The following is a transcript from the Bills Pre-Draft Press Conference featuring GM Buddy Nix, Assistant General Manager/Director of Player Personnel Doug Whaley and Director of College Scouting Chuck Cook.
The NFL draft is scheduled for April 26-28.
General Manager Buddy Nix Opening Remarks:
This really culminates a year of work for us. These guys and our scouts, it comes down to this. We start out, and I think I tell you this every year, but there are about 2,000 names that we start with to go through and we wind up with, this year we've got 10 picks. It just keeps coming down each time we meet. We eliminate and keep trying to stack them and get them in the right place. You do everything you can to make sure you make all the choices count. You very seldom ever do that but that's the goal. These guys have been, of course Tommy has been working and Doug in free agency and he still keeps up with that. We overlap and do college stuff, he does. And Chuck will do some pro scouting. These guys can help talk about individuals. I will just tell you this, I tell you this every time and you don't listen and you don't believe me, but I'm going to tell you any way. Don't get pinned down by connecting the dots. It's fun, I enjoy reading it but it's fantasy football. It has nothing to do with what we might do. I don't care how many draftniks think that that's where we're going and that's the best pick for us, if that's not the guy we've got graded there, we won't take him. Don't get yourself in a spot where it sounds like you know and then it doesn't work out that way.
On what the thoughts are about sitting at the 10th spot in the draft:
Buddy Nix: It seems to me and I've been doing this a long time and I've picked just about everywhere. If you pick 15th there's 14 you really like, and if you pick 10th there's nine that look good. It's higher than we want to be picking. I guess the question you're asking is, would we consider moving down? I always here sources quoted, sources say, I wish when they say we'd be better off moving down they'd tell me who we can trade with because it takes two and it's normally not a lot of action with us for people wanting to move to 10. We'd consider everything. You might get the same guy. A good chance you might get the same caliber guy. If that presents itself we'd consider it.
On if the thought is to get an immediate starter from the draft this year:
Buddy Nix: You'd think at 10 you'd get a starter. With us, what we'd like to get, like everybody else we'd like to get a difference maker or a playmaker, the impact guy. You should get a starter. But again we don't and I guess I don't feel the pressure that we've got to start a guy just because we drafted him 10th. That's Chan's philosophy, it's ours that a guy is going to compete for the job rather than giving it to him right off.
On some teams not taking offensive tackles high and what his philosophy is on taking offensive tackles high in the draft:
Buddy Nix: There are a high percentage of them that's drafted in the top 10, left tackles. Again, don't read into that but most of the starters in this league, especially Pro-Bowlers, were taken in the first eight or nine picks.
On how high does he prioritize an offensive tackle:
Buddy Nix: We need tackles but I'm going to make this clear, we think Chris Hairston can play left tackle for us and win. He did it and he went in there and everybody say's Fitz gets the ball out quick and that's true. We run our offense; we run a lot of empty sets with five blockers, if they bring six he better get it out quick or he's going to get hit in the mouth. In this offense he's got to get it out quick. But Chris Hairston, he may not be the prettiest foot athlete but he's got so much length that he can protect the back side. We feel like he can do that. Now we've only got two and Sam Young in coming off of knee surgery. That's three tackles in the house. That's not enough. We'd like to have two more.
On the strengths of Offensive Tackles Riley Reiff, Jonathan Martin, and Cordy Glenn:
Doug Whaley: You look at Jonathan Martin first of all coming from Stanford; he's going to be a highly intelligent guy. He's a competitive guy. I think he's a guy that has a chance to play both left and right tackle, so the versatility for him makes him very intriguing. Reiff, you just look at the pedigree from guys coming from Iowa. They're well schooled, well coached. The head coach there has coached in the league so he knows how to produce NFL linemen. You're going to get a guy that we believe, most people believe, and the pedigree from that school are going to come in and step in and compete right off the bat. Reiff I think he can play both, left and right. I think you start him out on the left and see how he goes from there. Those left tackles are hard to find like Buddy says. We believe that you start a guy there and if he fails it's easier to move him to right than right to left. With Glenn for us a guy of that size and that type of foot athlete you'd try him out at left tackle. He's got a chance to play there and produce there at a high level.
