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Read: Tom Telesco Pre-Draft Press Conference


Overview of free agency:

"I thought we executed our plan at a high level. I think we went into it with a clear vision of what we wanted to accomplish, and I think that who we were able to add really helped our team, helped elevate the depth of our team. We certainly added a lot of experience and a lot of production. I think that's really what you're after in free agency. I think free agency is about value. I think that we achieved that. Really excited about this group that we have — their production, their experience and then coming in and fitting the type of character we're looking for in people, the type of competitors we're looking for. I thought that we executed our plan extremely well."

On his level of comfort if the club decides to stay and select at the No. 13-overall spot:

"We're comfortable at 13, if we pick there. It's like every other draft. You prepare to move up, prepare to move back, and prepare to execute the pick at 13 — nothing different there. We're very comfortable at 13. If we were in the 20s or 30s, that's where it gets a little more difficult because, typically, nobody has that many players rated as first-round picks. We're picking 13, so we feel pretty good right there."

On if there have been any 'surprises' from the results of the medical evaluations conducted on this year's draft prospects:

"Every year there are a handful of players that come back with some medical risk that you don't like. It happens every single year. This year is no different. The process has been different this year without having the real combine, so there is still some work that we're even doing today on some players who were not at that medical part of the combine. So it's a different process for us. We're going to make it work, like everybody else. These guys have played four years of high school football and one, two, three, four years of college football, so they are all going to have some sort of injuries. There are always a couple here or there, but nothing that should affect us too much this year."

On Oregon OL Penei Sewell and Northwestern OL Rashawn Slater being the 'top two tackle prospects' this year, in his opinion:

"Well, I guess we'd be going off your opinion because I guess they're your top two tackle prospects in the draft. Everybody evaluates these players differently; you, us, different teams. I wouldn't talk about specifics about individual players, but obviously, high-caliber players from high-caliber programs. Both players didn't play this year, which is too bad, but that's just part of the nature of COVID-19 this year. But yeah, two high-caliber players."

On if an evaluation is different for a player who opted out of last season due to COVID-19, relative to a player who did not:

"It's part of it. But, look, there were a lot of different reasons why players had to opt-out. A lot did this year. We take it on a case-by-case basis. In the end, more than likely for most players, it probably won't affect where they stand with us."

On if the team's 'needs' are more on the defensive front or in the secondary:

"As we go into the draft, we're drafting players, not positions. That's kind of the way that we have to look at it. We're not just trying to fill out the team for opening day in 2021; this is how we look at it. This isn't just 'GM speak.' You have to look at this year, and then 2022, 2023, 2024. That's what we're drafting these players for. We don't look at it as far as, 'Hey, what positions do we have to add to?' We're drafting players first, and then we go from there. It's players more than positions. I'm pretty confident that we won't be drafting a quarterback real early this year. Other than that, everything would be on the table."

On the value of arm-length measurements when evaluating offensive tackle prospects:

"It's certainly something that we look at. It's something that we've looked at since I've been in this business. It's not the biggest trait that we look for, but it's part of it. I don't get too caught up in the arm length. You look at the different tackles that are playing in this league, there are some with very long arms, and there are some with less than 33-inch arms. Really, their performance is no different. Yes, it's something that you look at, but — this is me, personally — I look more at athletic ability, strength and football intelligence. Just off the top of my head, I'd probably hit those three things first before I worried about arm length."

On evaluating defensive backs from a perspective of potential positional versatility:

"I can tell you that from a scout's point of view, it's fun to evaluate players that you can put into a 'DB' category that can do some different things; play some safety, play some corner, maybe play some inside in the slot. It's kind of fun and exciting to be scouting those types of players. Now, they're hard to find — guys that can play that many different spots. It can open a pool a little bit, too, because we can move some corners to safety, some safeties to corner, dependent upon what their skills are. It gives us versatility, as far as bringing players in. I'm really confident, as far as what [Head Coach] Brandon [Staley] sees in players and how he wants to use them; going to their strengths and trying to minimize their weaknesses, which you have to do. There are no perfect players out there. But, yeah, it's almost like you're drafting defensive backs, more so than trying to fit them into strictly a corner or strictly a safety, in a best-case world." 

