|Senior Vice President and General Manager David Gettleman Pre-Draft Press Conference — April 18, 2019|
Opening: Good afternoon. I would like to begin by thanking our Director of College Scouting Chris Pettit and the staff, Chris Mara, Kevin Abrams, Mark Koncz, Pat Shurmur and the coaches for all of their diligence in putting together this year’s draft board. I really can’t thank them enough. With the college draft a week away, we are coming to the second part of what I call the roster building season. Football is the ultimate team game. While it may be difficult for some to understand, building a roster is not just about collecting talent. It is not just about how fast, strong or talented a player is, but does he fit athletically, intellectually and culturally into what you are trying to accomplish, that is to win a Super Bowl.
Recently, there was an article in USA today written by Dan Wolken. I recommend that everyone read it. What he did was, he was discussing two of the premiere college basketball programs in Duke and Kentucky. The article was written after they had been eliminated from this year’s NCAA tournament. The final paragraph really put what I believe into a nutshell. And I quote: ‘As long as Krzyzewski and Calipari are still coaching, they are going to get their share of the best recruits every single year because of the pathway they have established to the NBA. Both programs have discovered in the tournament that elite recruiting and good roster construction don’t mean the same thing.’
As Lou Lamoriello most recently said, ‘players win games, teams win championships.’
The only major transaction I have not talked to you guys about since the last press conference was about Sterling and getting him extended. Obviously, we feel Sterling is a very important part of who we want to be moving forward. He earned this contract and we are thrilled to have had the ability to get him extended.
This is a pre-draft presser, so let’s talk about the draft. Let the games begin.
Q: You said this is a really strong draft. What about it makes you say that?
A: Frankly, we have pretty much set the board. We are tweaking it a little bit here and a little bit there. The scouts went home. I sent them home for the holiday. It gives me a chance to do some work on my own, some additional work. The board is really basically set. I am looking at it and we have more players rated as first, second, third or fourth-round values that I have had in any draft. This is my eighth draft as a GM. In terms of the volume of players on the board, this is the thickest.
Q: Is selecting a quarterback a priority for you?
A: The priority is to select the best players. Last year, we could not pass up on Saquon. He was the best player in the draft. You can’t do that. We have had this conversation before. Eli is closer to 40 than he is to 25. We can do that math. At the end of the day, we are going to take the best players.
Q: At number six, do you need a gold jacket guy or is that too far down?
A: For me, you are riding on the edge. There are gold jacket guys that never got drafted. That stuff happens. It is still about value. Who is going to give you the most value at that spot? When you start reaching for the need, you get into trouble. You can never have too many good players at one position.
Q: Is it important to look at every pick you guys have, you have 12, that you need to get 12 starters or do you take the approach of looking at first round talent and seventh round talent?
A: If we get 12 starters in this draft, I would have one hell of a time on Cape Cod. All kidding aside, having 12 picks is crazy. One of the things I have talked about is that you don’t want to draft a player that you are going to cut. Every guy you draft, there is a reason you are drafting him and a reason that he should make your club. First, second, third round draft picks at the very least, you are looking for a big rotational player. Everyone talks about the way the league is going down, 65-70 percent of the time you have your defensive sub package in. You can easily make the argument that your nickel is your starter. You can make that argument. Your third wide is your starter. That is what you are looking at. Guys that walk on the field and help you win now. Anything after that is a huge bonus. Earlier, David Diehl was a fifth round draft pick and a 10, 11-year starter. That is what you are looking for.
Q: You mentioned that you have a lot of value in rounds 1-4. Does that give you more flexibility if you want to move around?
A: Absolutely. Obviously, every position is different. There are some positions that are thick throughout. Some positions, it gets thick late. Some positions, you are thick, nothing, thick. It varies. Obviously, when your turn is coming up, you have to give it a look, especially when you have a number of guys that you can look at with equal value at different positions.
Q: You’ve said before that a franchise QB has to be one that you love because it is such an important position. Does that also apply to the second first-round pick? There could be a guy that you like but the value is there. Could you see yourself not being in love with a guy but taking him with that second pick or is this too important of a position?
A: With as heavy as this draft is, to answer that question, we are at 17 so I would be shocked, very surprised if there was someone there that I did not like.
Q: Could it be a guy that you are in love with?
Q: Are you talking about QB specifically?
A: Who knows?
Q: At 17, you said you would be shocked if there was someone there that you didn’t like?
A: A player, yes.
Q: Not a QB?
A: It could be. It could be a corner, a wide receiver. It could be a sports writer.
Q: QB is so important that you don’t want to force it but if he is sitting there at 17, the value might be just too good.
A: The value might be too good for what? If we have a QB rated in the first round, we love him.
