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Jets Predraft News Conference

Posted Apr 19, 2012

Transcript of this afternoon's Jets predraft news conference with general manager Mike Tannenbaum, vice president of college scouting Joey Clinkscales and senior personnel executive Terry Bradway fielding questions from Jets beat reporters at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center:

TANNENBAUM: Thank you, everyone, for coming. First I want to start off and send our thoughts and prayers to the family of Jerry Balletta. He was a long-time suite attendant for the organization. He worked at both stadiums, the old one and the new one at MetLife, and he was a prince of a person and he passed recently. He was one of those guys that always built you up on gameday or gave you a hug. He was just a real gentleman and I just want to recognize that and pass along our thoughts to his family.

With that said, I would like to thank everyone in the organization for their tireless work as we prepare for this year’s draft. In particular, Dan Zbojovsky and Kathryn Smith just work literally around the clock helping us get prepared for what we do coming up next week.

This is the next step in our offseason. Obviously it is an important step, but it certainly is not the last. We will never quit looking for players that can help this team win games. So we’re excited about it, I am really excited about the process we have. One of the things that we always pride ourselves on, we don’t care how long you’ve been in the building, we don’t care what your title is, we always look for everyone’s input. I think that helps us make better decisions long-term.

We are also really excited that we have four players — Kyle Wilson, Vlad Ducasse, John Conner and Joe McKnight — who are actually going into their third year, but the for the first time in their careers this week, they are in an offseason program. We really believe in our coaching staff, in this building and for the first time they can be in an offseason program, we’re really excited about that. Although it is early, I’ve been really pleased with the attendance with the first part of the voluntary offseason program. So with that, I will turn it over to Joey.

CLINKSCALES: First of all, I would like to thank my staff, which is comprised of Michael Davis, Jeff Bauer, Joe Bommarito, Matt Bazirgan, Jay Mandolesi, Dan and Kathryn ... and Jim Cochran, who is retiring this year after 14 years of service, so I want to thank him for all his hard work and his contributions. Again, this is what we do in personnel. We’re preparing for this time of the year, the draft, and we’re excited about the process and we’re waiting on next week to get here.

BRADWAY: So I’ve got my stats for you: Scouting department experience, 238 years in the NFL, 181 of those with the New York Jets. This year we wrote over 6,000 reports, that’s scouts and coaches, which is the most we’ve done since we’ve been here. We’ve also scouted 1,450 players, 200 more players than we did last year. And we traveled to 12 more schools, a total of 165 schools. So in addition to the interviews, which were well over 300, a lot of work went into this and we’re excited about the process and we’re ready to go for next week, so I’ll open it up for questions.

On if being less active in free agency this season signals more of a reliance on the draft...

TANNENBAUM: I think we added a couple of players [in free agency], LaRon Landry comes to mind. We are sitting here with 10 picks as of now and we’ll see how things unfold. With that said, these aren’t headlining sort of acquisitions, but guys like Caleb Schlauderaff and Marcus Dixon — and again, Scott Cohen, Brendan Prophett and JoJo Wooden, they do a great job of that. We’ll add players throughout the year, so we’ll keep looking. It’s also who you lose as well and you try to balance those two things.

On how they would rank the pass rusher, safety and wide receiver positions in terms of need...

They are all important, but again, I think what we come back to is those are areas that we certainly could add to, but in addition to that, I think it always comes back to “take the best player.” Go back three years when we had Thomas Jones and Leon Washington and we traded up to get Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene was sitting there in the third round and we traded up for him because, by far, he was the best value. Really, as best we can, if things go our way next Thursday, we’re just going to take the best football player.

On the depth of this year's draft and picking at 16...

There is one thing that I can tell you with 100 percent certainty, that you can quote me on, you can carve it in slate, that when you’re picking 16th, there are 12 players that you have to have, if you’re at 20, there’s about 16, so it never fails. We will be prepared. We’ll have 16 names that we’re comfortable with. Could we slide up or back? We’re certainly going to be open to all scenarios. We’re happy at 16. That’s the cards we’ve been dealt and we’ll maximize those opportunities. It always seems like when you’re sitting there on the board, “Oh, gosh, these are the guys we’d love to have,” it always seems like it is three or four less than where you are drafting.

On having 10 picks meaning they will be more active moving up...

