Q: Who are you picking?
A: A good player at nine.
Q: In a year like this and with some of the things that went on last year in the NFL, how much more important or different is the way you look at a player's character and behavior when you are assessing them? Has that changed?
A: I think we are always mindful of a player's character and background. That always goes into the equation. It is not really anything new for us. Obviously, like all teams, we have taken some guys on the back end of the roster, more risk-reward kind of situations on the back end of the roster. We are very conscious and have been for a long time about backgrounds and character.
Q: That seems to have changed last year when you guys wanted a lot of clean players… Whereas in the past you would have taken…?
A: The thing you have to think about when you are thinking about these young players is that they are young. They do young kid stuff. You can't just absolutely kill them. You wouldn't have anyone to draft. Kids do kid things and do college things and it happens. If a guy has a long list of issues, that is when you have to throw the red flag in there. Is this guy going to stop? If you have a couple things that college kids do, you can't just throw it away.
Q: Is there anything concrete you do with that or is it just an eyeball test?
A: We do all the background checks and our scouts go out and dig the information that we can. We interview them and try to put it all together and make a decision on it.
Q: Is it kind of three strikes and you are out?
A: Not necessarily, it depends on how egregious the off-field issues are, more than anything else probably.
Q: Last year you seemed to have a guy pegged or a couple guys you thought would be available… Is it more unpredictable being at nine?
A: I think you always have a good idea, but it is always unpredictable. You never know what is going to happen. You can look up and some of those quarterbacks they think are going to be in the first couple picks could be – not off the board until 15 or 20. You never know. I learned that a long time ago in the draft. Funny things can happen, so expect everything to happen.
Q: Last year the wide receiver corps turned out to be a really good group… There are a lot of thoughts that this wide receiving corps could be just as good... Thoughts?
A: I think there are good receivers, just as there were last year. I think that is every year. I think there are good players at every position every year. I don't know if that is a good answer or not, but I think there are good wide receivers…I think there are good players at every position.
Q: Given you have a lot of depth at receiver, would you have any qualms about drafting another receiver?
A: First of all, as soon as you say you have a lot of depth at any position, you don't have depth. I know better than to say that. We will draft the best player available for us. It really doesn't matter what position it is.
Q: How do you look at your offensive line at this point? Do you look at it saying you need to supplement it at least during one day of the draft?
A: Every position. We want to try and upgrade every position as best we can every opportunity we get. Offensive line won't be excluded from that as well.
Q: In your mind right now, what does your offensive line look like? Is Justin Pugh still at right tackle?
A: That is something for Tom. You have to talk to Tom about that. Obviously Pugh has been a starter and is going to be a starter somewhere more than likely. [Geoff] Schwartz is coming back from injury. Hopefully he can fit in there somewhere. What we want to do is get as many good players as we can and create as much competition as we can in the offensive line.
Q: When you are picking as high as you are, is there a sense of a guy having to fit in at a premium position? In the past, you wouldn't have drafted linebacker in the first round, but guys like defensive backs, wide receivers and left tackles… Is that part of your thinking when you are as high as you are?
A: If you draft at nine, whoever it is, is a premium position, regardless of the position that he is. If you draft at nine, it is a premium position, regardless of what it is. It doesn't matter what position. If you draft him at nine, he is a guy you expect to come in and play and play quickly.
Q: Has the profile of offensive linemen changed at all in the last decade at all?
A: We just look for good players. Good profiles. Good players. Strong. Big, strong, fast and smart.
Q: The big lineman from Iowa is a guy everyone seems to love as a guard prospect… What do you see from him?
A: I think he can play both. I think he can play tackle and he can play guard. I think he can play somewhere.
Q: Where do you see him?
A: The coaches will have to figure that out.
Q: How do you look at this group of pass rushers?
A: There are some good pass rushers and edge rushers available. Are you asking me to stack them or something like that? I can't do that, but I do think there are some good pass rushers in this draft.
Q: You haven't made a ton of trades as compared to other teams throughout the years… How do you explain that? Is that the way things worked out?
A: We will keep all of our options open on the draft. We can trade up and we can trade down. That doesn't change. We are not looking to trade just to try to be cute to trade up or down. If we think we have an opportunity to move up, then we will move up. If we have an opportunity to move back, then we will do that as well.
Q: Back around the combine, in regards to Victor Cruz, you said you couldn't think of him as a sure thing… Have you seen anything from him where you can have some kind of certainty of how he will be when he comes back?
A: I don't think you can have certainty. He looks good. He is running pretty good right now. He is scheduled to be back for the opener for us, but until you get out there and turn it loose, you never know what a guy is going to do. He looks great right now.
Q: Are you still approaching whatever he can give you guys next year as a 'bonus?'
A: I am not counting it as a bonus, but I want to be prepared if he is not here.
Q: Is there any change in your perspective in the preparation on your part when you pick ninth instead of 12th like last year and going back to the Super Bowl when you picked last?
A: We just stack the board. Whoever we think the best player is in the first row, it doesn't matter what position, which is how we do it. We stack them the same way. If you pick inside 12 picks, you should get a good football player.
Q: Does the expectation change as far as impact goes?
A: The higher you pick – that is how the system is. If you pick high in the draft – that is the way the whole system is built. If you pick high in the draft, you are supposed to get better players to help you have a better football team. If you are picking last in the draft, you get penalized for being successful. You get penalized, so you get lesser players. Whoever you pick at nine should be a better player than you pick at 32. That is the way the system is and obviously we are picking nine and expect to get a good player. A really good player.