On if that approach to defensive back evaluation is different than what the previous coaching staff possessed:

"The corners haven't changed at all. I'd say that the safeties have changed a little bit. As far as how we're evaluating the corners, that's been the same as with the last staff."

On his evaluation of the edge rushers currently on the roster:

"As we sit here today, it looks pretty good. Obviously, I'm not going to talk about [OLB] Joey [Bosa]; that's self-explanatory. I think you guys pretty much know how we feel about [OLB] Uchenna [Nwosu]. I think Uchenna can be a high-level player in this league. We love how he plays. It was great to add [OLB] Kyler [Fackrell] to the group as a pass-rusher who can play the run and play special teams and who has proven production in this league. Pretty happy there, but I would love more. You can never have enough pass-rushers and corners."

On his philosophy on trading-down in the draft order, relative to a perception that teams would instead prefer to trade-up in the draft order:

"I guess we like to 'zig' while others 'zag.' Generally, yeah, I'd rather go down than up. I think you have to be careful trading up. Especially nowadays, you have to guard about being over-confident that you can guarantee the player's success that you're trading up to get. We have great evaluators here. I also think that we do a great job of analyzing the data and putting that all together. But still, having all of that, the league average on players who are successful when you draft, those averages haven't changed much. Even though we may feel like we know more now than ever, it's really not the case. I'd be careful trading up. Obviously, we've done it. We haven't done it a lot, but we've done it in certain cases. There's some flexibility involved there. I would rather go down to get more picks. We have nine picks this year, which is a good start. Next year, probably a minimum of nine, maybe more. So, over a two-year span, we should be in that 18-20 draft-pick range, which is nice to have. Like you said, the more at-bats you have, the better the chance of getting a hit. I would prefer to go down than up. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't. I also know that you need to be flexible. There are certain situations where we just felt like the board said that we need to go get a certain player, but a lot of talk goes into that, for all of the reasons I said before. You're saying, 'Hey, look, we really feel like this is the guy.' That's hard to do in this business. Even though we feel like we're good evaluators, we feel like we have all of this data nowadays, and I think we analyze it well — which is a big part of it, not just having that data, but analyzing it the correct way — you have to be careful. I would prefer to go down than up. Each draft is a little bit different."

On the status of the left tackle position and having a 'hole' there currently:

"I guess if you define that as having a starting tackle that has a number of years of experience starting in this league, then yeah, maybe. But, we're very bullish on [T] Trey Pipkins [III]. I was impressed by how he played late in the year. He doesn't fit that category of having multiple years of starting at that position. As we sit here today, yeah, we don't have a multi-year guy at that position that has been a starter. So, that would be correct."

On the how the evaluation process of draft prospects was impacted by not having the typical combine event:

"Good questions. The con has been the medical process, which came up earlier. That's been the negative because that's a huge part of the draft process. We've had to really do it largely a different way than usual. That's been a con. We've been working through it. We'll get better at it. We'll see what happens next year. I don't know. I will say that the rest of the information that we compile at the combine, we were able to do all of that, just in different ways. We have everything that we normally would have. That's the pro. We got it all done. We would prefer to have everybody at one location, especially for all of the timed drills, doing it all in one atmosphere and on one surface. We would prefer that. I didn't get that this year, but I don't think that's going to affect anybody that much. The biggest thing for us is just working through the medical portion of it. It's a huge puzzle to try to put together. It's hard to do even when you do it in Indianapolis, but to do it the way that we did it this year, where it was kind of split up, makes it a little bit more difficult. As I said, we'll get better at it if that's the way that it happens long-term. Hopefully not. Those were the pros and the cons. Another con was that I couldn't go back to Indianapolis. I spent 15 years there, so it was always fun going back there. That's about it."