Q: Is there a lot of ‘what ifs’? A guessing game?
A: It is so crazy now. You read all the info and you have 85 mock drafts. There are about 20 guys that are in everyone’s first round. History tells you, you can bet the ranch that those guys are going to go. Times have changed. My very first draft, I was an intern with the Buffalo Bills. And Norm Pollum, who recently passed away, he has a legal pad and at that time there were 28 teams. He had 28 teams and 28 names. He turns around and gives it to me. He says take a look. I am looking at it and he says, that is the draft. He had 26 of them. That is when people didn’t have phones and there wasn’t a whole series of smokescreens and lies. And people just kibitzed. At the end of the day, you can’t count on teams taking this guy or that guy. You just have to relax. It is just a process. You relax and see what happens.
Q: Is there a better chance this year of marrying value with the position of need?
A: Yes, because it is about volume.
Q: You said that if you have a QB with a first-round grade, it means that you love him. I am curious if there are traits that lead you to a guy like that?
A: A lot of it is physical ability to play the game. One of the things that I really believe is, this is not taking a shot at anyone so don’t twist my words, please. Being a quarterback of a team in this type of market is a load. It is a mental load. You have to really vet out the background of these guys. Just like being the head coach of this team is a load, being a quarterback is a load, too. It is more than just looking at a guy’s physical talent. It is about his makeup. A lot of you guys were here Eli’s first year. He starts the last nine games of the year and there were a couple games early on, the Baltimore game, where he was what, 4 of 15? Something like that. He is there and then we are playing Dallas in the last game of the year. We are on the six-yard-line going in and we have no timeouts. There is 12 seconds left in the game and he has the cujones to audible to a draw. If we don’t score, we lose the game. You have to have a mental toughness about you to play the position here in New York. Or to play the position anywhere. That is a huge piece of it. It is important. If you don’t think it is, you need to re-think it.
Q: Getting the 17th and 95th picks were a big part of the return in the Odell trade. Any extra pressure knowing that those guys will be compared to him?
A: No, not for me. I don’t mean to make light of it, but no. We are going to get good players with those picks.
Q: You have the 12 picks, two in the first round. You want to get every draft right. Does the draft pick at the top, you said you put extra value on them. Does that put extra importance in getting those right?
A: There is pressure getting it right every year. Even last year, we had five picks. That is all we had. There is no less pressure or more pressure with 12 than there was with five. It does not make a difference what job you have. You have pressure and deadlines. There are people that look at you, I look at you and say, how do you do that? You have a 4:25 start. The game ends at 7:15. You better get your crap in in about 25 minutes but you don’t have time. By the way, the game just ended and you have to run down and get interviews. You guys have pressure. It is what you do. You just roll with it. That is what I do. I don’t feel that pressure.
Q: Is it valuable for these QBs that you evaluate to have handled adversity in the past to see how they have handled it?
A: Exactly. It is a hell of a question. Back in the fall, I was talking to Pat (Shurmur) and we were having that conversation. He said, there are a lot of guys that never had adversity. You will have adversity up here. I don’t care how great a player you are. I could sit down over a year and you could give me any Pro Bowl player. I can make you a 25, 30 snap tape and you will look at it and say that you have to be kidding me, he is getting paid that kind of money. You have to be kidding me, he went to the Pro Bowl. Then, I will make the other 25-minute tape and you will say, oh my God. Everyone has adversity. Everyone. Who is mentally tough enough to say, OK, it happened once, it is not happening again. With a lot of these guys, it is a very legitimate question. You have to dig so deep to see where they have had adversity. It is painful but it is part of the evaluation.
Q: Do you need a defensive playmaker in this draft?
A: You sat there and watched it. We went 4-4 the second half of the year and we had three games that if we make a stop, we are 7-1. Obviously, you can’t have too many playmakers. You talk about roster construction, I have always been a big believer that if you look at the great defenses, they have a lead dog in every level. A legitimate playmaker at every level of their defense. I said it at the postseason presser and I will say it again, we need some defensive playmakers.
Q: Do you have a lead dog on your defense right now at any level?
A: Ogletree. Alec. Our two safeties that we brought in, Antoine and Jabrill. Antoine has been a lead dog. We are getting there.
Q: Upfront is where you think you need?
A: Listen, we are thrilled with B.J. and we are thrilled with Dalvin. We have to keep adding to that mix. The young guys on the outside, Lorenzo made a lot of strides last year. We are getting there. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Q: If you had a QB rated in the first round, is there any reason why you would wait to the second pick to take him?
A: Depends upon who is available. If you would have said that last year, I would have given you the same answer. You would have seen what happened. We will see.
Q: Is it important to have that battery going from defensive tackle to center to QB to RB where you want your lead dogs to be before you build outside?
