SCOUT JON SALGE
(opening statement )
Taylor is a Prosper, Texas, kid. He was a high school tight end who wanted to stay close to home. He was actually recruited by Vanderbilt to play tight end and a couple of Big 12 teams. He is a Texas kid and went to SMU. As you know, June Jones, they don't use a tight end in their offense. In order to get on the field and help the team out he played defensive end. He was a three-year starter at defensive end there. He was a very productive player there at defensive end. He still always probably thought of himself as a tight end but he just wanted to help the football team any way that he could. After the season ended he went to the Players All-Star Classic in Little Rock, Arkansas. It's the first year that they did that All-Star game. He played only tight end that week of practice so myself and another member of our staff, Blake Beddingfield, went out there and saw him run around practicing full time tight end routes, catching the ball, blocking, the whole deal. That's when we said 'Wow, this guy has some ability.' Obviously, on his pro day he worked out as a tight end as well. I'm excited to have him. He is a talented athlete.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR CHRIS PALMER
(on if there is enough tape and evaluation time to make a good judgment on him)
Let's go back to the scenario of going to SMU. He had selected to go to SMU before June (Jones) took the job. He is a very intelligent kid, very bright and he made his decision based on the school, not so much the offense. When he got there, he thought he was fast enough to be a wide receiver. The thing that was good was that he played some wide receiver and he knows many of the concepts that we have and that we are teaching right now and the terminology is very similar. We don't do all of the things that they do in college because of the wide side of the field, but he will come in here and he will know some of our concepts right away. When he came in here to visit with us, the scouting department asked us to look at him on film in the All-Star game. The unfortunate thing is that they took four tight ends to that. The coaching staff said that you only get to play these four, so there weren't a lot of plays in there. There was one particular play where he went down the seam, which we ask our tight ends to do, and he made a very nice catch. He was very fluid. I would say that his growth is going to have to come in the technique of blocking. As far as being a receiving tight end, I think he is uncanny. He has outstanding speed, he has outstanding size and hands. One of the things that you guys have to do, if you don't ask him a question, shake hands with him just to see how big his hands are. In the back of his mind, he almost transferred from SMU to be a tight end but he liked the school, he was a philosophy major, he was involved in their program there and to the kid's credit, he stayed and played a position and exceled at being a defensive end. In his heart he wanted to be a tight end. I see traits, and you will hear us talk about traits, it's like Cookie, (Jared Cook) we saw traits in Cookie a year ago. This kid has traits that you are looking for in the characteristics of that position.
(on if he is four years behind in the development of a normal college tight end)
I will tell you what the Fortune 500 clubs do. They recruit liberal arts education schools so they can bring people in that aren't brainwashed. You cannot find a tight end that blocks on the college level. It's all spread, it's all releasing, and it's a different game. I think in years past, you would be able to say, 'Hey, these tight ends are all blocking.' You cannot find a tight end that is blocking in today's college game. I don't buy that that he is four years behind. There are no bad habits. John Zernhelt, our tight ends coach, is a former offensive line coach, I think that is going to help in his development up to the position.
(on if he is 'raw')
I think that is true Jim (Wyatt), but the thing that you can't coach is that mom, dad, and God gave him size, speed and athletic ability. For us to get him where we got him, there is a reason that he took 10 visits. It's not like we are the only one that saw the acorn. He is a very talented guy, and that is what coach (Mike) Munchak has hired us for, to develop players and I feel good about it. I feel good about his position coach coaching him. I think it's a no brainer in the fifth round.
(on if there is something about the tight end position that allows for quicker development from great athletes)
If you are as old as me, you go back and now on TV, if you look all the 6'4" and 6'5" guys are playing basketball. If you go back to when I was growing up as a Giants fan, Lawrence Taylor and Banks, those linebackers are not in existence right now because they are all playing hoops. I think those guys who have come over that have played four years of basketball and wind up at tight end, they are tight ends in their hearts. Dee Rowe, the old basketball coach at UConn called me about (Donyell) Marshall, their kid. They said that we don't think he is going to get drafted, he would be a great tight end. Well, he played about 10 years in the NBA. You look for guys like this. I'm not concerned about him being behind and I think there are enough guys because you see that athletic ability.
HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on moving up to draft Taylor Thompson)
Yeah we had a few guys that we thought about picking, and a couple of our guys got picked right away that we were thinking about, which made us think about moving up. That was the reason for it. We didn't want to sit in the fifth round and go with someone that maybe we weren't as comfortable with. We had a chance to lose him. We feel that he has a chance to obviously, to come in and make this football team. A lot of times in the fifth round it's hard to really bank on that. Just having him in the building, besides watching the film, the passion the guy had. The guy loves the game and loves what he does. He is smart and he gets it. You don't see many on the draft board at that position. How many were drafted? Three or four tops, it's hard to find a guy like this. He is so willing to do all of the different things. In talking to him, he already understands the language, he has been around it. There is a lot of upside and like coach said, a lot of tight ends in college don't block anybody. It can be hard to find offensive linemen. You can bring one in and they have never run blocked in four years. You have to teach them how to do things. A lot of these guys are in a two point stance, the offensive linemen these days. It's kind of hard to evaluate players. A lot of times you bring in an offensive lineman and they have never been in a three point stance or they have never been run blocking because they have never been asked to do that with all of the spreads. Here is a guy getting in a stance and we are talking to him and the guy has a great knowledge of the game. He is not going to fail. His personality is that he is not going to fail, whatever he does. He will let us rush him at defensive end in every game if we ask him to. He will want to go do that for us if we got in a spot during a game where we needed help on the defensive line. He will be able to help on special teams. He is a rare kind of guy that doesn't come around too often. When we all met him we just assumed that we wouldn't have a chance to get him because we assumed that he would be gone in the third round. Someone like him is hard to come by. He kind of excites you because he brings a different type of energy. When you meet him you will see what we are talking about and the fact that he is so raw, we feel like we can kind of just plug him in and teach him. He can do a lot of things, he is athletic, he can be moving, he can be cutting off of the back side. There are a lot of things that he can do that isn't very hard to teach. We feel that there are a lot of ways that he can contribute and it's not too often that there is a chance to get a guy like this, especially in the fifth round. All of those factors went into and what is the alternative? Not moving up, not taking this guy? We thought about what was best for the team and we did exactly what we did.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR CHRIS PALMER
(on if it will be a challenge to find playing time for both Thompson and Jared Cook)
No, I don't think he'll take snaps away from Jared, but it gives us the flexibility that we have another receiving tight end that has excellent speed. One of the things, from a coaching standpoint, we talked to Coach Munchak about it is you get a receiver, and we're talking about some different formations for Kendall (Wright). Now you get another tight end that you say, 'Now, do we want to go to our three-tight end package?' Once you identify what they can do, we have enough flexibility that now it's our job to go out and get him going. If Cookie gets hurt, who do we have as a receiving tight end? Craig Stevens is a good blocker. Craig is more of an all-around guy; he can hurt you in the passing game, he's a good blocker, but now you get in a situation where you have a guy that is a real good receiver. He's a fast guy. Who's going to match up with him? Are you going to match up a linebacker on him? Are they going to match up a safety on him? What was your best time on him—4.5? (Scout Jon Salge responded with 4.58 at 260lbs) You can't coach that.
