Rams Coach, GM Discuss Draft

Rams Coach Steve Spagnuolo and GM Billy Devaney addressed the media Monday about the trade value of the #2 pick, on the process on draft day, how deep they think the draft is, on what they look for in players, and on if having needs at a lot of positions gives them flexibility.

Pre-Draft Press Conference
General Manager Billy Devaney and Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo

(Opening Remarks)
Billy Devaney: "Thanks everybody for coming out this morning. Before I get going, what I'd like to do first is acknowledge some people that are in the room that you may not be familiar with and that's our player personnel department, both the college scouts and the pro scouts. Please raise your hands so everybody knows where you're sitting. Many of you know that we've kind of shifted gears a little bit this year changing philosophies regarding the scouts' involvement in the draft process. What we've done is we've put greater emphasis on their input and their evaluations and it's worked out tremendous for us, just as we had hoped. Between the cooperation, the coaching staff, the college scouts and the pro scouts, they've done a great job putting us in a position where, right now, we're pretty close to ready to go. There's a couple of loose ends that we have to tie up in the next day or two, but for the most part, we've done a great job of gathering accurate information, detailed information, background checks. Probably all that's left to do maybe by Friday night is to do a little bit of praying. But other than that, we've done our due diligence. We feel like we've got a pretty good plan going into this thing. We spent a lot of time over the weekend going over a lot of scenarios, (Head Coach) Steve (Spagnuolo) and I, into yesterday afternoon, just running through things, trading down, how far down you go, what players might be available. I think it's pretty safe to say - we're going to go out on a limb - this will be a real bombshell, we're probably not going to trade up. Anything short of that, we're open to. We're going to be aggressive if it calls to be aggressive. If it turns out we just stand pat and use all our picks and don't maneuver up or down, we're going to do what's best for the Rams. We're open to every possibility. We want to come out of this with a bunch of players that come in and make us a better football team and whatever that takes, we're willing to do. With that, I want to turn it over to Coach."

Coach Spagnuolo: "You hit everything, I have nothing."

Devaney: "What are you doing here? You know what was great, the scouts and all have done a great job but the cooperation between the coaching staff and I'm saying the player personnel department, because what we've done is, when we went through this free agency period, the college scouts were involved and helped out on the pro end. Now we shift gears and get ready for the college draft. The pro scouts have been involved and they've helped in evaluation and we had the 30 (college players) visit last week and they were tremendous. Couple that with the position coaches, the coordinators and Steve. Steve has been in every scouting meeting that we've had. He's been there every step of the way. I think he has a great grasp on the personality of this draft, what our needs are going into it. Again, I couldn't be more pleased to be in the position right now. I feel really comfortable that we're in a place now where we can make great decisions."

(Devaney on if he would like more than seven selections)
"It depends. If there are seven good players that would be fine. We'll determine as we go along. If there's a scenario where we think we have to give up a pick to get a guy and we think that's the best thing to do, we're not opposed to that. If it's a case where we can move back in a round and pick up some picks. We're open to anything. We're not saying let's just be conservative, we're going to stay where we're at, we're going to keep our picks. We're willing and open to any possibility."

(Devaney on the trade value of the No. 2 pick)
"I think as much as anything you want to come up with how far you'd be willing to trade back. If it's a group of players, if it's three or four guys that you feel comfortable with taking, that limits how far you'd want to trade back. We're not quite at that place. We have a pretty good feel. I think the other part is how other teams value it and we're not sure. There doesn't seem to be any ground swell right now for one or two or three marquee guys that teams are ear-marking. I'm sensing that's changing a little bit. There seems to be some interest in a couple of players, so we have to see how that plays out."

(Spagnuolo on how he sifts through all of the information he gets on players)
"It's like anything else, half of it you believe and half of it you don't. I think you have to stick to what our staff has done. You have to go off of the information that we've entrusted scouts, coaches, Billy (Devaney) and myself in doing a lot of work. And we've done a lot of leg work. If we stick to what we believe are the most important things and we know the information we are getting is right, we should trust what we have in-house as far as knowledge and not worry about the other things. There's gamesmanship, I understand that. Sitting at two, you're only really worried about one other team right now and then you listen to all of the other things.

