GM Reggie McKenzie and Head Coach Dennis Allen at the post-draft press conference. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Q: Just an overview of how the day went.
McKenzie: It went better, we had more picks today. We set out to upgrade the team and by the end of the day we felt like we did that. It remains to be seen how good they will be, but we anxiously will await their presence here in Oakland and also into camp. So we are excited, it was a good weekend. We feel good about what we accomplished so far.
Q: Reggie, you drafted a couple of D-linemen who got into football late and some people see them as projects, do you see them as projects? And are they people you can be patient with to try and bring along?
McKenzie: Yeah, with all these guys, to a certain degree, are going to have to be brought along, but yes the D-linemen did get into football late but they are very good prospects. Even though they are a little raw we feel like we can coach those guys up and they will eventually be pretty good players.
Q: There was a report that you guys were about to sign or could sign Matt Leinart, maybe it is not official, but please talk about what Leinart could bring to the table.
McKenzie: Well what we are doing is we are bringing Matt Leinart in for a tryout. Signing and all of that is secondary. But we are bringing him in for a tryout.
Q: What do you like about him?
McKenzie: The fact is he is an experienced quarterback and we just want to take a closer look at him, watch him throw the ball and see his size of injury has come around.
Q: How do you, when you look at a guy like Bilukidi, who has not had a lot of football experience, he is pretty raw and he goes to Georgia State, how do you evaluate a guy like that? And you had said that you look at small school guys and how they face upper-echelon talent, was he able to show you that?
McKenzie: Well, for one, it is not his fault who he plays against, but with that being said, he is a big man with a great deal of athleticism and he hustles to the ball and you can see that type stuff when watching him play. You can see his ability to move laterally, you see his ability to play hard, but yes, playing against some SEC, PAC-12 type players, he did not have the chance to do that. But what you look for is, did he dominate at his level? And that he did. Bottom line, he is a big man with really good athleticism, and he plays like he loves to play the game, so we were down there in the draft and we felt like we needed to take a look at him. You know we had brought him in for a visit and interviewed him, spent a lot of time with him and we felt like we needed to take a further look and get this guy in.
Q: What did you guys like about [Miles] Burris? And is he the one guy today that has the most chance of making an impact on this season?
Coach Allen: I don’t know if he is the one guy that has the most significant chance of having an impact, but he is one of the those guys that we feel like, and Reggie said this from the very beginning, we wanted to go out and get quality football players and that is what we feel like we got in Burris. I think he is a tough, physical player that has got good athletic skill, has instincts for the game, plays the game the right way, and at the end of the day when we looked at him, we said, we have got a quality football player that has got a chance to come in and compete for a position on this team and we wanted to try and bring him in here.
Q: Dennis, how involved were you in the pick-by-pick, and what tendencies did you see and emphasize? Did you say let’s get the toughest player, or just generally what things were you looking for in each player?
Coach Allen: Well first of all, Reggie and I, when it got time, or got close to the pick, he and I were in constant communication on where we thought we ought to go with the pick and who was the best player available. At the end of the day, what we went off of was, when we looked at the tape, what players jumped out at us that were productive, quality, football players? And I think every one of the guys we were able to pick understood how to play the game, they were tough, smart, disciplined, they played the game with instincts. Those are the qualities we look for in a football player and then they have got to be above a certain line athletically, and all these guys were.
Q: Reggie, you have got a couple of guys with basketball experience. Is that a coincidence? Or is that something you look for?
McKenzie: Even when college scouts go in and do their research, you see this guy played baseball, or this guy played three years of high school basketball, yes it helps when you talk about how athletic especially the big men are. So do we go in and look for guys who played basketball? No. But when we research and when we get down into the scouting part of it, yes, that is part of the process. So just like when we look for defensive backs, if they played centerfield and outfield, learning how to track balls, that is part of scouting, But for a specific sport? No, we don’t go out and look for basketball players or for defensive linemen that played basketball. That doesn’t give them a boost up in a round, no.
Coach Allen: We are close to having a starting five though.
Q: Reggie, as names were announced, it seemed like almost every guy who came up today was very outward in his faith or in his Christianity, is that a coincidence? Or is that trait that appeals to you?
