GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER
First of all I want to start by saying how happy I am with the way the process has worked. For about the last week and a half we have been with our scouts and coaches just solidifying the draft board. We are in pretty good shape there now; we went through every position with every coach and every scout. Our coaches did an outstanding job of doing their work and our scouts are very prepared with any new information that we received over the spring. I think at this point and time we are ready to roll.
(on being locked into Jake Locker last year, but by drafting 20th overall how big of a pool of players are there)
You try never to fall in love with one guy. Jake was somebody that we targeted last year but even in that case you have to be ready just in case that player is not there. So we had a pool of players at that point and time as well. We will do the same thing. We will have a group of six players kind of lined up there how we would take them and when one of them gets taken, somebody else will come on that list and then we will just keep moving up that way. That way there is no panic in the room and probably not too much discussion.
(on if six potential players is a magic number)
Yes, we try to have six guys in mind. We'll put six on there when we start the draft and we will see how it goes.
(on how much gamesmanship there is among GMs leading up to the draft)
I think there is. You just have to be careful really about what you are reading and you have trust your scouts and your coaches and what you have seen and kind of work off of that. I think that has been one of the strong points of the Titans through the years and I hope we continue that. We will rely on our own people and we will make the decisions off the grades we have given the players throughout the year.
(on potentially grading players at a position of need higher)
No, we will grade each player on their own merits of ability and then obviously we would like to get a player of need at a position that we need that has the type of ability that we are looking for. I think we will be careful not to step down a level to take a player of need.
(on if of the pool of six is a specific number for a reason)
Experience tells you one of those guys will be there. I guess the point is for us is to have a pool of players and when somebody drops off that list to have somebody else that comes on it. So we will just keep working the list. If we have six guys and one guy goes off then we put somebody else on it.
(on the consideration to trade up)
It would just depend on the situation and the player. I wouldn't be against trading up, but the problem with trading up is you have to give up picks. We would rather not do that, but it depends on the player.
(on if the team is more willing to trade back considering they only have seven picks)
Yeah, it will just depend, that is a possibility. It just depends on the group of players that are there, how we feel about those players, how many there are that we like, whether somebody wants to trade up to our pick. There is a lot of talk about trading down but somebody has to call you and want your pick. What you have to be prepared to do is just sit there and take a player.
(on if he has made any calls to other teams this week)
Yes, everybody is making calls. It is no different.
HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on the class of interior linemen in the draft)
It is pretty solid. It is kind of looking at what we think are good fits for us if we made that decision at that time to take someone in the first, second or third round. There are some good choices out there; it is all timing to me. It is easy to sit here and say what you would like to have, but the question is what is going to be available when it comes to our turn to pick. Is it really upgrading what we already have in the building? You start going through those factors. Then (you say) do we really need that lineman or would we rather have that DB or receiver or whatever position it would be. It is a good group of guys as there always is with offensive linemen and it is just a matter of what option we have when we pick.
(on the devaluation of guards over the years since himself and Bruce Matthews were drafted high)
(Steve) Hutchinson too, we have another guard in the building, that is a pretty good one that was drafted 17th. It is depressing that the guards have gotten devalued over the years that you think you have to go with the tackle. I think you are just looking for a lineman that is going to come in and make a difference for a lot of reasons. You are seeing some centers now even (Mike) Pouncey a couple of years ago went in the top 20. You are seeing some centers if you're special no matter what position you are playing, you are going to go pretty high in the draft. No doubt obviously since 1982 when I got drafted, I don't think you will see a guard go in the top 10 like Bruce and myself had the opportunity probably ever again.
GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER
(on how many players have first round grades)
Plenty. It is not any different than any other year. We are usually between 21-22 and 25, 26, 27 right in there and that is pretty typical. That doesn't change very much.
(on how close Tommie Campbell, Chris Hawkins and Ryan Mouton are to contributing)
We know that they have the talent to play and play a lot for us. Obviously, they are inexperienced so that weighs into it as well. I do think with the offseason and the work that is going to be done, spending time with the coaches and being in the weight room with Coach (Steve) Watterson and all those things will help them immensely. Tommie has been in here every day and he works hard. I think the offseason work should help them, but the inexperience is a factor.
HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on if Alterraun Verner is better on the outside or at the slot corner position)
I think we are happy with the fact that he can play corner and his versatility with the fact that if we had to move him inside to help us that way that is capable of that also. We are very content thinking he can play corner for us.
GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER
(on what position Verner excels at)
I think when he plays the outside he does a good job, but when has to play in the slot he has the savvy and instincts to make plays on the ball and that is one of the things it takes is that he is a very smart and instinctive football player. That also helps him on the outside too.
(on the purpose of brining in a few of the top wide receivers for a visit)
We are just doing our due diligence. It is a good group. They are not all big, some big, some small, some quick, some guys that run over the middle and make the tough catches and other guys that make you miss and run after catch. We were just doing our due diligence. They are all good players. They all bring something different to the table and they are guys that could be around when we pick.
(on if Kenny Britt's injury makes them look at receivers that can stretch the field)
It is something worth looking at, but it has to be the right guy and he would have to bring something to the table that would be even different than what we have.
(on comparing the different pass rushers in the draft)
All those guys have the talent to be good pass rushers and they're all a little bit different just in the way that they are built and some of their strengths. The bottom line is they all have the skills to get to the passer, so they are good players and if they get in the right spot they should be good players in the NFL. If they get with the right team and right coach they should be good players in the league.
(on if the defensive ends in the 4-3 need to be bigger than the guys coming out that are in the 260-pound range)
I think what gets underrated is you have to look at their traits. I think it is get-off, the ability to make the turn on the quarterback, a burst to the quarterback to finish the rush, the feel for using their hands. They come in all different sizes as pass rushers. They are not necessarily big guys. Some of them are 6-1; some of them are 6-4 and 6-5. It really depends on them having the right traits to pull it off.
(on what he wants from the coaches in the evaluation process)
We want their opinion of the player. I think the one thing is that (Mike Munchak) Munch and I talked about is us all being on the same page, so that when we take a player, the coach liked him, the scouts like him, and we were all together with it. What they can help us with is just scheme-wise how they fit, how we are going to use them. What is the plan for them? The worst thing you can do is draft a guy and not really have a plan for how you are going to use him or how they are going to play and how they are going to fit with your group. That is really the big thing. We go through that with Jerry Gray and Chris Palmer, the position coaches and we talk through that.
(on if he gives each coach a list)
HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(ocomparing the draft process this year and last year)
I think the big difference is I was able to be involved in the pre-combine when the scouts first come in back in February. Last year, I was hired during that time and I was hiring coaches. I wasn't involved at all in the first run through of seeing the possible college draft picks. This year was nice because I was able to spend a week to 10 days with the scouts and start getting a feel for the strengths of the draft and get a chance to know some of these guys. I actually went to the Combine, so I had a chance to watch tape and have a good feel for a lot of these guys. It was a lot easier watching the practice and knowing these guys and certain guys that I wanted to see and meet and spend some time with in the meetings we had with those 60 interviews at the Combine. I had already watched the tape on half of them. I was able to be involved in the questioning of the players more so than I was a year ago. From there for me I think I learned how you watch, something that Ruston (Webster) has done a long time, how you go from watching a group of guys to watching a couple hundred guys. After last year doing it and spending time in the areas that I thought were important. I learned a lot to be more efficient this year on who to watch, where to spend my time on my film watching and again have the second chance to go through this whole process this last 10 days with the scouts and the coaches. Along the way I have been sitting in with the coaches with Jerry (Gray) and Chris (Palmer) and getting a good feel for guys they like and spending more time on guys that definitely fit our system. It just became more efficient by doing it the second time around and I feel very comfortable in a lot of areas, not just the offensive side of the ball, but obviously the defensive side of the ball also.
