New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with Local Media
Friday, May 1, 2015
Opening Statement: "I can kind of go through these or just field questions right away. Obviously it was a busy night for us tonight. There were some need fits, more importantly grade picks that really panned out well. In the second round we had, it would be very typical in any of our drafts, a handful of guys, this guy fit a need, this guy fit a makeup, and this guy fits so many different things. So Hau'oli Kikaha was a guy that we spent time with, a lot of time with. He has great football DNA. He is tough. He is physical. We would check the box with pressure player in that he is someone that we feel like rushes the passer exceptionally well. Occasionally there are players that you hope you have a chance to coach, this guy would be that player for us going through the process. So that took place and the two players obviously, the third round, Garrett Grayson the quarterback. Going through this process, I've said this before, does the fit time out where there is a player you have evaluated well and does it fit with a grade. We worked him out late last week and kind of went under the radar. We were kind of hoping it would. I'd worked out a few other players. We kind of looked at the class, certainly there was a couple of guys at the front of the class and then what happens is you are waiting and you don't know if there is going to be a run on guys or you are kind of waiting, in our case for that first quarterback to go off the board. So for us there wasn't more than one, this was the player if he was available, and if not we probably would have went without drafting a quarterback. But his workout was great. Again, we like his fit, his makeup. He is extremely athletic. We actually think he's got a good stature and from guys that I have worked out over the years, 6'2 ½", 215 pounds, real good quick release, good decision maker so that is exciting for us. And lastly, P.J. Williams we are real familiar with. We have done a ton of homework on him, and at the pro day had a chance to see him work out close and in person, visit with him. Certainly there is a player, there is a good chance he's probably not where we selected him had it not been for some poor decisions, and those are things that we spent a lot of time with and obviously had to address. Any questions?"
Did you say some of the other quarterback workouts were throwing people off?
"No, we would never go that, no, honestly they were just to evaluate. Look, I had a good visit with Bryce Petty and worked him out. I like him a lot as a prospect. So no, there is too much going on to spend time flying somewhere, or spending, it is really just trying to get to know the talent group of that class. So with Garrett (Grayson) there is some film, obviously a lot of film to study, Senior Bowl, workout at the Combine and then last week the four of us flew there. I think it was, the power went out here, Monday morning. We had just gotten out on a flight before that storm hit and I remember flying back and it just cleared so our timing from a flight standpoint worked out, but it was that Monday that we were out there in Fort Collins and worked him out."
Was there any discussion with Drew Brees prior to the draft?
"No, no. I think every year we are just constantly evaluating the players at positions. I think it would be different if all of a sudden we are taking a quarterback in the first round and we had a different vision, but in our case it is pretty clear, we love our starter. It gives the young players behind him a chance to mature and develop. Look, nothing is given to any of these guys, you guys have been here long enough to see us operate as a staff. Garrett (Grayson) is going to have to come in and compete with Ryan (Griffin). He is going to have to compete with Luke (McCown), but no."
Why take a quarterback now?
"It was only the right time because, we've said a year ago with a grade on a quarterback hoping it maybe might fall and it didn't. He was taken earlier. Two years ago, maybe three years ago, (Mike) Glennon was a guy we had a real good grade on. The answer to the question would be why now at the Sam linebacker? Why now at the offensive tackle position? You are really trying to look closely at the draft and how you have these players graded. We really liked this player."
Would you have made this pick if you had the standard picks?
"Well it gives you more flexibility, to answer your question. We graded him as a late second, and forget applying the grade, you are trying to manage the draft that way but we really came back from the workout like this is a guy that we would like to have and would like to see him compete. Obviously when you have more than your standard allotment of picks, there is flexibility."
What did you like about his workout? He said it was probably his worst workout.
"He is accurate. It was good. It was really good. That is good news. A lot goes into that position, the makeup, presence, decision making. Pete Carmichael, Mike Neu, those guys spent a ton of time, our scouts, on looking on film. It is one thing to look at a highlight tape but to really go back and look at the season, a tedious look at last season and then go see the player in person, work them out. A lot goes into a decision like that, and the things we are looking for, he appears to have that. I am anxious to see him come in and compete. And I mentioned this earlier, it will be, first off, the work ethic of the guys ahead of him, the way they train, the way they study, all of those things will be different from a college player coming in specifically with that group."
Is Kikaha in line with the Junior Galette role?
"We see him as an outside player, whether it's Sam or Jack, we'll figure it out. We think he can play Sam. You see him in that role in Washington. But certainly (we see him) with the outside linebackers."
Did you take La'el Collins off the board in the last 48 hours?
"I said this last night, we saw that player as a guard. There's an interest in any young offensive lineman. We selected a tackle yesterday and felt really good about the pick. Make no mistake about the uncertainty with a player. It's unusual, the circumstances surrounding his week. That's something I think that a lot of teams looked at the same way. If we were just looking at the grade of the player, he did a lot of good things for LSU. I can't recall a situation like this since I've been here in a position as a head coach to look at and be part of a draft process. It's something that's unique."
