Webster, Whisenhunt Talk NFL Draft at Pre-Draft Press Conference

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GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(opening statement)

Before we get started with draft questions, I want to make a couple of announcements.  The first one being that we picked up Kendall Wright's fifth-year option today.  I spoke with him earlier this morning and let him know that.  He was excited about that as are we.  The second announcement is we are honoring our scout C.O. Brocato by naming our draft room after him.  C.O. has spent 41 years with the club and has been a great influence on a lot of people, including myself as a young scout.  I think it is the proper thing to do to honor him in that way.  I talked to him this morning and he was very honored and very excited and a little emotional.  He is not able to be here at the draft with us, so I had to do that over the phone.  C.O. and I go way back and I have a lot of C.O. stories.  I remember when of the first times I really got to know C.O.  We were in Nebraska and Tom Osbourne was making a speech to us and this was about the time the juniors were coming out so it was tense.  He (Osbourne) was real happy with us and the NFL in general.  Tom was talking and C.O. was sitting in the front row and he slips out.  He just leaves right in the middle of Tom's speech.  I wouldn't say we were intimidated but we were trying to listen and do what we were supposed to do.  I'm thinking where is he going?  The speech is over and we go to the bubble for the workout and C.O. has the hand and arms done, the height and weights, he's done the broad jump and he's done the vertical, and we missed it all.  From then on, when C.O. left, I left.  I followed him and he took me under his wing and I'm always appreciative of that.  That is something that is a big deal to us, and a big deal for our scouts and him and the organization.  With that, I will take draft questions.

(on how much action they are getting for the number two pick)

There are calls and there is activity and there typically is this time of the process.  There is some of that and I think every team has that, including us.


(on if there are any serious talks)*

I wouldn't say there is anything serious.

(on if being at number two there are more concrete discussions on the table)

I think as you get closer typically with being this high and everything that will be involved with the pick, yeah you would have a good idea before you went into it and the draft.  It might happen on the clock, but you would have it decided before then.

(on if you trade for a current NFL player and how that process works with a physical)

That is difficult to do.  There are players traded during the draft, but typically they are not traded for high picks.

(on what it would take to trade out of the number two pick)

I don't know.  I'm open to listening and we are open to listening, but we like the number two spot.  We are real happy where we are.  This is not an exceptionally deep first round.  There might be 16 or 17 kind of legit guys, so it is not real deep.  From that standpoint, two looks pretty good.

(on what the value is to move out of the number two spot)

I think because of the players that are there and potentially there, we have to get the value that will help our team not only now, but in the future.

(on the balance between need and ability)

I think when you are picking two there are several best players there, so it is a little bit different than if you are picking 10 or 12 or something like that.  At two, you are going to have a good grouping of players to choose from and they are all talented guys.

(on drafting a quarterback and if one quality trumps all the others)

I think those are all important and we take them all into consideration.  Obviously and especially if you are picking in the top five there is a level of ability that you expect and I think the mental part of the game is so important for the position that I think those are two very important things, but they are all important.

(on grading Zach Mettenberger against the top draft prospects)

To me my focus having seen a lot Zach obviously, my focus has been on the two guys that are going to be the guys in question, the rookies Jameis (Winston) and Marcus (Mariota).  That has really been my focus and how good are those players, what is their talent level and can they be top-notch NFL quarterbacks.

(on his opinion of Winston and Mariota)

I think they are both really good players. 

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(on his opinion of Winston and Mariota)

We have spent a lot of time with both those young men at their campus, here and there is a lot that goes into it and evaluating that position.  Through the years if you look at the guys that have been picked in these spots there have been some that have made it and played really well and some that haven't.  There is no set formula for it, but both of these young men exhibit a lot of the qualities that you want to see in those guys.  They are both very intelligent.  They are asked to do a lot within their own specific offense as far as checks, identifying things and they both have been very successful.  There are a lot of great qualities with these guys and I'm excited to put the time in and spend it with them and find out about it.