TANNENBAUM: It has already been pointed out to me that it would be mathematically impossible to have less picks than we did in 2009, because with the four compensatories, I can’t trade them. I really don’t know what we are going to do but I do like the flexibility of the 10 picks even though we can’t trade four. Like I said, we’re open to going up or back. That has certainly been our track record, and that just falls back to our preparation, that when we see opportunities, we’ll try to take advantage of them. But again, trading back is also something we’re open to.

On where the strength of this draft is...

BRADWAY: When you look at it, I think there is some pretty good depth at the running back position. Obviously there’s Trent Richardson who is up there but I really believe that are eight or nine running backs that will be sprinkled through the first five rounds that will have a chance to come in and play. The wide receiver group is always a group that has a lot of depth and this year it does, too, not only towards the top but really in the second, third, fourth round, a lot of guys that are either inside or outside guys are pretty good. And then the corner position, I think there are some good corners in this draft. Some guys that can play, not only be starters but can be nickels, be sub safeties, some guys like that.

I’d say the two positions that are down a little from last year, depth-wise, are tight ends and the offensive tackles. Last year I think was a pretty strong year for both of those positions, but I think the numbers at both of those positions have been down a little bit this year.

On how much does need play into drafting players when different positions are close in rating...

TANNENBAUM: I would say that typically that would break our ties. But with that said, I think we could do something in June or July, so our roster won’t be set until it needs to be. But certainly how we perceive our needs, and in what order and the priority, that could certainly change throughout the three days of the draft and it will break ties. But as best we can, and Rex [Ryan] deserves a lot of credit and that’s an Ozzie Newsome principle: Always take the best player, the best you can.

On Tannenbaum’s propensity for trading and if they have to stop him at times during the draft...

CLINKSCALES: Yes. [laughter]

TANNENBAUM: I pride myself on being a good listener, and everyone in that room has a say in the process. We look at trades as win-win. And hopefully the teams we’ve traded with feel the same.

On if the new rookie wage scale makes it more difficult to trade up in the first round...

TANNENBAUM: I think that goes back to supply and demand and how much you perceive you need to be there, the value you put on that. I think that if you have a willing seller and a willing buyer that you can still find landing spots. I know the theories out there that those high picks are that much more of a premium.

On projecting a cornerback as a safety...

CLINKSCALES: First of all, there is a size factor and there is an intelligence factor. I think it is a really hard projection going from corner to safety if the guy is not a real bright guy. So I think that weighs in heavily, and the athleticism. For the most part, on your team, your safety makes a lot of calls in the secondary so that guy has to be able to run the whole defense. I think that’s a big part of it.

On if that transition is more or less difficult than other position switches...

CLINKSCALES: It can be. Every corner can’t play safety. There is a reason why he’s a corner, because of his athletic skillset, so it’s difficult. Is it impossible? No.

On if they need to draft players that will help them in 2012 rather than further in the future...

TANNENBAUM: We want to win for today and develop for tomorrow. Our expectation is that some of these players will come and help us right away. But as I mentioned earlier, the Vlad Ducasses, the Kyle Wilsons, the Joe McKnights who were drafted, now going back three years, we’re expecting those players to contribute this year. To me, in a salary cap system, sustainability really comes from the draft and developing from within. Sure, this is an important draft for us, but it’s also looking at down the road, how can they contribute.

On a lot of predraft visits being DE/OLB and what the need is at that position...

BRADWAY: Well, I think that is a position we’ve been looking at. We’ve got two players in Calvin Pace and getting Bryan Thomas back, and we feel good about both of those guys. We’d just like to add a little depth at that position. Also, I think we need to look at, I think seven of the eight outside linebackers on our board were college defensive ends. That’s just the way it is. There are even some linebackers in college that get projected to safety because of the size factor. I think there is a good number. I think it’s a position that we’d like to get a young guy in there that could play and help us win. If that happens, then we’ll be happy.

TANNENBAUM: Just to follow up on that, too, sometimes we’ll have all of our answers either at Indy or in an on-campus visit, a workout with a scout or a coach. So who comes in here, I know there was one year where we didn’t even draft anyone who came in here. Sometimes that’s for logistical reasons as much as anything.

On offensive tackle not being an area of strength in the draft...

BRADWAY: Well, I think we have some players on campus, including Vlad Ducasse and Austin Howard, that are good players, and Wayne [Hunter] is still here. You look at how Wayne played in the playoffs two years ago, it was pretty good. There were some flashes last year where it was good, too. So I expect him to play better also, so he’s in the mix. As far as the tackles are concerned, all we can do is rate them, line them up on the board, and if it is something that makes sense when it is our time to pick, then we can do that.