On if draft prospects timing and measuring at faster and better rates this year due to the potential of 'favorable pro day situations,' compared to previous years in the structure of the annual NFL Combine:

"That's something that we've talked about. At the combine, it's a four-day grind for the players because they do so much there. There is something to them being off of their routines. Some guys run early in the morning. Some guys run in the afternoon. Quite honestly, fast guys run fast. It doesn't matter where it is. That's kind of my philosophy on that. At their pro days, yeah, most of the times are going to be a little bit faster. That's nothing new. We know most of the surfaces that players are running on, so we can adjust wherever the adjustments are needed — which we've done for a long time. I don't get too hung up on if a player was a 4.42 [40-yard-dash time] or a 4.48. If it's a wide receiver, it's fast enough. I don't need to know exactly to the hundredth of a second what his 40 time was. Just get us in the ballpark, and we'll take it from there. We use some other things to gauge speed, not just the 40 time. It'll all work out."

On if there was an extra emphasis placed on the medical evaluations provided by a draft prospect's college medical personnel this year:

"We always rely on the colleges, and then we rely on our team doctors. The process was a little bit different, but all of the same people were involved, just some of it was by telemedicine and some of it was in-person. MRIs and X-Rays, those images can be taken anywhere in the country and sent all over the world and looked at on computer screens. We got everything done, just through a different process." 

On if there has been an extra level of 'due diligence' this year when gathering medical information, compared to years prior:

"I hope not. There better be a lot of due diligence every single year in the medical process. I wouldn't expect this year to be a little extra. It better be a lot every year. I wouldn't allow that."

On coaches mostly remaining in the building throughout this year's pro day circuit:

"Our coaches have participated in the interviews of players — by Zoom, obviously. Even in a regular world this year, our coaches really wouldn't be out at pro days anyways. That's not usually how we handle it. There are always some one-offs for different players, but by and large, our coaches stay in-house during this part of the process. That's nothing new. Every pro day that happens, we get a video of it. We can watch it. You can go back and forth on the video to watch that in your office. That process wasn't any different. I would say that the coaches got a chance to talk to more guys this year than ever because they would've gone to some, just not a lot, so when you take all of that travel out of it, you can spend more time in the office watching take and talking to prospects via Zoom, over the phone, however."

On the imperative placed on versatility when evaluating an offensive tackle prospect:

"I agree with [Staley] 100-percent. There really is no left tackle or right tackle to us; they're just offensive tackles. There are pass-rushers on both sides in this league. There's no rule on defense that you can only put your best pass-rusher on the offense's left side. So, you never know where they're going to line up. Brandon mentioned this, too — there is so much pistol [formation] and shotgun nowadays that the quarterback is not turned, so he doesn't have a 'blind side' for at least the initial part of the drop. His shoulders are facing forward, and he can see both pass-rushers right in front of him. The fact of the left side being the 'blind side,' I don't see it much like that anymore. We just have one column of tackles on the board. They both have to be able to pass protect on both sides."

On the possibility of potentially drafting a specialist:

"Sure, if there is a good prospect out there."

On how player tracking for the use of gaining qualitative speed and change of direction data has helped clubs evolve in their evaluation process of draft prospects, using the data collected from their time at the collegiate level:

"I'll be honest; we started using a little bit of it last year. We use it a lot more this year. I think it's great. The player-tracking data is relatively new the last four or five years. We're getting a better feel for how to analyze it and how to use it. But it's been great. Especially this year, when we didn't have the combine, we have all of these workout times from different surfaces all over the country, so to add in the player tracking and look at that piece of it, it's been a big part of the process this year. I love it. It's been great. Any piece of data that we think can help us make a decision is important. Now, there is some data that we see that we don't think really correlates, then we throw it out. But, yeah, there is certainly something to it. We like it. It's no secret. I'm sure everybody is using it at this point. It's a nice part of the process."

On if the evaluation process has changed due to the precise, qualitative data provided from the tracking data:

"As far as the combine drills, actual position drills and pro day drills, I'm not a big believer in those. As far as the tracking data, I still need some years to see it and to see what actually correlates. It's still very early in this process. I'm not 100-percent relying on it yet. I like it, but let's get a couple of more years of data, see how the players perform in this league, and then it could take on greater importance. As far as the drills at the combine, other than the gauntlet drills that the receivers run — which I love — but other than that, I'd rather just watch the game tape and watch them play live, gather all of the measurable numbers that we get, then just go from there. Thankfully, though, we do have some people in the building that do like the workouts and do like the drills, so we get the whole picture eventually."

