Tennessee Titans 2011 NFL Draft Press Conference


 (opening statements)

I want to thank everybody for coming today.  As Steve said, we’d like to really focus on the draft here.  The 2011 draft, I think it’s a solid draft.  I think there’s some real strengths in some areas, and I think there’s some other areas that aren’t quite as good.  Obviously, some of the questions you might have might be about certain players.  Maybe Ruston would start there, and Coach Munchak, more the strengths of the team and the weaknesses and the areas of need.  But what I’d like to do is just kind of open it up for questions.

(on the need to add to the offensive line if guard Leroy Harris comes back to the team and last year’s starters remain)

I think it will start with those guys as the projected starters, yes, and with the guys behind them, with Fernando Velasco–like last year–and Kevin Matthews, (Ryan) Durand being three guys that have been developing well, we feel, behind those guys.  This will be Leroy’s second year to start, so I’ll be looking forward to him upgrading from last year, improving from last year, where he played last year.  Hopefully he’ll stay healthy.  He started the season, unfortunately, hurt, and hopefully he’ll be able to pick up kind of where he left off toward the end of the season, where we felt he was playing much better than he was earlier.  Same thing with Eugene (Amano).  The upsetting thing for Eugene was I thought he was playing better at the center position than he did at guard for us a year earlier, but he had the stingers he kept getting, missed a couple games, and as you guys know ended up on injured reserve at the end of the season. He’s healthy now, and assuming those things are behind him, we feel very strong that the guys we have inside will be a great group this year.

(on the biggest area the team needs to improve in the draft)

At the beginning it’s going to be filling some obvious roster spots.  The quarterback position is obviously something we’re going to have to take a look at in the draft and after the draft to fill needs there.  The defensive side, we talk about the defensive linemen.  Jerry (Gray), he’s talked before in the press conferences that he’s looking to upgrade the size of the defensive line from what we’ve used in the past, change the scheme a little bit.  So you’re looking for some different types of players maybe inside, some defensive ends that may play a little bit more seven-technique and six-technique, kind of back what we did when Jerry was here the first time with Jevon Kearse and those guys that were able to do that well.  So I think you see some differences there.  Maybe in the linebackers, maybe a little more size in the linebacker position to fit what Jerry’s trying to do.  So I think those are the areas we’ll be looking at.  Obviously, in the draft you’re not going to fill every need we may have.  There are other avenues to do that later on, but for now those will be some of the areas we’ll be looking at.


(on having the choice at the eighth overall draft position to take an elite player)

Yeah, I think so.  We would all differ on the exact number, but I think there are probably six to seven, eight really elite players in this draft.  So we have a chance to get a special player.  With that being said, we want the best player.  That’s part of it.  Fit is part of it, need.  We kind of get a group of guys that make sense for us at the number-eight pick, and I think that’s a little easier equation to do than when you’re picking 19 or 24 or 15th.  There are so many more things you have to take into consideration. 



(on how they evaluate the quarterbacks as a whole)

I think it’s a good year overall for quarterbacks.  You probably have six guys maybe that somebody has a first-round grade on and somebody thinks is worthy of a first-round pick.  So, you know, that’s four—some people say four—the four could differ with every team.  I think that’s a good possibility.  And it’s probably mostly the fourth guy that differs, you know?  So it’s a good year overall.  Everybody’s going to have a different idea of what they’re looking for.  The west coast teams are going to look for one thing, the other schemes are going to look for something else.  It really just depends on the team.

(on how many quarterbacks have first- or second-round grades)

I would say maybe seven to eight.


(on quarterbacks with first- or second-round grades)

Yeah, and in a normal year you might get two-and-a-half players.  The average is probably two-and-a-half players in the first round of quarterbacks.  So it’s a good year for quarterbacks.  That’s a good thing for us.


(on how many players the team has graded in the first round)

I think we have around probably 24 guys.  I was looking at it last night, sitting there staring at the board, and I think it’s like 24 guys.


That’s kind of normal.  Usually you think, ‘Well, there’s going to be 32 guys drafted,’ but the reality is when every team does their board, there’s 24, 25 guys that we think are worthy of a first-round pick.


Right, and some of it is scheme-driven.  Some of it is just players that don’t fit what you do.  They’re talented guys but not necessarily fit what you’re looking for.


