Below is a recap of what Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz had to say about their pick of offensive guard Larry Warford on Friday night. (Quotes provided by the Lions.)
LIONS EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF FOOTBALL OPERATIONS AND GENERAL MANAGER MARTIN MAYHEW
Opening Statement: "Larry Warford, offensive guard, All-SEC. He's a big man. 37 straight starts, highly, highly intelligent football player and really, really solid guy. This is one time I think this year, specifically the Senior Bowl really paid off for us this year. You know, last draft we didn't draft any of those guys. I think last year at the Senior Bowl, it taught us guys that we didn't want to draft and this Senior Bowl taught us about guys we really like. So, it's been a good process. He's going to be a good player for us."
On if Warford will compete for a starting role: "I think he definitely competes for it. You know, he's got some stuff to learn. He's got to clean some things up. But I think he's got a chance to compete as a starter."
On if he has played tackle: "I don't think that he has. We see him more as a guard. He did a really good job at the Senior Bowl, though, with one on ones and things like that. He really showed up. So, our coaches like him and he's a good fit for us."
On how he fits into the Lions running game: "That's one of the biggest things. I mean, he's a big man that can anchor and hold up inside in pass protection. You know, that was one of the really appealing things about him as a player."
On how well Warford plays in space: "Yeah, you know, I think there are different kinds of guards. He's not that nifty, nimble guy that can get out in space. But we're going to do some of that with him. He's big enough and long enough to get a push on guys and stuff like that. So, that's not necessarily going to be his strength right away, but he's a young guy. He's got some upside and some ability to develop and continue to improve. He's a pretty solid player right now being All-SEC."
On if he can play center: "I don't think so. We cross-train all those guys and Jim (Schwartz) will talk about that. They'll all play different positions, they'll all cross train. So, I don't think it changes anybody's position."
On having the best player available matching up with team needs: "Yeah, I mean, I don't know. That's for you to decide. I know the first two picks the grade really hit an area that we strongly wanted to address, you know? This pick, a great hit, we like the guy, but I think the first two were definitely times when the grade matched up perfectly with that need. We'll see how it all turns out."
On being content with T Riley Reiff at left tackle: "Yeah, that'd be a question for Jim (Schwartz). I'm not going to talk about where they'll play. They'll all cross train and all play different positions and maybe it's a little for that. We've got a lot more draft to go, so we'll see how it all turns out."
On the transition on the offensive line: "We're also talking about the fact that we're still young on the offensive line. You know, we may look to add a veteran or something like that as we go forward. We're really young and we've got eight guys under contracts right now. So, we're looking at some veteran players too."
On if the Draft turned out today the way he thought it would: "Well, I mean, you're talking about two and a half rounds of drafting. There were definitely some surprises, some things that happened that we did not anticipate. But as I said before, the draft is like a test. If you're prepared for the test, then you figure it all out. So, we were very prepared. Like I said, we had great preparation this year. I think the ability to have all the coaching staff, the majority of the coaching staff coming back, same scouts, same scouting system, is really paying dividends for us right now because of the continuity that we've been able to build."
LIONS HEAD COACH JIM SCHWARTZ
Opening Statement: "I don't know if you can say ‘Larry' without saying ‘big' in front of it. He's probably been about five years old that he was never just Larry. He was Big Larry. You know, another guy we had a chance to see at the Senior Bowl. We had a chance to be with him full-time and he was made to play guard in the NFL. He's a really thick, powerful guy. Good athlete for his size. That week of experience with him, in addition to the scouts' grades that we had on him on all the work, it ended up breaking at the right spot for us."
On being prepared to slot T Riley Reiff into the left tackle spot: "I mean, we were from the very beginning. You know, that's why we drafted him. Again, when (Jeff) Backus got hurt last year, that's why we played him there. You never say never. You never know who is going to become available, what's going to happen. But we drafted him as a left tackle. We thought he could play right tackle, we think he can play guard. You know, Riley, if you gave him time, could probably play center too. He played tight end for us. He's that kind of athlete. He's a guy that can move around and do those things, but we drafted him as a left tackle. Probably, with the way things ended up here, we'll probably start him off there. We have a lot of confidence in him. I mean, that's why we drafted him last year. Last year, Riley was the second offensive lineman picked."
