BB: I am sure you got the release on signing Otis Smith yesterday. That was obviously to give us a little bit more depth in the secondary. That is really about it on any kind of roster movement. We haven't had much in a little while. In terms of the draft process, I would say that we are kind of cramming for the final exam. We have a lot of information coming in from all of our different regional scouts that have been out on the road with their final work out grades and any last minute information and we have some last minute medical information and some other things like that are all coming in, obviously not on every single guy but there are a few random people here and there. Of course a lot of juniors came out, a lot of underclassmen are in this years draft and that always starts the process a little bit further behind in January or February, whenever it is that they end up coming out. You are always trying to catch up a little bit there. A lot of that information is coming in. We are trying to process that and finalize our grades and then next week will take a look at the board and keep going back over it to just be prepared for whatever scenario we end up with. I have gotten a number of questions about trading up and trading down, basically to me it just comes down to when it is your turn to pick, you are either happy with where you are or you can't move and you select a player or if you feel like there is a better spot to be then you try to move there. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can't. We don't have any set plans that we are going to go somewhere or not go somewhere but if the opportunity is there, we all know we are not afraid to do that. If that is what we think is best for the team and best for that situation then we will try to do it. That is pretty much where I am. Any questions?
Q: [Laughter] Bill, each draft has its own dynamic. Last year there were a lot of defensive linemen taken. How do you view this year's draft?
BB: Well, there are a lot of underclassmen that I think are pretty high on the board. There is pretty good depth at receiver, running back and I think the defensive line and corner group is not bad. Again, with a lot of those players, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In one system a player looks really good and in another system he wouldn't look as good as somebody else. I think that there is quite a bit of fluctuation I am sure on the draft boards throughout the league not based on need but based on the system that the team is employing and what type of players would fit best in the respective systems.
Q: How would you describe this running back class?
BB: I think overall it has been a pretty productive group. You have some guys that have really been consistent producers for the most part. It is a pretty good sized group, Mewelde Moore, [Bruce] Perry from Maryland, a couple of those kids are maybe a little bit on the smaller side but they have been productive and they are very good players too. But I think overall it is a pretty good-sized group.
Q: Is there one running back that sticks out among the rest?
BB: Well, I think they all have a little bit different styles. They have all been productive. I think there are a lot of guys you can like. I am sure there are a lot of guys that are going to play in the league and be productive for whichever teams they are with and I guess some of that is style. You've got some guys that can catch the ball. You've got some guys that are more runners and less catchers. There are a lot of different combinations. I think a little bit of it depends on what you are looking for.
Q: What are your thoughts on Steven Jackson?
BB: Jackson is a big back, a big guy that runs well, a track guy in high school, has been very productive out there, hasn't always had the biggest holes to run through but he has managed pretty well and has good hands. I think he is a good, solid player. He has had a good career.
Q: I know you spoke to him a little bit at the combine. How did he strike you as a person? He seems pretty mature.
BB: He is pretty mature. I think he has a good upbringing. He has worked hard to achieve what he has gotten. I just spent a couple of minutes with him at the combine. I think he is a solid guy.
Q: How does the upcoming appeals court decision on underclassmen affect your draft board especially with the draft coming up so soon?
BB: We are going under the assumption that they are in it and we are grading them accordingly. If something changes, it changes. That is totally out of our hands. At this point they are evaluated with everybody else.
Q: What is your opinion on a guy like Chris Perry? Are there exceptions to competition levels because of what they can do physically?
BB: I think Chris has been a real productive back for Michigan. He has excellent hands. He probably catches the ball as well as any back in the draft. There isn't any reason to think he couldn't play on all three downs. He has good power, he has real good vision, he finds a lot of holes and is a nifty guy. He can make some nice cuts there on the line of scrimmage and get through some small places but is still a physical guy that runs hard. I think that he has a lot of things going for him. You can always generalize and say, 'Well these guys have done well at this school,' or, 'These guys haven't done well at this position,' or whatever. I think you just have to evaluate the players for what they are and not get too hung up on what somebody three or four years ago did at a school. I think it is probably more coincidental than a product of deficiency in a player.
Q: Does it matter if you are running a one-back or a two-back set?
BB: I think some backs have different strengths in their running game and their style. Some guys are slashers. Some guys are more jump cut guys. Some guys are power guys. Some guys are speed guys and can bounce out and run away from traffic. There are a lot of different styles of runner. If you care about that, then that would limit some guys. If you don't and you are just looking at production, then you take a look at some of the plays you are going to run in your offense and how you are going to run them and evaluate the guys that have a similar style like that. You look at a guy like Mewelde Moore who is a good example of a player in an offense similar to ours. So he is pretty easy to evaluate. They do a lot of spread stuff, spread offense and a lot of times he is out of the back field, a lot of the time he is in the back field as a one-back runner. They run quite a bit of 'i' formation, so you can see some two-back runs. He is the kind of guy that when you watch him, it is pretty easy to evaluate him relative to other players whose offenses maybe less similar to either our offense or a pro type style of offense.