(on how many quarterbacks they have a first-round grade on)

We have several.

(on if the number of teams that need a quarterback creates a concern if the Titans’ first pick is not a quarterback)

I think it’s going to be fascinating to watch, to see when the run on the quarterbacks start.  There’s a lot of good ones that are worthy of first or second rounds.  If it starts early, it’s going to drive some teams to kind of jump into the first to get their guy.  If it starts late, then maybe some teams hang on and hope they can pick up their guy in the second round.  So that’s going to be the fun of watching the draft.


(on what type of quarterback best suits what offensive coordinator Chris Palmer is looking for)

Probably similar to what we’ve been doing.  Obviously, the running game is a big part of our offense, when you have Chris Johnson in it.  We’re going to be featuring him in a lot of ways.  So you want someone that can tie into that, which is obviously a guy that can move, mobile, can go in and out of the pocket, you can run some boot stuff that helps the run game.  So that’s probably—play action, you want a play-action game, where you’re going to go and be able to make the deep throw.  Those are the things right off the bat that there’s guys in the draft that obviously we feel very comfortably can do.  Then you look at the intangibles on some of these guys and the leadership, that’s going to be a big part of it.  When you pick a guy in that position, you’re expecting a lot.  A lot is expected at that position.  You’re hoping he can make the guys around him better.  Those are the things kind of you’re looking at when you make that decision.


(on if the caliber of a free-agent quarterback the team signs hinges upon the quarterback the team drafts)

It probably impacts it to some degree, but I think in unrestricted free agency, I think we’ll target two or three guys that we think are the right guys and get one of those two or three guys.

(on if this year’s top eight picks are more or less predictable than in previous drafts)

That’s a tough question because I haven’t been in this position before, so to me, I wasn’t that worried about it.  It appears to me it’s less predictable.  Do you have any thoughts there, Ruston, on that?


(on if this year’s top eight picks are more or less predictable than in previous drafts)

Yeah, I mean, even when you’re picking eight, you’re still at the teams’ mercy ahead of you, and until we have a feel for what they’re going to do, it’s hard to predict right now.


(on if teams will stay true to traditional trade “value charts” or will be more willing to part from that this year)

It’s hard to know, but just talking to other teams, I get a feeling that there’s more flexibility going on.  People appear more willing to at least say, ‘Hey, at the right time, call me.  I may consider it.’ Where in the past, people were more willing to just to kind of stay where they were.  So there’s a little bit more flexibility going into it.


(on the debate between selecting a quarterback or the best available player with the No. 8 pick)

I think what happens is when we come up, whether it’s eighth, we’re going to get three or four players that we think are worthy of that pick.  We’ll get the input of Ruston and the scouts and Coach Munchak and the other coaches and myself and we’ll try to develop a consensus.  If we can find the right guy that makes sense for everything that’s the guy we take. If not, if we’re not comfortable with any of them, that’s when you start considering moving back.


(on the separation between Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert and other quarterbacks)

Really, I don’t know that there’s a huge separation.  All these guys are good players.  All of them are probably not the finished product. Some of them have a little better skill set than others and some of them have been productive in what they’ve done.


Beauty is kind of in the eye of the beholder.  I think we’re all looking for different things from a quarterback, so in some people’s mind, it may be a huge division.  In others, it may be no division at all, depending on what you value in that quarterback.  It’s an art.  It’s not a science.  It’s not a thing that’s going to weigh 2 pounds.  It’s how you evaluate all this information, and there’s a lot of information.

(on whether a player in the second group has separated himself from the rest of the quarterbacks) 

And you want the name? (laughs)

(on whether there is one guy the organization has in mind if things fall a certain way)

I think every club does that to some degree.  You find something that jumps up about one player versus the others. I think that’s always true.


(on Jake Locker’s stock fluctuation between 2010 and 2011)

I think one thing is everybody’s looking for something different, scheme-wise or whatever.  I think that makes a difference, so it fluctuates that way—just different teams looking for different things.  But I feel good that we’ve done our due diligence on every quarterback.  We didn’t really play favorites.  We saw them all and brought them all in here and did our work on them, so I feel good about that.  As far as Jake goes, I think it’s kind of like everything else in this draft.  It’s kind of a matter of opinion and what you’re looking for out of the position.


