General manager Jason Licht had his pre-draft press conference Wednesday and a variety of topics were touched upon relating to the draft. Licht talked about draft position, prospects, and Antonio Brown’s future with the team.
On the fifth-year option:
“There is some value to it. First of all, the player needs to be a good player. A lot of times you don’t find out until after his second year. There is some value to it, we’ll think that through. It depends on how much we like the player, if we think the player has a very good chance at being with us beyond his rookie contract. We’ll definitely consider that and keep that in mind. Sometimes moving back three or four spots will get you a fifth-round pick. You know, you have to weigh that. I love draft picks, but I don’t know in this year if we start to accumulate a bunch of late-round picks, if all these picks will make the team. That’s another thing we have to keep in mind.”
How the limited amount of roster spots could affect trading out of No. 32:
“Thats an exercise that we’ll get into, starting now, since all the evaluations are done. It’s all going to depend on who’s there at each pick. What players are there, if there’s an opportunity. I mean, I hate to sound cliche and say we could move up, we could move back, we could stay. But all those options will be on the board just like they are every year. There are opportunities for us to get better in terms of our depth. You never know how these players come in. They could challenge for a starting spot somewhere. But we are excited. In a lot of drafts where you have a lot of needs, now we have more a lot of wants. It’s exciting to go into a draft like that. Now, we do still have some positions and some depth and some areas where we may need help in the future that we’re looking into.”
On if Antonio Brown’s formerly-pending civil suit had any affect on re-signing him in 2021:
“It’s always good when there is some resolution, but we signed him last year with that civil case looming. All I can go off of is what we saw of Antonio on our team this year and he was obviously a good player but a great teammate. To have this resolved certainly helps, but that’s not necessarily the deciding factor of whether or not we’re going to continue to talk.”
On the challenge of not having a combine:
“We’ve done a lot of Zooms. We’ve got ’em going on every day. We’ve got some today. We’re splitting up, coaches and scouts, and talking to as many of these guys as much as we can. I feel like, in terms of just the communication and the interviews -although they’re over zoom- may be a little more than what we did last year.”
On the challenge of getting to know prospects in 2021:
“One of the more challenging parts is going to be the medicals, since it’s not done in the way that we’ve done it in the past and even last year, because the pandemic started to really hit after the combine. So having to rely on our medical staff and the process that the NFL put in place to get as much medical information as possible.”
How much different is the film aspect this year when compared to previous years?
“It’s different, for sure. Some players played less games than others. Their season was canceled, then decided to go on in certain conferences. You don’t how great of play-shape a lot of these players were in. So, we had to go back and look at a lot of 2019 film. If you really wanted to compare apples to apples, 2019 was when everybody played in a “normal year”. Not to say we discarded 2020, it’s just a little bit different. But what it boils down to really is grading the players on the tape. I felt very good about last year’s draft, our prep just grading the tape, and stacking the board based on how the players played. We continued that trend this year and hope we have success with the draft again this year.”
Licht on the defensive line depth in the draft:
“It’s not as deep as it has been in some years. We’ve known that for some time. Now there still are some that we like, but it went into our thought process of re-signing Nacho (Rakeem Nunez-Roches) and Stevie [McLendon], and we’re excited where Jeremiah [Ledbetter] was last year when he had to play. Khalil [Davis] made some big strides for us, and we feel like he’s going to get even better, and then of course we have Vita [Vea].
So we’ve got depth for this year, and in the future that may be a position that we’re going to have to look at, and it could come out of this year’s draft. But we feel good about going into this year with the group that we have.”
Licht’s thoughts on the group of EDGE rushers from picks No. 20-No.50:
“There is a group there that’s interesting. We have to then do our due diligence in terms of ranking them compared to other positions on the draft board. We’re in a great position, once again, that we don’t have to go after what may be perceived as the bigger need. If there’s a better player at another position, we can go that route.”
Has the Giovani Bernard signing altered the draft approach at running back?
“We’re going to take the best player, like I’ve said earlier. It might not be someone that comes in and steps in right away or has a huge role his rookie year. You would like that player to play a role. This goes for any position. So, I would say every position is on the table right now for what we’re selecting in the first, second round — and the rest of the draft, for that matter, too.”
What are the pros and cons of drafting a quarterback in this draft?
“There are always pros drafting a quarterback for us, because of our coaching staff. Bruce [Arians] and Byron [Leftwich] and Clyde [Christensen] and Tom Moore. I mean, I couldn’t think of a better staff to groom a quarterback. You just want to make sure that you’re not picking a quarterback just to pick a quarterback. You want everybody to be on board. The guy’s got to have the right mindset and got to be obviously talented and can throw the ball, but he’s got to be someone we all feel comfortable with above the neck. There’s always positives in drafting a quarterback if all those things align.”