On taking a franchise quarterback if he's there:
Buddy Nix: We'd still do it. That's any position, but obviously quarterbacks too.
On the 41st pick and how they are looking at it with so many good players that will still be on the board:
Buddy Nix: That does have something to do with it. You look at what will be there in the second. It might have some bearing on what you do in the first. There is some depth at positions we need. We think from the second round on that they'll be some really good players.
On how much more value does he see in an offensive lineman that has been in a three-point stance during his college career:
Chuck Cook: My experience tells me, they're in a two point stance in college but can learn to get their hand down and run block. Everybody's doing the spread offense and that's what we evaluate. We feel like our offensive line coach can get them down. You'd like to see that natural pro offense, that's always a great evaluation tool for us scouts as we hit the road. I don't think it's a big, big defense. They can put their hand down and run block. Guys have done it.
On the emphasis he has on drafting a quarterback:
Buddy Nix: To be honest, I'd like to draft one every year, in an ideal world. If you didn't have needs that you had to use every pick for to try to get better overall. The better we get the more we can do stuff like that. I think you need to keep, you need to draft a corner every year so many of them play, I think a quarterback because they're so hard to find. There are quarterbacks somewhere in the draft, we don't know exactly which one it is, that might be another Brady, or somebody that was picked late that blossoms and comes on. I think if you can and you've got enough picks, you should take one every year.
On how the off season additions impact what they do in the draft:
Buddy Nix: I think it had a lot of impact on us really. We knew, my wife knew we didn't get enough outside pressure and we were pretty good inside. We had to try to fix that. We were able to do it I think in free agency. Therefore we're a little freer as far as who we pick. You don't want to get yourself in a spot that you've got to reach and we've said that from day one. And most of the time reach term comes from all the stuff we hear from mock drafts and folks that have them ranked, well that's too high and that's too low. I think that gives us more freedom there for sure.
On the parameters of the linebacker position they are looking at with the new 4-3 defense:
Buddy Nix: It's similar, very similar. You need a little more height; you need a little better cover guy. But we think that a guy can probably, if he can play one he can probably play the other, especially those two outside guys.
On the need at the linebacker position:
Buddy Nix: We need more. We need some depth. We do.
On which spot LB Luke Kuechly's can play:
Buddy Nix: He could play all three for us.
On the wide receiver position and the importance of getting one in the draft:
Buddy Nix: Let me just say one thing, the wide receiver position is deep in this draft.
Doug Whaley: The wide receiver position, like Buddy said, is deep in this draft. We are deep on our team. Now we have a lot of guys that have question marks that we want to see go out there and show what they have. With that being said, we always believe that competition brings out the best in everybody. With the deepness in this draft, hopefully if the opportunity presents itself we bring somebody in here to push those guys or maybe over take those guys, but we want to bring in competition. The one thing we're trying to get to as a team is getting to the point where the drop off where the first team guy gets hurt the level of expectation from the guy that takes his place is minimal. Just keep rolling and keep the thing going and keep the momentum going. That's what we're looking at in any position we draft or any position we bring in or any transaction we make.
On even after signing Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, how much of a priority it is to patch up the pass defense:
Buddy Nix: I think we helped it some with those guys. If we can get that quarterback from throwing from his back we'll be better off covering. We do need some depth in some places in the secondary and you'd always like to have a shutdown corner that you could get and put over to start with and not worry about that side. We will try to add some secondary guys.
On how much does CB Terrence McGee's injury history, CB Leodis McKelvin's free agent status, and DB Drayton Florence's age play into the defensive back position:
Buddy Nix: It does a lot. With Terrence, when Terrence is healthy he's good as any of them. Hopefully he'll get through this year healthy but we've still got to, we can't get caught. I don't want to get us in a position that we were in last year and the year before. If we get one hurt it's a big drop off. You lose the ability to compete. So we're trying to, we're going to try to fix that. Leodis going into his last year, he'll probably play lights out. I hope he does.
