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Draft Wrap Press Conference Transcript


Initial comments:
"It has been a very good three days for us. I really feel like we've been able to improve the football team. Things kind of ended up breaking our way. We had a grouping of about four or five players, and we were able to choose out of that grouping rather than having to regroup. So it worked well, we had some good fortunes. And I think we improved.

"Obviously, our number one goal this offseason has been to give Carson (Palmer) more weapons and threats, and put people in place to help enhance our passing game and get us back to where we were. Another part of that will be the maturity and improvement of the offensive line by having Andre Smith in there from the start. That will be helpful.

"With the defensive players that we drafted, they all have great physical tools. They're all very intelligent and give us an opportunity to take them and improve on their upside potential. The defensive coaches, as you saw with Mike (Zimmer), are excited about that. And they obviously look the part, so that's big.

"Lastly, improving the depth on our interior offensive line was one of our goals, and we had a chance to do that. We left the draft feeling really good about being able to fill a lot of the needs of the football team. As we finished the season, I had perceived thoughts and goals of where we needed to try and improve, and we've done that. As we go over the next two weeks, we'll maybe have a chance to tinker with a couple of things, before we get into the on-the-field football here in the middle of May. So that will be good to have the opportunity to do something in that way."

Q: Most people thought safety was an area of need in this draft, but you did not use any of your picks on a safety. Why?ML: "The good thing is that we kind of stayed true. We didn't draft a young safety. We have a couple of guys here, already in the building, who we have trained to be safeties. It's kind of like the apprenticeship program we had last year on the offensive line. So we feel like we already have some people present here that kind of hit it better than maybe some other guys would. But we'll see what happens. We didn't feel like there was anybody that hit us who would upgrade where we were, other than maybe the age of our two starters."

Q: You took five players from the Big 12 Conference:ML: "That's right, because we got Reggie (Stevens) from Iowa State at the end, too."

Q: Will Reggie Stephens be given a chance to play both guard and center?ML: "Yeah. As a backup player, you've obviously got to have some versatility. And he comes here with the ability to do that. Otis (Hudson) will probably be more of a guard from the start. But with Reggie, he can swing and do those things."

Q: Most of your picks on both the offensive and defensive lines have versatility:ML: "That's probably true. All four players do have a little bit of versatility, and have a good dimension to them. Potentially, they still have a lot of physical development ahead of them. If you look at the offensive and defensive lineman in the NFL, the guys that start coming into their own in the mid-part of their second year end up being the guys that you go 'Wow, where did this guy come from?' And it's because of the development, the coaching, the maturation of the player and person. If we can continue to do that, that would help this football team.

Q: Talking about staying true to the board, there was still a lot of competition on the board at the WR position — even in the sixth round:ML: "(Referring to WR Dezmon Briscoe) We have a really good relationship with his former coach. We had a high evaluation of him as a player. We feel good about them and the time our coaches spent with him. We have a coach who has a best friend on their (University of Kansas) staff as well. Sometimes you get some helpful insight. Now he has to come and prove himself and make our football team better."

Q: Do you think you were true to the board in the end?ML: "Yes."

Q: What pick do you think really reflects that?ML: "I think throughout the draft. After Thursday night, there were only two picks that had different grades than what we had them, and after last night, the number was six. I think when your evaluation stays true to the other 31 clubs, you have to feel good about things. That's what I try to remind all of our people. When you put the body of work together and look at how it gets spit back out, you have to feel good. That's why you can't jump the whole process."

Q: In the first three rounds there were only six players that didn't match your grade?ML: "Approximately six. That's based on our evaluation. Teams value things differently in the NFL. They have different schemes. Maybe they had some insight that we didn't feel comfortable with and they did."

Q: If you feel good about a kid that ran a different scheme in college, but you think he could add something to your team, is it a hard decision to make?ML: "The hardest thing is trying to evaluate college. I hear, 'He's late off the ball' all the time. What I'm looking for is athleticism, knee bend, strike, separation and those things. To say a guy needs to improve at route running, to me that's not scouting. I hope they all have to when we get them. We have to coach everyone up."

Q: I've heard a lot of technique speculation about the top players in the draft, but it really comes down to athleticism and the ability to adapt:ML: "Those are the things we're looking for. Everyone goes about it a little differently, but that's what we're comfortable with. There's a lot of debate. We started meeting April1 this year. It's been a long process to get to this point. We went over each position and each player. I think our personnel people did an outstanding job. When we injected the coaches into the decision making, they did a great job. We have to be careful not to step on each other's toes in that way. We (coaches) have to fit to what we're doing in our three phases of football and they (scouts) have to try to look to enhance us in that way. We return a team that had some success last year and we don't get to pick up where we left off, so we wanted to make it better and I think we've done that over the past three days. I take my hat off to everyone upstairs and all the work they've done in getting us to this point."

Q: You just signed Mike Nugent yesterday, are you happy with your kicking situation as of today? Are you still interested in Shane Graham?ML: "Yes, we're happy. Shane is a free agent football player. We have to move ahead. I cannot determine what is in Shane's future, or speak for his representation. We are going to get ready to play football based on the way our football team is put together at this point.

"We are excited about moving ahead at this point. I still think there will be some things shake up. A lot of player deals and trades occurred today. We thought more trades would occur due to having more time with three days for the draft process. This gave people more time to think through things. There will still be movement over the next week or so with some of our veteran players. Some of our players will figure out that the windfall of movement isn't coming and people are where they are."

Q: The next thing coming is the college free agent movement. Do you feel good about where you are at, at this point?ML: "I do. The one thing I'll tell you is that if you look at our draft board, there are only a couple of guys left above on the board. I think our process is pretty good. Obviously you don't want six or seven guys you were looking at still remaining on the board when you're done selecting. I feel good about where we are.

"We have some work head of us as they finish up the draft here in the next hour or so to get things rapped up and head home. It has been a long three days. We will also bring in some guys next week to try out in our minicamp."

Q: Did the change of the draft to three days have the affects that you thought it would?ML: "Maybe not as many trades in the second round as I thought there would be. However, I did think more occurred today."

Q: Do the trades help or hurt a team such as the Bengals?ML: "If a team has an abundance of players, and then you draft a play that you didn't necessarily need with a veteran player in that position sitting there such as the Jets and Titans, you see guys get traded. You end up in a different spot than you expected. I think you see more of that type of thing occur in this next draft layout.

"I feel pretty good about the guys we have, and I think we are in a good situation going into training camp with guys competing for jobs. That is better than having a preset roster. In some situations money plays a role in the situation, and then you cannot afford to have a veteran player injured."

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