(on if he could work with both quarterbacks and be successful with his offense)

There are elements of which both of these guys do that would fit with what we do that are similar.  That is probably one of the things that I was most surprised about in this process was their knowledge of the game and what they are looking at and what they are having to do.  One of the things specifically talking about (Marcus) Mariota and Oregon is when you run the read option you have to understand the blocking schemes when you are doing one of those plays, where the tackle is going to go, how you are blocking and who you are leaving unblocked.  That takes a lot of manipulation based on the front.  So in a lot of ways it helps prepare these guys for some of the things they are going to have to do at this level.  Then looking at Jameis (Winston) some of the things he did as far as you can even see it on tape if you have watched some of the highlights from pointing out the hots or adjusting his protections.  They played at a high level, they played in big games and I think that certainly help prepare them.

(on if he spent more time evaluating the quarterbacks compared to other prospects)

Well four or five of those guys we had down at the Senior Bowl so we got the unique opportunity to spend a lot of time with them and actually see some of them on the field.  That certainly helped.  We obviously put more time into (Jameis) Winston and (Marcus) Mariota because of their position as far as where we thought they were evaluated.  We have spent time with some of the other guys.

(on if he wished Marcus Mariota would have participated in the Senior Bowl)

First of all, I recognize how hard that was for him after having just finished his season not too far in advance of that.  We feel good about the time that we spent with Marcus.  I think just from the standpoint of spending time with him there in Oregon and going through his tape.  One of the things I really liked in the process was we sent him a book with some information before he came in for the visit with us and we were able to talk about that in our terminology.  So you get a chance to see how he learned which is what we would have gotten at the Senior Bowl.  I feel very good about having the opportunity to spend time with him to evaluate that.

(on if there is a common dominator in quarterbacks that have been taken high and failed)

If I can tell you that, I could probably make some money just being an evaluator of quarterbacks.  You don't know.  There are so many things that go into playing that position and you have a criteria that you think is important for playing that position and you try to evaluate these young men based off of what that is.  Some guys are going to be better in certain areas than they are in others, but that doesn't necessarily guarantee success.  The quarterback gets so much more attention and rightfully so because of what they have to do, but it is intrinsic to every position in the NFL.  If you look at all the positions that are evaluated you go through the same thing with that.   There is just more talk about the quarterback because it is a high profile position.  It is hard to make that transition.

(on implementing elements of the spread offense if they draft a college spread quarterback)

Sure we would.  I think that is a part of it.  I think that is what we try to do with a lot of things.  I think with a young quarterback, obviously one of the things you have to do is you have to push him, you have to test him, challenge him.  That is what these guys thrive on, but you also have to try to do some things they have done well.  Our no huddle offense that we run, some of the things I have seen Marcus (Mariota) do in his offense translate to that.  There are certainly some things whether we get either one of these two young men that you will do to make that transition easier.

(on how much he has to adjust to Marcus Mariota with an NFL system)

The NFL system is what it is, everybody is different.  You have beliefs in what you think it takes in this league to be successful.  A lot of times these players are trying to learn it and adjust to that.  These guys are talented football players.  One of the things when you have high level football competitors and Heisman Trophy winners or quarterbacks that have competed for national championships or won, they want to be better.  They want information, they want to try to get better in certain things.  A big part of that process is trying to feed that part of their competitive nature.  Yeah, we will ask them to do some things that we think are important to long-term success in this league.  But also some of the things they do well now that they are comfortable with you certainly try to incorporate those.

(on evaluating Zach Mettenberger coming out of college) **

We liked Zach.  We picked him in the draft.  We liked him enough that we started him and played him.  We certainly would have liked to have won a couple of games with him playing, but there were a lot of factors involved with that.  Looking back at through the tape, he did some things well.  I think we can all agree on that and he did some things that he can learn from.  I was encouraged by what I saw from Zach.

