SVP and General Manager Dave Gettleman
Opening Statement: So we were busy. I'm learning to make right turns in NASCAR. So we traded back to 50. We got a third round pick in '22 and picked up Azeez Ojulari, who we are really thrilled to get. He's an edge pass rusher. He's instinctive. He's very bright. He plays hard, and he's got pass rush ability and he's also a solid run player. We're really thankful to get him. In the third round, we swapped spots with Denver and wanted to move up. Obviously we're working on defense and we picked Aaron Robinson, who is a nickel, who has got the ability to play nickel and outside the perimeter, and he's an excellent tackler, ball hawk. He's got all the stuff. So we're really pleased to get these two kids into our program.
Q: Did you ever think you would get addicted to trading back?
A: Let me tell you something, you never know. You never know. You know, listen, it's all about if the opportunity is right. It's about your board. It's about value meeting need. It's all those things. And like I told you guys last week, I've tried in the past and it just hasn't worked. We thought we got just really good value here. And you know, again, it's one of those deals where, for example, we move from 42 back to 50, so that's eight slots and we had five guys there that we would take at 50. The odds are, eight slots, it's five guys, there's going to be -- one of those five is going to be there for you. We've just been able to do that. And then with the value we had on Aaron, I just didn't want to sit and wait. We just felt -- he's a press corner and really fits what we want to do and who we want to be on defense. It's just having the opportunity and it's how your board lines up.
Q: With getting '22 picks -- was that a priority?
A: I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a priority. It was important to us.
Q: Was wondering, what was going through your mind when you saw Azeez keep falling?
A: Here's what I'm going to say to you. You have to have confidence in your ability to evaluate players. So you just turn around and people are missing it for whatever reason and it didn't scare us, that's for darn sure. We're thrilled to get him. You know, it's kind of the same thing when people cut a player. The instinct is to say what's wrong. My attitude is maybe they made a mistake. So it's one of those deals where the fact that Azeez was dropping did not impact us at all in terms of our opinion of his playing ability and what he could do for us.
Q: You guys have invested some real resources in the secondary since last year, the draft picks you brought in, James Bradberry, obviously this year with Adoree' and now Aaron Robinson. How does Aaron fit in there and how close are you to being a finished product on the back end?
A: Where Aaron fits in is he gives us more perimeter muscle, so to speak, and he's also got that flexibility to play the nickel and play the star. We think he's a great fit, obviously, because we traded up, hello, stating the obvious. Captain Obvious. We think he's a great fit for our defense and our back end and we feel like you can never have too many assets back there because players come and go. You have injuries. People will say it's a passing league and it is to a degree. And the other thing that we really liked about Aaron is you do the studies, you do the analytics -- I do do it, people -- and the best defenses have the best tackling secondaries, and Aaron Robinson is a really good tackling corner.
Q: Was Azeez going to be the pick at 42 if you couldn't trade it and was Robinson one of the five guys that you thought would be there at 50 when you did get there?
Q: Yes to both?
Q: That's a good, short answer and now I can ask a follow-up. You said getting picks for next year was important. Why is that? This seems like a team that's poised to make a jump in 2021, why is it so important to get those picks in the future?
A: I think I said this at the pre-draft presser, this draft right now, in terms of unknowns, you have more unknowns than you can shake a stick at. You have kids that didn't play this year. You have a lot of incomplete medical information. It's really kind of an odd draft class. It's an odd year. The NCAA allowed all those players to get another year and a ton of them did. One of the SEC schools, they had 13 kids decide to go back and play next year, 13 kids that could have been in this draft. That was pretty heavy throughout the Power Five conferences. We really have a feeling that next year's draft is going to be really strong and it just gives you options.
Q: You didn't take an offensive lineman in the first two days. Is that because -- obviously the board and need and you think maybe there's guys in the fourth or fifth round you can get, but does it also indicate you like a lot of the guys on your team and you don't have to force anything?