Devaney: "We both have close friends in the league, but at this time of year, I wouldn't trust anybody as far as I can throw them. You just block everything out, you take it that it's all a lie, what you hear and just do as much background and try to be as thorough as possible on your guys."

(Spagnuolo on his first time going through the draft process as a head coach)
"It's been great. Certainly the meetings have been longer. The last few years it's been half of the meetings because you're on one side of the ball, but it's been great. It's been smooth and the scouts have been terrific. The wealth of knowledge that these guys gather is amazing and it always amazes me what they're able to find out. We've dug deep and we have all of the information. It's documented, we've factored it all in and hopefully we'll make those smart decisions over the weekend."

(Devaney on the process on draft day when it comes to the third or fourth round pick)
"We're all going to make the call. We've just gone through that process for the most part where we've got guys lined up and slotted. There may be a point when you get down into the third round, things are kind of falling apart at that point and probably three or four picks before your turn comes up, you'll have a group of names pulled out on the side. There may be four or five guys pulled out and we'll talk about it one more time. We'll say okay we haven't taken a receiver at this point. This is the last chance to get the receiver, the next receiver we have now is not until the fifth or sixth round. We'll talk it through, get everybody's opinions. Steve and I will talk it through and then we'll make a Ram pick."

(Devaney on how much impact players in later rounds can have and on how deep he thinks this draft is)
"That's hard to say because I think every year the draft is great because we know darn well there's going to be some guys taken in the sixth or seventh round that we missed on and a bunch of other teams missed on and they're going to have good years. The key is let's try to found out who those guys are and us be the guys that hit on those guys in the fifth, sixth, seventh round. Somebody is going to come in and make an impact for some team. That makes it deep for me. There's going to be college free agents that we all miss on that are going to contribute. We want to be the team who hits on those guys."

(Spagnuolo on if he tells Devaney what kind of players he's looking for)
"That's a good point and we went through that as a staff as coaches real early because it is new for everybody. What are we looking for in a linebacker? What are we looking for in a defensive end? We had those discussions early on and the scouts were great in going out and looking for those specifics, the things we had to have at the corner position, the things that ideally you'd love to have. You can find holes in every player, but I think that process has gone pretty well. It takes a little bit of time for everybody to really get a feel for what we're looking for, but as it stands here today, I think everybody has a pretty good feel for what we're looking for."

(Devaney on if what he is looking for in a player has been a different from what Spagnuolo looks for)
"It's been tweaked a little bit, position specifics have been changed a little bit, but again the scouts have done a great job adjusting on the fly. Remember, they were out in August, September and October looking at players and evaluating players geared for a certain scheme and different coaches. So, they've had to, kind of in their mind when we came in for these meetings go back and when we got into the meetings and started talking about these players, we had to kind of preface by saying, not all the time, but in certain cases. You know what, I liked this guy a couple months ago, but for what we're talking about right now, this guy's going to play, we acknowledge that, but he's not exactly what we're looking for. So, it's been a little bit of an adjustment, but again, I think the scouts have done a tremendous job of adjusting it on the fly."

(Devaney on if there are players that have not been considered because of character problems)
"There's obviously some, I couldn't even tell you how many right now, but yeah, as far being on the same page with Steve, we're totaling on board with the type of guy we're looking for. We said at the outset when we go into our meetings with the coaches when they got in, we said, we're not pontificating and saying any time an 18-year-old kid does something dumb and makes a mistake, we put him in the do-not-draft, that's not the case at all. We evaluate every kid on a case-by-case basis, but there are some issues that we're going to be hard on and we were last year. It was an easy transition and Steve felt the same way. There were some things that it just wasn't open for discussion. In that case, it made it easy; we both share the same philosophy."

(Devaney on what happens if a player tests positive for a banned substance)
"You know what, I don't want to get into specifics and we take guys off for and what categories, but you can imagine there's certain issues that we're going to have zero tolerance on."

(Devaney on how he weighs a player that is potentially a good pick that hasn't played at a high level of competition)
"That's a tough one, that's always a tough one. You have the small college player that dominates on his level and now you're projecting him to the NFL. The height, weight and speed is one thing. You try to see him against the best possible competition, whether it was in a college all-star game, hopefully if they were that good it was either the East, West or the Cactus Bowl or something where they played up a level and played against better competition. You have to take that into consideration. The learning curve is probably a little longer on those guys, but there's been plenty of cases where the small college guys eventually come in and they have a hell of a career  in the NFL."

