McKenzie Opening Statement: “Good evening, guys. We are very excited with our first pick. It was a guy that we had targeted for quite some time, and it was a guy that we are very excited to have.”
Q: Reggie, how much did the picks above you play out like you thought they would? Was there some surprise that Mack fell to you?
McKenzie: “Any time when you are anxious and excited about getting a player, there is always being anxious and wondering if he is going to come to you. So, I am just extremely excited that
Q: Reggie, when you say you targeted him, if you had the first pick overall, would you have taken Khalil Mack?
McKenzie: “I didn’t have the first pick. (laughing) We liked Khalil. We liked him a lot.”
Q: What kind of offers did you have to move out of the No.5 slot? Did you get a lot of action, and did you ever think about it?
McKenzie: “We got some offers, even before our pick came. But no deal was presented, only interest. Once Khalil fell to us, we had a couple of calls. At that point, I wasn’t taking any.”
Q: Dennis, there are a lot of comparisons between Khalil and Von Miller. Did you see a lot of that? You were Von’s defensive coordinator. If you did, how does Mack’s skills translate to what you’re doing here now?
Allen: “Yeah, absolutely. I saw a lot of similarities between him and Von Miller. I think the thing that really was attractive about Khalil Mack is the fact that he understands how to rush the passer and he understands how to rush the passer with power. To be successful in the National Football League in getting after the passer – I’ve made that statement several times that everything in the National Football League is about affecting the passer, whether it be offensively with weapons or whether it be defensively getting after the passer. He understands how to rush the passer. Yeah, I see a lot of similarities between he and Von Miller.”
Q: Mack started and played in 48 games during his college career, so you had probably had as much tape on him as any prospect you’ve ever seen. Did the amount of tape that you saw him play really sell you that you were confident with him?
McKenzie: “Yeah, we were very comfortable with not only the number of games but also in the league he played in. He was a real player on the field and he showed that. We don’t see anything but upside with him. He is going to get better.”
Q: Do you envision him as a player that is going to step right into the starting lineup and play right away? And how much did you guys get a chance to talk to him? And what about the off-the-field side?
McKenzie: “Let me answer the off-the-field and us talking to him. Off the field, he is a one. There are no issues with him at all. As far as having the opportunity to talk to him, we spent a lot of time with him at the combine. I spent time with him at this pro day. We got to know him really well. We talked to a lot of people close to him, so we felt like we knew the kid very well.
Allen: “In regard to the impact, I don’t think there is any question. When we started this process, we were totally clear on the fact that we wanted to add some impact players to our football team. This is an impact player. This guy will have an impact on our football team for the 2014 season – there is no question about that.”
Q: Dennis, you talked about versatility on defense. How is Khalil in terms of that being able to drop back in coverage and rush the passer?
Allen: “He can do everything that we’re going to ask him to do. So, we’re excited about the versatility. He is a three-down player. He is going to be able to do a lot of the things that we’re going to ask him to do and have a huge impact on helping this defense and getting this defense where this defense needs to be.”
Q: Reggie, having the background of a linebacker that you do, did that play any part in what you saw in Khalil Mack as a linebacker?
McKenzie: “The one thing that he can do is rush the passer. He plays very well on the line of scrimmage. As far as what I look for in a linebacker, it’s the physicality. He can play strong and he can play with good extension, use his hands. The fact that he is big and he can run, that just added to his value. He is a football player and I think he is the total package.”
Allen: “I think he is a little bit better than Reggie.” (laughing)
Q: When it got you guys at No. 5, was it clear that it was going to be Mack, or was there any back and forth?
McKenzie: “There was zero back and forth. We knew who we wanted.”
Allen: “Absolutely. This is a guy that we targeted early in the draft process that we liked, that we wanted. To be honest with you, we felt fortunate that he was there when we got to the fifth pick.”
Q: I don’t want to be too specific, but is he basically slotted as the weak-side linebacker?
Allen: “I’m not going to really get into exactly where he is going to play. I’ll tell you this, he is, obviously, going to have a big role in what we’re going to do and he’ll be a guy that we’re going to use to send after the quarterback in a variety of different ways.”
Q: Will he have his hand down?
Allen: “He will have his hand in the ground some too, yeah. I envision his role being very similar to what we did with Von Miller.”
Q: Once you got a quarterback, there was a sense that you wouldn’t go after a quarterback. Are you surprised, after 10 picks, that Johnny Manziel is still around?
McKenzie: “First of all, with all the media talk, I am surprised. But still, a team has to pick him. It’s all about who is the best player at that particular time. These teams are picking other players. That’s just the way it is. If his value is not there … I’m sure he’ll get picked at some point soon.”