On what he meant by saying Reiff looked better this year: "Looked more mature, you know? He's a little bit bigger this year than last. You can't help but grow into things like that. He's just more at ease around the building. There's a big difference between walking in the building as a rookie and being around here for a year. He got some playing experience last year. He's worked very hard at it. So, you know, it's just a different look about you when you're a second-year player. You know where the locker room is, you know where the cafeteria is, you know your way to the weight room. You don't look lost and a lot of the times, rookies do. Everything's new to them. It's not new to him this year. He's been through a training camp, he's been through a full season."
On the benefits heading into the season having the best players available that also match your needs: "Yeah, I mean, we certainly have been fortunate that way. You know, we obviously had a big hole at defensive end and we had the opportunity to draft a really good player there. You know, we sit there that next day and you're seeing some players still available. One of the positions we had an area of need was corner and we were able to get a guy that we felt very strong at there. You know, we have an interior offensive lineman. We drafted a couple tackles to develop. Jason Fox, who was injured early in his career, but last year he really had a good year. You never saw it on the field because we never really had a situation where we needed to get him active. But, you know, he's developed nicely. But the one thing that we haven't really had the opportunity over the last three or four years to do is draft an interior offensive lineman and develop that. So, this gave us an opportunity to do that also."
On if you can succeed in the NFL with average play at guard: "Every team is going to have strengths and they're going to have weaknesses. I mean, you take the top five offenses in the NFL and I'm sure every pundit can pick holes in their roster. I mean, it's just life in the NFL now that you can't have an All-Pro at every single position. So, you have to balance things out. You have to balance out the way you run, the way you pass, the way you block, all those different things. That's coaching. You want to try to accentuate your positives, minimize your weaknesses and just sort of take it as it comes. But ideally, yeah, you want to have great tackles, great guards, great center, great quarterback, wide receivers, tight ends. But our salary cap is the same as everybody else. We don't have 15 number one draft picks to be able to do all those things. It's always a balancing act."
On how interior pressure disrupts the passing game: "Yeah, you know, closest distance between two points is a straight line. Those guys are closer to the quarterback. Most quarterbacks are going to try to step up to make throws and if somebody's charging at the middle, it makes it very difficult to do that. You know, and then when you're throwing to the inside part of the field, inside pressure is tough to deal with as far as knock-down passes and things like that. The quarterback a lot of times can step up versus outside pressure, but he can only step up if you have a firm pocket in there. So, it all works together. You know, Carlos' question of ‘Can you get by with tackles if you have really good guards?' Well, yeah, if the quarterback knows he can step up and sit in that pocket.
Yeah, can you get by with maybe lesser inside guys if your outside guys can hold it down and win one on one because the quarterback doesn't have to step up to avoid an edge rusher. We're very confident in our offensive line group. We have a lot of confidence in the guys. Our depth was not tested last year when it came to it, but with getting Riley (Reiff) some seasoning last year, seeing the continuing development of Jason Fox, the return of Dominic Raiola, getting Bill Nagy involved here coming off that injury where he missed all of last year. He's a very good young player too. He works his way back from that injury. Rob Sims, I think we have some quality players up there. Add a player like Larry in there and I like our competition. I like our ability to be able to have guys that can flex. We brought Corey Hilliard back this year, a guy that can flex from right side to left side. We've got some different options and we'll have good competition there. We'll find good players there."
On if there is a common thread among the players drafted so far: "You know, I can honestly say that we have not stretched our board for need. There have been a couple times where we have had four or five players basically rated within a whisker of each other. But we haven't passed a guy that's significantly ahead of somebody on the board because of position and need. So, that certainly wasn't a theme. We've always talked about talent and it's not just talent, it's the way that talent fits. So, I think probably the common theme is we've found good fits for the spots that we have. You know, again, it's not just drafting an offensive tackle because you think you need one. Well, if you don't draft a good one that matches what you need, then why draft that guy? As I said, we got a guy that we liked in Larry Warford that has the capabilities and the physical qualities that we like inside. Some of the other guys we've drafted, Ziggy (Ansah) doesn't have a lot of experience, (Darius) Slay doesn't have a lot of experience. Larry does. Larry started damn near 40 games in his college career in the Southeastern Conference and he sees a lot of players in there. He played well at the Senior Bowl, practiced well at the Senior Bowl. Each guy stands alone, but I think that we found matches for the things that we were looking for. Got a corner that is almost six-feet tall that can run in the 4.3's and made a lot of plays on the ball in a very good level of competition down in the Southeastern Conference."