Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew met with the media on Thursday to discuss a variety of topics, including many related to the 2011 NFL Draft. He provided a good deal of insight into the Lions' mindset going into the draft, and you can find out what he had to say by reading the transcript below (via the Detroit Lions) or watching a video of the press conference.
"We finished up our draft meetings on Tuesday and now we're in the process of going through some scenarios and talking about some players and breaking some ties and that kind of thing. We'll be doing that up until next week. I feel great about the process. I can't say enough about the great job that our coaches and our scouts did in the process. I guess we're pretty much ready to go."
On if he will draft more for fit than best on the board since there are fewer needs
"I think we have a lot more needs than people realize. There are a lot of places we can get better and there are a lot of good players in this draft. Our philosophy has been to take the best player - I don't think that's going to change."
On the differences in how this draft will fall without free agency or teams' ability to re-sign players
"It actually fits in great with our philosophy because it allows us to just be true to our board. We know there's going to be some form of free agency coming forward - we believe that. So it allows us to kind of stick with our board and take the best player and fill in whatever gaps we have to fill in later with a better, quality player."
On prospect of trades during the draft this year and whether they've discussed them with other teams
"I think the great thing about the draft is you don't know how it's going to go - you really have no idea how it's going to all play out. I think the fact that there are a lot of teams that seem to have a need at quarterback could cause there to be more trades in the first round - the first, second round. But you really just never know.
"It's still pretty early in the process, but we have contact with a couple of teams. We can keep our options open; we could go up, we could go back. It could go either way for us, but we make calls on both ends of that."
On if he's confident he can get an impactful player at 13
"We think there's going to be a good player there at 13. To say impactful... players have various levels of impact. I think we'll get a quality player that should be here for a long time.
"Our philosophy - going back to what we were talking about the last couple years - we're not drafting to get ready for the first game of the season. We're drafting for the future of the franchise. We also don't view the draft as a finish line; we're not going to get done with the draft and say, 'Hey, we're all good.' I thought our pro scouts did a great job last year finding players after the draft. Guys like Stefan Logan, John Wendling; two pro bowl alternates that we found after the draft. Young guys like Alphonso Smith, Lawrence Jackson. So we'll keep looking after this process. We don't think that we'll fill all of our needs or take care of all of our personnel problems in this draft; it'll be an ongoing process this year going into next year and years following that. It's a long-term process for us."
On having two first round picks in each of the past two drafts and if moving up is part of his philosophy
"The last two years were unique situations. Obviously we went into 2009 with two first-round picks. Last year there was a player who we felt was an early first-round talent who was dropping down in the draft and we had a very early pick in the second round, which made it a little bit easier. We were able to move into the first round without giving up a pick - just flopping picks in the fourth round and giving up a seventh. Those situations were kind of different and it will be a bit more expensive to get back in the first round this year.
"If you go back to 2009 I think we started off with eight (selections) and ended up with 10. Last year we started off, I think, with eight, ended up with six. We have six now. I don't know if we'll end up with more or less than that, but I think it's a safe bet that we probably won't have the same six when it's all said and done."
On the team having a home Monday Night Football game
"I think it's great. It's great for our franchise, I think it's great for our players who haven't played in some of those games - I know how exciting it is when your whole family can see you play and people you went to grade school with and all that can see you play. The entire league watches that game; it's a showcase for us as a football team and we can show our brand of football to the rest of the NFL. I'm excited about that - it's a great opportunity for us to show off what the Lions are."
On whether there are any updates on QB Matthew Stafford
"He's coming along well. I guess he was in the halftime show at the Georgia spring game; got good reports on that. Obviously we can't talk directly to him, but from what I understand, his rehab is going very well."
On how important player character is
"It's very important. Obviously character and football character and how guys carry themselves, how they prepare, what their work ethic is like, what they do off the field, those guys represent our franchise; so the character aspect of our decision making progress is very important."
On how extensive the process is to evaluate character
"It's very extensive. Our college scouts do a whole lot of work on these guys. We do some work at the pro days; we make phone calls, we'll talk to high school coaches, college coaches, position coaches, people who know the player. We do a lot of research and a lot of work on these players. We spend a lot of time talking to people who know them and who knew them. You can get a lot of good information by following those leads."
