Detroit Lions: Pre-Draft Press Conference Quotes

Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn took questions from local media ahead of the 2016 NFL Draft. Here is what he had to say.

Opening statement: “Thanks for coming out here today, guys. I appreciate everyone’s interest in this year’s draft. I want to take a couple minutes to go over a couple things that I think are important. Really excited to have the players back in the building this week. A lot of excitement around the building and around the team. Really my first chance to meet a lot of the guys. I’ve met a few of the guys over the course of the spring, but this week was the first time to really see a lot of the guys in person, so it was really good. Had a lot of great conversations over the last couple days with a lot of the members of the team.

I want to speak real quickly on Golden Tate. You know, you guys spoke to him earlier today about his trip to Germany and Kuwait on the USO tour. I think that’s a great way for our players and our league to go over there and support our armed services. That’s obviously why we’re here today, is the protection they give us, so I think that’s really important that our players, not just the Lions players, but players across the league take time out of their schedule and do things like that. I think that’s really good on Golden’s part to take time and go over there and spend time.

Next thing, I want to spend a couple minutes here thanking a lot of people. The draft is a continuous, 12-month-a-year process. I know I’ve only been here a little over three months, but the work that the scouts and the coaches and the support staff put in, I think really goes unrecognized, to be honest with you guys. It’s really, it’s hard on families to be scouting guys and coaching guys this time of year because of the hours that are involved, the travel. You know, the area scouts and the regional scouts that work for the Lions put in I’d say close to 150 to 200 nights a year at the hotel. So, picture yourself spending that much time away from your family, it’s hard on those guys. They do a great job, so I really want to thank them for all their time and their energy and their work over the last, you know, year, but really the last three-and-a-half months or so since I’ve been here.

You know, I want to say a couple things about Kyle O’Brien and Lance Newmark, who really, you know, headed up the draft process for us along with their staffs. I think those guys have really done a good job and the transition has been really smooth and I appreciate what they’ve done for me and for this organization in the last few months. Also, the rest of the scouting staff, you know, the pro department plays a big role into the draft strategy and the team needs analysis. Those guys have done a really good job here the last couple weeks, you know, filling me in on what other teams may or may not need and some of the draft strategies other teams are looking at as we get ready for next week.

Now, into the draft. I think this year’s draft is very well-rounded. I think it has depth from Round 1 through Round 7. I think, you know, with our 10 selections we’ll be able to improve our team in the areas of offense, defense and special teams. I think every pick’s important and you obviously want to hit on all your picks, but I think every pick’s important from our first all the way down to our last. As it stands right now, we have 10 draft picks and this time of year is when you’re starting to field calls about moving around in the draft and we’ve definitely had plenty of those here in the last few days. So, you know, we have 10 picks today, we may have 10 picks at the end of the draft, we may have more, we may have less, we’ll see how it goes. But this being my first draft, I’m really excited about it. I really feel good about where we’re at right now in the process. We’re kind of winding things down here, finishing up some meetings here this week and into next week, but I feel like we’re in really good shape and ready for next Thursday.”

On how his various roles with New England have prepared him for his first draft as a general manager: “Yeah, I think at New England I did a lot of different jobs, you know, leading up to the job I’m here today, so I feel like I have an appreciation for everyone’s role in the draft, whether it’s a scouting assistant, whether it’s an area scout or an over-the-top scout, the pro side of things in terms of the draft strategy and the team needs. So, I really think I’ve done a lot of those jobs, maybe not every single one of them, so I feel like I’m at a pretty good position to know what those guys are going through and knowing that everyone’s voice really wants to be heard. I’m trying to do that and take everyone’s opinion on the players and the process into account, and then make the best decision for the Lions.”

On how much more pressure he feels in his first draft as a general manager: “Of course. I mean, there’s more pressure, of course. I’m making the pick. I mean, that goes without saying. It just goes into putting a little bit more work in, you know? Knowing the entire draft from the first round all the way to the seventh round, including the rookie free agents because ideally on the good teams, you get a couple rookie free agents after the draft that make the team. That really helps the balance of the salary cap and having some lower-cost guys on your roster. So, I think dealing with your staff and making sure we break up the positions and making sure certain guys are concentrating on certain positions, but for me, myself is knowing the entire draft from top to bottom.”

On what he learned from being in the draft room at New England: “I think the biggest thing I learned was probably that all the decisions are made before draft day. You know, there’s no big arguments on draft day. The board’s set, you follow the board, you follow what your plan is and there’s really not a lot of discussion about who’s a better player on draft day, either Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Because really all that work’s done in advance, so it’s really a calm room. It’s going to be really quiet and we’ll just let the draft come to us.”

