John Lynch’s opening comments:
“How’s everyone doing? Last night, I told you guys that it was our goal and our focus to really come in today and finish strong. And it’s not over yet, because we’re up there calling free agents, undrafted free agents, starting that process and we’re going to be really aggressive there because we feel there’s a lot of really quality football players left. But, we’re really proud about the way we finished today. We started with [RB] Joe Williams, a guy that we really felt like had some traits that we value and we got really comfortable with the kid and a better understanding of what his story was. We moved on to [TE] George Kittle, a tight end from Iowa that we grew really fond of throughout this process and he was there where we thought it was a great value to add George. [WR] Trent Taylor is a player that, again, we told you guys that we weren’t really concerned with how and where the rest of the league valued players. Are they a fit for us? And, from the start, this was a guy that we were excited with in his ability to separate in the slot, which is such a key component in today’s football. Moving down to [DL] D.J. Jones is a guy who has, from Ole Miss, there’s two D.J. Joneses at Ole Miss. We were very clear that we wanted the defensive tackle from Ole Miss, not the other guy. We got the right guy. He’s got, no offense to the other guy. He’s a heck of a player. We just didn’t want him at that point. We got the right D.J. Jones, and he’s a stout nose, who also has three technique versatility, but yet I think really dynamic. I’m not even going to try the last name, but we’re going to call him [DL] Pita T. [Taumoepenu]. Pita T., from Utah. He’s a guy that we just really, we started watching what we call that LEO position. We felt like we’ve got so many big guys, we just want a speed rusher off the edge. He gave us a guy that, again, a guy that we grew to become very fond of throughout the process. Finally, we finished it out with a guy who we had watched through the process but probably got hot on here in the last couple of weeks, [DB] Adrian Colbert. He’s listed as a safety. We think he has corner flexibility as well. He’s a big athlete that can run and play tremendous special teams, very physical player. I was just laughing as I saw this list because I didn’t even realize it, but we started with three defensive players. I think [49ers head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] said, ‘Enough of that.’ We went four offensive players and then we finished with three defensive players. Real proud of the draft. Like I said, we’re working hard. Our scouts, who did an excellent job, are working hard on the free agents along with our coaches and going to finish there. I’ll turn it over to Kyle for some comments.”
Kyle Shanahan’s opening comments:
“John again said it all, so I don’t have much to say. But, I’m as excited as John as anyone in our organization. We helped both sides of the ball, feel we’ve added some depth to our team, most importantly, competition across. So, excited to get with these guys. Just getting them here is where it starts. Now we’ve got to go to work.”
The one guy neither one of you mentioned was RB Kapri Bibbs, who you acquired just minutes, at least we found out about it just minutes before the other running back draft pick. Why did you get those two guys at that point and how do you see them fitting to what you want to do?
KS: “Well, one, I thought our goal going into this draft was we wanted to get the best possible players and get a number of them. To have an opportunity to pick up an extra fifth-round pick and get a guy like Kapri, who has had success in this league, I studied Kapri coming out of Colorado State and he does have some qualities to him that we really do like. I think getting Kapri, adding a fifth rounder which allowed us to move a little bit to make some other selections too, and we did it at the expense of losing one next year. But, we felt it was worth it to where we need some competition on our team and we did that with Kapri and it also allowed us to get a pick that allowed us to maneuver to get some other guys too.”
Did you see Kapri in the preseason a fair amount?
JL: “I did. I liked him as a player. Denver, [Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager] John Elway and I were talking and they had a want to get a fourth rounder next year. We wanted to load up in that fifth round, because we felt like there’d still be a lot of quality players that we coveted. That third, I forget, a lot went on in these last couple days, but one of those allowed us to move up. A lot went on. No one told me this deal was this tiring. I feel like I played a game and some.”
You mentioned the need to get comfortable with Joe’s story and understand it. How did you go about doing that?
JL: “Well, just to be perfectly honest, you start having these meetings and you start to watch the kid. The talent was undeniable, but when you hear quit the team, it was like no, not interested. We started, Kyle in fact, kind of resurrected him and said, ‘John, have you seen his talent? Let’s watch it late in the year.’ We started watching it and so then we start doing some research, because the talent was, as I said earlier, undeniable. We got more comfortable in a number of ways. [Running backs coach Robert] Bobby Turner, our running backs coach, who spends more time on the phone with these kids than anybody in the history of this league, I can promise you. I think it was daily he was talking to Joe and Bobby started to get comfortable. I talked to his [University of Utah] head coach Kyle Whittingham and Kyle said, ‘Let’s be very clear, he did not quit the team.’ He physically and mentally got tired and broke down and he asked for advice on what they should do. He stepped away. They had some injuries. Kyle went back to him and said, ‘Hey, we’d love for you to come back but I first have to ask your teammates.’ They welcomed him back with open arms and then this morning I felt like the last steps, we had a lot of guys like Bobby and [vice president of player personnel] Adam Peters had talked to him, before I drafted a young man like that, I wanted to talk to the kid and it was the first thing I did this morning. I came in and I got on the phone with Joe. He just, I think there’s some things that I think need to stay private, but just mentioned to me that throughout that process he kind of addressed some things that had been bothering him for a long time and felt he came out a different person. I think it’s a wonderful story and it turned in from one, I have no interest, because my perception was anyone who quits a team I don’t want. And then I learned about the kid and I got a great deal of respect for how far he’s come and you mix that with the talent and it became someone we actually moved up to go secure.”