(on whether QB accuracy can be fixed/improved by changing the throwing motion he used in college)

It’s probably better to ask (offensive coordinator) Chris (Palmer).  I know Chris feels comfortable doing that.  He felt he did that with Eli Manning.  He felt he had success with him with the accuracy with footwork, with technique as much as anything, and that is somewhat corrective.  He’s a better guy to speak to it than myself, but I think he feels comfortable that that wouldn’t be something that would deter you from making a decision.

(on what, as a head coach, Munchak is looking for in a franchise quarterback)

I think the intangible stuff, leadership on the team.  The guy who can come in here and command that huddle, these guys want to play for, I think there’s a lot of merit to that.  I think, a special guy that can make the guys around him better, play harder, practice harder, takes command of the practice field.  I think all of those things are big pluses.  It would have to be a fit.  It would have to be a quarterback that can do the things that fit what we’re doing with “CJ,” with the running game, with the play-action game, with moving the pocket, with the things we feel, with the talent we have here.  So I think all of those things factor in there.  As Ruston said, he’s looking at this group of quarterbacks and we had a chance to meet them all and spend time with them.  You see a lot of those traits in a lot of them. It’s just a matter of when the decision time comes, it’s which one we feel would best add to the team.

(on how soon the team would want a drafted quarterback to see game action)

I think I wouldn’t have a timetable, one way or another.  I think when we draft a quarterback or when we draft him, it will be a competition.  If we have a rookie, we’ll have a veteran and a couple of guys competing.  I don’t think we’ll ever come out and say, ‘We’re going to rest him, we’re not going to rest him, we’re going to wait a year,  we’re not going to wait a year.’  I think we’re going to do what’s best for the team and best for the player.  If we draft a guy that comes in here and can handle it, and we feel the team’s responding to him—a great veteran or a rookie—we’ll feel comfortable starting him if he’s ready to do it.


(on the draft’s difficulty presented by uncertainty with free agency and labor relations)

The good thing is we’ve been so focused on the draft for the last two months.  I think it’s kind of opened up the draft.  I think we’ve looked at more possibilities if we don’t have the number of players we’ve had in the past.  You see more needs, more holes on your team.  I think from that standpoint it’s probably been a good thing.  I think the events of the last couple of days have been a distraction, but the reality of it is Thursday night we’re going to start the draft, and I think we’re all focused on that.

(on whether any scenario exists in which teams can make trades of veteran players on Thursday night)

There are so many unknowns at this point in time, it doesn’t even help to speculate.


(on getting bigger on the defensive line and if it is easier to find those kind of guys)

It depends on the year.  Sometimes there are more speed rushers and more three-technique, Tampa, up-field type of players and other times there are more two-gap, bigger guys.  This year is a really good year for the defensive line.  I think probably offensive and defensive line this year, especially offensive tackles and defensive line in general is better than I have seen in a while.  It is a good year and you really kind of have all types.   If there is a need whether it is defensive tackle or defensive end or whatever, this is the year to get one.


(on getting bigger on the defensive line and if it is easier to find those kind of guys)

Every year is different and like Ruston is saying it is a pretty good year to be looking to get bigger in the defensive line because there are some good candidates there.


(on the depth of the defensive line throughout the draft)

I would say if you go (rounds) one through three is really strong.  That is what I would say.  If you go through the third round it is strong.  After that like most years it gets a little spotty, but usually you don’t have as many guys early.  That is just ends and tackles.

(on the comparisons of Nick Fairley to a Warren Sapp type player)

He is a three-technique, that is what he is.  He can play on the edge and he has power.  He is a talented guy.  As far as the one year thing goes, that is a position, the defensive line, where talent kind of reigns and if you have the traits and ability and you have the desire then you have a chance to be a good player whether it is one year or you have played four years.  There have been guys that have come out in the draft that didn’t play a lot or played one year and some guys didn’t play through the years and I can remember players that didn’t play every game of their senior year but went in the first round and ended up being pretty good players.  That position is a little different than maybe it might be at quarterback or linebacker or something like that.


(on how much input they have received from Tracy Rocker on Nick Fairley)

He has had really good input and the good thing is coming from the college ranks, he has coached a number of these guys.  So he has had good input on a lot of players.