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(on if Mettenberger is in the mix to be the quarterback along with a rookie quarterback)

I think every situation is different.  I have a lot of respect for Zach and the way he's prepared and the way he's worked this offseason.  Some of the things that you see that were specific to what we were asking him to do he can get better at.  Some of them are technique things that you know he'll get better at.  But I haven't ever changed the opinion of I like Zach. I think Zach can be an NFL quarterback.

(on Mettenberger's attitude this offseason and leading offseason workouts with receivers)

We're limited in our contact with them in the offseason until last week.  From everything I heard up until last week, he had tried to do those things.  He had done a good job.  I like what I've seen the first week.  I understand he tried to organize the workouts the week before we started and actually threw with the guys, and you respect that.  I think that's an important piece of playing that position.  He's been good.  He's been good here in –what is it today, Tuesday – the six days we've had him in the offseason program.  It's good to see these guys interacting with our team.

GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(on the hope of coming out of the draft with a right tackle)

I'd like to be able to do that, yeah.  Last year was so tough with the kind of merry-go-round we had going at tackle.  It made it difficult for the coaches and the quarterback and everybody else to do their job like they needed to do it.  One reason we drafted Taylor (Lewan) was to have stability on the left side and hopefully insure that for the future.  Right tackle is definitely something we'll look at in the draft.

(on how the strengths of the draft match up with the team's needs)

I would say that it's a good group of outside linebackers, it's a good group of receivers, and a pretty solid offensive line group.

(on if the Titans will draft a quarterback with the second pick)

Well, we'll just have to wait and see.

(on if they like any of the quarterbacks after the top two)

I do think that these two quarterbacks are clearly the best two quarterbacks.

(on if the pick becomes the face of the franchise and if the team needs that)

That's what everybody says about the quarterback position, that they're the face.  I don't think they can even avoid being the face.  I think the quarterback, just by the nature of the position, is going to be considered that, especially if he's the player that you expect him to be and he plays at a high level.  It's natural.  Maybe sometimes if you're just a really strong defense and your dominant player is a defensive player, then maybe that person becomes the face, but typically it is your quarterback.

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(on if he still expects the player drafted second overall to be an immediate starter)

Yeah, I mean, I haven't changed off of that.  Whatever player you take with the number two pick, you would expect them to play for you. 

(on if the team can afford to have the second pick on the bench if Mettenberger beats him out)

Depends how many games you win, I guess.  I think the way you look at it, the way this league is going right now – Ruston and I were talking about this before we came in here – I think over the last two years, we've played five, six quarterbacks? … You know, what you want to try and do is create some stability at the position.  You'd like to think you're going to get through a season with one quarterback, but that's not always necessarily a guarantee.  So you would feel good about your situation if that's the way it worked out.

GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(on if more teams are coming to the Titans about trades or if the Titans are being aggressive)

I think it's probably a little bit of both.  It's probably more teams coming to us, but what we do every year is we make contact with a group of teams that we think might be in range for us to trade with.  We do that every year.  So from that standpoint, we've done that, and teams have reached out to us as well.

(on if the Chargers are one of the teams that have reached out to the Titans)

The Chargers are not one of those teams.

(on having a formula for what it will take to get the second pick and if the depth in the first round impacts that)

It is.  It is because I think there's a certain level that maybe you have to be careful.  If you think there's 16 or 17 first-round picks, then I think you have to be careful to go below that.  Those guys, when you trade down, you have to feel like you can get somebody that actually fits your needs and what you're looking for as well.  There may be 16 first-round players, but they may not all fit your defense; they may not all fit.  Maybe some of them are left tackles, which we wouldn't take.  So that even narrows the group a little more.  If there's character issues or injury issues, then that can even narrow it more.

(on Shane Ray's situation)

Clearly it's disappointing, and for him, it's not good.  I think that Shane's a good football player, and I'm sure he's going to end up playing for somebody somewhere.  But this is a key time for him.  I'm sure it's as disappointing to him as it is to everybody because he's fun to watch and is a heck of a player.

(on any scenario where the Titans would draft a quarterback and trade Mettenberger)

Zach would be here moving forward.