On his general philosophy of trading down and if this year is better for that than other years:
Buddy Nix: You probably would say this year's a little better for that because of there's more equal guys. You might get the same from 10-20 that you get from 1-10, now you don't know that but that could probably be the case this year. Again, I don't think if there's a guy there even though he may not be one that's got the wow factor that some of them have, if he's a guy that can come in and make a difference in us then I don't think you move from 10. You might get one.
On CB Stephon Gilmore's strengths and the depth of cornerbacks in this year's draft:
Chuck Cook: Gilmore from South Carolina, we like him. We think he's a good strong sturdy corner that can press, can run in a hip pocket and he makes plays. We like his physical-ness in coming up in support. I do think this is a good year for cornerbacks. I really think the depth is good. You never know what we do early but from the second to the fourth we stack our board. We're going to take the best player available regardless of position, but we hope to get a few corners in the second or fourth too.
On CB Dre Kirkpatrick from Alabama:
Chuck Cook: Dre obviously from a great scheme in Alabama. They're known they're so solid up front. That helps the corners, obviously helps the DB's. He can play more physical. He can play the ball and he can gamble a little bit more in that scheme because they are getting to the quarterback quicker. I think he's physical, he can support and he's proven that. He can play the deep ball.
On who's the better in press coverage; Stephon Gilmore or Dre Kirkpatrick:
Chuck Cook: It's a tossup. Both those guys are valuable candidates for us. We're looking at them. We think both those guys can do it about the same, the press. And that's what Dre majored in too.
On if he pays attention to anything the league says and if he thinks that anything he says influence's what other people do:
Buddy Nix: I think you can have a little impact as far as keeping them guessing on who you're taking. I don't think anybody will listen to me saying this guy is better than that one. And I sure don't put my stock in anybody else. We pay these guys (scouts) and they're good at it. That's where we go for our information, from our scouts. The only thing that a little misinformation might make a guy move ahead, he thinks you might take one you want.
On if there has ever been a player who came for a pre-draft visit that has totally changed their minds:
Buddy Nix: I think it's just a piece of the puzzle. I know that's not the right answer they want. You might get one in here that turns you off but still as far as his being with us and where we would take him, that probably doesn't change it. Let me expand on that just a little bit. One of the things that we bring him in here for is to be sure about their learning ability. We let them spend time with the position coach when they're in here. Our coaches don't scout. They look at tape and they visit with the guys at the combine and then we bring them in here to put them on the board. Everything else you see but when you start trying to figure out how our guys are going to do as far as scheme and learning from the playbook or learning from the board, you actually need to put him up there and see what he does and what he retains.
On when looking at quarterbacks, how much emphasis does he put on what they did in college:
Doug Whaley: It's obviously something you look at it and you factor into it. What we are trained to do is look at what he does and how he does what he does. How he releases the ball, what decisions he makes, decisions he makes under pressure, the arm strength, the foot work. Again it's something you factor in just because you're going to be seeing different types of throws from guys that are from spread compared to guys that are in pro offenses. Again like I said, what we get paid for to do is to determine how they do what they do and if that can translate to our game.
On WR Michael Floyd from Notre Dame:
Chuck Cook: We think he's a big physical good looking receiver with really strong hands and body control. Just think the guy really has upside. He's a guy that we think he's a football player. You'd like to consider him at some time but you never know what's going to happen. He's a good looking kid and we think he's going to be a big pro.
On WR Stephen Hill from Georgia Tech:
Doug Whaley: At the workout and at the combine it was very impressive. A guy with that height and that speed to be able to do what he does physically it's rare, you don't see every day. Now the thing that you kind of have to balance is you don't see just because of the offense that he plays in you don't see him doing that on the football field. It's one of those things where it's going to be a balancing act. It's a little bit of a roll of the dice just because you'd like to see him in an offense where he's going to be making all of those running the route tree for a receiver, you don't see that. You see the ability that he can do it from the work outs. The guy is very impressive and it's something that's very intriguing with his physical attributes.
