Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew met with the media this afternoon in advance of next week's 2012 NFL Draft. He touched on several topics, including the Lions' offseason, marijuana issues with prospects and players on his team, his plans for the draft and more. You can check out his comments below. (Thanks to the Lions for the transcript.)
Opening statement: "We finished our meetings this morning. It was a good process. I think our coaches, our scouts, our front office did a great job evaluating these players and we have a good feel for these guys. We're looking forward to this draft - we're ready to roll."
On the importance of not commenting on specific draft eligible players: "I think at 23 especially, it's really important to be cognizant of being careful about who you're talking about and how you're talking about them. We've been through this before; I've been through this process before where you have your heart set on one guy and then somebody's gone because somebody moved up in front of you and took that guy. So we're going to be very careful about who we talk about and how we talk about him.
"It's going to be a very different process at 23 I think than it is at two. So we're going to be careful with that."
On whether the draft is deep enough in certain areas... : "I think in terms of the depth at different positions, it's going to be fine. I think the difference is at two, there's not many ways people can get in front of you to take guys who you like. So you can stand here and say how much you like (Ndamukong) Suh and what a great guy he is and all of that. I think when you start talking about getting down in the 20s and you have a limited number of prospects who you really have a great feel for that fit your organization in a great way, you don't want to pump anybody up or knock anybody down."
On whether there will be more trade opportunities at 23 than in the past when the Lions drafted earlier: "Yeah, I think later... and we haven't had a whole lot of trade talk about our pick in particular, but my experience has been those teams later in the process are getting calls from teams in the second round about moving up. A lot of teams, especially prior to the new CBA, wanted to move out of the first round into the second because there was a significant amount of savings for similar types of players late in the first, early in the second."
On what the ballpark number is of players that fit what they're looking for at 23: "There are probably between four and seven guys that we really feel very comfortable with that are great fits for us and that we're very excited about having."
On whether having three players from the 2011 draft class have drug issues has impacted their evaluation process: "It's just each individual situation. If you go back to our draft process last year, it wasn't much removed from our draft process in 2009 and 2010, and we didn't have those problems in that area in those draft classes.
"We're going to look at each individual situation. We did a lot of homework on those guys last year; we're doing as much homework or more guys this year, but I think every individual situation has to be evaluated that way."
On whether he has addressed DT Nick Fairley, RB Mikel Leshoure and T Johnny Culbreath about their off-field conduct: "I sat down and talked to Mikel and Nick in the last couple of weeks and had some really good dialogue with both of those guys.
"It's unfortunate, disappointing; it's frustrating. We've had talks with our rookie class. Galen Duncan, our Director of Player Development does a great job with those guys; Jim (Schwartz) has talked to them about what we expect from those guys as members of this organization. So it's very frustrating, but we had a good talk about it.
"The League will handle it in terms of the discipline for those guys, but I think they understand what the expectation is going forward."
On whether Fairley, Leshoure and Culbreath's situations have forced them to spend more time talking about potential issues with prospects in their draft meetings: "No, again, like I said before, we talk about that. We talked about 2009, 2010, 2011 and prior to those drafts and the way we discuss it and the way we evaluate it has not changed. Each individual situation is evaluated by itself; each individual person's situation. That hasn't changed."
On whether they can focus on drafting by position since they have more talent instead of targeting the best player available: "It's the best player for us. If a player fits us the best, that's they guy who we're looking to take. I think to a certain degree, as you improve your talent level in certain positions, then you improve your depth in certain positions, it obviously will lead you to try to extend your roster. To answer your question, we're still going to take the best player; we're not going to reach. That's what it's about: it's about not reaching for a particular position. (If) we have a need or something that we perceive as a need, not going past five or six good players to get to a guy that plays that particular position."
On whether they're set on adding a third quarterback in the draft: "We're going to look at all of our avenues as we always do. Obviously the draft is next week and obviously there are going to be a bunch of quarterbacks available next week. If we're on the clock in a particular round and we've got a quarterback that's a value for us there, we would consider taking that player. By the same token, we're not going to try to make that happen. If it doesn't happen that way, we'll go out in free agency and we'll get a third quarterback that way."