(on the emphasis of drafting a quarterback and if he envisions a scenario where they don’t draft one)

That is certainly possible, but at the same time I think the fact that there are a number of good candidates and we have some relatively high picks in the first and second round, I’m not sure of the likelihood of that.


(on if there is a large degree of separation between the first-round defensive linemen)

I would say they are all fairly close.  Like I said there are some speed rushers, there are some guys that play tighter on the line, better run players and guys that can play inside and outside.  There are just all different kinds.  From a talent standpoint, they are similar in talent just different in style.

(on rating the linebacker group with the exception of Von Miller)

I think it is a good year.  He (Miller) is at the top of the heap and then there is probably a guy or two in the second, third and fourth all the way through.  It just depends on what you are looking for again.


(on rating the incumbent linebackers and what he expects from them)

I think the fact that we are making some changes, it is just a matter of Jerry Gray getting the opportunity to eventually spend time with them and see exactly what we do have other than going off of film study.  Like I mentioned about getting a little bigger, if you have a linebacker on the line of scrimmage, a SAM linebacker, we don’t necessarily have someone that has been asked to be in that position before, so you are going to be looking for that either in the draft or other means.  Obviously, Tully (Stephen Tulloch) is a free agent so you have some question there, some guys that maybe can move in there or not move in there.  You have a good group of guys, it is just a matter of getting to spend some time with them and seeing who really does fit what Jerry is trying to do.  It creates a lot of competition, which is a good thing.

(on his first experience of the draft as a head coach and what he is looking forward to)

It is nice to be a part … usually as an offensive line coach you are downstairs and not invited to the draft room.  I’m looking forward to my first visit to the draft room other than the seventh round (laughter).  It is an exciting time for me.  This is the time as a head coach especially you get a chance to be around the players and going through the Combine and all the visits we have had here and now finally getting the chance to pick nine guys that we are hoping that will help us immediately this year.  It is exciting to be a part of it.  The fact that it is spread out is a little nerve-wracking.  It is about not being too anxious about it knowing that there is going to be a process and I’m enjoying what I have been learning just over the past few weeks with Ruston and Mike and watching the scouts work and being a part of the whole process now, not just my little segment.  Usually offensive line goes first and I’m done after a day and a half and this year I’m up there 10 days with the whole group and watching my staff work and the scouts and the staff work together and evaluating all the positions on the defense, the DBs and the secondary and the stuff those guys are looking for and some things that I hadn’t thought about as much or watching a lot of the tape.  It has been a great experience for me.  I’m glad we are coming to the end of it and I’m excited about the process starting Thursday night.


Usually Mike would be there the first day of the meetings and we would do offensive line and then we would call him back the third day when we did the fourth through the seventh round picks and he could come back in.

(on not being able to sign rookie free agents following the draft this year and how important it is to evaluate players in the later rounds)

That is a part of it and the good thing is we have the extra two compensatory picks.  That helps us with the extra fourth and the extra seventh which gives us nine guys.  We will still go through the same process.  We will grade those guys and we will get ready to go whenever we get the word to go on it.  We will use those players to fill out our roster.

(on being able to talk with draftees until the draft has concluded)


(on trying to squeeze in extra contact with the coaches and providing playbooks for the drafted players)

As I understand it all contact ends at the end of the draft.  I believe at this point in time we will have our first and second round most likely come in to visit with the media more for media purposes and we will continue contact throughout the draft from our scouts and coaches with players that we have interest in, just like we always would.

(on if they can hand drafted players a playbook)

I believe it is just for media purposes.

(on if free agency kicks in and the plan for that scenario)

Actually a couple of the pro personnel assistants were joking last night that they had to dust off the books and get them ready.  The books were all done, the plan was ready to go, except they have been placed over in the corner for the last couple of months.

(on a possible scenario where the club would trade next year’s first round pick)

I think it is tough because there is more unknown.  We all assume there is going to be a draft next year, we don’t know that for sure.  I think there is a certain element of unknown there.  I’m personally hesitant to trade future number one round draft picks.  It doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen.

(on what it would take to get from pick 39 back into the first round)

A second or third or some combination.  Maybe the third plus a little bit more.

(on the scenario of trading the first next year to get back in to the first round)

It depends on whether the person is willing to move or not and how bad you want to move.