On what they do to guard picking a bust in the first round:
Buddy Nix: You can go with just a clear cut formula but the more you can find out, the more of the pieces you check out the better chance you've got. I think one of the reasons and I know we've made this mistake before, and I'm talking about me, is not being prepared if the guy you want at that spot all of the sudden is gone and you've got five minutes to make the next pick. You better have your plan of where you're going if he's not there. There's a good chance, even though you think you're set all the sudden jumps over you and takes that guy. I've had it happen more than once. The mistakes we made were not being prepared to go to the next guy. All you research and that's again part of the reason we bring them in here to make sure that we don't draft a guy and then a year later the coach says, "I can't play him, he can't learn" or he doesn't know what to do. The test scores, all those things are indicators for you and they're red flags that you have to check out. A lot of times a guy can play football but can't read and do tests. You've got to find out how much football he knows.
On if the combine, workouts matter to how they evaluate a player:
Buddy Nix: If I had to guess and put a percentage on it, I'd say for us we're 70% on how he played. The other junk that goes into it, all that other stuff might make a difference in whether or not he's successful but that makes up a very small percentage for us. All this moving up and down the boards that you hear about it's hard to believe how a fella can do that without playing, but it all comes back to one of the guys is a clear cut first rounder. He's the second best tackle, he's a third best tackle and he's moving up. I mean (Ryan) Tannehill, I asked him yesterday I've never seen a guy go up and down like he has without playing. It's all what you hear.
On why he thinks Ryan Tannehill has gone up and down so much on the board:
Buddy Nix: I think again it's the junk that we hear and see every day. I'm not talking about the media in particular but everything that the mock drafts come up with and he can do this and he can do that and he can't do this. It affects your opinion.
On if they do a mock draft and if their board is set right now:
Buddy Nix: Sometimes I'll go around and ask them who they'll take. Our board is changing. We put the board up, Doug and them put the board up in January. And then we meet before the combine and it's that way then. Then we go and if we find out more about a guy, if a guy gets in trouble with the law, anything like that might change it. This time we go through it again. Next Wednesday it will be set in stone.
On forecasting what other teams are going to do in the draft:
Tom Gibbons (Pro Personnel Director): What I do right now is I'll track team needs. Team by team go through and if they're light just in depth at a position or if they lost a starter in free agency we'll just track that and keep on top of what their needs are right now. Over the last few weeks teams will be signing some of their players back and you get a little better grasp of the next week of where they're at going into the draft.
Buddy Nix: In Tom's office on the board, and I go look at it every day, plus he gives me a handout of what teams have filled since yesterday and now looks like they may need this position or that position. In his office every free agent is listed by position and every time one is signed they take him off and put him on the team. If they lose a guy then he'll have a blank place at linebacker where they need a guy. It's pretty easy even for me to tell kind of what they might do.
On Central Florida CB Josh Robinson's speed and production during the season:
Chuck Cook: Josh Robinson from Central Florida ran like a deer at the underwear and shorts (Combine). He's tremendously fast. He showed things. We saw him pre-Combine and evaluated him. And then he goes and runs good. He's got upside and that's how we're stacking them. We're stacking guys that we think can come in here and fit what we do.
On if Robinson dominated at Central Florida:
Chuck Cook: He had flashes of doing such but he's a guy that we had some guys with some discrepancies. But we try to put all that together and that's what we do in these meetings. Everybody gives their opinion and we shake it down. That's where we stack them.
On Georgia CB Brandon Boykin:
Chuck Cook: He's got kickoff return ability and we think the guy's got a chance to be a potential player.
On if he thinks tackles are considered playmakers:
Buddy Nix: If you hadn't got one, yea. I think they are, especially left tackles. Normally that guy is by himself on an island and I consider them a playmaker. I think it's kind of like a long snapper, they really get important if you hadn't got one.
On the last tackle he's drafted in the top 10:
Buddy Nix: Not in the top 10. We took him (Marcus McNeill) in the second round so I don't guess we have, at least I can't think of one.
On if they consider depth at a position on the team when deciding between a couple of comparable prospects by grade:
Buddy Nix: Yea, maybe, especially if you're pretty equal on the guys and you think you can get one next round. Then you'd take the one where there's not many.