(on if the issues of Shane Ray and Randy Gregory eliminate them from the draft board)

We'll just kind of see what happens with them and make decisions as we go.  Obviously, those are really talented players.  So I think at some point, somebody will take them.  But there situation, especially with Shane's happening so closely, doesn't help them.

(on how much more pressure comes with the second overall pick)

I guess the biggest difference is all the attention on the pick, much more than probably what we've had in the past from where we've picked.  But I think I always feel pressure to get it right.  You want to pick good players.  We've put in a lot of time and a lot of effort, made a lot of trips, spent a lot of time with players, spent a lot of time watching film.  So sure, you want to make sure you get it right, and we want to get this thing turned around.  Really, the way you do it is through the draft, and hopefully we can do that.

(on the possibility of still going in a number of different directions with the second pick)

I think it's much easier to narrow the list at two, obviously.  So there you go.

(on how certain they are of what Tampa Bay will do with the first pick)

I'm not certain.  I haven't talked to the Bucs.  I don't know what they're going to do at this point in time.

(on the 33rd overall pick and whether or not other teams will be interested in trading for it)

I'm excited about 33 because there should be a really good player there.  We'll see.  Maybe we'll have options at that point in time too.  But I think 33 can be a really good pick for us.  I'm excited about that.  Really, in this draft, I think picking high in all these rounds is a real plus.  Thirty-three is good.  We have the first pick in the fourth (round).  That's always a coveted pick.  I'm looking forward to it.  I think the draft as a whole, we're going to have obviously the first pick of every round or the second pick, and so it's exciting. 

(on Hakeem Nicks and where Titans are at the receiving position)

Well I feel like we're better. I mean I think that with the guys we've got coming back plus the players we signed in the offseason, I like our depth better. You know, that was a real problem for us last year. You get a couple people hurt, and we just didn't quite have the depth to get out there and do what we needed. So we've made a point to improve that, and I like their attitudes. I like the way the new guys are working. For me, both Harry and Hakeem have been nice gets.

(on wide receiver depth in the draft)

I think it's deep, you know, through the second round. I think it's pretty deep that way with quality players.

(on the decision to pick up Kendall Wright's fifth year) 

Yeah, it was an easy one. It didn't take a lot of thought. Kendall's been very productive for us. He's a competitor. He plays every Sunday, even when he's banged up. He practices when he's banged up. So that was not a hard decision.

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(on the importance of the depth picks in the draft)

I think if you look at where we finished the season, we had a lot of needs that we wanted to address. I feel like the organization has done a good job of getting off on the right foot in free agency, being able to sign some guys that we think can really help us. This is another opportunity to build from that standpoint. I don't think it ends, necessarily, with the draft, but we're going to get an opportunity to get some young players that we think can help us, so that's exciting. I think from a standpoint of competition for getting guys that you think can help build your team, if you look at what we did last year draft-wise, you walk in the weight room now and you've got Avery Williamson. You've got Zach, you've got DaQuan, you've got Bishop Sankey. These are guys that are working, and you feel good about those guys going forward. To think that we're going to get another seven guys that we're going to have a chance to work with, especially where we're picking them, we get a chance to get some impact players, we hope. So I'm excited about it.

(on if it's easier to build a team around an established quarterback) 

I think every situation's different. You've seen some rookie quarterbacks in the last decade that have played well and had success as a team doing that. So I don't know, necessarily, that it would be easy. It'll be easier for us to have more success as we get better as a football team, and that's really what's important.

GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(on if the chances of drafting a running back are lowered after using a second-round pick in 2014 on a running back)

Not really. I mean, if there's a quality back available that we like and deem worthy of the pick and he's the best guy there, then we would consider doing it.

(on if the potential for a franchise quarterback supersedes other needs)

If you think a player's a franchise quarterback, then that supersedes everything else.