Also, it’s a really good year for guards. There are some guards in this draft that normally you might end up with four or five. We have seven or eight in this year’s draft that show up as guys that we think could come in and play.

On what factors are considered for the transition from DE to OLB...

CLINKSCALES: There are a lot of things: athleticism, arm length, intelligence, because it’s not always easy for a guy to play down and then stand up and play outside linebacker. Fortunately, nowadays in college football, with all the spread offenses, a lot of those guys who were down linemen in college were linebackers in high school so the projection isn’t as difficult as it used to be. Those are some of the factors that you look at in making the projection.

On S Mark Barron's coverage ability...

CLINKSCALES: I think it’s pretty good. I mean the kid had 11, 12 career interceptions, he’s physical, he’s tough, he’s very bright, he’s a space player, he can make one-on-one tackles. He has a lot of the skillset that I think every team is looking for at the safety position. I’m not saying that he may or may not be the best fit for this team or any defense that’s running a true man-to-man system, but he has the skillset to really be effective in some of the things we do and other teams as well.

On if Barron played in a similar defense at Alabama...

CLINKSCALES: Well, if you know Alabama’s defense, they run a multiple defense. They play a lot of man but they also play a lot of zone.

On how Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram and Courtney Upshaw would fit into the Jets defense...

CLINKSCALES: Well, Rex would be a better guy to answer that. What we do is we grade them, we rate them, we give him the skillset, but he would have a better feel for that. Coples is a phenomenal athlete. He probably played better as a junior than he did this season. Obviously, Ingram, this was his breakout year, he is a one-year starter. And Courtney Upshaw, they won a national championship, he’s a physical, strong, aggressive player. They all have traits that you like. It’s up to the scouting department and the coaching staff to figure out which of those traits will really be effective for the Jets.

On year three being critical to evaluate a draft class...

TANNENBAUM: Generally speaking, I think that is a pretty good axiom. That was the old Coach Landry to Coach Parcells, and Bill always talked about that with me, that generally speaking, this is more of a guideline than a rule, but three years is a pretty good sense of the trajectory of a player’s career. But as recently as Drew Coleman, it took him a while and obviously he’s done very good things. He’s had a nice career now in Jacksonville.

For us, going back to the draft before, obviously, we came out of there with Mark [Sanchez], that was the most important thing, get the quarterback position established. It was kind of a unique draft in that it was three players but three starters in Matt [Slauson] and Shonn. They’ve done well for us.

But now, in terms of the four players we talked about, Kyle has already been a meaningful contributor. Sometimes I think we get stuck on “Does he start?” Well, the way offenses are playing, the way we play defense, Kyle is really a starter, even though he’s our nickel. For Vlad, this is a critical offseason for him, we have high expectations for him. We think he should help us and contribute. Joe has done some good things for us obviously as a returner. And obviously Conner has done well as a fullback. Each year we just want to keep adding good young players that can be developed by our coaching staff, because you can always lose three or four good players on the other end, either because of age, retirements or because of contracts.

On wide receivers being more prepared because of the spread offenses in college...

BRADWAY: I really don’t think they’re as prepared, because if you look, a lot of the spread offenses, they don’t really run a lot of routes, a lot of the route trees that they run in the NFL. Most of it is a lot of vertical stuff, a lot of short stuff, bubbles, the hitches, the double moves deep, the vertical routes, the post. So really, most of these guys do need some route work when they come in.

We get a chance to do that during private workouts. I think that’s one position where the private workouts come into play a little bit in terms of seeing if a guy can do those things. You know, run a dig, run an 18-yard comeback, run a hook, run a curl, those kinds of things, that they may not had a chance to do as much of in college. You would think that because of the spreads and because they are throwing the ball all over the place that they would be more prepared but there still is a little bit of a learning curve for most of those guys.

On what college position is more prepared to play in the NFL...

BRADWAY: It can’t be tight end because a lot of these spreads are playing without tight ends. That is why you love to go to Wisconsin, Alabama, LSU and Michigan State, because you get a chance to see them line up with two and three tight ends. A lot of these teams don’t even use them, and if they do, like Missouri with [Michael] Egnew and they have done it with [Chase] Coffman and [Martin] Rucker before, they play in the slot so it is very difficult to evaluate those guys. That is a concern going forward, where are all these tight ends going to be.