You have never, other than Rob Ninkovich, drafted a tweener pass rusher type. Is it the new defense that you run or Rob Ryan that changed that for you?
"When you look at Rob, and to his credit and his success, there's a vision, there's a fit. It makes sense. The mistakes we made, obviously were in a vision. We were in a 4-3 defense and we didn't do a good job of having a right vision for the player, because certainly he's an exceptional player. I think that there is a vision, we're in a defense that'll play a 9-10 technique with a Sam linebacker. He certainly is an on-the-line of scrimmage type of player as opposed to an off-the-ball linebacker that would play in between the ends. When you watch the tape you can kind of see what you're going to ask him to do, that he's doing. That makes it certainly clearer in the evaluation."
The description on NFL.com for him was Ninkovich. You couldn't pass on him a third time?
"I didn't see that. My hands are dirty on both parts there. We're sitting up there with (Jeff) Ireland and about everyone in the room passed on him either one time, two times, or three times. He's a tremendous football player. It's what keeps you awake at night in training camp when you're reducing your roster. You hope someday when you're finished you don't have a ton of those players haunting you. To Rob's credit, he's had a great career."
Did knowing Kikaha would be available in round two make you not have draft a pass rusher in round one?
"One of the things we felt like at number 13, we felt like there was a good chance we weren't going to have a graded edge rusher that we wanted at that pick. Obviously we saw Fowler and Beasley with those grades. We felt like there was a good chance it wasn't going to happen at 13. At 31 there are a lot more variables."
You mentioned you were targeting a specific quarterback last year. Was that Aaron Murray?
"There were two. (Aaron) Murray was a guy we had good grades on. (Jimmy) Garoppolo was a guy we had good grades on. I think it's inaccurate to say we were targeting a certain quarterback. You put the board together. I understand the story, certainly, with where Drew is in his career, but you truly try to pay close attention to how do these grades fit. I said this last night, if there's a need or you want to bring in a young player, I think it's important that it fits the grade. We're hoping that we're not looking at a Jahri Evans taken somewhere or is available on the board when we didn't select. We were just going through this in the draft room. The first year in the fourth round we were picking second, and back then it was rounds 1-3, then you had a break. Then you came back the next morning and you had 4-7. We had to get past Houston, we're on the phone with Owen Daniels for 10 minutes. Then the phone clicks in, it's Houston and all of a sudden they select Owen Daniels. The odds of that at the time were certainly in our favor of not happening. All of a sudden we back up with Philadelphia, we acquire a guy like Hollis Thomas for a year or so and with our pick select Jahri Evans. There's some fortune involved in this as well. Some selections that you don't make, ironically there Owen ended up being a great player and Jahri ended up being a great player. You're hoping to stick to your value chart to some degree, that's important. Really in each year, do you like any of these second day quarterbacks because we're not really in the position in the first round. It's easy to say Andrew Luck, we really liked him. But I think evaluating that position is no different than another. There were some good running backs in the second part of the draft here. I think the same thing applies to receiver, and we felt the same way with a few corners. You look at it. It's very typical for team to take a player you like. There's a number of guys you hope you have the opportunity to draft and coach that player. It's filled with someone else getting them just based on the numbers. Just in the last round, there were two players that was just wishful thinking they'd be there in the fifth, players we might've moved from the fifth round into the fourth round to get. They went here in the later part of the third."
Did you consider trying to trade with anybody, move up or move back, maybe get a fourth round pick?
"No. I think that we were a little concerned. You're trying to look at your magnets that you're thinking about selecting from, then look at the teams in front of you and what their needs might be. Is there a threat that one of the players you're looking at drafting gets selected? It would be very normal for us to entertain calls and make calls with the idea of both moving forward and backward. That happened in the third round I'd say four or five different times. There were a number of calls we made to Chicago. You could probably take the first five or six teams ahead of us in the third round, then there were some calls we made going backward. We ended up just sitting tight."
Are you looking for anything specific tomorrow position-wise?
"Honestly I think if the boards were behind me, you're looking for a couple of these white magnets. As soon as a player gets drafted, we take the white magnet down and we put the gray magnet up that shows that they've been selected. The first thing you come into the room and look at, it is what are those three players doing left in this column in the second round that have a high grade? Why are they there? The first thing you do is question yourself: do we have the right grade? Then if there's strong conviction, the first thing you're thinking about in the morning is how do we get that player that we have a good grade on? Obviously in the fourth round of the draft we don't have any selections, but that doesn't keep you from being in business. That's the first thing, then quickly looking at scenarios and the grades. We would pay attention to certain positions that we still might want to look at, that we would like to fill at the right pick."
Can you describe the fit that you see for P.J. Williams?
