Executive Vice President, Football Operations & General Manager, Andrew Berry and Head Coach Kevin Stefanski (4.27.24)

Opening statement:

Andrew Berry: “All right, well, it looks like at least half of you hung around to the end of the 7th round, huh? All right, so as we wrap up Draft weekend, very excited with the group of players that were able to select this weekend. You know, all of them have aspects that made us excited about them as prospects and also as people. Our scouts, our coaches, they’ve been hard at work for the last little bit, signing undrafted free agents, something that’s been really fruitful for us over the past couple years, but particularly last year with Ronnie Hickman and Mohamoud (Diabate). So it’s an important part of what we do, and our job’s not done yet, but we like the young players that we’ve added to the team. We’re looking forward to seeing them integrate with the veterans as we get into May. And with that, I’ll open it up for questions.”


A couple of the guys today that maybe we could start with, (Jamari) Thrash. What did you like so much about Jamari?

Berry: “Yeah, so, you know, Jamari, we liked his route skill and his separation ability. You know, this is a guy that both was very productive at Georgia State and then transferring up to Louisville, really answered the bell there and then really, even through the Senior Bowl in January. We view him as a guy who can play outside and inside. You know, he’s good with the ball in his hands. So as we think through our offense and our fit within that receiver room, we’re looking forward to seeing him compete for reps, and we think he’s a guy that has position flex.”


Can you go into depth on drafting (Nathaniel) Watson? What did you like about him?

Berry: “Yeah. So with Nathaniel,  one of the things that we thought a lot about when we lost Sione (Takitaki) in free agency this spring, one of the things that he was able to add when he played both MIKE and SAM is a little bit more stoutness in the middle of the defense, particularly at the point of attack. And we think that Nathaniel, he’s got good range, he’s incredibly smart, and he has good instincts, but he provides maybe a little bit of a diverse profile in that linebacker room because he does have a little bit more strength and power at the point of attack. So we see him as a player that has the potential to maybe develop into that type of role. MIKE, SAM, FLEX and ultimately be someone who’s a candidate to call the defense after he gets his sea legs out from under him.”


As you got later into the – especially those last three picks, how much are you guys sort of looking, special teams looking at, especially with the changes that you’re going to deal with the new kickoff rule, how they could fit in there?

Berry: “That’s a great question, Chris (Easterling). That was actually a big part of the discussions with a number of the prospects that we talked about and debated and, you know, some went off the board at different points, but it was a big part of the discussions with, you know, as we thought kind of through the whole, you know, big picture profile of an individual player. So definitely part of it.”


Are you comfortable with Watson’s off-field stuff and do you think that’s why he was still available in the 6th round?

Berry: “Yeah, I can’t comment on why, you know – how other teams viewed him, but, you know, we are comfortable with the person, yes.”


I guess I wonder how long has he been on your guys’ radar? Because he was in school for six years. So you’ve done work on him in previous drafts?

Berry: “Yeah, I would say he’s probably been on our radar as much as any prospect in this class. I wouldn’t say that it was anything, you know, too far off the norm in that regard.”


It was rare for you to have a draft where you just kind of stayed put and made your pick. Is there something different about this draft?

Berry: “It wasn’t for a lack of effort, I can assure you, Dan (Labbe). Yeah, we were talking about that as we were coming downstairs. Like, man, this is the first draft that we haven’t executed a trade. I blame it on Kwesi (Adofo-Mensah), and you can quote me on that because Kevin (Stefanski) was joking. He’s like, ‘I’ve never heard two people talk more about trades involving 7th round picks than the two of you and not get a deal done.’ But we had a number of opportunities where we were either trying to move around today and like we talked about yesterday, we had a couple opportunities, but it just didn’t make sense for whatever reason. But I would not say that’s going to be the new M.O.”


I think this is the fifth straight year you’ve drafted a wide receiver. Is that just a coincidence or is that kind of just a byproduct of the first two guys that you did draft not being here?

Berry: “Yeah, I think it’s probably a little bit more coincidence. I mean, I think you see more, you know, that’s going to be one of the more plentiful positions in terms of just overall quantity year over year. And then also, just like as you think about different positions and where you select them. Like, I don’t – I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t read too much into that, Daryl (Ruiter).”


It seems like you guys are building bridges between Ohio State and Michigan. I know you spent some time with Mike (Hall Jr.) and with Zak (Zinter). What was it like to see them together today and just the general impressions on that?

Berry: “No, it was. It was great. I mean, I think those two guys are going to add a lot to our locker room in different ways. You know, I think Mike with just his passion and his energy, and I think Zak’s kind of just the steady, you know, steady presence. But I’m looking forward to seeing those two battle it out on the practice field, you know, once we get the pads on and they’re both looking forward to being teammates.”


Cross trained a little bit at center. Is that maybe down the line you guys look around with them?

