Detroit Lions GM Martin Mayhew Gives Pre-Draft Comments


Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew met with the media today for his annual pre-draft press conference. Here is what he had to say, as provided by the Detroit Lions.

Opening statement: “We finished up our draft meetings on Tuesday and had our local pro day on Wednesday. I can’t say enough about the great job that our scouts did and our evaluators did working on these guys. They spend a lot of time away from their families in the fall trying to get this draft right and get this board right. They did a phenomenal job. I think our scouts did a phenomenal job and our front office has been involved as well. Scotty McEwen did a great job setting our board and we’re ready to go.”

On if his draft board is set: “I would say it’s about 95-percent done. I mean, there’s still some guys that we’re taking a look at and still I think some ties to be broken and some discussion to be had. I’m meeting with some people individually. I meet with Jim (Caldwell), I meet with Scotty and Lance (Newmark), I meet with our ownership next week, but it’s pretty much set.”

On if this draft class fits the team’s needs: “It certainly is a strong draft in some of the areas that we might be looking in, but, you know, you never know how it’s going to fall. You never know how the board’s going to go. I mean, there could be a lot of guys that go early that we’d like to have. So, every draft is different. One thing that I’ve learned about this process is it’s very unpredictable. You don’t know what’s going to happen, so you’ve got to prepare for everything. We’ll be ready for every alternative.”

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  • On his conversations with the team’s ownership group: “There are situations where there are a few guys that I may describe to our ownership group and with Tom Lewand and Jim and we’ll talk about their individual situation. I think every time – I think it’s difficult to just put guys in categories and say, ‘This guy is a DUI guy or this guy is a drug guy or this guy is whatever.’ I think you have to talk about every person’s individual situation and where they are in that process. So, there are occasionally guys that we have some discussion about if those are guys that we want to add to our franchise. That’s part of the process.”

    On the balance of this year’s draft class and how many first-round grades he has on players: “I think it’s a pretty strong draft, I think it’s a pretty deep draft. I won’t go into specific numbers, but I think it’s a deep draft. There are a lot of quality players. I think there are some positions that are pretty thin, you know, obviously the quarterback position. There aren’t a whole lot of quarterbacks, not a whole lot of tight ends. That’s probably a good thing for us, so I think it’s a pretty strong draft across the board.”

    On weighing injured players in his evaluations: “Again, to me, injury, I will sort of equate it to the character situation in that every individual player should be evaluated on his own merits. I wouldn’t just say, ‘This guy had an Achilles tear so he’s off our board.’ You know, where is he in that process? How long ago was that? How did he perform last year? Who was his surgeon, who did his surgery? How is he in the rehab process? Where is he right now? So, every single guy is evaluated on his own merits and what his situation is specifically.”

    On his evaluation of Georgia RB Todd Gurley: “From a talent standpoint he’s an outstanding prospect without question. I spent some time with him. I know people down in Georgia who have done a lot of research on him. He’s a great kid. Obviously, had an unfortunate situation with the NCAA violation last year, but a great kid, great talent. Obviously, he has an injury that we have to evaluate.”

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    On not finding offensive play-makers outside of the first round of the draft: “Well, I would consider Joique Bell to be an offensive play-maker. He’s a pretty good player. I think Theo Riddick’s also a pretty good player for us as well. The first part of your statement, I disagree with that.”

    On if it his harder to find offensive play-makers outside of the first round: “I don’t think so. I think this draft is very deep at receiver, very deep at running back. I mean, some really quality players that will be there after the first round at those two positions and some impact players. So, I think speaking on this draft in particular, it’s really strong in those skill position areas.”

    On the biggest difference between drafting at No. 10 compared to No. 23: “I think 10 is somewhat more predictable in terms of what’s going to happen. You know, last year, we talked about this this morning, that was one of the most unpredictable first 10 picks in a long time, you know, because you have Jacksonville taking a quarterback, which people did not anticipate. Then you have Cleveland trading back and then trading back up, Buffalo making a big move. But you know, in the first 10, you can figure out really 10 quality players that you think will be taken. At 23, we start to stretch it a little bit. It’s hard to figure out who’s going to be there at 23. So, as I said, I think you have to prepare for every situation.”

    On the team’s immediate needs on the offensive line: “It’s a very strong group of linemen (in the draft), especially at guard and tackle I think. So, a lot of quality, a lot of different guys, guys with some position flexibility, which we like. So, it’s a strong group.”

    On prioritizing an offensive lineman who can be versatile: “I’ve always said that versatility within that group is very important. You’re only going to dress seven guys, so if a guy can play center and guard, a guy can play guard and tackle it certainly gives him a lot more value I think.”

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  • On how much time he spends analyzing the first round compared to the later rounds: “Well, the first-round pick obviously is greatly important for your franchise. I would say probably about 50-percent of my personal time goes into that quality player. The 50-percent goes into probably the first two rounds, then 50-percent on three on down probably. Just in terms of tape, phone calls and talking with people and researching background, all that. I spend a lot of time on the first two rounds. When we get back in the fifth and sixth round, I’m really relying on our scouts, our area scout, our college director, our national guys, coaching staff who spend time with some of these guys. So, I’m really relying on those guys more so. Frequently, I’ve not spent as much time on those guys as I have on the other guys.”

