General Manager and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rick Smith**
Pre-Draft Press Conference
(opening statement) "Good afternoon, everybody. I guess I will start as I have traditionally done and applaud the efforts of our group. I think there is an enormous amount of time and effort and energy that goes into this process. Our college scouting department, headed up obviously by (director of college scouting) Mike Maccagnan, I think is one of the best, if not the best in the National Football League and they have done an outstanding job of evaluating the class and with the coaches' input as they have joined the process in early February. I talk a lot about process because I think if you've got a good process that you believe in and then you've got good people, then it gives you a chance to execute successfully on draft day. And I think we do. I have a lot of confidence in our process and obviously have a lot of confidence in the people we have in place. I think the continuity of the group helps. I think as we have evolved over the years, made certain changes in certain areas with respect to personnel on the staff and had an opportunity over the last few years to have that consistency, I think it gives our scouting department the best chance to understand exactly what our coaches are looking for. And they know what players fit our schemes and our systems. So when we are in those meetings and having those conversations, there's a lot of good energy and dialogue and exchange between the scouts and coaches and I think that dynamic gives us a real opportunity to pick good players and players that have a good chance to succeed in our systems. The work's been good. It's been exhaustive, as it should be, and I think it's been thorough and detailed and I feel good about our preparation and our process and obviously excited about the opportunity to add some players that will impact our football team this weekend. With that, I will open up for some questions."
(on the given thought that most teams will take the best player available in the first round, is there ever some effort to zone in on a position or two in the first round) "No. It always is best player available. I just think it's important—it's vitally important in my opinion to the success of consistent drafting to distinguish between need and value. I think when you set your board, you set your board according to value and where you see it, player's abilities and capabilities to perform. And once that you assess that value, then if you can get a player at a corresponding value in a round that's a position of need, I think, as I've said before, then that's the ideal scenario and situation. I think if you go into the situation trying to rank and value your players based on need, I think that just opens you up for the potential of making mistakes."
(on if there is a wide receiver he would like at the 27th pick in his mock drafts; and if not, if he would consider trading down) "Well, you make a good point. In this draft there are a lot of players that we like in the mid-rounds and I think some players that can impact your football team. I think maybe we've had one draft since I've been here that I didn't execute a trade. We are always open to trades, moving up and moving back. We've done that and certainly are willing and open to doing that again this year as well."
(on if he's confident that pick 27th, as far as moving up or down with a trade) "I'm confident there will be a player there that we like. I'm confident of that. Am I confident we won't move? I don't know. There's a dynamic that's involved in the process during draft day Just depending on the way that the board falls, there may be a player that we've got a certain value on that's all of the sudden available and we may want to go up and get him. Correspondingly, there's teams that want to come up and grab players where we are. I do think that the 27th spot is an attractive spot from the standpoint that historically you look back and there are teams that come back into the draft in the latter part of the round if a player is there they have targeted earlier. So I think we'll have some flexibility but I am confident if we don't, we'll get a good player. But we'll be open."
(on if he has started looking at positions in the draft to replace players who have contracts coming up, like DE J.J. Watt and ILB Brian Cushing) "First of all, J.J.'s contract is not coming up, so we still have him for a few years. But, again, the gist of that question involves need. We try to differentiate need and how we run this process."
(on if it's in the back of his mind to draft a player based on need after having a good team and being close to a championship season, contrary to his draft philosophy) "No. But that's discipline. In this job, you have to have a certain amount of discipline because I think that's a very easy trap to fall into. First of all, I don't know if any team is quote en quote 'one player away,' you know what I mean? I know that what you mean by that is we've got a good football team. We've got a lot of good players in place, so maybe if you addressed one particular position, maybe you could position yourself to be everything you really wanted to be. I will say this; I try to exercise good discipline in this process because I'm not only looking at next year. My job is to be forward thinking and I've got a big-picture view of not only next year, but the year after and the year after. I've got to manage the salary cap that way. I've got to manage the roster that way. And that's what we try to do. So you try to just exercise that discipline and not get caught up in that type of scenario because I've got a broader view."
(on the deficiencies he saw when scouting his own organization) "That's a big part of the offseason process. That offseason program, as we end the season, one of the first things that we do is evaluate our football team first as a staff. That gives us our guidance and direction as we approach the offseason. And we looked at that. Obviously, as you get into free agency, that also impacts it as well, with players that you sign and players that sign elsewhere. It's been well-documented, I think we could use some help at the wide receiver position. I was very impressed last year with the progress of (WR) DeVier Posey late. Obviously, unfortunately he had the injury. But I do think that his rehab process is going well. I liked what I saw in (WR) Keshawn's (Martin) development. So we've got some good young receivers. I think we can add a player there. We lost (FB) James Casey in free agency, so that could be a potential spot as well. I think you can always add depth on your offensive and defensive lines. I just think that's something you always have to do when you talk about not just next year, but thinking long-term. There are plenty of areas on our football team where we can add good football players and that's why I think you have to always exercise the discipline in taking the right player at the corresponding value because at some point, that player will help your team win."
(on if the strengths and weaknesses of other teams in the division and other teams in the AFC factor in at all when he's making a draft selection) "It ought to in the sense that as you build your football team, if you want to achieve the goals that we've set for ourselves and win a championship, that the first way to do that is through your division because that's the best way to qualify for a playoff game and to position yourself for the opportunity to host playoff games. So you have to understand how do you compete with and defeat the teams in your division, first and foremost. And so, yeah, you look at those teams and you see how you match up against those teams and how you play well against them."