On drafting a quarterback in the draft…

TANNENBAUM: Sure, we’ve kept four. We could keep four again. I appreciate the fact that you think all three are locks. If the board tells us that we would definitely take one, we have spent a lot of time on some quarterbacks.

On all three quarterbacks not being locks to make the team...

TANNENBAUM: I am just saying that we can keep four quarterbacks and we will just see how the draft unfolds. I would definitely not rule out a quarterback. Going back to the Ron Wolf/Mike Holmgren thing, when you look at Aaron Brooks and just go all the way down the line of all the guys they drafted — Rob Johnson, [Matt] Hasselbeck — they did a great job for a lot of years developing quarterbacks. If you look at their sustainability, that was a bedrock of it.

Again, I am not saying that Greg [McElroy] will turn into a front-line starter but he played well in the preseason. He almost led us against Houston [last preseason] and he has done good things for us. Obviously, he was hurt, but classroom time and he's a hard worker, we are excited about what he can do but I would not rule that out.

On Tim Tebow's versatility and the impact it has on the draft...

TANNENBAUM: He has some versatility. He is our backup quarterback. That is how we are listing him, that is how we are going to carry him on our roster. Again, that could be more like a subtle tiebreaker, knowing he has a unique skillset and athleticism. In terms of how we are looking at our strategy, he is clearly at quarterback for us and that is how we are listing him.

On if the success players have had against the Jets plays into acquiring those players in the future...

TANNENBAUM: That is always a factor, but from where I sit in the world you want to take the long, hard view of things, a long, sober, unemotional view. You know that expression, measure twice and cut once. Those are factors, but I do not think they are outcome-determinative. We felt we lost something in Brad Smith. He did a lot of good things for us. When we lost Brad, in a lot of ways we did not replace him last year. Philosophically, when we hired Rex three years ago, the day he walked in the door he said, “This is hard for us to defend. This gives us problems.” We really never wavered from that principle. If we could have that [Wildcat package] as part of an offense, that is really a good thing to have.

Brad, to his credit, was a tireless worker. He got better. He got very creative along with Bloomy [assistant offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren], they brought a lot of different ideas to Coach Schottenheimer. It was a natural with Coach Sparano and we just felt like it was a really good opportunity for us.

On the assessment of the power running game...

TANNENBAUM: If we don’t use all of our picks on quarterbacks [joking]. I think that is going to be a big staple of who we are — a power running game. That is how we are built. There is an emphasis on that in the offseason program. That is what Coach Sparano and Coach Guge [OL coach Dave DeGuglielmo] believe in. That is what we talked about when they came on board. That will be a big part of our offense.

Bilal [Powell] is another guy we were excited about last year. With LaDainian [Tomlinson], it was hard to get him meaningful reps. We did not make the playoffs last year, obviously that was the bad news. The good news is we were in it to the last game and you are trying to put your best players on the field to win those games. LaDainian, last year, gave us a little better chance to win but we are excited about Bilal. With Joe [McKnight], Shonn and him, we feel good about that nucleus. I would not rule out adding a running back but Bilal can run meaningfully between the tackles in a power running game.

On the emphasis on the running game limiting the need to draft a wide receiver...

TANNENBAUM: No, you have to throw the ball and we have to be able to score points. I think we want to be able to do all those things. I think we could add somebody else to the receiver position at some point. That is not necessarily to say it would be in the first round a week from today but I think that is something we can do certainly at some point. With that said, that means the receivers are going to have to block. We pride ourselves on that — they have to be really effective blockers. With that said, our running backs have to be good pass protectors and that is what makes a good offense go.

On drafting players with off-the-field issues...

BRADWAY: I think the biggest thing is how important is football to them, what kind of workers they are. As we have mentioned before, we do extensive, thorough work on background checks. Not only from the security standpoint, but psychological testing — our interviews are extensive. When we bring a player in for an interview, from the time they land at the airport to the time they get back to the airport someone who is in contact with them has written a full report. That goes for support staff, Mike [Tannenbaum] and Rex [Ryan], for me and JoJo [Wooden], for coaches and anyone that comes in contact with that player. We take all of that information into account. We are looking for good players but we are also looking for good people.