    On if he is comfortable with the number of draft picks he has at this point: “It is what it is, so we’ll see what happens in terms of acquiring more picks. I think I made the point at the league meeting that we’ve never started a draft and finished a draft with the same picks, so I think we’ll have a different number of picks at the end of this draft. Right now it is what it is, so we’ll take what we have. I feel good about where we are in the rounds and I feel good about what’s going to be there, especially in the first two rounds. We’ll see what happens.”

    On if there is any downside to an offensive lineman having versatility: “I don’t think there’s any downside to that. I mean, I think with all these players that we talk about, none of them are the finished product. When they get to us we plan on working with them and improving their skillset. If we’re going to take a guard, a guy that’s played guard and tackle, and move him to one of those spots he’s going to spend a lot of time in that spot and learn our techniques and how we play that position. So, there’s no downside to being able to do multiple things I don’t think.”

    On his trading history in the draft: “It varies, it depends on what’s going on. Frequently, we’ll be very comfortable that there are going to be a number of players where we are on the board and we’ll stay put, or if we feel like our guys are going ahead of us then we’ll move up. If we feel like there are a number of guys that are behind us that we’d like to have or guys within our range – If we have 10 players and we can go back eight spots and get one of those guys. So, it really varies depending on what’s going on with that particular draft.”

    On how his expectations for first-round picks have changed over the years: “I don’t really have any expectations. I have aspirations. I aspire to draft a guy in the first round, second round, third round as guys that are going to be here for their whole career. That’s what I want to happen with each one of those guys. It doesn’t always happen in that way, so I anticipate whoever we take in the first round, that’s the guy that I want to be here for a long period of time. That’s why we do all the research and all the background and spend so much time trying to make sure we pick the right player.”

    On his philosophy that he is looking for three players that can contribute right away: “That’s what our goal is. It’s an aspirational goal, as I said before. That’s what we want to happen. If you look across the board at any team really, that doesn’t happen all that frequently. But that’s certainly what we aspire for and what we want to happen within the draft.”

    Aug 22, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn talks to players during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Ford Field. Detroit won 13-12. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

    On if the first-round draft pick will dictate what the team’s offensive line looks like: “Well, let me start off by saying I think Riley Reiff’s a heck of a left tackle. I think he can play multiple positions. I feel very comfortable with him at left tackle or at right tackle. I know there’s been a lot of debate about where he is and where he is going to be. I’m comfortable with him at left tackle and I feel good about that. I don’t think that anything is set in April or in May as to what we’re going to be doing in September, so we’ll take the best player available and if it happens to be an offensive lineman, we’ll continue taking the best players. There may be a player we take later, all of a sudden that guy we took in the first round is playing a different position. So, we’ll see how it all plays out.”

    On Reiff’s fifth-year option: “Yes, we’re definitely going to do his fifth-year option and have him for a fifth year. We anticipate getting that paperwork done sometime soon.”

    On if he is less inclined to acquire players via trades involving draft picks: “I think early on that was something a lot of times that we did because of the difficulty of signing those guys as free agents. If Corey Williams hit the free agent market, what he was going to cost in terms of that bonus and then trying to attract him here was going to be extremely difficult to get done, so in those cases we traded some late picks or flopped late picks. When we traded a fifth (round draft pick) for Corey, we got Corey and a seventh, which equates to about a sixth-round pick value, which was really a pretty good deal for us. I think we’re in a place now where we have a pretty solid core of quality players and we really want to add some youth to that group. I think the draft is the best way to do that.”

    On his biggest evolution as a draft leader: “You know, I think what we’ve done every year, and happening again this year, is we’ve tried to improve the process and tried to do things each year that enhance the process and make our decisions better, our decision-making process better. I think it’s really a lot of times about the process. If you get the process right you make the right decisions. So, each year we try to do something a little bit better and a little bit different to make it better.”

    On something he has changed in that process over the years: “I can give you a vague example. What we did this year with the Senior Bowl and the combine was we tried to get more information to our coaching staff before they showed up at those events. So, when they met those players for the first time it wasn’t just two people meeting and they knew nothing about that player. We wanted to get them more information, so there was a pre-combine meeting that we had with our staff to go over every player that was attending the combine, as an example.”

    On evaluating the personal character of draft picks: “I just think the research on those guys is greatly important and the sources that you talk to and where you get your information and if you trust the information that you end up getting. So, we try to make sure that the information that we get on guys is accurate, up to date and we get multiple sources, but that’s probably the only thing that’s really changed.”

    On if that process changed after 2011: “I think we have been, since 2011, more cautious in terms of our sources and the people that we’re talking to and finding out the best information that we can find out.”

