Opening statement: "We have finished up the vast majority of our draft preparation and draft meetings with the coaching staff. Very good process. I think that's one of the benefits of the continuity. You know, coaches know what to expect. I think our scouts know what kind of players we're looking for and I thought the meetings were very, very productive. We're excited about the process and excited about getting going next week."
On if the Lions are down to a top five list for the fifth overall pick: "You know, we certainly have them lined up pretty good, I think. I think we're prepared to make a pick there. Also, as you know, we like to keep our options open. So, we're ready to move back or do whatever. You know, for us right now, we've vetted that part of the process and we're looking deeper into the draft and looking deeper into some other guys."
On the team's needs at offensive tackle and defensive end: "I'm not sure I'm going to acknowledge at offensive tackle or defensive end. I don't like to talk about our needs too much. I mean, you can look at our roster and see places where we might add a player. But certainly that comes into play, you know, places where you feel you can improve yourself."
On how much he follows draft trade rumors: "I follow it. You know, the first part of the question, how much thought do I put in it? None, zero. But I certainly read and keep up on what's going on around the league and what people are saying and trying to glean what some other people might be thinking. I mean, that's always very helpful."
On if he thinks there will be a lot of movement in the draft: "Yeah, you know, I haven't made a lot of those calls yet. We'll get to making those calls this weekend, the early part of next week. I have reached out to a few GMs. You know, that's just something you kind of figure out as you get further along in the process. But it just takes one team that likes a player, that's concerned if that player, that guy's going to make an impact for their football team, and then being concerned about losing him. So, possibly move back or who knows at this point. I think we'll have a better feel for it by next week."
On if other teams' general managers reached out to him: "No, no teams have reached out to me about moving at this point. I made a couple calls yesterday and we'll get further into that process as we go."
On the addition of Senior Personnel Executive Brian Xanders: "He's been a great hire for us. He's really helped us. He has perspective from two different organizations, from Atlanta, from Denver. Sort of a fresh perspective and some fresh energy into our dialogue and he's done some things with the computer system that we're building right now. We haven't launched it officially yet, but we're getting some progress from that, some output from that. So, he's doing a really good job for us."
On if Xanders gives the team different perspectives on current players: "Well, what's interesting really, is to know kind of what they were thinking in their draft room on our guys. You know, we've had a lot of talk about that. He's just been a really good hire for us and just a really good person to lean on with some experience, somebody to talk to. So, he's been good for us."
On how his process of evaluating players' character evolved: "Well, you know, there's a little bit more depth to it. I think there's a lot more information that's accessible now. You know, just through the internet, through media, through Twitter, through social media. So, we've added a couple more layers to it. But it's an important part of the process. It's something you have to keep track of and keep up on and we're doing that."
On how much he takes into consideration a player's floor and ceiling: "Yeah, at the top I think that's really important. You know, I think it's really important. You certainly want guys with that high ceiling. But it's also important to make sure you're getting a solid player you can have around for a long time. It may not be the best place to swing for the fence. You know, you might not want to be Dave Kingman at five. You might really just get on base, if you know what I mean."
On how much more certainty there is with the fifth overall pick: "I think, you know, when you're at five, you can have a pretty good idea of six, seven names that might be there at five. When you're at 36, it's a little bit more wide open. So, you've got to be prepared to go a lot of different directions there."
On if the fifth overall pick has to start the first year: "I think you expect that at five. I think that's an expectation."
On Central Michigan T Eric Fisher: "Well, there's one thing I know about him. He definitely would like to be here. You know, I had an opportunity to spend some time with him and he's excited about the Detroit Lions and excited about the possibility of being able to stay home. From a talent standpoint, he's a very talented guy as you know. I think he's come a long way from the beginning of last season in terms of his perceptions around the league. But we had an opportunity to be around him. We met with him at the combine, spent some time with him at the Senior Bowl. Great young man and a very talented young man."
On if this is the most wide open top five draft scenario he has experienced: "There's a lot going on right now. You know, I think what happens in this process as you get closer to Thursday, some things start to crystalize a little bit. I think there's a lot going on, there's a lot of rumors, speculation. You know, are we going to trade up to one? Which is not going to happen. So, you know, I think there is a lot of speculation right now because, as you said, you don't have those seven immediate, impact starters that change your franchise at the top of this draft. You have a bunch of good quality players and that's why I think there's so much speculation about it."
On if he laughed at the moving up to the number one pick rumor: "I never laugh. I just read and then read something else."
On the uncertainty of other teams' picks: "I think there are a lot of new GMs who, you know, there's not necessarily a track record we can go back and look at what they've done in past situations. I think that's a part of the process too and that's one reason why it's a lot more wide open right now."
On if the Lions have done any mock drafts: "No, we haven't. Not collectively, we haven't."
On how his draft process has changed this year with new coaching additions: "It hasn't really changed. I mean, we involve everybody. It's a collaborative effort. We all get together. Every assistant has an opportunity to read his reports and talk about his players and how he would stack them. I really rely on the head coach and the coordinators more so than the assistant coaches. That's always the way that I've done it. You know, those guys are the same guys, and so the process as far as that collaboration has been pretty consistent."
