PATRIOTS DIRECTOR OF PLAYER PERSONNEL MATT GROH
Thursday, April 27, 2023
MG: First of all as we strike midnight, I appreciate you all staying up riding this out with us. Just don't know what's going to happen there at the end of the first round. If anybody calls or what not trying to get back in or moving back or what not. So again, I know it's late so thank you guys for staying up with us here tonight. Excited to be able to add Christian Gonzalez to the team. True junior but a player we have certainly been on here for the last year with Tony Kinkela as our west national scout living out in Boise, knowing the Pac-12 really well, from Christian's time at Colorado and then moving with Coach Demetrice Martin from Colorado to Oregon. Tony, Chris Caminiti, those guys were on Christian early. So younger player but certainly a guy who we've spent a lot of time watching here over the last year with the eye of him possibly coming out early. So to be able to pick up Christian and pick up an extra fourth round pick, I feel very encouraged by day one.
Q: Given some of the pre-draft projections, were you at all surprised that Christian was available where he was? What made him the right pick for you guys there at 17?
MG: Talked a little bit about that in the pre-draft press conference. These mock drafts, they're all well and good, and look, we try to gather as much information as we can from the different teams, our friends, our colleagues here across the league. I'd say overall there probably was some surprise that he lasted as long as he did. But we've got our players stacked the way we got them. We can't predict what anybody else is going to do. We try to get as good a feeling for that as possible. Then when you have a certain amount of players that you still feel comfortable with there in the first round to be able to go ahead and pick up that extra pick. It was a great job by Pat Stewart being in contact with different teams and Eliot Wolf working with the Steelers, moving back and still being able to pick up Christian.
Q: Obviously on a night like tonight, the number one priority of the night is to make your team better. But how much are you thinking about what other teams in the division are doing, too? It seems like trading backwards worked out for you guys on a few different levels. You picked up the extra pick. You got Christian at 17. Then in the meantime the Steelers jumped the Jets there and took Broderick Jones. So how much do you keep tabs on what division rivals might be looking for, too?
MG: We keep tabs on all the teams, not just our division rivals. With the trade that transpired here this week, the Jets going from right in front of us to right behind us certainly shifted things. Then for us to kind of jump right back behind them and give Pittsburgh the opportunity to come up and select a player who they selected, which when you make these trades you don't know who the other team is coming up for. But again, we try to do our research and try to have a feeling as far as positionally what a team might be looking for. That's Steve Cargile and his team really working hard on the team's needs. We've got all that posted right there in the draft room and try to be cognizant of what the teams are looking for. So maybe had an idea of what Pittsburgh was looking for. Certainly, didn't know if that was going to be accurate. Certainly, didn't know what player it was going to be. But there started to be a little bit of a run there on the tackles. That position group was thinning out. If you wanted one of those guys, you'd have to come up and get him.
Q: I was just wondering what Christian's visit was like with you guys? Was there something that really stood out to you about him in your one-on-one with him?
MG: Didn't get to visit with Christian when I was out there at practice in August. But we finally got to meet at the combine. Very positive interaction in Indianapolis. Then I think you're alluding to we had Christian in here for a 30 visit. That seems like a long time ago. I feel like he was maybe one of the earlier 30s. But it's great to be able to have those guys in the building. We have so many people in the organization who then are able to get a feel for that player. Christian's got hopefully a little bit of a comfort level here. He knows the layout of the building. He knows the nutritionist. He knows the different support structure that's going to be here for him and try to put him in the best position to succeed. Just gives us greater familiarity with him. That comfort level builds up with that player. Another player from a 30 list that we were able to select to go along with, you guys will have to look it up, maybe four or five of those guys from last year. It's definitely what we do and how we've got the schedule set up for the players, it's really a productive session when we can get those guys in there.
Q: What if any input did Adrian Klemm have in the process obviously with their overlap last season? How did Christian's improvement specifically with tackling and his ball skills make him more the prospect that he was when you took him at 17?
MG: Unique situation when you've got a coach on your staff. We've got enough relations with some great coaches around the country. Certainly with Coach [Dan] Lanning and getting to know him down at Georgia and Marshall Malchow who really runs their personnel. We've got great relationships there. But you've got a coach who's on your staff you know you're getting the truth on the player, good and bad. So that allows you, again there's that comfort level. Coach Klemm was with Christian, call it eight months, so definitely a great resource. Like I alluded to, Coach [Bill] O'Brien being at Alabama not only just college players but his time with the Texans helping us out free agency wise. We spend a lot of time trying to get to know who these guys are as players and as people. So definitely appreciate Coach Klemm's input.