Berry: “Yeah. You know, very rarely will we bring a lineman in and have them work at one spot. Especially young players. We want them to have positional flexibility and Zak’s incredibly smart and someone that we expect to be able to handle load of multiple spots.”


When you look at that tight end room, was that a position where you considered guys during this draft? And I guess I know there’s a lot of time left in the off season, but how do you think it kind of stacks up right now? Do you feel like maybe your guy short?

Berry: “I’d say in any room, we don’t feel like we’re done. The first game isn’t until Labor Day weekend or after Labor Day weekend. So we’ve got a long way to go. We can probably maybe catch our breath for a day. But I think we talked about before the Draft, you know, Za’Darius (Smith), we traded for on a Friday night in the middle of May. Shelby (Harris), we signed what, early August? And we traded for Pierre (Strong Jr.) and Dustin (Hopkins), you know, at the end of camp. So there’s still work to do in the roster and that’s not just limited to the tight end room, but, you know, that’s what the next couple months are for.”


Is there a spot you came into the weekend going, we’d really like to address that spot?

Berry: “What do I typically say before the Draft in terms of the Draft [laughter]?”


We are at the end of the Deshaun Watson trade, the last pick was made by Houston. Just wondering, what do you think about that now knowing that’s kind of behind you in some respects and you’ll have a first round pick next year, can you sort of wrap up where how you feel about the whole thing right now?

Berry: “I’ll be honest in truth, Mary Kay (Cabot), I haven’t thought about it that way or like spend any time reflecting on it. I really just look at it as, ‘Hey, here are resources in a given year. How do we best apply them to the team to make it better in the short and long term?’ So that’s not something I really think about.”


How much are you looking forward to having something to do on Thursday night next year?

Berry: “For now, no. It’ll be great to have kind of our full complement of Draft picks back for sure. How we deploy them, we’ll see over the next year.”


Could you speak to the developmental aspect? The bulk of this draft here seems to be about bringing in some young guys that maybe not immediately are going to have an impact, maybe hope one or two of them can, but down the road they will. Just how you get these guys in here.

Kevin Stefanski: “Here, sure, we look at it, these are not finished products. Some of them are very young. Obviously, Mike (Hall Jr.) is 20 years old. So these guys, these people are developing off the field. Obviously, we’re going to spend a lot of time with them on the field to develop them and their skill set. But that’s a huge, we talked about it yesterday. That’s a huge part of our job as coaches is to get as much out of these players as we can, and we’re eager to get to work with them in a couple weeks.”


How excited do you get when you have a new draft class and you’ll see them on the field here in just a couple weeks?

Stefanski: “Yeah, that’s the thing. Seeing them on the grass is what’s most exciting, you know, bringing them in here and it’s a long, arduous process. And AB (Andrew Berry) and his crew did a great job and it’s so organized and really they stayed true to really, the process, if you will. Then when we get them on the grass, that’s the fun part for the coaches where we can take them through an individual drill and start to acclimate them to our schemes.”


Last week you talked about potentially with the new kickoff rules, the size of coverage, players maybe looking for some different things. Did Watson’s size play a big factor in determining his value on special?

Berry: “That’s a great question. Observation, his style of play did. I think it’s something for us. When we went through the process, we thought he could fill this or potentially fill this specialized role at linebacker, but we also thought he could be a multi-phase producer on special teams, specifically with the new kickoff rule. As we talked about before the Draft, probably none of us really know how it’s going to look and operate but it certainly is a speculative play on our part that we think that’s something that he could be good at.”


Thrash, who it sounds like he hasn’t played a ton of special teams, and that obviously becomes such an important part for rookies. How do you go about evaluating a guy like that?

Berry: “Truthfully, with receivers, unless they’re returners, they’re typically not, like, highly involved in special teams. Or, like, I should, maybe I should say it differently. They’re not highly impactful, like, multi-faceted producers just because of what’s required. So I think guys that do that are a little bit more the exception to the rule, but we always tell our guys, like, hey, if you’re not, you know, if you’re not Amari Cooper, like, you’ve got to be able to do more to be active on game day. So that’ll certainly be, you know, not just a challenge to Jamari but really all of our young guys who probably for a lot of their careers have not played special teams, and this will really be the first time.”


How do you approach, I know you’re not going to give names right now, but as you try to approach that UDFA class, what’s kind of your method? What are you looking for as you kind of piece that together?

