General Manager Les Snead & Head Coach Sean McVay – Draft Day 3 News Conference
Snead: "I know it was a busy day. I think we ended up with 10 picks today. I don't know how we really did that or where we started, but I do know we ended with 11 total. Also, today during the draft, traded (WR) Tavon Austin and if I were to say anything about one of my favorite human beings on the planet – one of the most competitive, mentally tough, glad I was a part of his life. Tough to make those decisions. But as a human being…last year Tavon, unfortunately, when (Head Coach) Sean (McVay) got here, he had the wrist injury and couldn't get on the field and fell behind. Unfortunately for him, we kind of moved on in terms of adding people to the roster and by the time he was able to get back, was never really able to get into the rotation. So, we did feel like Tavon deserved a chance to go try to be Tavon. But, I can't say enough about that human being – just what he went through last year, where he was at on the depth chart by the end, but still being an unbelievable team guy. Can't say enough about that human being."
McVay: "Yeah, and in this short year that you're around him, what a special, unique person he is. Clearly an incredible talent where you see the athleticism, the explosiveness that he has to be able to create the big plays. I think you find out a lot about people when they go through some hardships or some adversity and all he continued to demonstrate is that he's all about the right stuff. Can't really echo enough about what Les (Snead) said, just the amount of respect you have for the human being. But also, the football player. He's the epitome of class. Wish him nothing but the best and I know he'll do great things for the (Dallas) Cowboys. There's a special place for Tavon because those decisions are never easy. But, what a class act. What an impressive human being, most importantly. A lot of respect and appreciation for Tavon."
(On if Snead ever felt like he was able to find the right fit for Austin during his time with the Rams and if not, why it didn't work out the way he had hoped)
Snead: "Tavon led our team in touchdowns the year before we signed him to the contract and it was never necessarily to be, hey, a number one receiver. But, he was a weapon for us on special teams and in the offense. He led our team in touchdowns and he had a lot of special teams touchdowns called back. So, he was just a unique weapon on offense. I do think, us going through a lot of QB changes, even coordinators, probably hindered his progress. Because any time you're let's call it, a shorter receiver – if you were with the same QB for a while, you'd get used to let's call it, passing the ball to that person. There's a lot of factors that go into it…the guy led our team in touchdowns and was a threat to go the distance. So, he did have a productive career with us. It would've been interesting to see if he would've been healthy last year how it turned out, but it didn't and this is where we are today."
(On fourth-round pick Center Brian Allen)
Snead: "He's just one of those guys where if you've been watching college football players all Fall months, December month, February and all April and you're asleep, kind of dosing off – put the Michigan State center on film. He's just kind of fun to watch. Not only does he block people he just finishes, gets position and drives people off the ball and then he's played against some good players. Just a fun guy to watch. Other than that, really good technician, very smart, great guy but mean on the field, one of those types and just everything he would draw up in a Michigan State center."
(On if they had been talking to the Dallas Cowboys about trading Austin before the draft or if not how the deal came together)
Snead: "Back during the combine, when the rumors were we going to release him, all of that, teams were trying to figure out were we really going to release him or not. Obviously, we restructured his contract and all of that. Today, really out of the blue, teams have checked in, 'Hey are you still going to keep him?' All of that through this whole process and yes we are, we restructured his contract, this kid's fast, good player. Somewhere in the draft today, got a text and a call from (Cowboys Director of Player Personnel) Stephen Jones and he asked if he would be available. Talked with Sean and we thought it was the best thing for us and Tavon."
McVay: "Yeah a lot of the same, Les had the majority of the dialogue that went on. I think it's a combination of you certainly don't like to lose players that can make plays and do special things like Tavon has done over the course of his career. But, I think you also want to be mindful of what a special, unique, person he his. We felt like that opportunity and all things being considered it was the right thing and to do right by him as well. With the way that he's handled this last year because you have so much respect for the human being. I think that is a credit to Tavon and I think he'll do good things for the Cowboys under (Head Coach) Coach Garrett's and (Offensive Coordinator) Coach Linehan's leadership."
(On taking four linebackers in the draft and how that played out)
McVay: "Yeah, I think you look at it, you like some of the depth that you're able to create with some guys that can play on the edge whether it be the 'Sam' or the 'Will' linebacker. You're able to address the inside linebacker spot with a guy like Micah Kiser, who's a great communicator, got a great command. You look at what he's done and listen to what his coaches talk about how he just handles himself day in and day out. Bring him in for a visit, he's an incredibly impressive person and then you talk about (Travin) Howard from TCU and some of the things he's been able to do athletically. So, you add some interior players that can do some different things and allow us to be a bit more versatile at some of those spots and add some depth. Then you've got some different guys coming off the edge with that 'Sam' and 'Will' backer spots. I think really our personnel staff, I don't think you can say enough about them being able to have it tiered down where we are able to kind of strategically go right down and end up with ten picks today and that's really a credit to Les and his staff. I know the coaches are all excited about getting 11 picks in here and seeing how these guys compete and add to our team."