"P.J. Williams is smart. He's got really good football IQ. I see him being a guy that will be able to come in and compete with the rest of these guys on the outside. I do think that he is someone that should be able to play with these guys in the nickel defense, so we are hopeful he can come in and compete for that spot. He's got a lot of good younger and veteran players ahead of him. I do think that he learns very quickly, so that gives him a chance to play on the inside as well as the outside."
Did he sell you guys that the character issues wouldn't be an issue going forward?
"Yes. Like every team, there is a lot done with the interview process. A lot of the research is done outside of the player selling you. We have the visit and spend time with the player, but a lot of the research is done on our part. I like the fact that he is smart. We had a long talk on the phone call during the selection just about going forward here and what our expectation is. I think that he has a pretty good understanding of what the expectation level is, and certainly how our leg operates. For a lot of these young players, they are getting ready to get de-recruited or come to programs where they have to fight to earn a roster spot. He's one of those players."
You talked a lot about character and maturity. Did that affect your grades more this year than previous years?
"No. I want to say this, we put up the 2006 draft the other day as an exercise, and obviously looking back there's a common denominator with every one of those selections, and every one of those guys had good makeup, good football IQ, and were smart and tough. From Reggie Bush to Roman Harper to Jahri Evans, Rob Ninkovich, Zach Strief, Marques Colston; you guys have been around them long enough, at least most of them, that you all can see that. That was what we tried to find, and someone said it best the other day, it's difficult sometimes but it's not complicated. I think this is very true. Sometimes it's difficult because there's a lot that goes into the evaluation process, but where we've been successful with most guys or where we've made mistakes with some of those guys has involved some of those characteristics, and hopefully we can continue to minimize the misses and increase the amount of the guys that we hit on."
You mentioned trying to be under the radar with Garrett Grayson's workout. Did you plan it late in the process for that reason?
"No. Don't give me that much credit. The storm came at the right time. When you go out in the morning, there's a picture with the Starbucks lady, and then we are having lunch at the Subway place, and it's not only out there, but people have timelines if they really look at it with those people tweeting those pictures. It was never about that. We will have people that will look closely at the various teams, because if you look at the news outlets, which we do, you can keep track of every team. Here is Garrett Grayson; we know he's worked out for Cleveland, we know he's worked out for St. Louis, we know his private workouts, and all of that information literally sits in the room as you are looking at the picks ahead of you. It just so happened that there was nothing on our workout with him, and that was not a stealth move on our part, it just happened to not be out there. There was nothing written about it."
How relevant were injuries with the selections today?
"Significant. Every year, we sit down and have a talk with the doctors. We go through the tons of grey areas and how dark they are, whether to take them off the board, etc. Both of those cases; first with the linebacker, he had played since he had been injured and had the knee repaired with high production post-surgery. The doctors felt great about his repair. When they get to the combine they get pulled on and tugged, and certainly, with the kind of player like him, you can bet that there were 31 or 32 teams pulling and tugging on him at the same knee, or at least a bunch of teams watching one doctor do it. The recovery was great. In Garrett's case, he was clean. We were conscious of his injury, and I've seen him play in games where he's been hit hard and actually looked like he might come out, but his durability has been pretty good. Those things are noted on every player's card."
You mentioned Vic Beasley. There's been a lot of talk about him going to Atlanta at eight. Did you discuss getting ahead of Atlanta to take him?
"We discussed climbing, and really, who were the players that we would trade up for; that discussion took place. We looked at who were the three or four players that we would trade up for, and we also looked at what players would all have to be off the board that we would consider moving the other way. Those discussions took place probably in the last two weeks."
Do you and Mickey think that you've been a little more self-controlled this year moving up on the board just because of some of the moves that have been made in the past few years?
"I think you are looking at identifying players and making decisions based on where their value is on your board. There are a lot of different opportunities presented throughout rounds, so I don't think we go in with the idea that we are going to move somewhere. Typically, it's easy to say that we are backing up a little because there are a lot of players of the same grade behind us, so let's acquire more. There might also be someone that we want to move forward and get. It's not always right, but that's kind of the approach that we have taken in this year's draft. It's not that we haven't made calls or inquired about certain players, because we have, it's just ended up falling the way it has."
Would you consider taking La'el Collins in the seventh round?
"I don't know, with what we know, how to answer your question fairly. I think it's a good question; I don't know that we would consider that right now until we had more clarity. It seems like there's a rush for everyone, and one of the things I said this morning is that we are right down the road, are we able to get some information that other teams don't have yet? I haven't had that or gotten that information yet to answer that as a yes."
Is there a hypersensitivity to that because of the Aaron Hernandez situation?
"I don't think that hypersensitivity is the right word. This is a week before the draft and, certainly, this is a very serious matter. My understanding is that the baby passed away today. I understand the protocol of the NFL, but this is significant, and there's just a lack of information right now. I might be wrong for commenting on it now, but that's just the truth. With what we do or don't know right now, we would be hard pressed to make a decision like that, and that's just being honest."
Associated Press photos of new Saints QB Garrett Grayson.