(Spagnuolo on if he finds himself leaning towards drafting defensive players)
"We really haven't gotten to that point yet because really all the discussions have been position orientated. You get talking about the quarterbacks, you're listening to all the quarterbacks, we're in the middle of doing all that now. It'll be an interesting process; there will be a lot of feedback by a lot of intelligent people. There's a lot of expertise in that room right now after sitting there for two weeks. It's a full team, not just a defense now."

(Devaney on his general thoughts of what he thinks about LB Aaron Curry as a player)
"You know what, there are a lot of guys and especially the ones that we had in last week that we have great respect for as players and as individuals. Curry's in that group, but I mean there's a lot of guys, we could sit here for a while and talk just about every one that came into the building last week."

(Devaney on if he's found that the athletes are better prepared for this process than they were when he first got into the league)
"Yeah, you know what, at the combine for sure, but it almost can't be helped. These kids are rushed in and they're going to talk to 12 teams in one night and we all ask the same dumb questions for the most part from team to team, so it's hard not to be programmed if you will in that setting. But when you get guys in, like we had last week and you see them among their peers and you see them interacting, I think you get a much better…there isn't a script. You kind of see them as themselves for the most part. Now, they're on their best behavior, we realize that, but it's much more real in a setting like that. Coaches spend time with them, having dinner with them, having them over the next day where they're in the lounge watching our workouts a little bit, the running drills and you get a much better feel for the guy in that type of setting."

(Devaney on if a player has ever asked him to draft him)
"No, but they drop hints, it's, "I'd love to be here" and I say yeah I'm sure you would, we have the second pick in the draft, I'm sure you would. But like I said, these kids, not that they were prepared, but the people that touched them along the way deserve a lot of credit because it's a classy bunch of kids. Whether its high school coaches, family, parents, Pop Warner, college coaches, administrators, the people that touch these kids along the way have done a tremendous job because it's really a good bunch of people."

(Devaney on an area of the draft he things is particularly strong)
"Again, I think if you ask all of us, we think it's strong. I mean, there's players at every position. Like I said, there's going to be players down at the end of the draft at every position that we'll like and 31 other teams will like, so it's hard for me to categorize."

(Devaney on if he considers this year's draft strong overall)
"Yeah, but I do every year."

(Devaney on if given the investment that comes with the No. 2 pick it's hard to select a player like WR Michael Crabtree that hasn't been able to participate in anything since the end of his college career)
"It's a factor. There's a lot of factors. All these guys, there's plusses and minuses; there's no perfect player in this group or next year. There's going to be plusses and minuses on all these guys. For Crabtree that's a red flag, but there's not many red flags on the guy."

(Devaney on how to decide who's the best player in the draft)
"I kind of look at it like this, there's certain times in the draft as it goes on where you want to be like Albert Pujols, you can swing for the fences, you try to hit a homerun. There's other times where it makes sense to try to be a Tony Gwynn, put the ball in play, actually, you know what, you can use Albert Pujols at any time I guess. Forget Tony Gwynn. There's times you want to hit a homerun and there's other times you want to just put the ball the ball in play, drive the run in. It depends on where you are as an organization, are you willing to take a flyer on a guy that might have an injury factor, a character factor. I think we're kind of in agreement that we're at the point where we want to bring in good solid people, I don't think we're in a position to swing for the fences right now."

(Devaney on if having needs at a lot of positions gives them flexibility as far as what positions to draft)
"Well, we have needs; we still have some pretty good football players in that locker room. I don't want to say that we need everything that's not the case at all. There's some areas of need and I think every team would say the same thing that they've got areas where they have to improve. We're not locked into saying we have to have a receiver on the first day or we need this, like I said earlier, we're open to anything and all possibilities."

(Devaney on if he has a lot of University of Missouri players on the draft board)
"Oh sure. Missouri has a lot of good football players."

(Devaney on if he thinks Missouri has a strong presence in the draft)
"Definitely."


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