players that come in here and help this team.
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: Joe, can you speak a little bit to what the process has been like with Robert (Saleh)? Obviously, first time around with him and what his input has been like, and obviously his passion is on his sleeve, as we’ve seen, and so what’s, it’s been like for him with you guys?
JD: Robert’s passion, Robert’s energy, it’s infectious and you can see it throughout the building. Robert has done a great job. He’s a unifier, and his whole staff, they’re unifiers and great teachers, great collaborators. And having them in these meetings, they’ve watched a ton of tape. They have strong opinions, they have conviction, and we’ve had a lot of great open dialogue and discussions about, ‘Does this player fit? How does he help us this guy? Can this guy come in and be a difference maker for us?’ And so just great conversations last week. And so just like you said, his energy, his passion, it really came through.