Q: How about his tackling and ball skills? They seemed to really make an improvement his junior season.
MG: So finished with I believe four interceptions this year. Really came on towards the end of the year. A couple of them against Colorado, one against Oregon State. Some impressive plays. You saw his ability to catch the ball at the combine. So feel pretty good about Christian and being able to bring him in.
Q: Once Washington's pick was in, can you describe how quickly things went on your end making the Gonzalez pick? You guys get 10 minutes, and it seemed like you weren't really waiting around too long on that if I saw it right based on the tv presentation of it.
MG: Again, we're trying to do our research. We're trying to stay ahead of things. Had a pretty good inclination as to who Washington was going to take. So we were able to quickly discuss which direction we wanted to go. Teams have to wait a little bit here in the first round before they get their picks in. We didn't know, but we had a pretty good feeling as to how Washington was going to play it out. So that sped things along for us. Again, it's nice when you've got a consensus on a player. So from the coaching staff, to the scouts, we're fairly unified grade wise on Christian. That just sped the process along.
Q: Do you ever look at the history of recent rookies. For example, I was thinking last year, Tariq Woolen (Seattle) and obviously Sauce Gardner for the Jets both played really well. The year before you had Patrick Surtain and Asante Samuel Jr. Just seems like really talented cornerbacks are coming into the NFL and playing sort of immediately. When you're evaluating corners do you see anything different just to suggest there are younger, more talented players coming into the league. Just wondering if anything like that plays into the scouting someone like Christian.
MG: A lot of that just depends on the player's background, their experience. So you've got a guy like Christian from Dallas. That's pretty heavy football territory. The seven-on-seven leagues, this is football in certain parts of the country, it is 12 months a year. You certainly see that in the development of some of the skill position players who are in these seven-on-seven leagues. They're on their own team, then once their regular season is over, they're right back in it. They're playing football all year long. So I think that the proliferation of these seven-on-seven leagues has sped some of the development in the skill position.
Q: The comment about having a good feeling that Washington would take [Emmanuel] Forbes, it sounds like almost then when you made the deal with Pittsburgh, and not to put words in your mouth, they wanted an offensive tackle. Jets probably don't go corner. Forbes to Washington. Did you have a sense when you made the initial trade that Christian could still be there for you at 17?
MG: There was a feeling that he might still be available. We thought he was a good player. Would have certainly understood if he wasn't. You listed off those teams, but we had just traded. So you can't just count on, 'okay we know these teams, they're not going to take a corner,' or what not. It changes so quickly. So it's tough to say really, 'this guy's going to be there.' I think it really came more down to having a comfort level on multiple players to be able to pick up a pick and really just give us that much more currency in the fourth round. I couldn't guarantee that Christian was going to be there but felt good that a player that we felt good about would be there.
Q: Any quick sense when you look at the talent leftover for day two, what strikes you about the players positionally? Offensive vs. defensive what do you see?
MG: I think it's still fairly well balanced. I think we're the 15th pick here in the second round. To have those fourth-round picks does give us a little bit of currency. We'll have to take a more in-depth look here in the morning. We'll regroup, look at some of these players that we got, go through a couple different scenarios as a staff and do our best to plot it out here for the second and third round. Just like we did in the lead up here for the first round.
Q: Just wondering without giving away any state secrets if you could tell us what the next 24 hours are kind of like for you and your staff.
MG: Try to get home. Try to get some sleep. We'll have lots of names and different scenarios running through my mind. Hopefully most importantly, be able to kiss my kids good morning. Then head on back here fairly early, start watching some guys, start doing some comparisons. Again, looking at the teams ahead of us, different scenarios, moving up, moving back. Moving up was in play. We ended up moving back. We're always very flexible. Try to do what's best for the football team and try to put together the best team possible. Whether that's moving up or again collecting another pick to kind of strike in the heart of the draft, call it the third fourth rounds here.
Q: Christian seemed like on film he played a bunch of different coverage schemes at Oregon. I was just curious how you would describe their defensive system and some of the different things he was able to do there?
MG: He's playing for Tosh Lupoi, who's got a really extensive background being at Alabama, having experience in the pros. Tosh is a very well-detailed coach with a lot of good experience. Certainly, with his time with Coach [Nick] Saban down at Alabama. Then with what Coach [Dan] Lanning has brought from Georgia. Again, with Coach [Kirby] Smart at Georgia and again their experience with Coach Saban at Alabama. He was able to be around some of the top coaches in college football. Hopefully that experience, that knowledge, that education, will only speed his development here to the NFL. But for all these guys it's a big jump. It'll just be upon Christian to get up to speed as quickly as possible. Looking forward to working with him and helping him do that.