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Ruston Webster, Ken Whisenhunt Pre-Draft Press Conference Transcript

Posted May 6, 2014

GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(opening statement)

I’d like to open up by saying we’ve had a fairly smooth draft process so far. Obviously, a little different this year with the draft being pushed back. We had our scouts in for seven days and then sent them home during the better part of minicamp. They came back yesterday. We have a couple more meetings with them and move forward with the draft on Thursday. I’ll open it up to any questions.

(on his feelings about the number of picks the team has)

I’d like to have more. Like anybody in my position, you’d like to have more picks. We’ll see what happens, but if not we’ll make the most of the six.

(on discussions with other teams to gain additional picks)

That really depends on who’s there when we pick and if teams want to move up for those guys. Really that’s something that will happen more on the clock.

(on his projected options with the 11th pick)

Position wise, I think there will be a fairly broad range [of players to choose]. Most positions will be available at that point.

(on how the changes to Titans’ offensive and defensive schemes have affected scouts’ evaluations of players)

It’s really important that we get the fit right for both the offense and the defense. That’s something we really tried to stress. Ken (Whisenhunt) and Ray (Horton) and all of the coaches have been great about giving us an idea about what they’re looking for at each position. What we are going to do defensively probably opens up some things for us that we didn’t have in the past. It’s sometimes difficult to find a 4-3 end that can rush and play the run. Those are few and far between. This opens up that guy who was undersized for the 4-3 that may be able to play in this defense and give us something as a pass rusher. From that standpoint, I think all our guys are excited about that move.

(on the number of players given first-round grades)

I would say we probably have about 26 or 27.

(on how the additional time before the draft has impacted this process)

We probably danced around with the extra time. The fact that we had a coaching change and went through some turnover pushed everything back for us. This probably helped us a little bit, giving us more time, me in particular, to get into the draft. You have that coaching change and you’re working with Ken Whisenhunt on coaches and next thing you know here’s free agency. You really can’t concentrate on all those things. The way it is now, free agency is going on during all of these workouts, so you have some big college workouts that you can’t attend because of free agency. It probably helped a little bit. For the most part, though, I think everybody’d like to see it happen a little sooner.

(on the feedback he received from linebackers coach Lou Spanos about UCLA LB Anthony Barr and using resources throughout the drafting process)

Our scouts had talked to Lou when they went to the school so really it was nothing new. We use all the resources we can. If Coach Whisenhunt knows somebody that can help us find out about a player, we’d ask him to do that. Just (use) any resource that we have. Lou is obviously a very good one for us for not only Anthony, but all the UCLA players and even some of the guys there in the PAC-12 that he played against.

(on specifying the feedback that he received from Lou Spanos on Anthony Barr)

No, I probably wouldn’t discuss that. It was all good, but I’m not going to discuss it.

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(on differing philosophies with Ruston Webster when evaluating players)

We have watched some film together. We did get time to do that. This year, like Ruston’s said, it’s been a little different because we had minicamp last week and we’ve had some Phase I workouts ahead of time, so we’ve been involved with football. I think that was one of the things that was important to me in this whole process, was that Ruston and I have a relationship. I felt early on that that was going to be the case. Just like with a brother or family member or close friend, you’re not always going to agree and that’s good. That’s healthy. I think it’s important in the discussions that we’ve had between the scouts and the coaches that there’s been disagreement. I think that gives you a better chance of going to a consensus on a player. There have been no disagreements that have caused any concern.

(on how vocal he is in the draft room on draft day)

We haven’t gone through a draft together so I can’t…

(on him speaking up a lot in the draft room in Arizona)

I don’t know what you mean be speaking up a lot, but did we talk? Sure we talked. That’s part of the process.

(on his approach to getting the players he wants in the draft room)

Am I convicted about my beliefs on players from watching tape, from talking with the scouts and the coaches? Sure, but none of that’s a surprise on draft day. Ruston and I have talked about players a number of times already, about players we feel strongly about or where we think things are going to go. We’ve had discussions about all kinds of different players.

(on his general assessment of the quarterbacks available in this draft and the value that they could bring to the team)

I don’t really know what you mean by value. What is value? How do you rate the guy’s production? Value is the production you get out of them. Where you get the guys to me is not really a question of putting a value on them. There are some good quarterbacks in this draft. How they play going forward is going to determine how you look at them.

(on the number of quarterbacks in this draft he projects to be quality NFL starters)

I think we’ve had a similar question to this before. If you can say ‘this guy’s going to be a starter,’ if you can find a guy who can tell you exactly which quarterbacks, you could make a lot of money. I think there are a few quarterbacks in this draft that could potentially be good players in this league, but they have to do that first.

GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(on how many of his projected 26/27 first round grades are quarterbacks)

I can’t tell you that.

(on his 26/27 first round grades being available in the second round of the draft)

There’s always that chance, because everyone has different ideas of who those guys are. Whether it’s top 10 picks or first-rounders, just because we have that grade on them doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t go in the second round. Sometimes that happens, not very often, but sometimes it does.

(on not jumping the gun when picking players, particularly quarterbacks)

You have to build your team. Any team that drafts a quarterback has to have the right team around them. You have to have the right scheme for them. You have to have the right people around them. There’s been many a quarterback drafted that if you don’t have that, it won’t really matter. It’s always tough. There’s a lot of pressure on that, making that pick. There’s pressure if you make it or you don’t make it. I’m sure every team feels that. You also have to build your team around them. That’s important.

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(on the altered timeframe for integrating new players due to the draft affecting new players’ impact)

You’re talking about the rookies coming in? Really, it’s not that impactful as far as time. The draft is happening later, but generally, in the past, around May 16 or 17 was the first time we got a chance to actually work with them on the field, get them in the classroom. We had them for a three-day minicamp, which we still will have. So it really hasn’t changed it from that standpoint. We aren’t getting less time with them this year. It just seems to happen a little bit quicker. Generally the draft happens at the end of April and then you have two weeks before you see them again. This time after the draft they’re coming in. They’ll be here next week. That’s the only real difference. We’ll still have the same amount of time with them. That time is valuable. Whatever the picks are, this period in the next five weeks approximately is really where we have to get a lot of work done. Not only with the rookies, but with our guys who are here already as well.

GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(on the fact that some players, including PAC-12 players, will not be immediately available for workouts at the team’s facility factoring into picks)

You probably have to set that aside and think long-term. Really, some of it depends on the player. If the player can handle the situation of not being here for OTAs and still be okay, then it’s probably not an issue. In the end, you have to put the best players on the field or draft the best players that you can. Most of them adjust. When they get to training camp they adjust quickly.

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(on the fact that during his six drafts with Arizona they only took two quarterbacks and what he liked about those two quarterbacks to select them)

That’s a good question. Six drafts. I think that we just evaluated the quarterbacks based on we had a grade on them. We got to a point in the draft where we felt like they were worthy of the pick or it was a good fit for our team. It’s just like how you do the whole process. That was the way it fit in. That’s the process that you go through. That’s what all this time that you spent preparing for is to evaluate them based on, essentially, a rank. That’s an important piece of it.

(on preparing for the draft as a head coach versus preparing as an offensive coordinator)

There’s more involvement. As an offensive coordinator you’re just worried about those offensive guys. Now as a head coach, you’re responsible for the defensive side of it as well.

GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(on cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson’s development and how it impacts draft decisions)

What we know about Blidi is that he’s got the size, speed, and flexibility to do it. He played well late when he got his chance and did a great job on special teams for us. That’s really where it is. He has the skillset and mindset to be a good player. Potential starter.

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(on finding himself drawn to offensive picks because of his coaching background)

It really doesn’t matter to me, offensively or defensively. You have areas that you feel like you want a chance to improve your team in and whether that’s offensively or defensively if you put a lot of work in, like Ruston and his scouts have done, like our coaches have done, you have a good sense of those players. If they’re available, you’re going to take the player that you think best helps your team. I think that’s the way in teams that I’ve been around, that’s the way in my discussions with Ruston and we believe a lot alike.

GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(on the team’s biggest position needs)

I think we did a nice job of filling needs, to take some pressure off, in free agency, which was our goal and what we tried to do. That’s probably why it’s a little harder to project what we’re going to do. Running back wise, I think I’ve been pretty open about saying that’s something we have to look into taking at some point. I would probably go there, but there are plenty of places where we could take a player that would help us, take a player that would have a chance to start at some point. We feel good about where we are, roster wise, but there are still areas for improvement.

(on the qualifications a running back would need to fit into the offensive scheme)

We never want to drop levels in terms of how we grade them. If we grade a guy a certain way, we don’t want to drop a level to take that player. There are several things that make a good running back. He has to have vision. He has to have toughness. We like versatility in our guy. That’s probably going to fit best into Ken’s offense, a player with some versatility. That’s the way we’re looking at it.

(on quality running backs being available in the middle rounds of the draft)

I think there’s quality throughout the middle rounds.

(on quality linebackers being available in the middle rounds of the draft)

I think typically you can get those guys in the middle rounds. There’s some depth at that spot.