On evaluating draft-pick trades that were conducted earlier in this year's process to gain a perspective on the potential market of compensation for a higher draft pick, or what the club's current selections could be valued at from a compensation standpoint:

"It could set the market if I liked what the compensation was. Trades are like anything else; whoever makes the phone has less leverage than the guy who picks up the phone. That's really what it comes down to. How badly do you want to make the trade? For any trades that happen earlier, you can look at the compensation. If I don't like it, then I'd throw it out and not use it at all. If I like it, then, yeah, I'd probably use it as part of the negotiation, like anything else. Nothing too different there."

On if the players selected in free agency impacts how the group will organize the draft board:

"Change the board? No. The board wouldn't change due to anybody signing in free agency."

On evaluating 'raw' draft prospects:

"It's certainly things we talk about. Sometimes we throw out that 'raw' comment too much as a cop-out to kind of say, 'Hey, look, I see the talent, but he's raw.' I don't like hearing that a lot. If you have the skills to work with and you have the work ethic, and the preparation and the mental toughness — they all need development when they come at this level. As good as Joey Bosa is, Joey still had to go through practice and work on pass-rushing moves and work with coaching. They all do, from the first round to the seventh round. You can use 'raw' on almost everybody, but if you have the traits you look for at that particular position and you have the work ethic, the drive, the determination to be great, the football intelligence, and a good coaching staff, that's the perfect combination."

On if he will transport the surfboard from his at-home 'draft room' from last year to this year's draft room at the facility:

"I'm not going to lie, I've mentioned it. I have to find a way to get it in here. It's a tall surfboard. I've actually thought about that. It worked out well last year and gave us some good luck, so it may find its way back in the draft room."

On the discussions with prospects who opted out and what the discussions entail when meeting with those prospects:

"Each kid that sat out, obviously, they all have a different story. That's a personal decision. I'm not going to hold a personal decision against a player. Now, if we thought a player just didn't like to play football and he opted out, that is one thing. That is going to be an issue. Other than that, I just don't think I'm the one who should be judging if I think your reason was valid or not. I just don't believe that. We do a lot of background work on these players. The area scouts do a tremendous job with that. It's a big part of the job, trying to get to know the players as a person. So, we do that. I just don't think we're in a position to be judging whether you should opt-out or should opt-in. That's not our position. Can you play football? Do you love to play the game? Do we think you fit what we do here, both on the field and off the field? If the answers are all yes, then we will go with that."

On the position that the club is targeting at the No. 13-overall selection:

"We're drafting players, not positions. That's it. You asked a simple question. That's the simple answer. Players, not positions." 

On the idea of targeting a particular position with the No. 13-overall selection:

"It has to be the right player. You can't force things. It doesn't matter if we have a young quarterback or an old quarterback. You have to protect the quarterback. You have to be able to run-block when you have to run-block. It has to be the right player. You can't force things."

On if the club will place a heightened premium on the perimeter corner position in their defensive scheme, and how that could impact how the team selects early in the draft:

"I wouldn't overthink it. It's not like we're looking for corners that also have to be able to play safety. That's not what we're looking for. We're looking for corners who can play a variety of coverages. We had already been going down that route before. So for us, it's nothing new. We don't want a corner who can only play zone-coverage, and we don't want a corner who can only play man-coverage. Obviously, that gives us some versatility to play a little bit of man and a little bit of zone and keep people on their heels. It's not like we're looking for this [Pro Football Hall of Fame DB] Charles Woodson 'Superman' who can play corner and safety, and it doesn't even matter what down. I wouldn't go that far."

On if the practice squad regulations from last season will remain in place for 2021:

"We haven't received a definitive answer yet. We'll see where that's going to be; 12, 14 or 16 [practice squad spots]. Yeah, I don't have an answer on that yet."

On if he has traded a selection in the first round during his tenure:

"We traded up to take [RB] Melvin Gordon [III]."

On if he avoids trading first-round selections due to their potential value:

"Yeah, they are good to have. I would like to have more than one. One is better than none. Yeah, we do value first-round picks."