On if the rule changes relating to player safety makes it difficult to find defensive players who can play within the rules and be effective:
Buddy Nix: I just think it's hard to play defense, really. I think you've got to react on defense instead of having plays called where you know what you're going to do when you go to the line of scrimmage. You've got to be able to sit and then react to it. So I think it takes better athletes, and I'm probably glad Chan's not in here to hear that but they've got to be instinctive and be able to move on the snap. I think that's probably the main thing. I don't believe that the rule change, maybe concussions might affect because of the long term affects might affect how you draft now if you've got past injuries that way. But as far as they play I don't think it does.
On if it comes down to a gut decision on character issues with draft prospects:
Buddy Nix: I wish I could tell you it's scientific, but it's not. It's more of a gut feeling. There are some things that you do that's immaturity that kids do. They do it their first year in freshman and sophomore years and then you say well he's changed. But most of that comes from learning about life and how to act so we think that that doesn't really eliminate a guy. But if it's a repeat offender and it's the wrong kind of trouble then we stay away from it.
On North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins and if they'd consider him:
Buddy Nix: You know I just would not get into that. But if you mean whether we'll take him or not, ability-wise obviously you would. This is a political answer I'm fixing to give you, but otherwise you wouldn't. You get enough trouble without getting one that you know is a problem.
On Nebraska LB Lavonte David and Miami LB Sean Spence:
Doug Whaley: With the new 4-3 defense that we're employing right now the size of those guys, especially on the will side, is not that big of a determining factor. We believe Lavonte David is an instinctive guy that adds an added bonus of being able to detach from the box and cover a split out wide receiver or a flex tight end which we're going to be seeing a lot of in our division. Sean Spence is a heck of a football player. He's instinctive, more in the box, and if he was two inches taller we'd probably be talking about him as a MIK because of his instincts and his ability to play the run. Now that doesn't mean he still doesn't have the ability to detach and cover, but both of those guys are very good football players; one maybe a little stronger in the coverage and the other a little stronger in the run. But they both would be assets to our football team.
On most of the team's recent draft picks coming from the Southern region:
Buddy Nix: I think I'd be really dumb to turn a guy down because of where he played, so I hope that answers your question. The reason we go South is we go where the players are. If we were trying to go by area, all ours would come from Buffalo.
On why the SEC produces dominate defensive players:
Buddy Nix: I don't know that I can answer that except that football is a way of life down there. Where you get a guy, let's just go back to high school quickly. In some areas you got four coaches in the high school that teach class all day and they don't make a lot of money. Then you go to Texas or down South and you'll have 12 coaches. None of them teach and they make good money and get a good car once a year to drive. It's whatever your priority is.
On how many people he knows at Tennessee-Chattanooga and QB B.J. Coleman:
Buddy Nix: I know a lot of people, (my wife) Diane's down there. BJ, I saw him in high school play. He's got all of the prototype as far as size, strong arm and that kind of thing. Again, would he be a guy that would be a franchise pick or could make a run? I think he's got the ability to do that. We don't pinpoint them again. He being from Chattanooga has nothing to do with it.
On the factors that go into considering a guy can play left or right tackle:
Doug Whaley: One of the major aspects that we believe a left tackle has to have is length and range, not only body range but range with his feet to be able to get those fast guys that come off the edge. They're going to be on the blindside and most of your predominant rushers are rushing from the right side coming off to get the blindside of the quarterback. So you need a guy that's a foot athlete and that can make that park a lot longer than the defender wants it to be. A right tackle most offenses historically have been right handed when they run so you want a right tackle that's a little more physical, aggressive and a better run blocker. Historically on the defensive side that rusher's not going to be as quick or fast or not the dominant rusher on the defense. Now hopefully we change that with the guys we've signed so you got to have basically two left tackles when they play against us. But for our determination that's kind of how you want to split them up and peg them right or left. Now, if you got a guy that does both then he's usually going to go real high in the draft.