(on if there is a difference in how easy it is to find an inside linebacker who can contribute right away versus and outside linebacker who can contribute right away) "I don't know if it's any more difficult to do either of the two. I just think obviously, it matters what the pool of players looks like. So I don't think it's any more difficult to identify once versus the other."
( "One of the things I've stayed away from and I'm going to be consistent with that, is I try not disclose any of my real thoughts about the depth of the class and one particular position or another. What I will say is we've identified players at corresponding spots that we feel good about taking those guys that can execute and do what we ask them to do in those roles."
(on if offensive coaches, including head coach Gary Kubiak, try to influence him to draft an offensive player in the first round for the second time in his tenure) "Gary (Kubiak) tries to stay neutral because he's got the role of the head coach. If I were to sit here and say that coaches don't try to influence me, I wouldn't be truthful. So that's just a part of the process."
(on his thoughts about University of Houston CB D.J. Hayden's journey and where he is right now) "Wow. I'm almost in awe of D.J. Hayden. We had him over here for a visit and I told him that he was my hero. Just the courage that he has to come back and want to play football again with what he's gone through, it's admirable. He's a heck of a player and we certainly wish him well."
(on what he has learned as a general manager throughout years of drafting) "I think experience always helps. I feel more confident obviously than I did my first time I sat up here and had that press conference a few years ago. I have more confidence in our process. I think the longer we've done it, we've been able to fine tune our process. Again, it's such a subjective process. That's why I think the more you can put things in place and prepare, it only gives you a chance to be successful on draft day. If I've done anything, I think I've gotten the experience and I think that helps us because we've been through the protocol of how we evaluate a trade when we're on the clock, how we evaluate players when we start the process. When we started this process in earnest, when we brought the coaches in at the beginning of April, there wasn't a lot of conversation about the process because everybody was familiar with it so you could get right to the detail of the evaluation. I think that gives an enhanced evaluation because you're not spending time talking about how you're going to do it. You spend time on the actual evaluation of the players. I think we've gotten more depth into our evaluation and so I think that helps as well."
(on coaches working closely in player evaluation when he was in Denver and how much input the coaches have presently) "We were very coach-driven in Denver. Thank God because that's where I got my experience as an evaluator in large part. I think that it's important because, again as I talked earlier, I think one of the things that gives us a chance to have some success and has given us a chance in the past is that we've got really good energy between our scouting staff and our coaching staff. We've got some scouts that are former coaches and I think where you see that manifest itself is in the communication. If scouts understand coaches and what they're looking for and understand their lingo and understand what they're looking for, then they can go out and identify those players that can execute those particular schemes. Ultimately, they have to get the players ready to go. In my opinion, it's incumbent on the scouting staff to be able to take that information from the coaches and then go out and identify those players because that's what you need to go out and be successful and execute on gameday."
(on what he does from this point on at this point until the draft) "The board is set obviously, so there is not a lot of that. At this point, it's just fine-tuning. It's making sure that we've dotted every i and crossed every t. I'm on the phone a lot at this time. I don't really pay a lot of attention to outside thoughts about the draft class before the end of last week because I don't want to be biased about anything. At this point, I'm starting to pay attention to where people are ranked and trying to get a sense and a feel for how I think Thursday is going to progress, how Friday and Saturday will go so that we're prepared and we can anticipate some of the things that we might need to do."
(on if they make use of analytics and advanced statistics when preparing for the draft) "Yeah, we do a lot. That world, obviously, is changing. I think when you turn the tape on, you've got to be able to evaluate whether or not the guy can play football. But I do think that there are other things that you can augment your process and there are ancillary things that you can do to help you with that evaluation. We certainly employ as many things as we can and we do use analytics."
(on how much the personal visits compare with the workouts in going through their process of evaluation) "It's all a part of the process. To me, the biggest resume and the biggest percentage, if you want to language it that way, is the film evaluation. But then you have the combine. You have got the interviews. You have the pro days. You've got the psychological tests. You've got all of those things. You've got interviews with his high school coach, the counselor. Every piece of information is a part of the process and it's a weighted and it's all a part of the formula. Part of what we're doing, just honestly, it's future predicting. As much information as we can gather to help us with predicting how a guy will perform, behave, progress, do all those things, that's a part of what we're trying to do with all of the information that we assess."
(on if he will factor in a players opinion when wanting to draft a particular player) "Coaches coach, players play and administrators administrate. Everybody has opinions about what we need and how we need to do it. Certainly players, there is nobody that understands our football team better than the players. Certainly the leaders of our team, I think you have to listen to those guys when they talk about their football team. Does that influence to the degree that it influences me on draft day? It won't any more than a coach. We're going to take the players in this draft according to the value. If we hit on a guy at a position of need at that corresponding value, it would be a home run. We'll be happy. Hopefully, we can do that, how many picks do we have? Nine picks, nine times over the weekend."
(on if the board is set) "It's set."
(on if he will make any changes to the board at this point) "No, I won't change it. It's there. It's set. We've been working on this since last year. It's fine-tuned and we had the final medical meeting yesterday with the doctors and trainers and so we've attached those final evaluations and we're ready to roll."
(on what happens if there is a guy with much higher value available at a spot where he has another player he likes and has valued accordingly for that spot) "What do you mean? If a guy has just significant more value than we had another? Yeah, then there is some discussion. There is some real discussion. You sit there and you can't lose at that point. You talk about moving back. You talk about taking one of the guys. You take the guy that is there. You've got options at that point. That's a good position to be in. I'd love to be in that position."