A: No, actually we were looking at offensive linemen for the last two picks, and the value didn't meet the pick, plain and simple. We had one guy we had our eye on, two guys specifically we had our eyes on and they got taken before they got to us. So no, you always want to add, you always want competition. Whether you draft a position or not has nothing to do with how happy you are with that position. It has everything to do with the draft value at the time you're picking.
Head Coach Joe Judge
Q: Can you speak about the importance of getting some edge pass rushing in there? The Giants defense for years, it used to be an automatic with pass rushers and it's been an issue for you particularly on the outside?
A: First off, I was pleased with the progress we made on defense last year with the guys on our roster. We had injuries that affected guys like Zo (Lorenzo Carter) and X-man (Oshane Ximines), and we had some rookies. And obviously we had some rookies had to come in and step up and got good contribution from guys like Jabaal Sheard when they were on the team. So we didn't look at this in the nature of, you know, that we had to absolutely go out there and address something, or else it was going to be dire. We have confidence in the guys we have on our roster. We like Azeez (Ojulari) as a player. We have a lot of experience with him throughout this organization. Marcus Cooper one of our scouts has great relationships with these guys. We put a lot of trust in his evaluations because he gets it know these guys on a deep basis and coincidentally actually three picks came from Coop's area and he has a lot of inside info on these guys. On top of that, you talk about Azeez, the coach he's going to play for, Kevin Sherrer, recruited and signed him at the University of Georgia before he was a freshman. You talk about the other coaches that we have on staff that had to play against him in the SEC, he's always a guy that stood out to them on the field as someone they had to account for. I have a lot of respect for the way (Georgia Head Coach) Kirby (Smart) runs his program. I love those guys down there. I think they play tough and they are well-coached. To be able to add a guy to our team to compete with our current roster, he was a good fit for us. We are excited to have him here but like all other rookies, he's got to come in and compete when he gets here.
Q: With Azeez, it's out there that there was a knee problem and some teams actually flagged him. Where did you guys stand on that?
A: Yeah, listen, I don't think there's a player in this draft or any draft for that matter that doesn't have something that shows up on a board. I trust our medical team, Ronnie (Barnes) and his guys do a great job. We have some of the best doctors in the world who look in these guys and constantly update us on what they think the current risk is. All I can go back to is this guy came back, he played, this guy doesn't miss practices at Georgia. He played with very high effort, high intensity. I'm very pleased with what you saw on tape in terms of the medical expertise. I leave that on Ronnie Barnes and his staff and I let them go ahead and give us the information, and with that information make the decisions.
Q: What did you like about (Aaron) Robinson?
A: A-Rob is a good player. Again we are excited to add him to the program. Going to come in and compete. There's going to be a lot of competition with defensive backs, corners and safeties. Look, this is a guy that jumped out to us on tape and as well as when we were down at the Senior Bowl got to see him in person, sit down, meet with him; I had multiple meetings that week. Got the Zoom throughout this process. So we had a lot of exposure with this guy as a person, and this guy really does, he's got a good personality, he really lights up. This is a guy, he plays on the field and you see when he makes a play, his teammates immediately sprint to him. There's a lot of excitement. You can tell he's got a bond with his teammates, and that stands out with the energy his teammates play with as well. In terms of him as a player, he's a physical player with good traits and gives us versatility to play inside, outside. This guy has some value to play in the kicking game as well. Just the demeanor he plays with, the physicality and his ability to play in both press and off, he'll give us some options how we can use him.
Q: We know about your connection with Kirby and talking about that Georgia program, how much does that help with transition, and is what they do similar to what you do schematically?
A: I would say the answer in terms of the terminology or maybe some of the concepts of the defense, there are similarities to that. It's all basically off the same branch of the defensive tree and philosophy from different coaches in the past. However, it doesn't matter where you come from. None of these rookies have a leg up on anyone. They come in and have to learn our league and system and compete with our vets from on the roster. Just being from a certain school doesn't give anyone a leg up on anything. You have to come in -- the National Football League is completely different from college. You have to learn a lot of things about it: The speed of the game, the tempo of the game. So it's nice that he's from a familiar system, but past, you know, day one install meetings and basic terminology, that's the only jump he'll have on anybody else.