Berry: “So the way we look at it is any player that we add to the roster, they should have some clear strength, even if it’s very narrow. You know, are they someone who is really fast or really strong or someone who can rush the pass or someone who’s really good in the run game? You know, there should be some type of clear strength for why they’re here. Because once we get to September and we’re putting the team together, as you talk about, call it, spots 40 through 53, it really is a puzzle piece. You’re trying to complement your starters and your primary players with skill sets that you may lack in certain areas. So when we go to the undrafted free agent process, we’re looking for guys with strengths, and probably by definition, those guys are maybe a little bit more limited coming in, but it’s like, ‘Hey, does this guy have size? Can he run?’ Or if we have a certain profile at the position, we’re looking for the most important traits. So maybe a perfect example would be, you know, Ronnie Hickman last year. We thought this was a guy who was athletic, who could run and had great ball skills. So we’re like, hey, this is a guy who could be a developmental-free safety for us. And Ronnie came along even more quickly than we anticipated, but those strengths were something that we felt would complement our room.”


Did you want to fit that bill a little bit, too? Because I thought I saw you was on that freaks list. Was there something specifically about his traits that jumped out of you guys?

Berry: “Yeah, with Jowon, we really thought that his, it’s maybe a little bit like what we talked about with Michael yesterday, where his strength, he’s kind of like a move style defensive tackle. And for us, as we get into the later rounds or we get into the undrafted free agent pool, you’ll see us choose or select or sign guys that are more that profile because of what we ask our defensive line to do in this scheme.”


Go a little into Myles Harden?

Berry: “Yeah. So, you know, Myles is a small school corner who we thought actually has a pretty well-rounded skill set. I think he probably has maybe a little bit more from our perspective, you know, a nickel profile with even maybe some potential to flex at safety, but really smart kid, was productive, you know, out of South Dakota, you know, good enough tools for the position. And I think, as you know, Nate, you know, corner will always be a premium spot for us for defense to offense. “


Did it just kind of turn out that way? You didn’t go into the draft thinking that you needed to go heavy defense?

Berry: “Yeah, it just kind of, and I’ll be honest, like, probably going to the draft, if you would have asked me how it would have shaped out, it probably would have been the other way, just because of some of the strengths and weaknesses of the draft class. So, it’s just another reminder to us that you just have to stay flexible and adaptable with what the board throws at you. But we’re excited about the group of young men that we’ve added.”


I know how you’re going to answer this, but have you made a decision on Greg’s fifth-year option?

Berry: “Very happy with Greg. Want as many man corners as we can have, and we’ll let you guys know when at the appropriate time.”


Earlier, you were talking about traits. Last year, you were talking about horses and horses running really well. Is there something off the top of your head, like, in this draft class, this guy does x really well, and that stands out above the rest?

Berry: “Yeah, that’s actually a really great question. I think probably the easy one is Mike, just because his ability as a rusher, just both with his physical tools and feel, it’s something that we put a premium value on. But, you know, I really could go down the list. Like, you know, Zak, we think is, you know, his superpower is he’s an excellent pass protector. Jamari he’s an outstanding separator. You know Nathaniel, you know, he’s really good in the run game, particularly using his strength. You know, Myles is probably a little bit his, you know, his instincts and versatility. And then Jowon, it’s his. It’s his movement ability. So that’s not to say that all those individuals are isolated to that primary feature, but it’s certainly something that made them attractive to us.”


I’m curious if in the fifth round, was there a little brotherly instinct in play when the Eagles came up? And jumped you guys to try to get Jeremiah Trotter Jr.

Berry: “No, there wasn’t. I’d like to say there was a better story to that, but no, there wasn’t. There wasn’t.


It’s one thing to rebuild a roster. It’s another to kind of get the wheel of talent flowing, so to speak, where you can cultivate your own to compensate for any losses. Do you feel that now you’re as deep as you are into this, that you’ve gotten to that stage in roster building where you feel like that wheel is starting to naturally turn for you as opposed to, you’re constantly filling holes and things like that?

Berry: “Truthfully, I do, Daryl, I certainly hope so. But we feel good about the health and depth of the roster. We won’t know until we get to the fall because, as I say, every year guys surprise you in both directions, and things change fast in the NFL, you know, as we see. So, as we sit here today, though, we’re happy with where we stand. We’re not satisfied, and we know that we still have work to do and areas to bolster and supplement, but we do feel good about the health as we stand today.”


Perhaps a quarterback may be an undrafted or somewhere that you guys could bring in here because it seems like you might need another arm or a developmental player with what’s going on with Deshaun (Watson) and Dorian (Thompson-Robinson)?

Berry: “I’d say that’s unlikely. Yeah.”


No draft is perfect. Did you guys accomplish what you guys wanted to accomplish this weekend and maximize those late-round picks?

Berry: “I’d say so, number one. I mean, I don’t know that any. Everyone’s going to say they accomplished what they intended to accomplish, but the truth is none of us actually know. All we can say is we tried to make the best decisions that were at the moment that they were placed in front of us. I think we had some goals in terms of pick management or resource management that weren’t afforded or weren’t afforded the right opportunity to execute on. But that being said, we’re happy with the group of players that we’re bringing in.”


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