Snead: "Before you go, I appreciate you all mentioning my name, but I can't say enough about our player personnel staff. From the area scouts on up, to the guys that took these guys from the top-30 visits from the airport and back, let us know what they were like. All of that it's a great process, Sean's staff, they're involved and when you get involved in the personnel side it's not easy. There's a lot of extra work on your plate and they do a heck of a job. This day couldn't have gone as smooth as it did without their work."
(On how they would evaluate their draft overall considering they did not have a first and second-round pick this year)
Snead: "I always say time will tell. We'll find out in a couple of years and that's the honest truth. But, knowing that we didn't have picks early and we focused on those middle rounds - we had a lot of players that different scouts, coaches, position groups wanted. So, we did think that if we could turn a lot of the – let's call it, fourth, fifth, sixth round picks into more picks, we'd have a chance to get fits and fill some roles or get players with traits that have a chance to fill some of those roles. So, that was the strategy and we were able to do that today. Now, we'll go to work and get them on the field and start developing them."
McVay: "Yeah, a lot of the same. I think you see where you go into a situation and you want to have some different scenarios and you anticipate some of the things that could potentially take place. To be able to come away with 11 players that we feel good about, that really supplement us with some depth on both sides of the line of scrimmage on offense and defense and then to be able to get a running back that we feel like adds some toughness to that room and will add some competition. Those are the things that you feel really good about. I think going into year two, you can be a little bit more strategic with some of the needs. Because collectively, as a coaching staff and with our personnel staff, we have a much better idea of how our players that have been here fit and the way we want to utilize them in our offensive and defensive systems and then how they would help (Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel) Bones' as well. I thought today was a credit to them, again. Now, it's our job as a coaching staff to do a great job developing these guys and continue to have a competitive roster where it makes it difficult for us to whittle it down to that 53 when those decisions have to come."
(On if they will hold a rookie camp)
McVay: "We're not planning on having a rookie camp. We'll have something more similar to a tryout camp. That will be in a couple weeks. You look at some of the people that we envision adding to really get us to around that 87 to 88, and then you've got a couple spots to get up to your 90 (man roster) allotment. I think we'll use that as an opportunity to see if we can find some spots just based on the numbers and how we want to allocate that 90 over the course of some of the different positions. Again, it's a credit to feeling good about some of the depth that you have some understanding with, with some of the guys that are available in the latter half of the draft and through college free agency. Our guys have done a great job with that and I think that comfort level that we do have has enabled us to take that approach as opposed to feeling like you need to have that rookie minicamp."
(On if they targeted draft picks that earned academic all-conference honors)
Snead: "I don't think you ever start out and say, 'Let's just get academic All-Americans', but I do think that the human beings that take pride in – let's call it – they're student athletes and we've all been in college and sometimes school is not a priority. But, if that human being actually says, 'You know what, I'm going to make this priority. I'm going to sacrifice some things in college to be really good in school.' I think just those traits as a human being, bleeds over to the football meeting room and on the field and the preparation they put into it and all of that. We like to call it, sometimes you're drafting traits, sometimes you're just drafting really good football players. I think those guys fall into that. They're football players and whatever mixture of DNA that leads to that, I think that's a part of it."
(On why the Senior Bowl has been such a useful tool for Snead in evaluating players)
Snead: "You get to see guys go compete against really good seniors in their class. A lot of times, depending on what conference the player came to, we drafted a kid from Maine, who I think first went to the East-West (Shrine Game) and we always say he graduated to the Senior Bowl and it might have been the NFLPA game, but he went to either NFLPA or East-West, had a good week, got called up from AA to AAA. When you're able to see a guy from Maine go block, let's call it a guy from Oklahoma that we drafted – 'Obo' – you wouldn't get to see that when you're watching him play at Maine and you get to see it at the Senior Bowl. I do think it helps you go, 'Okay, some of the traits that he has will transfer to this league.'"
(On primarily drafting defensive players and linemen with the exception of RB John Kelly and what led to that selection)
McVay: "When you look at it, any time that you're able to acquire people that can make plays with the ball in their hands, that's always something that's exciting. I think looking at this running back draft class, we felt like John did some good things. Especially some of the offset gun-runs that he had at Tennessee playing against a really high-level caliber of defenses that he's playing week-in and week-out and you see the explosiveness, you see the toughness and the way that he finishes runs. We feel like he will be a really good complement to (RB) Todd (Gurley II) and we have (RB) Malcolm Brown in place. Those are some guys that have had some success in this league and we feel like John will be a nice complement to that room to add to that competition that we always try to create. When you look at upfront, we feel really good about our starting five and some of the guys that we were able to re-sign in free agency. You look at developing (C/G) Austin Blythe, but then when you add three linemen and someone like (T) Joe Noteboom that can add some depth at the edges and learn under (T) Rob (Havenstein) and (T) Andrew (Whitworth) like we talked about. Then, you talk about the competiveness of (OL Brian) Allen and what he's done year-in and year-out at the Big 10, a former wrestler, you see his leverage. Then, (OL Jamil) Demby is a guy that, I think, has some guard-tackle flexibility. So we're able to acquire three players that kind of fit the mold of what (Run Game Coordinator) Coach (Aaron) Kromer is looking for in guys to develop."