On how he values the running back position: "The running back position has been kind of de-valued lately; people don't really view the running back as a key position the way they used to. I think it's a critical position. I think careers are shorter, obviously, but I think it's a really important position on your football team. We felt that way and we drafted that way in the past. I don't share that sentiment that running backs aren't important and you can just grab one whenever and the guy can play. For every seventh-round pick or undrafted free agent that makes it, there's 10 of those guys that don't make it. We're going to look for quality players at every position.
On whether RB Jahvid Best has been able to participate in the offseason program this week: "From what I understand. I saw him in the meeting, but I haven't seen him working out. From what I understand he's doing everything as far as conditioning and working out with everybody."
On how the rookie salary scale has impacted trade value in the draft: "I think it's made it more likely for teams to go up into the high picks. I mean we've sat there, we had the No. 1, one year, we had the No. 2, and you think you can move that pick for a bounty of picks... geez, that word bounty. You think you can move that pick for a lot of value and it was hard to do back then. I think it's going to be easier to do now.
On the depth of cornerback in this draft and whether he's confident that they can draft one later if they don't get one in first round: "We think there are a lot good corners out there. We think the depth at a lot of positions is going to be there in those mid to late rounds."
On his feelings about what the team has been able to accomplish so far this offseason: "The things that we came into the offseason saying that we had to get accomplished, we got most of those things done. Cliff Avril is back, we're still working on a long-term deal with him; obviously getting Calvin (Johnson) extended and knowing we have Calvin Johnson for years going forward is big for us; Stephen Tulloch, the quarterback of our defense is back, we got him under contract. Some other veterans: Kevin Smith, Jeff Backus, Shaun Hill, those guys are critical to our football team, we got those guys back and we got some role players back: (Andre) Fluellen, Ashlee Palmer, those guys are back; Jacob Lacey is a good young player coming into our team.
"The things that we felt like were critical, that we had to get done, we got those things done. It would have been nice to add a guy here or there. We haven't done that in free agency yet, but the draft is the next step in the process. We'll do that, we'll look in free agency, we'll look at trades, waiver claims and we'll continue to add depth to our roster."
On whether the 23rd pick is a pick where you're looking for a starter or more of a developmental player for the future: "It really kind of depends on who it is, but I think we do have a nice young core and we do have the ability now to take guys and we can plan to play those guys in the future. We can take guys on our team and on our roster that don't have to play right away to play that are picks for the future. Having been here through some tough seasons, we've been in situations where we wanted guys to come in who were third- and fourth-round picks and start for us. Fortunately we're not in that situation now. We've got 21-of-22 starters coming back; we've got some good depth at some positions and we're fortunate that we can take guys and develop them as part of our team. Or you can take guys who have defined roles as we said last year; take guys with defined roles on our team play a particular spot that's not necessarily a starter, but the guy comes in with a role on the team."
On whether he is more concerned with Fairley, Leshoure and Culbreath's behavior moving forward than what they've done in the past: "I think that's pretty important. We don't want to see that happen again. It's a big-picture discussion about everything and about how their actions impacted everybody else.
"The point I tried to make to both of those guys was that when Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson get back, they have to answer questions about your behavior. That's something that those guys should understand. That we're standing here talking, not about the draft, not about our plans going forward and our bright future and what we're going to do; we're talking about those guys' behavior off the field and we're all talking about that right now. I wanted to make sure those guys understood that."
On the difference in the approach to the draft this year from last year based on the timing of free agency: "Well, I don't like the lockout situation obviously, but I think that worked out for us in a really positive way last year. We came in and I obviously saw our team differently than a lot of you guys saw it as far as what our needs were. I saw a bunch of needs and I think you guys saw a couple. But we were able to go out in free agency and get better players than we thought we could get at those positions in the draft because that whole class of free agents was available and we felt good about what that market was going to look like."
"This year, obviously free agency, the major part of it has already passed. So it's a little bit different, but we're in a different place this year in terms of our talent level too. I think we're a more talented team now than what we were last year so that helps us too.
"We're going to go into it with an open mind. We're going to take the best players and then if we have to fill in gaps later, we'll do that during the rest of the offseason."
On whether the roster moves of their divisional opponents factors into what they target in the draft: "I think you've got to be on top of your divisional opponents. You've got to be aware of what they're doing to build their team, but we want to find the best players. It's not a question of if they got a tall receiver, we've got to get taller at corner; it doesn't operate in that way. But we're very aware of what they're doing and how they're trying to beat us and we're trying to figure out ways to beat them."