(on how you come to a consensus on the right players with the staff)
I think it is just people that fit our system and what we are doing. You are looking for players like Ruston (Webster) mentioned already you are watching a guy that may be a great football player that we talk about, but doesn't necessarily fit what we are going to ask him to do. If it is a defensive lineman we are looking for or … I think we have guys at all positions that we want, now it is just a matter of creating competition maybe and drafting somebody we feel can come in and play. When you draft a player, with the 20th pick in the draft or whenever, you want to draft a guy that you have a plan for and that can come in and actually have a chance to play right away and help. You don't want to draft a guy and then go how are we going to use this guy? He really doesn't fit our system, but we should have thought about that before. You kind of start looking through that fit thing and I think that is very productive from a coaching side is to tell you exactly and do a great job of explaining to the scouts when we are upstairs what exactly we are looking for, what the coaches are looking for, the position coaches are looking for, the coordinator because obviously every player doesn't fit your system and what you are asking them to do and what type of guys you want on your team. I think those characteristics are brought up and talked about and I think that is why those meetings are so productive because sometimes you can narrow it down a lot better and get a feel for like what Ruston said at the beginning who those six guys are, we all have a good feel for what we like. When we pick a guy, most of the guys downstairs are going to go, 'oh yeah, I thought that is who we were going to take.' We already have the feel because those are the discussions we are already having, what we are going to be looking for in that first round or the second round or the third round depending on who is left. I think the process is productive over the last two weeks that you feel confident that we are going to get some really good football players and that we are all going to feel really good about it.
GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER
(on how much players can move up or down draft boards this time of the year)
We might move them up a round. We might put one guy over another. But typically they're not big moves. We have multiple grades on these players, and you have to be careful not to ignore those grades and move guys up too far or whatever. Typically, we keep them in the range we had them in. A lot of times it's just stacking who we would take over who. But we will move a guy up a round here or there.
(on shying away from players that don't have a passion for football)
We'll do our research on everybody. We want players that have a passion for the game and are hard workers and are going to be dedicated. That's what we want. But we'll do our research on everybody, and we'll have an opinion on whether or not we can get out of certain players what we need to get out of them. A lot of times, that just comes from their make-up. What's their make-up? That's why we bring these guys in here. That's why we spend time with them. That's why we do all these tests with them and all that, to get a feel for how we feel they'll respond on the next level and do they have the make-up to be what we want them to be.
(on if they take players off the draft board because of off-the-field concerns)
Usually what we try to do is put those guys in a round that we would take the flyer, and then there's some guys where we wouldn't take at all. And we will take certain guys off the board. It won't be very many, but there will be some players that we won't take at all and we'll just move on from.
(on how likely it is that free agent Ahmard Hall will be on the roster in 2012)
We're still working through all that. We haven't made the decision one way or another.
(on potential late-round fullbacks)
You know, fullback is a different position anymore. With all the spread offenses, you almost have to create fullbacks. There's not very many of them.
(on if the job is easier or harder than last year after knowing they were probably taking a quarterback in Round 1 last year)
I guess it makes it a little harder in some ways because you have more options. But in other ways, you have more options, you know? The quarterback thing was our focus last year. There's no doubt. Everybody knows that. We still have positions that we're focusing on, but there's more options than there were last year.
(on if it is easier said than done for everybody "to be on the same page")
No. It actually depends on the atmosphere in the room and the guys you have working in the room. You're always going to disagree on certain players. It's just finding the guys that you have common ground on with the coaches and the scouts. Heck, it might be two scouts that disagree. Just finding common ground on certain guys. You're not going to agree on everybody, but you'll find more than not that you can come to common ground on.
HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on the possibility of the defense playing more 3-4 next year) **
That's not something we've made a decision on right now at all. Going back to the beginning with the 4-3, we're still going to be a four-down (linemen) team. You saw this last year, teams are so interchangeable from down to down, depending on personnel, of going to a four-down look, and you move a guy two feet to the left, and all of a sudden it's a 3-4. So it's not like it's that hard to accomplish. Are we going to be a base 3-4 team? Obviously not. We have some three-down packages—we had that last year. I think Jerry (Gray) did a great job last year of not overloading the players with stuff he likes to do because we had three and four rookies playing at a time last year, actually starting by the time we got to the end of the season. Last year was kind of limited in a lot of things I think Jerry even wanted to do. I thought he did a great job coaching, him and his staff, of not overdoing it so we got the best out of the players we had. Now you take the next step in the offseason, which is the first time we started yesterday, that we can start actually doing some other things. Jerry does a great job of adjusting to the talent he does have. Are there players we're looking at? We just signed (Kamerion) Wimbley. He's comfortable in a two-point (stance) or down. It just allows flexibility. Last year you saw Akeem Ayers rush a little bit on third down and have some success. You want those kind of players that give you those kind of options. In the draft, that's why it leaves you open to more opportunities to choose different types of guys because we have a way of fitting them into our system.
(on the number of sacks he wants to see from the defense next year)
I just want to see wins. I don't think we're looking at sack numbers as far as…When the year is over and you're looking at stats to see where you can improve, there's no doubt—just like the running game—you don't want to be in the bottom of any stat. There's no doubt that we need to improve in that area, and there's a lot of ways to do that. We'll set goals, I'm sure, as a defense at some point of what numbers we want to get to. But if it doesn't equate to wins, it doesn't mean a whole lot. Hopefully some of the things we'll be doing with some of the players we've already brought in will make a difference in how we do in getting after the quarterback. Hopefully in the draft we'll add some pieces to that puzzle also. Maybe by having a big lead in more games, you get more opportunities to rush the quarterback. So there's a lot of things that go into that. But yeah, that's something, as far as the defense goes, obviously you take a lot of pride in those numbers, and that's something we'll work on improving.
(on his confidence to add depth at safety through the draft or free agency)
Probably both. Unfortunately in the draft, you have no control over how it's going to fall. We only have seven picks. Like Ruston said at the beginning, there's some needs that we have, but it's just a matter of can we fill that need at the right time? Is the player there to fit when we have a choice to pick? If not, then you look when the draft's over at other ways to fill that need. That's kind of where it's at. We have some young players, but obviously we need to add more people in certain positions. The first chance we have is the next couple days to see in the draft if we can find some young players that can come in and help us.
GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER
(on if they look at some cornerbacks and think of converting them to safeties)
Yeah, that's a definite possibility. There are guys like that, that play corner in college or play corner and safety in college. Or it's usually the corner that doesn't run as well as a corner needs to run but he still has cover skills. The key is, do they show enough awareness and toughness to make that change? That's definitely one of those things you have to look at. There are good players out there that maybe they just don't quite have the speed to play corner. So we'll look at those guys. We'll definitely give them a hard look.
HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on what he would like to see more of at the linebacker position)
I don't think we need more of, I think it's just playmakers, getting guys that can come in. We'll have some good options in the draft, again, if it fits right when we're picking with what's available. But that's again, the defensive side of the ball, we'll be trying to add guys like that. You mentioned sacks. Well, a lot of times you can get that from the linebacker position. If the guy you draft is a Will linebacker or inside linebacker and has some rush ability, on a base down, a first or second down, he can beat the back on one-on-one pass rush. I think you still get guys that can stay on the field, that can maybe play all three downs and not be a two-down linebacker. You're looking for that versatility. The fact that they can play both Will or Mike linebacker, that's nice to have, especially because of injuries that happen during the year. So you're looking at the versatility, you're looking at a guy that can make plays, you're looking at a guy when you watch tape that maybe brings an energy to your defense. When you watch him on tape, or when you get a chance to meet these guys that have a knack for either creating a turnover or a good leader, bringing those kind of attributes to your team as a linebacker, because those are the guys that are calling the signals. A lot of times, they're the quarterback of your defense, the connection from the back end to the front end. I think you're looking for some of those characteristics that will be a difference maker for our team.