McKenzie: I think when you talk about high character guys, how they were brought up, work ethic, I think part of that kind of is reflective on your faith. At least I know it was with me. But did we go out and say we are going to get faith-based players specifically? No, that is not our intent, but I think that just by nature good, quality players have a strong foundation in their faith.
Q: A lot of the experts had [Juron] Criner going earlier than he did. Were you surprised that he was still there and was his lack of great speed a red flag for you at all or not really?
McKenzie: Yes we were surprised that he was still there, but we were excited that he was and the speed was a factor, but it was not a red flag. If it was a red flag, we probably wouldn’t have taken him. For a big guy, he is quick. So if he was a slow guy with no quickness, than it would have been a struggle to get him there.
Q: How did the trade come about to be able to move down and pick up another pick?
McKenzie: After looking at the board, we felt that we could have an opportunity to move down and pick up. We had quite a few players around that level, so we felt like we could get one of them and also by picking up another pick that was just gravy. So if we got a team to do it, we would have jumped on it. So we did. That’s how it went down.
Q: So you approached Detroit then?
Q: Coach Allen, with you being a defensive back guru and the need that this team has, it seems like it would have made sense to add a defensive back in the draft and you guys shied away from that. Can you explain why that would be?
Coach Allen: First of all, I appreciate the guru comment. I don’t know if I classify as a guru. We set out on this process and our goal was to get the best football players we could for this team and if there was a defensive back that was available at the value that we were looking for at that time, then that’s the decision that we would have made. But really at the end of the day, we played the board out exactly how we went through the process and I think that’s a credit to Reggie and the scouting department on how we set the board and we didn’t panic. We just went right off the board and the best player available was the direction we went and we felt good about the guys we picked.
Q: Bergstrom was in today and he was indicating that, because of all the rules and stuff, he goes, ‘I think I’ve got to be out of here tonight,’ basically. What can you do with these rookies between now and when you get them here for the first camp? Can you get them playbooks or DVDs or anything, or are they pretty much off limits until then? What are the rules about what you can do now with these guys?
McKenzie: There’s a lot of rules. So for fear of not abiding by the rules, I’m going to just leave that alone. Yes, our hands our tied. We’ll get them in, in a couple of weeks as far as rookie mini-camp goes, but yeah. It’s hands-off. It’s an off-limits type of thing. Those guys have to be back into their college towns no later than tomorrow night, if we would have brought them in today. It has to be a short turnaround, just come in and meet you guys and they’re pretty much out. That’s the way the league, along with the NCAA, has it. It’s for fear of taking these guys out of school, main purpose. We wish we could get them in and do a whole playbook session, but we can’t do that.
Q: Dennis, I’m sure you’ve been working very closely with Reggie ever since he took this job, but it’s a little different when you’re on the clock at the draft and the pressure’s mounting. What did you learn about Reggie over the last couple of days?
Coach Allen: I’ve said it before and I’m not going to restate it again other than I’m just going to say, listen, you get the same guy no matter what. He’s not going to fold under the pressure. The stress isn’t going to get to him. He’s got a plan. He’s going to work that plan and, at the end of the day, those are the guys that make the best decisions, the ones that don’t get emotional about making a decision. They have a plan in tact. They have a thought process about the way they’re going to operate, and at the end of the day they work that plan. That’s what he did during this draft, and that’s what he’s done with everything since he’s been here.
McKenzie: Our contract negotiator has been in contact with them specifically, but communication has been well. It’s not, with either of those guys, it’s not been an ugly situation. They know we love them and we feel good about our chances of getting them back. Hopefully sooner than later, but the communication really has been pretty good.
Q: So neither have signed yet?
McKenzie: No, not yet.
Q: Reggie, I’m sure you were aware of the Raiders lack of picks even when you were talking about this job with Mark [Davis]. You take a job; you take the long lead into these last few days knowing you didn’t have these picks, the prime picks. Is getting through this a relief? Is it something you just knew you needed to get through? Is it a good thing? Talk about knowing you had this and the difficulties and now that you’re done.
