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Houston Texans

Smith discusses draft


General manager Rick Smith said this year's draft has an exceptionally deep class of offensive linemen.

The 2008 NFL Draft is just days away, and this year the Texans hold the 18th overall selection. General manager Rick Smith spoke to the media Wednesday about how he is approaching his second draft with the Texans and how he has evaluated talent this offseason.

General manager Rick Smith

(on how he feels going into the 2008 NFL Draft) "I think the first thing is that I'm excited. I think that our football team has gotten better this offseason. Obviously coming off an 8-8 season, there is a lot of excitement about the future. We did a good job of assessing our team, trying to figure out exactly what we needed to do and where we felt like we needed to improve and (we've) gone out and done some things in free agency. I just feel like at the end of the day on Sunday, I'm going to feel pretty good about our team and about how we go into the fall. That's what's exciting. I'm more comfortable in the position, in the whole process. I think we have been very successful at evaluating this draft class and really drilling down into specifics about how these guys can come in and help our team. I think that's just the product of us being together for another year. That's really how I'm feeling right now. It's getting close and so all of the preparation and all of the hours and the things that we have done to get ready for this weekend culminate, of course, on Saturday and Sunday, and I'm excited about it."

(on moving up or down in the draft) "We're always open. I think you have to be open, and certainly we're confident that we we're going to get a good player at the 18th pick, but if there is an opportunity for us to move backwards and acquire additional picks I think you've got to entertain that. I think what happens is as the board starts to fall and you start to evaluate the players that are on the board, if there is a player that that you feel like can make a significant difference with your club I think you've got to take it. If that's not the case, I think you have to entertain moving back. And as it relates to those types of conversations, over the next couple of days – and we certainly have been in touch with some teams – you make general calls. And you make general calls to everybody to say, 'Hey, listen, we are definitely open for phone calls on Saturday, and if there is a player that you targeted and you want to talk to us about that pick or any other pick in the draft, as a the whole process unfolds we'll be open for business at that point.'"

{QUOTE}(on if it will be harder to trade up this year) "If you want to do it, there's a way to get things done. There are future picks. There are the players on your football team now, so there are any number of combinations to create value if you were so inclined to move up. That option is available to us, as well."

(on is the main areas of need being cornerback, left tackle and running back) "That's true. I think what we did is when we assessed our team at the end of the season, I think those were some areas that we felt like we needed to improve on. I think we also wanted to continue to improve the athleticism at the linebacker position. I think we would like to have a pass rusher opposite Mario (Williams). I think that there were some other areas we had identified, but certainly those three that you mentioned were positions that we've studied, as well as the other ones. We do feel good about the depth in this draft. I think that all the draft pundits and the people who have studied these types of things have talked about the fact that this draft is very rich at the offensive tackle position, and that's something that you don't see very often. And so we certainly hope that at some point in this process find a guy that can come in and help us on the offensive line."

(on how important size is at the cornerback position) "It's a known adage that it's a big man's game. And I think, everything being equal, if you've got a bigger athlete or a guy that can run as fast and jump as high and play as good and he's a bigger guy, then you take the bigger guy because those are the guys that you love in this league. But more importantly, at the corner position specifically, you've got to be able to move. So we factor in other things like burst to close or fluid hips, transition quickness or things like that – that often time, bigger or taller guys can't do as well as short guys. So there is a give and take there, and there's some balancing. If you can find a tall guy that can do it all, then he's probably gone in the first 10 picks."

(on assessing needs at cornerback and left tackle) "Part of free agency and part of our game plan was to make sure that you address some of your needs in free agency, so you never go into a draft having to do anything. I think that's the way you go against going after players you don't think are valued at where you have to take them if you are in a need situation. Ephraim (Salaam) played very well for us last year, and, not only Dunta (Robinson) coming off of an injury, but also going out and getting Jacques Reeves in free agency and counting on a guy like (CB) Petey Faggins at the corner position, who did not play up to his level, and he has certainly displayed better play than what he displayed last year. So you've got to count on him. You've still got Jamar Fletcher. Yeah, you're right, as we talk about those positions, we talk about strengthening our football team and a lot of that is across the board. That is why I make mention about the linebacker position or the rush end position and other positions on our team, because we are going to take the guy with the right value."

(on the drop-off in talent between the 18th pick and the 79th pick) "As a general rule, I don't really talk about how we see the draft class, especially prior to or a few days before. I think in general, though, there is a drop off, obviously, from those two picks. And so the thing I do like about this class, in a generic sense, I will say that this class has value in the mid rounds. There are some good football players, and we'll have a chance to add some good players at positions that we feel like will increase our depth across the board throughout this draft."

(on if the drop-off between 18 and 79 will impact his decision on whom to draft at 18) "No, you can't do that because at that point, in my opinion, you reach. You set yourself up for failure if you do something like that. I think what you've got to do is assess the board, assess the class. When the pick comes, you take a player that you have valued at that particular spot. I don't think you can factor in anything about the fact that you may or may not have another pick in another round. So I think you've got to take guys at the value."

(on if the value in the middle rounds creates an emphasis on trying to move back and gain extra picks) "Well, yeah. I mean, obviously, with us trying to grow a young football team, it's always good if you can add picks, and so that would be something that would be attractive. But again, and I think (head coach) Gary (Kubiak) says it all the time, you'd better be ready to make that pick because it takes too people. Oftentimes, you sit in that room and you talk about wanting to move up or move back and you stare at that phone and it doesn't ring. And so it would be attractive maybe to add picks, but you know, I feel good about the fact that I think we've got five picks in this draft and we'll get five good football players. The fact that we don't have a sixth-round pick, I think we have added a starter and a solid player in our locker room in Chris Myers, so I feel extremely good about that. And so I'm confident that with the five picks that we have, we'll add value to our team, but as you say, if there's an opportunity to move back and it makes sense, then we certainly will entertain that as well."