On Alabama CB Dee Milliner: "Well, you know, he's the elusive, big corner. Everybody's trying to find that guy. You know, we've been here for years talking about these guys and trying to find a guy with some size and he certainly fits that mold. I hear people, over the years, have always said you need a corner that's big with some speed and some coverage ability who is good at the line and is a smart guy that can play nickel and play outside and maybe move into safety. Ok, where is that guy? You know, there's like five of them in the history of the NFL, you know? He brings some of those traits to the table, I think."
On if he is tougher on cornerbacks because he played the position: "Yeah, probably. I mean, I've been around people that are like that and I think I may have some of those traits. I mean, you know the position inside and out. So, you look for certain things and if you don't see those things that you're looking for, that can be a factor I think. But that's why I love people around me. That's why I don't make decisions by myself, you know? We've got other people who are involved in the process."
On the chain of command from assistant coaches to coordinators and head coach during the draft: "There are different layers in the process. I mean, for certain things in terms of position changes, for example, on the board if we've got a guy that's a guard that should be a tackle. That kind of discussion, I'm open to discussing those things with everybody. When we talk about how we rate players and our grades on players, those are conversations that I have primarily with the head coach."
On the value of certain positions in the draft: "I think that's true to a certain extent. You know, I think if you go back and look five, six years ago with the way the rookie contracts were structured, I mean, the idea of taking a guard that high just made no sense at all. But the slot that we're in right now is probably a $19-20 million over the first four years type of deal, which I don't think is unreasonable for a guard, for a good guard. So, I think, if ever there was a time for a guard to go early, it would be this year with the caliber of the two guys that are coming out and with the way the rookie contracts are structured right now."
On drafting an offensive tackle depending on Riley Reiff: "The reason why Riley has so much value to us at 23 is because he can play four spots. He allows you flexibility to draft a guard or draft a tackle to draft whatever you want to draft and let him fill in somewhere else. So we think he has the ability to play left tackle, the ability to play guard for us, right guard and he can play right tackle for us. He can play a lot of different spots which really helps us in terms of having some flexibility in this draft."
On how he feels about where this franchise is right now: "I feel good about where we are right now. I like what we've got going in terms of our players, the core unit of players stepping up. Seeing what Matthew's done this off-season is very encouraging to me. I saw Calvin the other day and he's in great condition, he looks great. Stephen Tulloch is becoming a leader for us now. It's tough to lose guys like Jason Hanson and Jeff Backus who have meant so much to the franchise over the years. But we've got a good group of guys coming up now that are taking that mental leadership going forward. I'm excited about that, I'm excited about our coaching staff. I thought free agency went very well for us. We went through the process with three primary targets and we hit all three of those guys. Got to those guys early and signed all three of those guys. I think we have a lot of positive momentum going forward and we want to build on that next week."
On the offensive tackles that are available in the draft: "They're good. They're strong."
On shying away from defensive tackle and cornerbacks from this draft: "I've always said that it's the best player available within reason. I like the three guys that we drafted last year. Two of them had their season derailed by injuries early in the process. Greenwood is probably the most physically talented in that group, he's got that size and speed that we were talking about that elusive big corner we've been trying to find. He's got all that, but he went to a smaller school to get some development. Bentley came in and from day one was head and shoulders above the other two, performed at a very high level and was going to be a starter for us. He would have probably started 16 games if it weren't for that shoulder. But he's a very, very good player. Very talented, very quick and has some play-making skills on the ball. He's got some man-cover skills, has played some inside so he brings a lot to the table. Then obviously Jonté Green had more starts than anyone of those guys. So all three of those guys are good players and we expect them to be around for a long time."
On S Amari Spievey being able to take part in workouts this week and if "Kickalicious" is a kicker or a punter: "We were just talking about him (Kickalicious) today and I think he's obviously got some special leg talent as far as kicking the ball and all that, but we've got to get him playing football. We don't kick out in the garbage cans, kicking on the boats and stuff. He's got to be able to actually play football. So hopefully we'll find out when he gets here. He's going to be a kicker and he worked out for us awhile back and had a really good workout. We felt like he was more of a developmental guy. We didn't sign him that day, but he kicked the ball very well. He kicked off for us and has a strong leg. He kicked some field goals for us, so he was very impressive in the workout. Now we liked him, but we didn't sign him that day because he was more of a developmental second and Jason's (Hanson) situation was still sort of unsettled. When we got David (Akers) we started talking about the possibility of getting a second left-footed guy. Our new special teams coach, Coach Bonamego, it was important to him that if we have to train a new holder that he's not flipping from a left-footed guy to a right-footed guy. So we looked to see who the left-footed kickers were that were out there. Håvard (Rugland) was available so we signed him.
Amari should be available if he's in town. I have not seen him. I've been in contact with him, though and he's healthy, he's ready to go, he's excited about getting back into the program. It's unfortunate he came in as a rookie, moved to a safety, started two years for us and started having injuries and hasn't really been the player that he was then. But he's excited and fired up and ready to go."