Q: Can you assess the offensive linemen in this draft?
BB: Well the linemen, I think there are a number of interesting players in the group. I think it would vary from team-to-team depending on, again, what you are looking for. There are some guys like [Robert] Gallery who obviously can play for anybody, I don't think that is a problem. But there are other guys that if you are a zone blocking team, you are going to look for a certain style of lineman. If you are a team that pulls a lot, a west coast type of offense where your guards and your centers are out in space a lot doing a lot of pulling and perimeter plays, then you are looking for a different type of guy. I think that overall there are some interesting players at every position, at center, guard and at tackle. There are a couple of guys that look like they could play both spots, either center/guard or guard/tackle however you want to look at it. Like usual, I think that the offensive linemen will go and they will go fast because people are trying to find the big, athletic guys and there is a certain limitation on those players.
Q: What about the linebackers?
BB: I think this is a better year for linebackers than I have seen in a couple of years. I think there are some big kids that can run. In college football, there seems to be more smaller guys that are fast players but I think this year, there is a good group of bigger guys that can run. I am talking about guys that are 230-ish and up that run under, maybe, 4.7. A bunch of them run around 4.6, and a couple under that. I think there is a little more depth there than probably what there has been the last couple of years in that position. Again, style of play, 3-4 defense, we are looking for a different type player than the teams that play the 4-3, especially the 4-3 with all three linebackers off the line. We have two of our guys on the line. Some of it is scheme. A little bit of it is the system fit where a player has the strengths that fit well in one system and not as well in another one.
Q: About linebackers, why do you hardly ever see a really big class of linebackers in the draft?
BB: Well I think a lot of it is, the bigger kids that might be linebackers end up being college defensive ends. The 6'4, 245 – 260 pound guy, most colleges put those players down and make them defensive ends. Again, they are having trouble finding the bigger kids who can run too, so rather than play them on their feet they play them on the line of scrimmage, play them across the ball and try to find other guys who aren't that big that have to play linebacker and play their college system that way. A lot of the college teams don't play a linebacker on the line of scrimmage. A lot of them play three guys off of the line and if you playing an off the line linebacker you don't need as big of a player. If you take your bigger guys and put them on the line, you can afford to take the 220-235 pound type of guys that run well and play them off the line and let them be scrape and flow players as opposed to putting them on the line of scrimmage and making them take on guys. The teams that play that system in the NFL, a team like Miami that almost never has their linebackers on the line of scrimmage, then those players a lot of them flow pretty smoothly into their system.
Q: When you think about the trade that you made with the Ravens for their first round pick during the draft last year, how do you feel about that trade today and how it set you up looking back on it?
BB: We felt good about it then and I feel good about it now. I haven't really spent a lot of time thinking about it. We did it. We thought it was the best thing to do at that point so that is what it is. We are where we are now and we will deal with it accordingly whether we stay there or don't stay there, that of course remains to be seen. We thought we got good value for what we did last year and we are satisfied with that trade.
Q: Last year there were few teams with multiple picks in the first round. This year you are the only team with multiple picks.
BB: Right. That is a big difference. That is a big difference. A lot of the teams that are ahead of us have talked to us about it and of course we have two picks in the second round as well. A lot of teams have talked to us about moving back in exchange for multiple picks and that kind of thing. I think those are probably going to all be draft day decisions. I would be surprised, although I certainly wouldn't rule it out, but I would be surprised to see pre-draft day picks in terms of moving up or down a couple of spots.
Q: Have you gotten a lot of calls from teams that want to get back into the first round?
BB: Again, in a situation like that, if I were one of those teams, you wait until that first round comes down and if a player that you really like comes within striking distance or comes within range, I think that is the point where you would put that type of trade out as opposed to doing it now, so you are trading in a 21 but for who? There are 20 guys going ahead and who knows who those 20 guys will be.
Q: When those calls take place, about moving up or moving down, do you try to set the parameters on that call then or do you say to them, 'Hey, let's just keep in touch?'