On Arizona State QB Brock Osweiler as a prospect and Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson's height:
Chuck Cook: Brock obviously has the prototype height. He's a 6-6 guy and has a good arm. We like what we see in the big guy and he's done a nice job at Arizona State. Now he doesn't have a great body of work but we look at all of this and that's how we shake this thing out. He's a big, good looking quarterback that can see the field and can throw all of the balls needed and we think he's a good prospect. We think he's got upside. Russell Wilson, the man is short and obliviously that's known. And how many short guys under six feet are playing in the league? We look at that. We look at his body of work and what he brings to the table. We'll evaluate that and plug it in to take the best player.
On if Russell Wilson can overcome the height disadvantage:
Chuck Cook: It all comes down to heart and we feel like nobody knows that until it happens. So whoever pulls the trigger is going to hope it happens for the positive.
On why there isn't an increase of tight end prospects with 17 attending the Combine:
Buddy Nix: People are running spread offenses. You don't see many folks lining up with a tight end anymore. You look at college and everybody says that college is following what we do, but that's not necessarily the case. We follow a lot of what they do because that's where we get players. If you look at the spread offenses you look at people that are using the tight end in the old way. You'd look at Alabama and Stanford who do it but when you get past those guys there's not many. You got to, again as talking about the South, but you go where the players are and where they're proven. There are not many tight ends being used in college anymore.
On how important and if he owes it to Head Coach Chan Gailey and WR Stevie Johnson to add a speed receiver:
Buddy Nix: I don't owe them nothing, they get paid once a month (jokingly). But I'll tell you this, we do need one. We do need some speed outside. We got more than you think, too. (David) Clowney, he hadn't done it, again we don't have a proven one but he runs in the 4.3. So it's not just speed, but it would really help Steve Johnson if we had some speed outside and we know that. Hopefully we can fill that need.
On knowing that it may take time to develop a rookie wide receiver but wanting to win right away:
Buddy Nix: That's true and it also is true if you took him at the 10th pick. You might still have the same problem.
On if a 10-win season should be a legitimate goal:
Buddy Nix: Our goal is to win 16. But I don't know that you can put a number on it. I certainly expect us to be competitive throughout the year. I've said that before and it's no secret. It's time for us to take a step and be relative all the way through. For us to start like we did last year it was a little bit smoke and mirrors but then we lose seven in a row. You can't do that.
On if the routes ran by a wide receiver in college factors into the decision process:
Buddy Nix: I know Chan lets a guy do what he can do and I think that's an asset for us. That'd be my answer as far as if we got a guy in here that couldn't beat bump coverage and that's what we were seeing. He probably wouldn't use him that way. He might line him up in the slot to get him off the line of scrimmage easier. I think that's probably the best I can answer that. I don't know that a guy that can separate from a defender he can probably run most of what you ask him to do. A lot of it is mental and being able to adjust to the game and speed and having somebody in your hip pocket when you're not used to that. We go look at a lot of guys and a lot of quarterbacks are throwing in windows that's half as a big of a house. The percentage is good but it's a different story up here. You've got to throw it in a little knothole.
On this being his third draft in Buffalo and if he senses this one being bigger:
Buddy Nix: I don't look at it that way and I haven't thought about that. I think our philosophy when we came we said we're going to build through the draft. Obviously you want to plug in free agents but I think that makes every draft important to us. I think with 10 picks our goal has got to be to hit on 10 of them. We need to do that. We got places that we need depth and we need better players that can make a difference so I think all of them are important. And I think this is just like all of the rest, really.
On the second to third tier of pass rushers in the draft class being strong and looking at infusing youth to position with the additions of DEs Mario Williams and Mark Anderson:
Buddy Nix: We wouldn't shy away from taking one because we got these two guys. We'd still take a young guy and try to develop... we've got nine defensive ends on our football team and we got some good, young guys. We got 6-5, 6-6, guys that are 24 years old that hadn't done it yet but they've got the potential. And if we can upgrade that from what they are, we'll do it.
Buddy Nix: Let me also say this about offensive left tackle being a difference maker. I think they are. I guess I was thinking a big playmaker which a tackle is not. But a difference maker is a guy that makes your team better and can do things to make you able to do more like throwing down the field more and that kind of that. So I think in that light certainly a left tackle fits that need.