I think really when you look at it, we feel great about Kenrick [Ellis] and what he has done and what he will continue to do here. In the draft we have done a pretty good job of that. It has been a focal point of our selections and Mike has emphasized that. Yeah, there are some guys that deserve a second chance. If we think that is appropriate, based on all the information we have, then we would do something like that. We are pretty tough on them. If they get selected here, we have done our homework and we feel comfortable with the resources in the building, not only on the coaching staff but elsewhere, that the player will have success here.

TANNENBAUM: Just to follow up on that. I think everything has to be within a context. Is it aberrational? Is it repetitive? And as Terry said, do they really love football? We talk about personal character, football character, and then we put the whole thing together. I don’t think we have any hard and fast rule, I think everything is within a context that everyone gets a say and then we figure out where we go from there.

On if they will draft players to complement Tim Tebow...

CLINKSCALES: I think from an offensive standpoint we are lining up in one offense, we have one Jets offense. So with that being said, we want the best wide receiver available, the best offensive guard available, the best tight end available. So we're not going to specifically draft a guy or not draft a guy because of what a particular player might do, especially if he's the backup.

On Braylon Edwards and a possible return...

TANNENBAUM: Braylon's done a lot of good things for us. He's a free agent right now. We'll see what happens. I don’t expect us to sign anybody before the draft, regardless of position. We'll see where that goes heading into May and June. I have a lot of respect for him, and in particular I think the one redeeming thing about Braylon, besides the fact that we got to two AFC Championship Games while he was here — he was a tremendous practice player. There was one time where he disagreed with our officials here and he went in to look at the tape. I've never seen a player do that. He was called out of bounds. He really gave everything he had at practice, so we'll see where we go with him.

On if they are open to a return by Edwards...

TANNENBAUM: Open and not closed [joking]. I would not rule him out.

On drafting Vernon Gholston...

TANNENBAUM: We all make mistakes and we're going to learn from ours. Ultimately, that was my decision. There were a lot of things we liked about Vernon, his measurables, production, and obviously it didn’t work out. Why it didn’t, we’ve looked at that quite a bit. Again, when you go through the things that these guys already touched on — position change, instincts, things like that — there were probably a lot of little reasons, but Vernon gave us everything he had. It didn’t work out and again, we all make mistakes. From where I stand in the world, it's most important that we learn from it and do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

On if drafting Gholston causes hesitation when drafting another "conversion" player...

TANNENBAUM: You look at Bryan Thomas. That was a guy we drafted in the first round that also made a position change, and 10 years later he's still a meaningful player for us. I think generally, we've made mistakes at all positions. You just want to learn from it. Anything you guys would like to add to that?

CLINKSCALES: I agree with you. Any time you are projecting a guy from one position to another position, instincts play a big part of it. You learn from those mistakes, but I don’t think you can be gun-shy about going back to the position because 90 percent of those guys, at some point, teams, especially 3-4 teams, are getting guys that play down that you are standing up.

On if they have more needs going into this draft than in past drafts...

TANNENBAUM: We definitely have needs, but again I think some of the signings like LaRon take some pressure off at the safety position, for example. And there's some development from within. We think some of the guys, like Bilal Powell, I think he's a guy that when you lose a guy like LaDainian, Bilal needs to step up. Vlad, we expect his role to increase. I think, from within, to have sustainability is really important. Guys like Jeremy Kerley have to step up and take a bigger role. We are excited about what his future brings.

Clearly when we modeled our team this year we thought this draft was going to be important to add a couple of guys, and that hasn’t changed. But with that said, from inside as well. The thing about sports that always excites me is, and I have told this to a bunch of guys, there is a Jeremy Lin story in the NFL. Why can't it be in that locker room? Why can't it be Caleb Schlauderaff? There are just countless guys. Why can't it be Ricky Sapp? There are a lot of guys here that we have high regard for and we're looking forward to those being told this year.

On Darrelle Revis' contract situation...

TANNENBAUM: Darrelle's under contract. Darrelle's obviously a really important part of our team, and we look forward to the 2012 season and hopefully accomplishing a lot of great things together. Bringing up Darrelle, Terry was the guy at his pro day and when we came back we talked. We looked at Leon Hall, Aaron Ross and Darrelle, and we collectively thought we had to move up to get him. We're proud that we did that, so that’s where we are.

On if he is receptive to addressing Revis' contract...

TANNENBAUM: I've said all I am going to say about his contract.

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