Q: Another general manager said there were eight to ten players who were real difference makers above other guys… Do you have a point in your estimation of how many guys are at a higher level than the rest of the group?
A: I think there is always a break. Everyone in the first row – that is why we call them rows; they are not first round picks. There are natural breaks. There may be eight and then there may be five more players, then there is another break. There are always breaks in the first row where you stack them, but you have to have 32 players in the first round.
Q: Where is that first break?
A: We'll see.
Q: How are you looking at your safety position right now? Do you think it is a position of need?
A: We are not going to make do, just like any position, we are going to try to upgrade that position. Just like the rest of the positions. We are not going to make do. We have some young players that we think have some talent, but we are going to continue to try and upgrade that position as well.
Q: Last year we were saying you needed to get a tight end and you felt confident with some of the young guys… Is it the same thing now?
A: Every position we want to upgrade. We want to upgrade safety. We want to have competition at that position like we want to have at every position and we will try to do that.
Q: Tom talked about the possibility of converting Chykie Brown or Bennett Jackson to safety… Is that realistic in your mind and what goes into that?
A: It happens all the time. One of the best players we tried to get in free agency was the corner from New England. He was a corner and played safety. You see those conversions. That is not new to see something like that happen. That is a possibility as well.
Q: Are [Brown and Jackson] guys who could possibly convert in your eyes?
A: I think so. You never know. You have to experiment in the spring. Obviously you would like to get a guy who has played there and done the job, but you have to be creative in this day and age with your personnel.
Q: You went after [Devin] McCourty, so you wanted to upgrade that position… What happened after that? Do you look at Josh Gordy as a safety?
A: That is what he plays.
Q: What was the plan at that position after McCourty?
A: We thought he was the best player in free agency [at his position] and after that we thought there was a drop off and that is what happened.
Q: Now that Eli is back in the building and he said his attitude is to play the year and go from there… What is your thought on his contract?
A: It is inappropriate to talk about a contract right now. Eli is back in the building. He looks great. He is happy to be back. We are glad he is back. We will address that when it is appropriate.
Q: Do you sense that this a real opportunity for Eli this offseason, given that he is not coming off ankle surgery and he has already been in this offense for a year?
A: Yeah, I am excited. It should be a big year for him. He is not learning the offense. A lot of the players were in the offense last year. He'll get another piece back hopefully with Victor Cruz coming back. The tight ends will have a little bit more experience. I hope the offense – we got [Shane] Vereen, who we think is a good piece to help our offense as well. I think our offense should be a pretty good offense.
Q: Re: Thought process in the signings of Vereen, [Dwayne] Harris, [J.T.] Thomas… What were you after?
A: We were trying to upgrade some positions that we already had. We knew we were going to lose some players. We felt Vereen was a really nice piece. Everyone knows what he does as a receiver out of the backfield, he can run the ball. He is a professional football player back there. He is really good on third down. Really good on any down, to be honest. We thought he would be a nice piece. Went after him and the two linebackers. We thought they were upgrades. They will battle for starting positions. Dwayne Harris, we thought the guy was kind of a four to five tool type player for us. We thought we were getting a lot of players out of one position. We played against him for a long time and he has been a good player for [Dallas]. Hopefully he will bring it over here to us and he will play for us in those capacities.
Q: Where do you view J.T. Thomas's best position?
A: I don't know. It is up to the coaches. He looked like a WILL linebacker to me, but that is up to the coaches.
Q: Are you still hoping to get Stevie Brown back?
A: We are going to keep all our options open.
Q: As one of the teams in the league that isn't quarterback-needy, do you even look at those top two guys?
A: We look at everybody. You never say you aren't quarterback-needy. You can't say those kinds of things. Ralph just said we were deep at receiver and you are saying we don't need a quarterback. I know better than to say something like that.
Q: What is your take on the two quarterbacks at the top of the draft?
A: They are good players. They are both good players. They are both different, but I think they are both, in what they do, I think they are both good players.
Q: Is your expectation that they are going to go one and two?
A: I don't expect anything. Expect the unexpected in the draft. They may not go until 15, who knows?
Q: You have gone offense the last three years in the first round… Does that go into any decision making?
A: I didn't even know that. Whoever the best player is at nine – we are going to pick them.
Q: Do you have any concern over Jason Pierre-Paul not being here for the offseason program and not signing the tender yet?
A: It is voluntary and it is inappropriate to talk about player contracts at this point in time. It is not mandatory that he should be here.
Q: After you get an Odell [Beckham Jr.] and everything that he did in his first season and now you are picking at nine, are there heightened expectations?
A: You always want to get good players in the draft. Some times you hit on a guy like Odell* *and he is a terrific player, but the higher you pick, the better the player should be. When you are picking on the back end, it is obviously not the same caliber.
Q: When you look back at last year's draft, from top to bottom, how do you evaluate it?
A: We don't really look back on that draft that much. We draft them and that draft is over. We are moving on to this draft and we are excited about the players in this draft. We go back after two or three years and look and see why a guy made it or why a guy didn't make it. After one year, it is really hard to evaluate.
Q: Was the approach different in the past two drafts?
Q: This week, have you checked in with Odell and how his hamstring is feeling?
A: I just saw Odell a couple of minutes ago down in the weight room. He looks great and he didn't say a word about his hamstring.
Q: Do you have any injuries that are long-term concerns?
A: There will be a couple guys we have concerns with, but we feel good about the vast majority of our players being ready to go for training camp.