(on the number of underclassmen’s impact on picking players)

It is more difficult. The maturity of the player’s not the same. When guys come to the NFL they get two things: they get more time than they’ve ever had and more money than they’ve ever had. Maturity is a big part in not only what they do off the field, but also how they develop. If the distractions become too big off the field, it affects their ability to play on it. That is an issue for all of the teams. There are so many underclassmen now that it becomes very difficult to get all of that information on every player, but it’s something that you really have to do, have to work on and spend extra time on those underclassmen. You have to make sure that you know what you’re getting, because the maturity factor when they come to the NFL is an issue.

(on giving players second chances)

I don’t believe in not giving guys second chances. You do your research on a player the best you can and hopefully you know him well enough to know really what you’re going to get, despite having made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes, especially at a young age. I do believe that you take everything into account. A lot of what comes into play is really how much does football matter to them, how much does winning matter to them and will they do the things, when they’re in this building, to help us win. Sometimes those off-field distractions can take away from that. In the end, it’s really how important football and winning are to them and will they do the things it takes for us to win for the Titans.

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(on if next year’s draft class affects the moves made in this year’s draft)

This year there was what, 100 juniors that declared?  Or somewhere close to that, I don’t know what the number was but something close to that.  This time last year those guys weren’t in it, so not really.  You never know … There are a lot of guys that you don’t know about right now that might have a great year next year.  There are a lot of unknowns about ’15.  I think we are obviously focused on ’14  and trying to improve our team that way.

GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(on if next year’s draft class affects the moves made in this year’s draft)

It is just hard to predict it.  You think maybe some guy is going to come out early and he doesn’t and that affects the depth of that certain position.  It is just really hard to predict it.

(on the total cap for signing bonuses given to college free agents)

That is a relatively new mechanism, but we do have that now and we work off of that.

(on whether cap on rookie free agent signing bonuses levels the playing field))

I don’t know that it levels the playing field.  Most of the time these guys when they are college free agents they are looking for opportunities, so what is my best chance to make the football team.  If we went out and we drafted two safeties then the chances of us being able to sign a safety no matter what we paid them would be not very good.  I think it always comes down to opportunity when it comes to those college free agents and whether or not they feel they have a chance to make the team.

(on if they are looking to add a college free agent or veteran kicker for competition at kicker)

I think we can look at both of those.  The biggest thing we want to do there is create competition, so that we come out with the best guy.  We have done our work and our special teams coaches have done a great job I think with the college kickers.  We have a great list of free agent kickers that are out there, so we will make that decision and let them battle it out.

(on spending a draft pick on a kicker)

That is always a possibility.

(on how Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard compare with each other)

They are both productive, outstanding football players.  They both played a lot of bump-and-run, man coverage.  They are competitors.  Both of those guys are obviously very good players at their position.  They have had production on special teams as well, two good players.

(on if Gilbert is more of a playmaker compared to Dennard)

I don’t know, Dennard is pretty good.  He is a competitive, tough guy now.  He does a good job.  Like I said, they’re both … Gilbert, what did he have seven interceptions?  He had some kick returns for touchdowns.  They are both very good players.

(on if they lose out on anything by not lying or being manipulative to the media )

I don’t think so.  I think in the end the biggest thing you want to do is get the players right and make the best decisions for your team.  We may not tell you everything, but I try not to straight up lie to you too.

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(on purposely not being forthright in his time with the Cardinals)

I don’t think so.  I think more maybe not saying something about a position or a player, but not ever trying to create a situation where you get the benefit of a player by just telling you something false.

(on his thoughts on Tyler Wilson)

Obviously, we got a chance to work with Tyler last week in mini-camp and we still have a lot of time.  I’m intrigued by Tyler.  I know from watching him in college and scouting him when he came out, there are a lot of things about what he did that we liked.  Obviously, Oakland felt that way too, they picked him high enough in the draft that they had some of those same feelings.  You are always excited to get an opportunity to work with him.  I don’t want to make a judgment on five practices and three days of work.  It is obvious from just what I have seen on the field for a couple of practices that he belongs.  He has the arm.  He can make some quick decisions and make the throws.  How he progresses with that is really going to be up to him.  Obviously, that is a big part of that position.

GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(on how difficult it is to evaluate and project on Johnny Manziel and QBs that don’t “fit the mold of an NFL quarterback”)

I think a lot of it is offensive fit for what you’re trying to do. He doesn’t fit the mold, but I think he’s underrated for what he does, in terms of throwing with accuracy, throwing on time, making good decisions. You’ve all seen him throw it up for grabs some and do those types of things, but the guy really makes some pretty good decisions overall and he probably throws the ball on time better than I thought maybe he would and he’s accurate. He’s got some good players around him. (Mike) Evans is a really good receiver, and if you get it close to him, he’s probably going to make the play on it. He’s bigger than everybody he goes against. I think you have to look for those types of things: timing and accuracy and the ability to make plays and move the team, which he is clearly able to do.