    Dec 14, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions strong safety James Ihedigbo (32) comes onto the field with excitement before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

    On S James Ihedigbo missing voluntary workouts: “These workouts are voluntary, so as we talked last year there was a guy who missed last year and you guys were irate. I told you then it was voluntary and it’s voluntary now. So, I look forward to talking with James. I understand what he’s going through. I’ve been through that myself as a player when I felt like at a time in my career that I was underpaid and had to deal with that. So, I have empathy for him and understand what he’s going through. I look forward to sitting down and talking with him. I have great respect for him as a player, as a man. I’ve got to know him a little bit away from football and I understand how he feels. I look forward to sitting down and talking with him at some point.”

    On if he already has a sense if the offense will be different this season: “I think it’s kind of early in the process. I think it’s going to be a very similar offense, but obviously depending on who you add to that group there can be changes in what we do. I think it’s really an evolving process. You get into your OTAs, you start working some things, maybe some things look better than some other things and you start to emphasize some other aspects of your offense. So, it will be a work in progress right up until the time we start the season. Even during the season you may see changes as you figure out that some guys can do some things that some other guys can’t do. So, it’s always evolving I think. It will be obviously the same coordinator, so it will be very similar.”

    On if he considers there to be seven ‘core’ positions in football: “Yeah, I don’t really follow that philosophy. I think there are probably 11 core positions on both sides of the ball. I mean, you can’t be weak anywhere. These coordinators and these coaches are too good. I mean, they’ll find out where you’re weak and they will exploit that. I think it’s important to be strong across the board. It’s important to have depth. We want to have the right mixture of youth and experience on our football team and I want to have veteran guys that can bring younger guys along in terms of being a pro on and off the field. So, we’re trying to build our depth right now and get quality players across the board at every position.”

    On if signing G Rob Sims is still a possibility: “We’ve had some discussion with Rob. I really don’t know the answer to that. I spoke to his agent probably about three weeks ago and we had an offer out to him. That’s kind of where we are right now. We’ll have to kind of wait and see what happens.”

    On if the defensive line can still be a strength this season: “Sure, it has to be. I think we want to be strong up front on both sides of the ball. Offensive line and defensive line have to be strengths of this football team, so we’re focused on making that happen.”

    On this year’s draft talent on the defensive line: “Very deep. Very deep at defensive tackle especially. There are some quality defensive ends also. There are some guys down in the mid rounds I think that can come in and perform well on the d-line.”

    On if he has started talks with DT Haloti Ngata regarding a contract extension: “I wouldn’t say so. I mean, I think they know that we have an interest in doing something and I think that we know they have an interest in doing something. But he just got here for the offseason program. We’re letting him get comfortable and get situated. At some point we’ll start that dialogue.”

    Nov 9, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions outside linebacker DeAndre Levy (54) against the Miami Dolphins at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    On the process of finding LB DeAndre Levy in the draft: “It was one of those things where our scouts in that area at that time really liked him. He wasn’t really highly rated by some other people I guess, or wasn’t really on a lot of people’s radar, so to speak. Our coaches took a look at him and they also liked what they saw in him. I think there was just a great sort of synergy right there and it came together where everybody’s seeing the exact same thing. We saw the speed, the athleticism that he had and thought he’d be a quality player for us. He’s come in and really the first couple years he was a little nicked up and wasn’t playing at this level that he’s playing at now. But two years into it he really took off. That’s one thing, too, and I’ll say this is that I really have been impressed with this coaching staff’s ability to develop players. I think that’s really important. DeAndre developed before they got here, but you look at a guy like Tahir Whitehead and the way that he came on last year, Darius Slay, the things he was able to do. Also Theo Riddick and the things that he was able to do last year, Corey Fuller, so they’ve done a phenomenal job with that. I’m encouraged by that with some of our younger players that we have on our roster right now and seeing those guys develop over this season.”

    On releasing G Rodney Austin: “I found out that he had a domestic violence incident last Thursday. So if there was some speculation about when I found that out, it was last Thursday. I wanted to sit down and talk to him about that. I talked to him and decided the best thing for us to do was move on from him. I told him, I said, ‘Hey, I have not closed the door on bringing him back.’ But until he gets his legal issues resolved, I thought the best thing for us to do as a franchise was to move on.”

    On if he feels pressure in his position from year to year: “I don’t concern myself with my job security at all. I never really give that much thought, but I always am striving to work as hard as I can to get the job done and not have to worry about that. That’s what I’ll keep doing every single day trying to get this team better.”

    On his success in finding defensive linemen in the draft: “I really can’t answer that. That will be for you guys to speculate on. As a defensive back though, I can tell you I certainly appreciated having the defensive linemen in front of me when I played. So, I’m always on the hunt for those guys. It makes everybody’s job easier when your defensive front is rolling and playing well.”

    On if there is a plan to extend Levy’s contract: “We’ve had some dialogue with him and I think it’s ongoing at this point.”

    On Levy’s ‘wing walking’ vacation and QB Matthew Stafford’s skydiving: “Yeah, so far it’s been telling them after they’ve already done it, but yeah, I think we need to work on that a little bit and keep our feet on the ground and stay safe. With DeAndre I was not surprised at all, but I think that’s something that we just need to be aware of because it’s not a big deal until something bad happens, right? I saw a picture and that was all I needed to see. I’d rather them just not do that. I don’t want them doing that.”

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