(on if this year's draft is more important than last year's because of the team's improved play last season) "I think it's the most important one because it's the one that we're in right now. That's just the way I live. I think you've got to take advantage of your opportunities when you have them and we have an opportunity this weekend to add value to our club and we're going to do that. So this is the most important one because it's the one that we're doing right now."

(on if he expects first-round picks to start early on) "We do, and in fact, that's one of the ways that we educate our scouts in reference to how we put value on players and we describe what a first-rounder, what a second-rounder is. And really, down through the third round, we like those guys to be able to come in and contribute fairly early, so first-rounders, second-rounders. And the difference between a first-rounder and a second-rounder is how you think the guy's success is going to be in this league. So if you think this kid's a potential Pro Bowler or a perennial Pro Bowler, then those are guys that are going to be top 10 picks. And so we have defined what the value is for our scouts, and that's how we go about the process."

(on the consideration given to prospects' background off the field) "Not any closer. That's something that we've always emphasized, and that's something that we've always talked about and studied, and we do a lot of work and a lot of research trying to find as much information about these guys as possible. We talk to the coaches; we talk to the scouts; we talk to the trainers; we talk to high school coaches. We talk to as many people as we can to try and paint a picture. And again, it's not a situation where we're not going to take a player who has had a problem in the past, because we believe in giving players second chances, but the reason why you amass all of the information is because you're trying to paint a picture and you're also trying to predict, and oftentimes, past performance predicts future. But at the same time, if you can see where a guy may have made a mistake but it's not a pattern of behavior, then you may be inclined to give a guy a second chance."

(on what is changing with more players coming from smaller schools) "I don't think anything is changing. I think scouting departments across the league have done a tremendous job for a number of years of going into those schools and finding players. What happens is, when these players have opportunities, similar to what Jacoby (Jones) did last year, and they get a chance to maybe go to the Senior Bowl or go to the East-West game or something like that and they excel in that environment and they show that they are capable of competing on the big stage, because obviously that's the thing that you worry about is when the competition level rises, can the kid's level of play continue to be at that level. And so I think these guys have shown when they've had their opportunities that the stage isn't too big for them, and so I think that's why you see those guys being talked about the way that they're being talked about, and that's why we took Jacoby where we took him, because he did the same thing last year."

(on how many mock drafts he has run internally) "You know, that whole process, I think, is a little overrated. We'll do some stuff tomorrow. I think what happens is, we run mock drafts for a couple of reasons. First of all, you can't predict what's going to happen. But what it does is it allows us to practice our thought process. So, in other words, you can run any number of mock drafts and try to guess what teams are going to do, but you don't know what's going to happen. But as you run those mock drafts, you get to practice the way you're going to approach the decision-making process and that's why we do it. And so we'll do some of that tomorrow. We'll do some of it on Friday morning. We'll continue to talk with our pro scouts, Brian Gardner and his staff. They've done a great job, in my opinion, of trying to assess the league in terms of what other teams need and how we can be able to maybe anticipate who those guys might take so that those mock drafts are a little bit more realistic. But again, it's not so much to try to guess what's going to happen as much as it's to practice the thought process so that we do a good job when we're on the clock."

(on if mock drafts let him see where there's a run of players a certain way) "Yes, you do that, obviously. You've got any number of scenarios, an infinite number of scenarios that you could really say this is going to happen, so we would do this, or that's going to happen. So that's kind of what I do. I'll go in and I'll say, 'OK, Team X called and they want us to move to this spot and we get this, this and this, and what do we think about that?' And so we'll have discussions like that as well."

(on how much the compressed time will affect draft day) "You know, it's not a lot of time. The 10 minutes in the first round, I think, won't be too significant. I think there's still a considerable amount of movement in the third and fourth round, and five minutes is going to come and go pretty quickly, so I think teams are going to have to be prepared and ready, and there are any number of several pieces and mechanics that have to happen when you trade on draft day. There's a phone call to the team that you're trying to (trade) with as compensation and there's a phone call to the league to say that we are executing a trade. If you're on the clock, there's the people at your table that you've got to be in communication with as well to say, 'Hey, but you better also have a name on the card there in case you don't execute the trade.' So there are any number of things that have to happen on draft day when you are attempting to execute a trade, and so we'll be prepared for those things. But you're right. With the decreased amount of time, it's going to happen fast, so people will have to be ready for it."

(on if the decreased time will force him to simplify the decision-making process) "I don't know if you simplify it. I think you've just got to be prepared. I think you anticipate what's going to happen or you've got things valued a certain way. And I don't think trading is going to be any less complicated just because we don't have as much time. You just better be ready to get the deal done if you want to get a deal done."

(on if there is a certain number players he expects might be available at 18) "Again, I think it's an infinite number. I don't think you can sit up here and realistically think that – I think, like you say, maybe there are 10 players that everybody can agree on that are probably going to be gone, but I can't even realistically say that because we ran mock drafts last year and there wasn't one instance where Amobi Okoye was there for us to take. So it's just such a fluid process that, again, I think what the process should be, and the way that we do it, is that we have valued these players and put them in an order and given them a round and a ranking, and you let your board dictate what happens as the draft unfolds."

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