Q: Are you guys done for the day or do you try to look for a deal to get back into the later part of the first round?
McKenzie: “We’re never done.”
Q: Obviously you guys have upgraded your talent, on paper anyway, in the last couple months. How do you blend it all together so quickly to form a winning team and get the team over the hump in short time? In other words, no growing pains for this collection of talent.
Allen: “I think No. 1 it started in the offseason with the acquisitions and the free agents we were able to acquire, and not just players, but the types of players that we were able to acquire. We brought in a lot of veteran players that understand how to win championships, that have been a part of championship teams and they’ve been great team players for their respective clubs. I think that was the first part of being able to do that, and we’re going to continue to add some pieces. We’ve been at this thing now for three weeks with the offseason program and I think the team’s really beginning to come together pretty well. That’ll be a huge part of the process, is taking a lot of roster turnover and developing that into – instead of a group of individuals – a team that can go out and win football games on Sundays. That’s part of the process and we’re excited about it.”
Q: Dennis, when you say this is a guy you targeted early, are you talking very early in the process or maybe within the last few weeks? And was that specific to the fifth pick because that’s who you thought who would be best at five or was it just ‘we just love this guy, that’s the guy we want’?
Allen: “This was a guy that, when we met as a scouting staff and I was in there with them, this was a player that when we looked at him, we really liked the player. As we continued to go throughout the process we fell more in love with the player every time we had an exposure to him. Where we were going to pick this guy, I don’t know, but the fact is this was a guy we really liked and we wanted to add this guy to our football team. We felt fortunate that he was there at the fifth pick.”
Q: Was there one thing that you fell in love with about him, whether it be football IQ, etc.?
Allen: “The first thing I fell in love with was the tape. I think that’s probably the most important thing, but when you get an opportunity to sit down with the young man and visit with him and found out a little bit more about what he’s all about, he’s real man. He’s a real man, he’s a football-first guy, he’s got a tremendous work-ethic and he’s a team player. Those are all things that we look for in adding to our football team. This is not only a high quality football-character guy, but a high quality character guy off the field, too.”
Q: Reggie, I know
McKenzie: “Yes, there’s an opportunity for that, yes.”
Q: This is kind of for both of you guys. Khalil Mack is someone who maybe had a chip on his shoulder after he had only been recruited by two colleges coming out of high school. It seems like a pattern this offseason that you guys have a lot of guys who have chips on their shoulders. Does that go into consideration and is that one of the reasons you did pick this guy?
Allen: “I think the big thing is that we identified this was the type of player that we wanted to add to our roster. He’s the type of player that we’re looking for and we talked about those things. This is a guy that’s a football-first guy, this is a guy that has tremendous work ethic and this is a guy that’s a team player. When you watch the tape and you see the production; he’s been a very productive player at the University of Buffalo and he’ll be a great player and a very productive player for us.”
Q: How do you feel like he’s going to fit into this pass rush? You obviously added guys like [Justin] Tuck, [LaMarr] Woodley and [Antonio] Smith and guys up front, but it seems like he could sort of be a wild card that you can move around and play with as a play-caller.
Allen: “He’s a nice chess piece to have. You can never have enough rushers in the National Football League; it’s all about affecting the quarterback, and he certainly can do that. When you add him into the mix with some of the guys that we were able to add this offseason, I think we’ve really helped out our pass-rush a lot.”
Q: We’ve been hearing for the past four months about how JJ Watt is going to help [Jadeveon] Clowney. Can you touch how, on the field, Mack will fit in with the rest of the guys? When you talk about Woodley and Tuck and the championship-caliber players bringing him along as a professional football player, what sort of excitement does that bring?
Allen: “I think that’s huge. Obviously we brought these players in because we feel like they still have a lot of football left to play and they can help us from a production standpoint, but another reason these guys are here is to help some of these young players to develop the foundation for our football team as we continue to go into the future. I think adding those type of veterans will do nothing but help a guy like Khalil Mack come in and have some success.”
Q: Reggie, we’ve all heard about his Ohio State game. Is that the one that separated him and can you comment on what you saw that day?
McKenzie: “You know what, it showed the level of competition compared to some of the teams in his conference. The things that we saw, and we stated this, as far as his ability to rush the passer, his ability to play strong at the line of scrimmage and his ability to move around and do multiple things. The guy has the size, he has the length, he’s got speed; he’s a playmaker. We’ll find a way to put him on the field and get some production out of him, but we saw a lot of things and that Ohio State game was just the tip of the iceberg.”