On how big his draft room will be: “The people that will have roles in the draft room will be assigned by me, and I’m not going to give you an exact number, but we’ll have plenty of people in there knowing with each specific role. A lot of things happen in the draft room. We have a draft board that cards need to get moved around, we have people manning the phones for trades, we have other people in the room doing other tasks during the draft, so there’s a lot of moving parts and you do need a lot of hands in there to help you.”

Dec 21, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Lions defeated the Saints 35-27. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

On Head Coach Jim Caldwell’s role on draft weekend: “Yeah, Jim will be sitting right beside me, so I’ll give you that one tidbit. Jim and his staff have been outstanding. You know, I really involved the coaches, which I think is good to do in any organization because the coaches, as you guys have read and you guys have written about them being out a lot this spring. I think that’s a really important part of the process. So, between Jim and all his coaches, they’ve put in a tremendous amount of work and we’ve had a lot of long and really informative meetings about their thoughts on the players and their visits that they’ve done across the country here the last few weeks, so I think it’s really been good. I think the input that we’re getting from the coaching staff is going to be vital and I’ve got to mesh that together with the scouting opinions and kind of make the best decision.”

On the assistant coaches traveling more this off-season: “That’s the new norm here.”

On if the team has any interest in signing unrestricted free agent CB Josh Norman: “I’ve spoken to a lot of agents about a lot of players in the last couple weeks, including the last couple days. I’ll kind of leave it at that.”

On if he has considered trading QB Matthew Stafford: “I haven’t thought about that, and I have no interest in trading Matthew.”

On his reaction to the Titans-Rams draft trade last week: “One of my good friends (Jon Robinson) is right in front of me now, so maybe he’ll give me a hint of who they’re taking.”

On how early draft trades change the process of draft preparation overall: “Yeah, you know, sitting where we are at 16, I think it really gives us some time to kind of look at the 15 picks before us and see what those teams are really aiming for. So, if that happens draft morning, you’re kind of more in scramble mode like, ‘Alright, well now it’s changed.’ You kind of know what the teams are looking for, but now the order’s changed. So, you know, a week before the draft or 10 days before the draft, that gives teams like us in the teens more time to kind of look at the entire scope of the first, say, 15 picks and kind of predict what may or may not happen.”

On the offensive line talent in this year’s draft: “I think the entire offensive line there’s good, quality depth from the first round all the way to the seventh. So, I think this year’s draft is probably much like others. I think you’ve got to really kind of – When you evaluate the draft board, you’ve got to make sure that you have it covered from top to bottom. So, if you don’t get a position you want early, you’ve got to make sure that you have some players that you may or may not like, you know, in the middle tiers, in the middle rounds.”

On the team’s biggest needs right now: “To pick the best players for the Lions.”

On labeling players with ‘red flags’ and ‘pink flags’: “You know, we’re going through that process now. That’s really one of the last things that we do in our process is eliminating guys from the board for those off-the-field concerns. So, we’re actually having meetings about that in the next couple days, so I don’t have an exact number right now. There will be a fair number of guys that we will not consider for character concerns and off-the-field reasons, but I don’t have a firm number right now.”

On how he evaluates players with talent and off-the-field concerns, such as Mississippi DL Robert Nkemdiche: “Yeah, I mean, that’s the draft. You’ve got to evaluate, you’ve got to listen to what your scouts have found from the school, you’ve got to interview the prospect, you’ve got to talk to multiple people about their background and the incidents that may have happened that we all know about and kind of do your own research. So, that’s part of my job and that’s part of the job of the personnel department, is finding those answers.”

On if Nkemdiche is a ‘red flag’ player for this team: “He is, yes.”

On how evaluating draft prospects’ character has changed over the years: “It has. It has now with social media, you know about these guys and what they do off the field. I mean, it’s not a secret that personnel staffs and scouting staffs, they track social media. Some of these kids don’t know that. So, it’s one of those things where everything these kids do on and off the field is really at your fingertips, so you can really find out the bigger stories. Then you’re able to delve into the specifics and when you do the interviews and do your background checks on each prospect.”

On his take on the ‘biggest need vs. best available player’ philosophies: “I think I’ve mentioned this before, I think you’ve got to kind of mesh those two together and really take the best player for the Lions.”