McKenzie: Coming into this thing knowing that I had two picks, thinking about it was a struggle because I didn’t want to think about that. But the hope of the possibility of getting compensatory picks, that gave you a brighter outlook, and when we got them, needless to say we were excited. But to come away with six draft picks on the day we feel great about. Where they came really doesn’t matter, it’s the fact that we have some draft picks. The anticipation of it, didn’t matter what round, it was exciting. We were getting ready to pick our guy. It was constant communication. It was a good process. It was good for me. This was a good weekend.
Q: Another basketball question- we haven’t talked about [Andre] Harding, the tight end that you signed. What caught your eye about him? No football experience at all, is that right?
McKenzie: In high school. Yeah, he was a basketball player in college. Well for one, the video tape, watching him, and the tryout, showed him able to catch the ball, adjust and all of that. You can tell his hands were not going to be a problem. And he ran pretty well. The frame, his physical frame, he looks the part. So it was one of those deals, let’s see him tryout in person. So I sent a scout down and everything was positive, so we brought him up. He’s had a little injury since he’s been up here so that’s kind of slowed down some of his progress, which he needs a lot of progress, but it’s one of those, ‘let’s take a look and see.’ You know it’s going to be a project, but we’ll try to figure out if it’s going to be a good one or not.
Q: The injury was a minor injury?
McKenzie: Yeah, it’s minor. It’s minor.
Q: Last thing to follow up - now you have four tight ends. Are you comfortable with those four or are you still looking to add maybe one more to that play group?
McKenzie: It depends on if something comes available. If it’s a guy we think we can add and upgrade to the competition, we’ll add him.
Q: Today it was heavy in the defensive players. Did you go in today, did you want to address the defensive side or was that just how it shook out?
McKenzie: Well I think we went into the draft from day one to address defense. You’ve got to understand we have a defensive head coach and a defensive-minded general manager. Let’s win on defense. As the day went, the defensive players were the players that were on the board so we didn’t intentionally just go defense, defense.
Q: With the two defensive linemen, Christo [Bilukidi] and [Jack] Crawford, I know they both mentioned versatility, being able to do different things. Do you have positions that you think they’re going to get at? Will one be an end, one be a tackle? Will they both be ends?
Coach Allen: Yeah, right now we’re looking at Christo going inside and playing inside, and we’re looking at Crawford as a defensive end.
Q: In terms of Crawford’s leaping ability, it looks like, apparently he’s batted down a lot of passes at the line of scrimmage. Maybe he could be of use in blocking kicks, place kicks, that kind of thing. Is that the kind of thing you look at that he could be used for?
Coach Allen: Yeah, he’s a big, athletic, runs really well, player and he’s had some production. Again, we look for versatility in guys, and we try to find roles for specific guys and I think as you look at him, as we get a chance to work with him, I think we’re going to be able to find a pretty good role for him.
Q: Reggie when you say the draft is over, do you also mean the signing of rookie free agents is over as well or is that an ongoing process?
McKenzie: That will be an ongoing process, but we have, it’s actually going as we speak. We’ll wrap this up pretty soon. That process has started, prior to us coming down. That thing goes for awhile. But yes, we are hopeful that we get some good players that way, too.
Q: Being that you have fewer draft picks this year is this an all-night type of thing?
McKenzie: Yes, absolutely.
Coach Allen: Every night’s an all-night type of thing.
Q: On players’ various Twitter accounts there’s already an instance of one player saying he’s coming to the Raiders, then thirty minutes later saying he was going to the Bengals. How much back and forth on free agents is there from the time this process starts until the time you actually get the contract in your hand?
McKenzie: Let me tell you something. I’ve been at this thing for all of these years; it’s ongoing until we have the signed document. It is a constant struggle. You have the recruiting part of it, it gets competitive, especially when you’re dealing with contracts, money, opportunity, of course. But everybody gets into the recruiting aspect. But we’ve got the closer here next to me, so we should be fine.
Q: Reggie, about Hardy again, how exactly were you able to sign him since he was a college athlete. I know he didn’t play football, but how were you able to sign him before the draft?
McKenzie: Technically his draft year was in 2011. So he was technically a street free agent at this point.