(on what he likes about Blake Bortles)

You know what I like about Bortles, is he’s big, he’s got a strong arm and he’s consistently brought his team from behind. Last year, I think in multiple games, the Louisville game being one, they were down and he brought his team back. That’s something that we always look for, and sometimes you don’t get that with a quarterback if their team is so good they’re usually ahead so they don’t have to do it, but in his case, that’s been something that he’s done really well.

(on former Vanderbilt players Jordan Matthews, Wesley Johnson, Andre Hal and Kenny Ladler in the draft)

You know what? All those guys are good players, and I think they’re all going to get their shot in the NFL. It will be at different levels of the draft, but I tell you, through the years, Vanderbilt has been pretty good (at yielding NFL players). When I was at Tampa, we had several Vanderbilt players that played pretty well for us. People don’t necessarily think of it that way, but typically, those guys end up being pretty good pros.

(on Wesley Johnson playing each position on the offensive line and which one he’s more likely to play in the NFL)

Well, I think there’s a lot of people that probably look at him as a center, and the fact that he’s played all three is a real positive. Maybe he starts at guard and is a project at center or something like that, but he’s a good player and went in at left tackle, and playing left tackle in the SEC East is not easy, and he faced some really good players and held his own.

(on what is intriguing about Zach Mettenberger)

Mettenberger is a big, strong-armed quarterback. He’s got a lot of skills, in terms of throwing the ball. I was at his workout and his knee looked good. He’s made a quick comeback that way. I think they’ve been aggressive with their rehab with him and those guys at LSU do a really good job of getting their players back, especially after ACLs. So I think (he’s) a talented guy who looks like his knee is probably at least on schedule.

(on what is intriguing about Aaron Murray)

Same thing, you know, he’s come along well and worked out, which that’s big when these guys have these injuries, do they go through the workout or not? If they don’t, then that’s kind of a red flag. He went through it and did pretty well himself, so we’ll see, but I would say he’s probably on schedule.

(on if there is anything against AJ McCarron missing a visit to the Titans)

No, not really. I mean, I think, unfortunately, he was unable to come and he let us know. It wasn’t like he just didn’t show up. He let us know ahead of time and we understand that.

(on if the team tried to reschedule a visit with AJ McCarron)

Well, we had another player that we wanted to get in and that we felt like we needed to get in at that time and it was tough getting his schedule and our schedule together because of what we had going on with our coaches, and we had another player that we felt like we needed to get in.

(who was the other player?)

Next question (laughs).

(on evaluating Derek Carr’s arm and his ability to read through progressions)

He’s a very bright quarterback. He’s played in multiple systems. He’s had to learn systems and learn the quickly, got a good arm, got a quick release and is pretty good at throwing the ball on time and is pretty accurate.

(on if the anxiety level on draft day will be different this year as opposed to last year)

Typically, really by draft day, I’m good. It’s this time leading up, getting through this press conference—no, I’m kidding. Typically, for me, it’s kind of that feeling that Coach probably has on game day. You’ve done all the work and the hay is kind of in the barn, so I’m usually a little more relaxed. Now, as that first pick comes up, it tightens up. I’ll admit that, but the day of, I’m pretty relaxed.

(on at what pick in the first 10 will the Titans have an idea of who they’re going to get and if there’s a another team that is key to figuring out the others’ selections)

Yeah, as you get, you have a pretty good feel as you get probably the last three or four picks before you of what’s probably coming down the pipe, but hopefully, we’ll have a good idea of at least where, say the top eight players are going by draft day.

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT

(on if Tre Mason offers enough versatility at running back)

He’s a very good player. Like Ruston said, when you talk about these SEC players that played at a high level like he did, you know, they’ve been trained well. This guy is going against good competition and has been successful and there’s a lot of good qualities about what he’s done, so he’ll be a player in this league and will be a good player in this league.

GENERAL MANAGER RUSTON WEBSTER

(on how many guys have been red-flagged as such that they would not be picked)

I really couldn’t say. We make sure we identify those guys that we have questions on and kind of create a hot list of players that we would take and that’s what the concentration is. We’ll have everybody on the board. We don’t really take guys off for character, but within the board is a hot list of players that we feel like are guys that fit us the best.

(on how Jeremy Hill answered questions about his past)

Jeremy did a good job. Jeremy is a smart, smart guy that’s made some mistakes that he’s had to answer to all offseason and probably before that. He did a good job. He was bright and well-mannered and did a nice job when he came in here. I thought he answered all the questions honestly and did well. 

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