On Colorado CB Jimmy Smith
"I had a great talk with Jimmy. After meeting him I felt much better about him as a player. I spoke with his position coach, Ashley Ambrose, who is now coaching at CAL, and he had nothing but great things to say about him. We've done a lot of work on Jimmy and I feel better about him than I did before I met him."
On being aggressive on draft day and whether it's part of the job to take risks
"I think so. I think some calculated risk makes sense. When you feel strong enough and have a strong enough opinion and when you feel confident enough, I think it makes sense to make some calculated risks. I don't think you want to blindly take risks; that's always something to be cautious about.
"For example, Jahvid Best; we really liked Jahvid Best as a player. He was available late, we didn't want to lose a pick to get him and we had discussed that scenario prior to and we contacted some teams and we were looking for a team that was willing to flip with us in the fourth round and not give up the fourth round pick. Several of the teams we talked to wanted us to give up a fourth round pick, we didn't want to do that, and we were finally able to find a team we could agree to make a trade with. That's probably a good example of a calculated risk we think is going to work out great for us."
On the key to handling the chaos on draft day
"I think everything you do before the draft to avoid chaos and you do a lot of planning and a lot of discussion before. It's very rare that we're on the clock and we don't have an idea of who we plan to take and that comes from the preparation prior to from our meetings, from the meetings that we'll have this week, and early next week. We try to get a lot of those questions answered before our draft starts. I think that's the way you can avoid that problem."
On whether the organization is on the same page with which player they want
"I think that's something that's going to come. That's why it's always interesting to me - and funny - when I read that somebody said that we're not going to take an offensive player or we're not going to take a certain player or whatever, because I don't' even know who we're going to take right now, so I'm not sure how somebody else could know.
"It's a process and we're' working through the process right now. We'll have a lot of discussion about those players. There are probably a little bit more than a handful of players who were talking about (at 13) and we'll continue to talk about those players until we make a final decision."
On how far the franchise has come over the past few years
"We've made a lot of progress here I think. Obviously we hired the right coach; I think our scouts are doing an outstanding job; we've improved our personnel; we've got some good, young players and a good young core to work with, but we have a long way to go to get to where we really want to get to.
"I can recall over the last 10 years there being times when we've felt like, 'Hey, we're 6-2 now,' or 'Hey, you know, we beat the Giants in New York and now were...' We're not in that game anymore. We're looking to improve this team every day, every week, every month until we get to our ultimate goal which is to win a championship. We have a long way to go."
On whether the lack of an offseason will factor in to any of their draft decisions
"I think that's something you've got to take into consideration. When you talk about players, you've got to weigh the players with whom you feel very comfortable with not seeing for some period of time and the players whom you don't feel comfortable with in that situation. Whether its character issues, weight issues, learning issues, it certainly is a factor."
On whether it has been strange not having the offseason program begin and free agency take place before the draft
"It is a little awkward because you don't see the players working out and that kind of thing, but honestly for me, I have really been working hard on this draft. Not having free agents visit... It's sort of a distraction when you're in draft meetings and you've got to go spend 15-20 minutes with a guy and you don't know if you're going to get the guy and that kind of thing. I've really been focused on the draft and I've been excited about being able to just focus on this process. It's awkward but it hasn't really effected (me)."
On not having been able to address any needs with free agency before the draft
"As I've said before, with our belief that the best thing to do is to take the best player available, it actually, in a counterintuitive sort of way benefits us. Because I think there will be some form of free agency at some point this year and rather than fill in holes with players who've been passed over for several months, you'll be able to enter that period of free agency and fill holes with a better quality player."
On the excitement of preparing for the NFL Draft
"You know going into this process that you have a certain type of team; and you know when you get done with (the draft) you're going to be a better football team. You have an opportunity to sort of address whatever objective you want to address; if you want to get faster, if you want to get bigger - obviously you would get younger - if you want to get healthier; you're able to make yourself a better football team over a period of days. It's really an exciting time for us as an organization. Our scouts enjoy it; I think everybody in the building is excited about the NFL Draft."
On how he views the four-game winning streak at the end of last season
"I think it was good. I think it was very good for our players; I think it promoted some optimism around our franchise. I think it gave our players some confidence, to be able to beat some of our division opponents late in the season. It was very good I think for our franchise as a whole and I view it sort of as a stepping stone to what's to come."