On percentage of how many guys are participating in the off-season program: "I'm guessing we're in the 85 to 90 percent range. I've seen a lot of guys here and I was in the team meeting when they had the meeting down there and it was pretty crowded in there. I'm excited about that"
On if RB Jahvid Best is participating in this off season: "No he's not."
On if number five of the draft will have to be an impact position: "You certainly expect to get a guy to come in and play a major role for you at five."
On what Michigan QB Denard Robinson might bring to a team: "We've been tracking him and tracking his development since January, at the senior bowl. He's working hard and improving, he's doing a better job now catching punts and have a workout with him coming up. He's going along in the right direction as far as developing his skills to be a returner. He's also got some ability to play running back. We went back and watched him play running back those last few games. He's sort of got those slash qualities as a receiver, possibly a slot receiver and a half back."
On looking to the Ivy League as a place to look for players: "I think so. There have been a number of guys come out of there over the years, Marcellus Wiley among them. There's a good defensive end at Preston this year. His name escapes me and a fullback whose name I can't pronounce at Harvard. So there are some really good players coming out of the Ivy League. You have to look everywhere. We've always done that it's no different. Every year we've had at least one guy from somewhere that wasn't heralded as a place to go and get the best players. Albion College last year and Stillman College with Sammie Hill, so we've always looked everywhere."
On how many players he gives first-round grades to in the draft, typically this year: "Why do you always ask the questions I don't want to answer, (laughing). We didn't give as many first-round grades this year as we normally give. This draft goes deeper into the second round this year. What we call those red grades. Goes a little deeper into the second. So there are a lot of quality players out there and we expect to get good players in our first three picks for sure that can come in and have an impact. Then we have to be more selective in the back end of the draft and make sure we pick the right guys."
On being more creative and flexible in the bottom part of the draft: "I don't think so. I think what happens is that you go through the draft and you start at the beginning and you're taking the best player available. And you're going to give the guy every opportunity to make the team. It's really important to be really focused as you're getting to the seventh round perhaps, if you haven't taken a certain position where a guy can make the team, you have a little bit more flexibility on taking the best rated on your board. That's what I thought you were saying."
On taking stock of the Wonderlic scores: "We obviously look at that. We have some psychological testing, the results we get back. The league actually has psychological tests that they implemented this year that we're utilizing somewhat. All of those things are important and the character and makeup of our guys is really important as we've talked about before."
On the scores being red flags that stand out: "Yes. It's really just another piece of information. I wouldn't equate it to specific physical tests but it's like a vertical jump. It's a piece of information. If the guy's a great player but didn't vertical very well, you've got to figure out if you can work around that. If a guy didn't score very highly on the test but you're going to give him a role where it's not going to be that big of a factor then you've got to figure if you can work around that. It's just another piece of information that we use in our evaluation."
On viewing the draft differently compared to a few months ago: "The draft is the most important thing that we do. We've always talked about that. We've been looking forward to this draft since going back to July. Our guys hit the road in July evaluating these players and I've been in contact with our college director Scott McEwen and he did a fantastic job in the meetings this year, I should have mentioned him early on. He's done an outstanding job for us. But I've been in contact with him throughout the process and we've been talking about various players who have performed well. I remember getting a call back in September to go and see Eric Fisher, which I did. We've been talking about guys throughout the process. It's an ongoing process that's not impacted by what happens between January and April."
On how many visits he made: "Probably about seven or eight. I try to go every other week. But then something happens usually and then I miss a week or two. I try to keep abreast of what's out there and who the guys are that there's buzz around and so I get to schools with multiple prospects and just keep a hand in it. Scott McEwen does a great job setting our board and our entire college scouting staff. Those guys are all phenomenal. They did a great job for us this year. We actually added a scout, a BLESTO scout last year and we were able to bring our BLESTO scout up to the area, a guy named Joe Kelleher. We brought him up and it gave us a little bit better coverage of some of the smaller schools and we were able to get two scouts in some schools that we typically were only able to get one scout to last year. That also helped in the meetings I think. Our college scouts do a great job as I said and our coaches do a great job of jumping in at the combine and writing reports and evaluating players and the front office gets involved in it. It was a great collaborative effort on the draft this year."
On how many phone calls coming in with such a high pick: "It varies year to year. I mean, sometimes the phone is ringing and three or four teams are calling. Sometimes it's not. So it kind of varies. This year I think it will be interesting to see how it goes because there are a lot of quarterbacks that are situated around the late first, early second. There could possibly be teams trying to move up for quarterback at the top of the second. We're always open to listen to those discussions."
On his visit with Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o last week: "It was great. Very smart guy, very smart football player, very personable and a great personality. That's one of the schools I went to and when I was there, you couldn't find anyone to say anything negative about him. He's just a great leader in his program and a great football player for them over the years. They have so much respect for him and I do too after meeting with him."
On LB Manti Te'o handling the obvious question about the situation with his girlfriend: "He was very frank about it. He was very direct and I was very direct with him. And he said he made a mistake. And that's just what happens. I certainly came away from it feeling great about him as a person and as a player."