(on if he trusts rookies more after the success of the rookie class last year)
No, I've always felt good. When you draft a guy in some of the positions that we did, you're hoping what happened is what would happen. If you draft a guy last year, other than the quarterback position, but when you get to the positions, when you draft guys that high, you're hoping they can come in and play right away. It's not like college. You're drafting these guys to come in and help this team win, and we're hoping that we can do that this weekend. So I feel really good. I'm excited for them for as well as they played. I hope it's more for the players to see, the expectation when you get drafted of coming in and helping right away. They saw, hey, with the Titans last year, we had three, four, five guys contribute in a pretty big way last year. This draft, hopefully fans get excited about that, that you're going to draft seven guys and maybe three or four of these guys help us in a big way. I think it's exciting. It makes this weekend exciting, knowing that maybe a couple of these guys will make the difference from nine wins to 10 wins or 11 wins or winning the division because of some of the decisions and some of the guys we bring in. I think it just adds to the excitement that it's not like you're having a draft class that you have to wait two, three years to find out if they can contribute after last year we had such a good contribution from most of those guys.
GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER
(on how he evaluates "one-year wonders" especially among defensive ends)
You just try to watch his tape and see what traits he has. Does he have the traits that transfer to the NFL? You have to take the one year under consideration. You have to look at all his plays, all his sacks, see how he got his sacks. Was it one-on-one situations, were they stunts, whatever. So you just evaluate his talent. Does he have the traits to transfer? But you take the one year under consideration. Everybody wants a body of work. You love the four-year starter. I love the four-year starter, but you don't always get that. With pass rushers especially, sometimes you just have to lean toward the talent.
(on his evaluation of the centers in this year's drafts)
I think it's about like it is every year. There's not always a lot of centers. There's not a lot this year. The thing about centers, they come in all sizes and shapes, and a lot of times they're free agents, seventh-round picks, sixth-round picks, not necessarily first-round picks. It's been that way. If you look through the league, it's been that way for a long time. It's a little bit of a different-type of position that way, where a guy that gets picked in the sixth round can end up being a starter; a guy, like we have, that got picked in the seventh round ends up being a starter. It's just the way the position is because it's not necessarily the most talented guy every time. He's got to have the right intangibles, he's got to be smart, he's basically the quarterback of the offensive line, he's got to run things, he's got to be a leader, and he's got to be tough. All those things play into it, and a lot of times that's not the most talented player.
(on how much it helps to now have the ability to carry 90 players on the roster through the preseason rather than 80)
It should be good. It should be good for our coaches. It allows us to sign more free agents after the draft. That should all be a positive in terms of keeping players healthy and being able to just get through some of these games and practices. It should be a big help for us, don't you think, Munch?
HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on increasing the roster size to 90 players)
Like last year, that was real nice last year, especially the skill positions, the receivers, the corners, where these guys run a lot in practice. Now you're saving some legs. You've got more numbers. You're not forcing guys out there to practice that could use less reps. Like Ruston said, in the preseason games, you have more flexibility with guys. If you do have the injury bug at a position, then you have enough guys to get through practice and preseason games. I think it's great for the players to have more guys out and more opportunity to show what they can do and make the team.
(on what it means to have Chris Johnson present at the start of the offseason program)
We're excited for him, for everybody. We had over 60 guys here. We started the program yesterday, and I think we had 63, 64 of our guys here. Great turnout, a lot of energy in the building. They're in Phase One of the offseason program. They're allowed to meet with the coaches and be on the field with Coach (Steve) Watterson with lifting and running. I think it's great. I think it shows his commitment, along with everyone else's, that they're excited about this year. They're realizing the importance of the offseason program for them individually. And obviously if they get better, we get better. I think that's what they have to realize, that there's no place they can be rather than here where they can get as much instruction and be better to play than by what will go on here the next nine weeks. To have C.J. here, as one of the guys, one of our leaders, one of our great players, is a huge plus for us. The fact that everyone's here, and we had a great meeting yesterday, and there's a lot of excitement. We're just getting started, so we're looking forward to these next nine weeks.