A: I don’t know. I don’t think football is any different from any of the three other major sports. Strength up the middle is critical. Your lead dog can be an outside linebacker or an outside pass rusher. What you want is talent. That is what you want.
Q: Is between 37 and 95 a place that will be hard for you to watch 60 players come off the board?
A: Yes, it is. It won’t be fun.
Q: What position has impressed you the most in this draft?
A: The wides (wide receivers) are real thick. The offensive tackles are thick. The secondary is thick. Corners and safeties. When I say thick, I am talking about up and down the draft. Rounds 1 through 7.
Q: How does what people in front of you do complicate things and change the dynamic of what you are going to do?
A: We are going to sit there and see what is cooking at six. We will go from there.
Q: Have you had any conversations with the Cardinals?
A: I am not going there.
Q: There are only five teams that pick ahead of you.
A: Look at that, you have done the math.
Q: The guy you pick will be ranked higher or not that much lower at all because you don’t have to. You won’t force that for any position at all?
A: No. You are up at six.
Q: If you don’t have a QB in the top six, you aren’t taking one with that pick, is that safe to say?
A: I am just saying I won’t force a pick. You can’t draft for need. You will get screwed every time and make a mistake.
Q: So a QB is not its own special category?
A: No, it is not.
Q: When you look at this draft, is there a chance you get to six and all of these top stud defensive players are gone?
A: A chance that they are all gone? No.
Q: Do you see a spot this year where there is a drop off?
A: It is a really good draft. I fully expect, if we don’t move, at six and 17, we are going to get a really good player. I am not going to panic. It is going to be a good player. I do not want to sound arrogant.
Q: Do you have your guy right now hoping he is there at six?
A: We have to finish doing the board. We are still screwing around. I have an open mind.
Q: Any gold jacket guys in this draft?
A: Yes. I don’t want to put a number on it. This is a draft that has been well ballyhooed by the volume of players and the depth. It is legit.
Q: What do you think about this QB class?
A: It is good. Thick.
Q: Better than last year?
A: I am not going there. Come on now.
Q: Ernie Accorsi always says that you draft QBs to win Super Bowls. Are there any QBs in this draft that you think are Super Bowl ready?
A: There are a couple of really good quarterbacks in this draft, yes.
Q: What is the level of urgency to land a franchise QB right now?
A: If you put a lot of pressure on it, you are going to make a mistake. I am not going to put a level on that. You let the draft come to you. We went into last season with Eli and thought he had plenty left. He proved that. We will just see how it goes.
Q: What about the level of urgency to get the KC model in place?
A: I said ‘the KC model’, people have been doing that for years. This is just the most recent one. How about the Green Bay model with Rodgers and Farve? He sat two and a half, three years. That is what you would like to do. Eli is a pro’s pro and you guys know that. To allow a quarterback to learn at the feet of Eli, it would be a sweet deal. Kyle (Lauletta) is working on that right now. Don’t forget about Kyle. You would prefer that be the situation. You would hate to take a young kid and just throw him in there.
Q: As you continue to construct this team, do you feel that you can win now and in the future?
A: We won two more games than the team did the year before. Then, you had all those games where we lost by a point, two points. We lost eight games by a touchdown or less. The NFL is tight. A few more players get you over the top and you win more.
Q: You have hit on small college guys before. What do you have to see on film to judge them?
A: A million years ago, I am scouting at Kutztown State and I am looking at John Mobley. It is October and everyone since August was telling me to go to Kutztown, have you been there yet? I said, what do we have here, Superman? So I went and watched John play. The closest Division I school is Penn State. I had to ask the question and I tell the scouts this all the time, if I am watching John Mobley, can I picture him starting at Penn State. That is the litmus test. When scouts talk about DI, II, I-AA, will he start at a big DI program. They all go to big DI programs, so they should be able to answer.
Q: Will you move if there is urgency?
A: Look at my history. I have traded up a bunch of times in Carolina. Last year, we had to sit. We only had the five picks. I was not going to take picks from this year’s draft to move up in last year’s draft. We are going to do what we need to. If the situation calls for it and there is guy there that we feel can really help us but he is a few picks in front and we are not confident or comfortable that he will fall to us, if we feel the need, we will make the move. I am not afraid to do that.
Q: First four rounds are loaded ,would you move some picks in the back and try and get into the first four?
A: It is possible. You may. Anything is possible.
Q: Does that include moving picks from next year’s draft?
Q: How does the dynamic change when you have two first round picks?
A: I have never had that. It is fun. I am excited about it. It is weird. After you make that first pick, you can’t go get dinner. I am excited. You are going to draft two guys that you will have for five years, which is a big help with the cap now a days. I am looking forward to it.
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