Q: This is obviously not a new world for the Giants, but the way the draft was manipulated the last two days, moving down, you had a fifth round pick you gained and you just traded away, was with the Giants for about 12 hours or something like that. Do you like this a little bit more rock and roll and keeping everybody on their toes?
A: It's making the best decision for the team at the time. We had an opportunity to move down and gain more value because there are a number of players we feel in that range are going to be available, we'll go ahead and look at that option. As you saw with A-Rob, we didn't want to give somebody else a chance to take him at that point; he was a priority for us to get, so we used the pick to trade on up. As I said yesterday, these picks are people and make calculated risks whether you acquire them or give them up. I feel good about what we did today in the draft. I'm sure Dave has got a concussion or something, so make sure we check on him overnight and we'll get back to work tomorrow.
Q: With all the uncertainty, how important were those Senior Bowl meetings?
A: Yeah, I thought they were critical. I really thought Senior Bowl this year did a great job of making sure that everyone got to meet with every player and the set up down there was really phenomenal and not having the Combine, Senior Bowl really replaced the personal interactions with those guys. I don't think you can ever replace getting to see a guy play or work out or compete in person and be able to sit down and look a guy eye-to-eye and really get a feel for them. Zoom is nice. Personal interaction is critical.
Q: What do you remember particularly about the one with Robinson?
A: I just remember he had a very direct personality. You talk to him, he lit up when you start talking football. That's important, again, the passion for the game. I just like direct, honest people and he's got that to him.
Q: What is your relationship like with Kirby Smart and is there a quality in the players that he coaches that stands out? Because you have drafted three guys from there in the last year, whether that's a coincidence or not.
A: Well, I think the coincidence would be that he just coaches really good players. They do a great job of recruiting top talent and develop them over the course of time they are there. Those players work hard and player hard and understand the value of playing old school, fundamental, physical football. That's really what draws to us. Me and Kirby we worked three years at Alabama. I have a lot of respect for him as a person and I have a lot of respect for him as a coach. When you know where someone is coming from, you have a little bit of insight in how you can coach them, okay, what really makes them tick and how they respond in adverse situations.
Q: How critical was weekends like this in determining when you're building your coaching staff, because you have so many assistants that were former college coaches with ties to these major programs. How much did that factor into the hiring process for you?
A: Actually none of it. We have a great scouting staff here, so we didn't anybody in to supersede what anybody is doing. Really, this is a bonus. I hired the best coaches I can find, and it starts with being good people and good teachers.
Director of College Scouting Chris Pettit
Q: A lot of the trading up and down has been the story of the Draft, not something you guys have done much of. Has this process been different than past drafts?
A: No, I don't think so. Since I've been here, like Dave said I think in his presser, we have tried. We've tried to trade up and down before, and it has to work out -- it's worked out this year where we've been able to gain assets and used those assets to gain a player that we really like. I wouldn't say it's any different. Every year since I've been here we've been aggressive in trying to better the team. Just this year, it's working out.
Q: What's that moment like when you trade back from 42 to 50, and Azeez is very much in the conversation at 42, are you waiting every pick or were you sweating it out?
A: We had a bunch of guys that we really liked there and like I said before, you've just got to be patient. You can't get too high or too low and the board will come to you. You have to trust it. When you have a group of guys there, it makes you feel better as the time and picks go by. Azeez was 1 in the group and he was there and he was the right player for us.
Q: You hear a bunch of things about Azeez as a pass rusher, and some people say he's the best pass rusher in the Draft. They don't usually last till 50. So where do you see him as a pass rusher and is he a legitimate edge guy now that you guys added to your team?
A: Yeah, I believe so. The thing that separated I think Azeez from others was he's pro-ready with his hands. He had real good hand use. He's instinctive. The guy has the ability to make big plays in big spots. He's ultra competitive. He has good instincts. He had good hand use for being an underclassman that we liked.
Q: What's your report on (Aaron) Robinson? What did you like about him?