On if a ‘red flag player’ means the team will not draft him: “Not necessarily. If you have a red flag, and that’s not what we use on our draft card, that’s just a generic term that we spoke about, I think it was at the combine, right? That’s just things that we have to consider, the value of the player compared to the risk involved in taking him. So, it’s not like these guys are off the board, you’ve just got to manage the risk and the reward of taking a guy like that.”

On how he factors the possibility of a player retiring early into a prospect’s evaluation: “That’s extremely difficult. I mean, that’s probably one of the hardest things and that’s really only come the last couple years of these guys retiring early. One of the biggest questions that we ask guys is like, ‘Do you love football?’ When you interview guys you can look in their eyes and they truly love it, then that at least tells us that the guy wants to be here and have a career of it. Now, things change. You get into the National Football League, you have a couple concussions and like, things change. So, I mean, that’s a really difficult thing for us to evaluate.”

On evaluating injury risk in draft prospects: “We listen to our medical staff. You know, we have medical meetings about every prospect, whether them being at the combine or not at the combine and they give us some medical evaluation. Then it’s kind of up to me and the doctors to decide the risk involved in taking a player like that.”

On the importance of the draft compared to free agency: “I think the draft is very important. I think it’s the lifeline of your team. You have to do well in the draft, but I think it’s one avenue to acquire players. You know, you’ve got free agency, you’ve got the draft, you’ve got cut-downs, you’ve got waiver wires, I mean, trades. As we all know, there’s multiple avenues to acquire players. Is the draft the most important one? Probably, but it’s not the only one.”

On his strengths heading into his first draft as a general manager: “My strength on draft day is taking all the information and having a plan prior to the draft and then executing that plan. I’m not going to be caught off guard by who is left on the board or who is not on the board. We’re going to have the plan set in place and hopefully there should be no surprises Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”

On the art of trading up in the draft: “That’s a really good question. I think that’s part of, you know, I talked about earlier the pro department doing the team needs analysis, so that’s something that they put together and we review. We’re actually going to review it this weekend about, ‘Alright, well these teams need this position.’ OK, so then we hear a team trading up, you know, ‘Team X is trading up. Alright, I’ll ask our pro guys, alright who are they coming up to take.’ They look at the needs book and say, ‘Well, their top needs are running back and wide receiver.’ We look at our board like, ‘Alright, well, they’re probably looking at one of these three guys.’ So, it’s a thing that you prepare for, but it’s also something that you really talk about at length while you’re sitting there in the draft room when it’s all happening. It’s really interesting. It’s a really interesting part of the process to determine the draft strategy. Will that affect you and affect what I’m going to take in the next pick? Because maybe a player I like is going to now be gone. That’s a really interesting part for me that over the years I’ve really been – You see the strategy of other teams, you take note of that and hopefully you can predict that in the future.”

On if the early draft trades so far may serve as a precursor to what will transpire in the first round: “That’s hard for me to say. I’m not really sure.”

On the value of holding on to a large salary cap space number this time of the year: “It’s always good to have cap space. I mean, I think there’s things that we want to do in the future that we need to reserve funds for and things during the season that come up that we may need money to sign a player here or there. I never want to be in the position where I don’t have resources to go out and sign a player to improve our team.”

On how many team needs he has already addressed: “Right, I think I look at my needs list every day and try to do the best thing I can to evaluate who is available, whether it’s free agency, whether it’s the draft, whether it’s waiver wire and make the best decision for the Lions. It’s not easy to have every need filled this time of year. That’s why the draft happens in April, so you’ve got to evaluate what’s in free agency. Make your plan in free agency, and then when free agency kind of slows down, kind of redo your needs to kind of see what you have left in the draft.”

On why LB Stephen Tulloch is still on the roster: “I have no update on Stephen. We talked about this at the owners’ meetings. He is still on the roster and that’s all I have.”

On why offensive tackle is such a premium position in the draft: “You know, the tackle position is protecting your franchise quarterback for most teams. So, I think it’s a position that’s hard to find. I mean, just go by their height and their weight, like how many 6-7, 6-5, 320-pound guys are walking around Earth? I mean, not that many, right? So, you kind of go into it like, how many guys are there in college football that play that position at a high level? Really, when you look at it there’s many more skill players, receivers, corners, running backs walking around than there are guys that are 6-5, 6-6, 6-7 that can move their feet. So, I think it’s just supply and demand.”

On how acquiring multiple defensive tackles in free agency has factored into his evaluation of that position in the draft:“You always consider the strength of the draft when you’re evaluating the free agent market and I think that’s – Just because we signed a few guys in free agency (that) would never preclude us from drafting a guy at that position in the draft.”