BB: I think it is more of the latter. You only have 15 minutes on the clock so you don't want to be dialing around the league saying, 'Hey do you want to trade? No. Do you want to trade? No.' It is a lot better to get that set up ahead of time. 'Look if our guy is not there, we are going to be interested in moving out. Would you be interested in moving up? No, we are definitely not moving up. We are trying to move out ourselves.' Okay, well then you are not going to be calling them during that 15-minute time. Maybe if they change their mind, they will call you but you just don't have time to carry on 31 conversations. You kind of try to identify the teams that you think might be interested in working with you at a certain point and then when it comes time, sometimes their situation changes and they are not interested anymore or sometimes you are not interested anymore either. 'We are going to stay where we are and we are going to pick here.' You just try to get a feel for who might or might not be interested in working with you at that point in time. Then, when you are close to the clock, or on the clock, then you start calling, 'Hey are you still interested? Is this something that you would want to do? Yes, we would be, call us back when you are on the clock,' or, 'No, we have moved on. Okay.'
Q: If you guys are willing to move down, do you set those parameters?
BB: No, again, that usually comes maybe a pick or two picks before. If you are going to be on the clock in two picks, then maybe you talk to a team and say, 'Okay, now if we are on the clock and your guy is there, what is this deal going to be?' Again, you want to try to avoid running into the end of that time limit. You want to say, 'Okay, our guy is not there, we are going to move out. Okay, our guy is there, we are going to move up, here is what it is. Right. Right,' and turn it in and go.
Q: Is the actual day of the draft more nerve racking than actually coaching in a regular season game or a playoff game?
BB: No, it is different. But I wouldn't say that. It is a much longer process. Instead of a three hour time frame you are looking at…we could be there five hours before we are even on the clock. It could be a long time before you even get involved in it depending on where you are. Now if you are right at the top of the draft, one, two or three, then you have six months to think about that one. You have a lot fewer options at that point. How many guys are you going to be considering if you have [any of those picks]? Like we had the sixth pick a couple of years ago. I mean how many guys are you really thinking about there. It is different.
Q: With Otis Smith, could he possibly fill that third safety spot?
BB: He could. Otis played quite a bit of safety last year in Detroit. We used him some at safety here more in the 2000 season and a little bit in 2001 but primarily at corner but he did play more safety last year in Detroit. That would be a possibility.
Q: With [Aric] Morris and [Chris] Akins gone, he probably wouldn't fill the same special teams role that they did.
BB: Yeah, just talking defensively because whatever he is on special teams now is probably what he was on special teams when he was here before. But could he do some things at safety? I think that is a possibility. I am not saying that is where it is going to be but it is a possibility but he might give us some flexibility on that, yes.
Q: The average fan loves draft day. Is it still a fun time for you?
BB: Sure. It is a team building exercise. No matter what happens, you would like to feel on Sunday that you have improved your team. That is why we are all drafting. It is exciting. How it is going to work out and what guys you are going to get, right now you are looking at 100 – 150 guys whatever it is, you are going to end up with seven, eight, or nine guys however many it turns out [to be]. So you are coming from a big number down to a small number. Who those guys really are going to be, nobody ever knows. Again, if you are picking in the top five, that is one thing. Once you get past the middle of the first round, it is pretty hard to predict who is going to be there and who isn't. It is an important part of building your team and so from that standpoint it is exciting.
Q: In the course of the phone calls on draft day, do you wait to be pursued or do you start the phone calls yourself?
BB: I think we pretty much talk to everybody. I don't think it really matters. Honestly, I couldn't even remember, if I think back to last year or two years ago, who were the teams we talked to, I really can't remember who called who. Again, it is more of just having a working relationship when you only have a limited amount of time and if the trade helps both teams then I think both teams are interested in doing it. I think when you get into the leverage of the trade or the leverage of the pick, especially in the first round. I think it really depends on the player. Who you are trading for determines what you are willing to give up. To pick a number just to be somewhere, I don't think that is really that big of a deal. When you are in the first round, you are going for a specific player when you make that trade. You are not just being there to be there. If you get an extra fourth round pick, you are thinking you are going to get a player of a certain grade, a certain quality, that is what that pick is worth. But in the first round, I think it is a lot more specific. You are seeing a certain player there and depending on how much you want the guy, you may be willing to give up more or less than what the so-called value would be for a specific player.
Q: How much do you value the chart? With moving up and moving down.
BB: Well it is a guide. It is definitely a guide. It depends on how much you want the player and what he is worth to you. Again, what are you going to do with those picks? If you think that you are not going to get that much out of another pick and you can use it to get somebody that you really want then maybe you put it in there. If you don't then, 'Gee, we really want this pick, we think we are going to get a good value for it based on the way the board looks,' or, 'We like this guy but it is just too much.' Then you pass on it and move on. Each one of those is an individual decision. I couldn't sit here and say, 'This is what we would do and this is what we would not do.' We could do either one depending on how we felt about the player or the situation at that point.
Q: Do you have on your board the possibility moving up if a player moves closer to within your reach?