A: A-Rob jumped off, I remember I was sitting here through the pandemic in the office, threw on the UCF tape and his instincts, his toughness and his tackling jumped out to me immediately as I was watching the tape. A little unknown about him, didn't know much, threw the tape on one day and really caught my eye with his competitiveness and instincts. Then we've kind of followed him throughout the process. We had two interviews with him down in Mobile which got to help us know him as a person, most importantly, and then I went down and saw him at his pro day as well to really spend a lot of time with him. I think what immediately jumped off was his instincts, toughness, competitiveness.
Q: Aaron Robinson started his career at Alabama, so that's SEC ties for all three guys this year, most of the guys last year. I think it's pretty universally accepted that's the best conference. Is that why you guys keep going to the SEC or do you have stronger relationships there? More scouts in that area? Why is it the SEC?
A: I don't think we say, all right, this is the SEC we are going to scout it differently than any other part of the country. It's just the way the board has fallen that the SEC players at the time we are ready to pick are the ones we feel best to be Giants. It's a very good conference. There's big people that play fast and tough and we like that. But I don't think it's any different -- we don't scout it any different than any other conference in the league.
Q: We've heard a lot about the meetings you guys had down at Senior Bowl. I meant to ask you last night, I know you guys had a relatively limited group down there, right. I know it was you, Joe, Pat. How many others were down there with you guys?
A: We had other scouts, as well, Kevin Abrams, Tim McDonnell, Marcus Cooper, Brendan Prophett, Patrick Hanscomb and Jeremy Breit was our crew. Just worked out like that. We tried to get the scouts that had the most players at the game. It was tough on us because Senior Bowl is one of our best weeks as a staff, and we had other games going on at the time so our other scouts were spread out over those other All-Star games. So we had a limited crew and we worked and it was a good experience. Senior Bowl did a great job allowing us access to the players which Joe said was really our only limited interaction we could have with players face-to-face. We took advantage of every interview that we could.
Q: The other thing I wanted to ask you is obviously we've all talked about how the 2022 picks are being described as gold. You know how you prepared to scout this year, the challenges that you faced and you met. When you see you guys stacking up picks for next year, what does that mean to your group and the scouts in terms of what may hold next year when you start looking at the Draft?
A: Well, it's exciting. Any chance you have an opportunity to gain really good football players, but I think it's important. I think the number of players that will be in the class next year will be a lot, you know, due to COVID and players going back to school and a lot of the opt-outs. So the more picks we have with more players, more opportunity, really, is how we look at it. It's not going to change how we evaluate or scout. It's just now we have more picks with more players available.
Q: Curious what you would have thought if I told you on like Thursday morning that Azeez would be there at pick 50? Is that something you expected or were surprised by?
A: I wouldn't say I was surprised or expected. I was wishful. I'd be wishful that was a possibility, along with the other players we had in the group there. But I'm really excited to have Azeez. To bring a pass rusher to our defense, another one, another young pass rusher that we can develop, I'm excited.
Q: Usually pass rushers seem to get pushed up in the Draft. Why do you think maybe this year it didn't happen?
A: Well, you know, it's like you see it in drafts, the flows. All of a sudden there's a run on tackles. There's a run on corners. There's a run on wide-outs. You saw it last night the wave of pass rushers went at the end of the Draft and today, they started with a different position. It just comes in flows and you've just got to be patient, like I said, and stick to the board and the guy will be there. You've got to trust it.
Q: So much has been made of Dave not trading in all of his drafts that he's conducted. I wonder if there's been any razzing in the war room amongst you guys? We just had Joe on a minute ago and he was joking that maybe he had a concussion, Dave did. What do you make of all the activity the last couple days and has there been any ribbing inside the room?
A: You could say that there's been a little ribbing. Trader Dave has brought some excitement to the room, so it's been fun. Trader Dave is hearing it from a lot of people throughout the league, so it's been fun. There's been a little ribbing. Like I said, it's not like we haven't tried. Dave said it; I'll say it. It worked out. It's exciting. It gave a little juice. It's been different. The room is different without all our people in it. We were limited to only ten people but there was enough ribbing with the ten people to keep it exciting.