(on how the draft day works)

We have the scouts in there, Ken, myself. It usually kind of gets tense as the pick gets closer. We'll have a group of six players, usually. As I said, it'll be a little easier with the second pick, that we're working off of, and if I need the scouts' input, I'll call them over and ask them what they think. The coaches and I will talk. We'll have the coordinators come up, the position coaches, to discuss the pick before we do it and just kind of talk it through. We've done so much of that already. For the last week and a half or so, we've been in meetings with our coaches and our scouts. So I think everybody's opinion's been heard. But I think when it comes down to make the pick, we'll ask the right guys for their thoughts, and then we'll make the pick.

(on what happens if there's a "tie" situation) 

We'll already have decided that. There's no tie situations. We're not flipping a coin.

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(on if you let a quarterback go elsewhere and he becomes very successful) 

I saw an article where you went through and picked all the guys we should've picked over the years at different spots. That's easy to do. You're always going to have those situations where guys play that you don't pick. That's the NFL. So that's the way it goes. I think you put a tremendous amount of work in to prepare for these guys and pick the ones that you think are going to help you the most. So if he goes somewhere else and plays well, great for them.

GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(on ownership and Steve Underwood sharing opinions about the draft)

They've been great. They've allowed us to do our jobs, and they're welcome to share any opinion they want to, obviously. But they've been outstanding with me and Coach Whisenhunt. Having Steve (Underwood) here has been great. I talk to him all the time, just bouncing things off of him. But they've allowed us to do our jobs.

(on how Tampa Bay's decision on quarterback will affect theirs) 

I think we like them both. I think it's really not a factor what Tampa does if we were to go that direction. That wouldn't affect it. What Tampa did would not affect what we did.

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(on if the night before the draft is nerve-racking) 

No. We put a lot of work in. You feel comfortable where you are. You never know what's going to come up. What's really unique now, I think, a little bit different than the way it's been over the years before – I mean, it's been this way for a couple of years – is having round one in one day and then you get, what is it, 18 hours to kind of reevaluate and start over. We're making one pick, OK, for Thursday. And we've got until Thursday night at 7:10 or something like that. So no, it won't be a sleepless night. We feel good about where we are, and I'm excited about it.

GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(on how newly-signed tackle Byron Bell will fit into the offense) 

He's started in the league, and he'll have a good chance to be a starter.

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(on Byron Bell)

He's got an opportunity, yeah. I mean, we went through seven tackles last year. That's tough. We had three guys that came in off the street on Wednesday and started for us on Sunday. That's tough. So the more the merrier. The more guys we can get in here that can compete for the spot, the better.

(on the schedule release and starting the season with two away games)

We won last year on the road. Maybe we can go 2-0 this year if we start on the road. You know, it's a challenge. It's a challenge starting with two on the road. And then we get a home game. But I think it'll give us something to focus our energy on making sure we're prepared for. Listen, we've already got a chip on our shoulder from the standpoint of not having a great season last year. We feel like we've got work to do in order to get a lot of our fans back, so we're working hard to try to do that.

(on the Colts as the first home game)

I really don't think that matters as much. Am I excited that it's the Colts? Yeah, I like playing the Colts. Hopefully, we'll have a little better luck with them this year. But our focus really is on what we've got now, which is trying to get better through the draft and then getting together as a team and trying to grow.

(on the plan after the draft)

As far as when we get the guys in the building, it's tied into when their schools allow them to do that, graduation-wise. We're aware of that for each prospect, but I can't tell you until we draft them. They'll be in the building May 11. May 11 will be the first day they can come in. So the guys that are eligible for that will be here. The rookie minicamp will be that next weekend, and then we'll go from there for the next five or six weeks.

(on Pac-12 limitations and whether Mariota would miss time) 

He's not one of those guys that would be affected by it.

GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(on whether he enjoys this press conference and thinks it's a fun day)

It's good. I love spending time with you guys. No, it's fine. It's fun. To me, one of the big days, for me, one of the humps to get over is to come in here and do this because once we're finished with this press conference, really the draft's the next thing. This is day for me of a lot of meetings. Had a security meeting. I've got a couple more meetings in regard to the draft and the players and this. So it's a big part of things, and no, I actually enjoy it.

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