SCOUT JON SALGE
(on if they looked at any high school tape to evaluate him as a tight end)
No, first of all this is a player who was above the line as a defensive end prospect. So, we knew we were dealing with a premier athlete from the beginning. I believe we saw enough during practice at the all-star game and during the pro day routes, running routes, sinking his hips, looking fluid/smooth, getting down the field. It comes naturally to him; you can see that. This is not like you are taking a defensive end and making him a tight end for the first time ever—it's almost like he's been playing it all along. Actually, this is a kid who would go through pat-and-go in pre-game with the receivers and backs at SMU. Actually in practice you would see him in their goal-line sets. Obviously, (SMU Head Coach) June (Jones) didn't use a whole lot of goal line stuff, you're going to have to search very hard to find him on the field in a game situation. I feel like in terms of pure athletic ability and traits I saw him catch the ball enough, run enough routes to know this guy has premier ability as a tight end.
HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on if the media has misread a need for improvement at defensive end and on the interior of the offensive line)
I think the offensive line we signed (Steve) Hutchinson, which I think gave us a good feeling going into the draft. We felt like the offensive line we would look at something, so no I don't feel like we were in dire need there. We think we have guys we can win with now, guys who can compete. If we can find a young guy in the draft, so we're good there. What was the other position, defensive end? No, we got the inside guy (Mike Martin), we knew we were going to have at least one defensive lineman, which we did yesterday with Mike. We feel good with where we're at—we're going to pick the best players, like we talked about, we picked five players, and we feel we have guys in all different ways that are going to help this team win. Obviously, the draft isn't the end of building your roster by any means; we still have a long way to go before opening day. So, if we at some point feel there are needs we missed out on then we'll go out and do our best to find guys to fill those roles.
(on if the Titans are still looking to improve at center after bringing in four free agent centers but failing to sign any of the four)
No, I think for us it was more just seeing what was out there. A lot of these guys we wanted to see medically where they were—the older guys, they've been in the league a while. It was to see what kind of fit we thought they'd be, would they upgrade us, would they not, so you're just kind of doing your homework. I think we've done a really good job. Instead of wondering what that guy looks like, what it's like to talk to him and some of the guys we brought in, we brought them in and we spent the time to see exactly what was out there. So, if we decide to do something, if we decide to move a guy to a different position or compete a different way or saw something that really excited us, we were in a position to make those moves in an educated way—not just assuming that off of tape. We wanted to bring guys in, have doctors see these guys and get a feel for them. I think if people assume a lot of things, but also we're trying to find a way to put the best guys on the field. It doesn't mean you're disappointed with what you have; I think you're always trying to find a way to get better. If we thought it was better, we would have done something. So, that's why we are where we are, and not just at offensive line, at other positions we've brought a lot of people through these doors that we're taking a look at for a lot of reasons. We know there are only certain needs you're going to fill in the draft because you don't have a whole lot of control over who you're picking. You're not just going to just pick a guy because you assume that's a need, we have to get guys who are going to help this team in different ways to win. This is just another example of it to me; this is a guy who's going to bring a lot of character to this team, he's just a different type of guy, a different type of athlete that's going to be able to help us in different ways. When we met him we felt that way when he left, that it would be interesting to see if this guy would fit or if we'd have a chance somewhere in the draft to pick him and it just so happened to work that way.
SCOUT JON SALGE
(on if Thompson had a draftable grade at defensive end)
Absolutely, this is a guy—we start this whole process a year ago looking at players who are eligible for this draft. So, he's been on our radar since the summer and even before then. You're getting a really, really good athlete.
HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on if Thompson will work with the defensive line in practice or games) That's the beauty of him. I think we can do a lot of things with him. He's a willing guy. Obviously we're talking about the tight end spot, but again that's the fun thing about him. His personality is he's willing to do anything to help the team win. I just think he's a unique individual. When you meet him, you'll kind of get a better feel for what I'm talking about. I think he's a guy we're targeting on the offensive side of the ball right now, but the point is in a pinch he can do a lot of things for us. Besides special teams, like we said, if something ever happened on the defensive side of the ball he's got experience there. That's something that we're always looking at down the road, but right now it'd be more on the offensive side initially and just kind of see where it goes. See how he can best help us win.