BB: It is possible. Sure. That is definitely a possibility and sometimes it could be two players. 'Here are two guys. If we get either one of those guys at this pick, that would be a great move, let's try to get up there.' But again, it is more of a draft day thing. It is hard to sit here and say Eli Manning could be there at 12. He could be, but I doubt it. So I am not going to lose any sleep over that. There are 15 minutes between each pick. Two or three hours are going to go by before we even get to those teams and at that point as each one comes off then you start thinking about how it is shaping up, 'Do we want to be there or don't we and what is it going to cost?' Sometimes you start calling the teams and just see how motivated they are to move back. If they are motivated to move back it is a lot easier to make the trade if there is a guy they like they will move back but you are really going to have to fork it over because there is a guy that they really want to stay there and take so you have to make it worth while. It just comes down who wants it the most.
Q: How many phone lines do you have in there? Do you have a line to every team?
BB: Well, you can speed dial them. I don't know how many.
Q: Well it is not one guy making calls is there? Is there a bank of phones?
BB: Is there a bank of phones? I would say there are probably, I don't know, half a dozen, eight phones, I don't know how many buttons they have on them but they have quite a few. Anybody you want, you can just hit the button and dial them. That has never been a problem.
Q: Last year you said a goal of yours was to get younger on defense. Is there any one area on your team that you are targeting this draft?
BB: Well, that was more like a three-year plan last year. You can't get younger in one year. We got younger and we got faster but I would like to get younger and faster again this year. Any player, we will take it anywhere.
Q: With a few drafts under your belt, do you feel like you have a pretty good handle on how things might unfold in front of you or is it pretty much a crap shoot?
BB: No. You never know. And the further back you are, then the less predictable it is and teams move. Right now we are behind Miami, are we going to be behind Miami on draft day? I don't know. Maybe somebody else will move up, maybe they [Miami] will move up, who knows? In that top 10 I don't think it really matters. It doesn't matter to us whether Manning goes at one, three, four, what difference does it make? It is a question of that next group of guys that are less certain, which one of those guys goes, which ones of them stay longer or whether they make it down to us or don't. That is more draft day stuff. I don't think you can sit here today and try to predict, 'Well, we think so-and-so is going to be there.' That is just wishful thinking.
Q: I think you have only drafted one underclassman since you have been here. Is there a reason for that?
BB: That is not a conscience decision. We evaluate them the same as everybody else. I think age is a little bit of a factor. There are some kids that are older than some guys that come out young or older than the guys who have stayed in school based on the year they entered and red shirt years and all of that. I think a lot of that is a little bit skewed to the final age of the guy as opposed to his actual draft class.
Q: There was a rumor that you might move up with Detroit. Can you give us any insight?
BB: [It] won't happen. There is no way.
Q: Why not? Why is that a bad trade?
BB: I am not saying it is a bad trade. That is just not something that we would be interested in doing.
Q: Does the value not add up?
BB: We are just not going to do it. Let's just leave it at that.
Q: Is it safe to say that any trade up is not going to be that high?
BB: Well it is not going to be the sixth. No. I think you can rule out five, four, three, two and one too.
Q: [Laughter] Is this one of the more deep and talented group of receivers that you have seen over the past few drafts?
BB: I would say it is.
Q: Would you look at a player like Maurice Clarrett?
BB: Sure. We have seen Maurice. We have evaluated him. We talked to him. He is a good player. He played one year but he had a lot of production. He won a national championship. I don't think you can deny what he did. Josh McDaniels' father coached him. I think we have done as much as we can do in terms of…we haven't coached him so we have just evaluated him. But I think we have done a lot of work on him. He is a good player.
Q: Why would you specifically say you wouldn't make that trade?
BB: Because it was put out there that we were interested in doing that and it is ridiculous. There is no way.
Q: But it looks like you have done so much in all strategic areas to keep your inner thoughts secret and keep people guessing. Why would you tell us that?
BB: Because I don't even want it out there that we would be considering that. To me it would be embarrassing to even think about that.
Q: Do you need to add a backup quarterback with experience more so than Rohan [Davey]?
BB: Do we have to? I don't think we have to. Rohan is getting some game experience now in Europe. We like Rohan. We like Kliff [Kingsbury]. How they will do in game competition? I don't think any of us knows the answer to that. The more they play, the more they do well, and the more confident we are in them, the better we are going to feel about them.
Q: Is Damon [Huard] at all still on the radar screen?
BB: I wouldn't rule out signing a veteran quarterback. No. I definitely would not rule that out. I wouldn't say it is going to happen either. I think we can definitely go out and play with what we have. I would say that is probably true at every position. We can and have played with what we have. If we have a chance to improve it, we will evaluate that and see what we can do. If we don't, then we have guys that have played that have won quite a few games for us