On if there is a limit to the potential compensation that he would offer to trade up in a particular round:

"I covered what you really have to go through if you want to move up. For [LB] Kenneth Murray [Jr.], we swapped our [second-round selection] for their [first-round selection], and then gave up our [third-round selection]. That was typically what it was going to cost, for where we were, to go into. We haven't done it here. I have been on teams that have given up a future first-round pick to move up in a round. Those are heavy, heavy discussions to do that. We have a pretty intelligent scouting staff, both college and pro, but predicting next year what that draft is going to look like in the first round — I know that people say that they can do it, but it's hard to do. It would have to be a unique circumstance for us to do that, but you have to be flexible, like I said. Sometimes the board tells you to do something that you're prepared for and tells you what you need to do, but those would be few and far between."

On selecting QB Justin Herbert one year ago today:

"I don't have the anniversary in my phone, if that's what you're asking. We're happy that we were able to draft Justin and our whole draft class last year. That's why that surfboard is a good luck surfboard. I think that we need to get that back in the draft room."

On if the surfboard has ever been used for surfing:

"It has never been used for surfing. It probably never will be used for surfing. It's actually such a beautiful surfboard that I would hate to put it in the water. I've never surfed in my life, so God knows what would happen to it if I did take it in the water. I think we're going to keep that as a good luck charm. It looks too nice."

On comparing college experience to potential professional-level traits when evaluating draft prospects and their potential to contribute on special teams:

"You have to look at both because some of these players that were every-down starters at their positions were more than likely not playing special teams, certainly their last year there. Sometimes you go back to their freshman year where they played special teams and they weren't starters yet. You have to look at traits, as well as experience. You just can't look at experience doing it. On a school-by-school basis, there may be some players that just didn't have the opportunity to play special teams. That's why our special teams coaches go through almost everybody on the board and look at them and try to get a good feel for what they like — not so much the offensive linemen are into your defensive linemen, but almost everybody else, to see what their contribution would be on a special teams, if we drafted them."

On how evaluating a draft class that may be 'weak' at some position groups impacts the club's strategy when putting the draft board together:

"The board is what it is. The whole strength of the positions, it's just all relative. You could be a team that needs a quarterback, and say there's four high-level, elite quarterbacks in the draft, but there are five teams that need quarterbacks, and you're the fifth team of the five, all of a sudden, that draft is not real strong for you at quarterback. It's all relative. I don't know how other people's boards look. It may affect how you draft on draft day by looking to see what you may have in rounds three, four and five. That may dictate what you do in the first two rounds. There's no guarantee you're going to get exactly what you want. Yeah, that could affect the draft day management, but your board wouldn't change based on the strength of a particular position."

On how far he would be willing to move down in the first round if a trade offer were to be presented:

"You want me to give you our whole plan for the draft? It depends on what the offers are. If they are good offers for this year's picks, we'll take it. Next year's picks, there is going to have to be a premium on that. You usually get a little bit more if it's a next year pick. That's always enticing, too, to get some picks for next year. I'll take them this year and next year, but next year would be great, too. I'm estimating some compensatory picks next year, as well. It just depends on what the offers are and what we throw out there and what they want to do, or how bad that team wants to move up. Does that team want to move up for a quarterback? That may change the compensation a little bit."

On, if presented, would he would trade the No. 13-overall selection for another team's second-round and a third-round selection in this year's draft, compared to being presented with a first-round selection this year and a first-round selection next year as compensation:

"That's a case-by-case basis. We could do this a thousand different ways. I have no idea."

On if he was presented with the opportunity to move the draft room to a sponsored remote location:

"I mean this as a compliment. [Rams Head Coach] Sean [McVay] and [Rams General Manager] Les [Snead] just scream Southern California to me. I think that the Malibu [Calif.] beach house, for them, is a great fit. I'm from Buffalo, N.Y., as you know. Brandon [Staley] is from Cleveland, Ohio. I don't know if the beach house is our style. Now, if [Owner and Chairman of the Board] Dean [Spanos] wants to go to Manhattan Beach [Calif.] and do it, I think it would be fun. But, I don't know if that's our style. I think we'll probably just stay here in the office."

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