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Tom Telesco Weighs in on Chris Watt, How Free Agency Impacts the Draft and More

The second installment in our three-part fan Q&A session with General Manager Tom Telesco at the NFL Scouting Combine.

I had high hopes for Chris Watt last year after his rookie year, but it was a lost year with the injuries. Is he still the center for our future? What you think his role is? – Doug Laricee

Telesco: Right now, our evaluation of him is no different than it was last year at this time.  Like you said, last year really was a lost season for him.  He was hurt in training camp, hurt again at the beginning of the season and went on injured reserve. His playing ability hasn't changed, and we're really excited about him.  We think he can be our center of the future, and we also think he can be a really good guard. 

I'm a draft geek and read all the mock drafts.  Sounds like everyone has you taking Bosa, Tunsil, Ramsey or Buckner.  Do you think there is a clear cut top four players you will choose from, or is it more complicated than that and people don't realize there is top four talent beyond those players?  Thanks for the opportunity to ask my question. – Aaron Young

Telesco:There certainly is more talent than the top four or five names that everyone likes to talk about.  There is no doubt about that.  But as far as who those top four or five are, that is what we are going through.  We haven't worked that out yet because there are more pieces to the puzzle still to come.  The draft is in late April, and we take all that time to make sure we get things right and the way we want it.

How does free agency impact your draft strategy? Does it alter it significantly if you don't sign a desired player? – Jerry Leininger

Telesco:Yes, our draft could be affected by free agency depending on what we do.  We obviously have strengths and weakness, and there are needs that we have.  Some we may be able to fill through free agency.  If we don't, then we may have to look through the draft.  But the goal is to get to the draft without having specific needs that we have to fill.  We'd like to fill some of those whether that means re-signing some of our own players, going outside to sign someone from another team or developing our own players.  Then, we go into the draft and take the best players available.

How do you avoid informational overload and walk away from the draft feeling refreshed about your picks? – David Foster

Telesco: Really, part of the job is deciding which information you think is important and which you don't.  Every year there is more out there.  There is a lot more information now than there was 20 years ago.  We can't possibly use it all. It's paralysis by over analysis sometimes.   So a big part of the general manager's job is determine what you think is most important. There are a lot of drills at the Combine we won't use at all, and there are some that we feel very, very strongly about.  It's all part of your philosophy.

Will an impressive performance at the Combine change or sway your selections on Draft Day? – Cindy Williams

Telesco:No, it won't.  The only way it would sway our decision is if there was a medical issue identified at the Combine. One good thing about the Combine is that it acts as a checks and balances system for us.  What it may do is make us go back to make sure what we saw in the fall is accurate.  If a player doesn't work out so well, we can go back to the tape and look at it.  It may be we missed something on him that we go back and can clear up, or we may look at him and say, 'Nope, he's the same guy.' 

How do you feel that the recent coaching changes are going to impact the team the most? – Braden Gobrick

Telesco:I am really, really excited about our staff.  Offensively, we've got a little bit of a new look, and certainly on the offensive line.  Ken Whisenhunt was here, so he has some familiarity with us. But he is going to bring a different perspective and a fresh look having been gone for a couple years.  I'm excited about that. On defense, Defensive Line Coach Giff Smith is a high energy coach.  He is a really great teacher of technique, and has a really nice body of work with players he's worked with before.  We're happy to have him added into the mix.  Linebackers Coach Bob Babich has been a coordinator in two places, and is really an excellent football coach.  He's another guy who is a great teacher.  There are some teachers who only just know X's and O's really well, but you have to be able to teach that.  Both those new coaches have a great personality and are up-tempo.  That's the way we want our defense to play.

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