He was pretty up front when he talked to us about why he stepped away. Is there, do you guys have a plan, a support system in place to help him when or if he has difficult times ahead?
JL: “No doubt. We’re going to be very proactive, not just with him, with all our players and in particular the rookies to support them in every way. It’s something that Joe and I talked about. I know you’ve addressed it, but are you comfortable with us reassessing things, where you’re at and then from there gathering a plan. He indicated that’s what he wants. That’s what we’ll do. I think he deserves the privacy as to what that is once we establish it, but I can tell you through a lot of hard work, I want to thank scouts like [regional scout] Reggie Cobb, who was very involved, and Bobby Turner and Adam Peters and then like I said, I want to thank Kyle because, like I said, he was kind of in the heaps, had kind of gone away, but you’ve got to stay open to all things and he started showing me the film and I said, ‘I can’t lie to you.’ That’s one thing, they’ve been running the system for so long, they’ve got an eye for what works. Look it, he’s got some traits that we like and like everybody else he’s going to come into a very competitive room. You talked about Kapri, there’s going to be a lot of competition in that room and we’ll see how he does.”
What do you see from Joe on tape?
KS: “His ability to run the ball is very, is as good as anybody’s. I mean, as far as speed, cutting ability, running through tackles, his overall balance. It’s exactly what John said, when you hear those things, especially as a coach too, I felt the same way. So, I didn’t put as much time into the tape for those reasons. And then just on a random boring day, just watching other guys, I threw it on and watched it a little bit more and when the tape is that talented you want to look into those things a little bit more, and we did and we felt so much better about it. When you see that overall ability, it doesn’t guarantee anything, but it means he has the ability to make all the cuts, the abilities to be a very good back in this league. Now he has to come do it and be consistent. After talking with him, his coaches, a lot of people who’ve known him, some of the things he’s gone through, we feel very good about the guy. We know there’s things we do need to help him with, but I think he can have a very bright future for us and for himself in the NFL.”
Michael Lombardi said yesterday that you were looking to trade TE Vance McDonald. You drafted a tight end. I guess, A, is that true about looking to trade Vance and if so did that inspire the move for Kittle?
JL: “I don’t think to the latter inspired the move for Kittle. Kittle was a player, as I indicated, that we grew to really like and particularly where he was, he was a guy that we wanted to get. We thought it was a tremendous value. As for Vance, I think that’s the reality of new regimes coming in, new schemes. That’s not to say that he can’t fit into our scheme. Frankly, we received some interest from some other people and then we did explore some options throughout the league with Vance and nothing ended up happening. So, Vance will come back and have an opportunity to compete. That’s where that stands.”
Did you have a conversation with him about that?
KS: “Yeah, I already have. I actually called him last night. He was at his brother’s wedding, so he didn’t answer. But, I left a long message. He sent me a text this morning. We’re all good. We’re going to talk in person tomorrow. We took over a 2-14 team and we need to get better in every aspect and we’re going to try to in every aspect. It was true with Vance, but it wasn’t just Vance. We weren’t doing Vance just specifically. We’re trying any way possible to improve our team. We did it with Vance the most because a lot of people are interested in Vance. But, we were ready to do that with anybody. We’ll listen to that always and try to improve our team in any way we can because we have a lot of work to do. If we don’t think it will improve our team, then we’re going to do what’s best for the organization and I think our players will respect that. We’ll be upfront with that, but that’s exactly what it was about, just taking over a 2-14 team and we need to get better. It started in free agency then went to the draft these last few days. We’ll always be looking to improve.”
When you guys are upfront with a player, they know that he was on the trade block. What’s it like for a guy to come back in? It kind of seems like some guys might say, ‘I’m done here,’ and not give you very much. So, why keep him on the team if you really don’t see a role for him?
KS: “I didn’t, that’s why I was trying to answer that. It’s not at all about not having a role. It’s about how can you improve your team. And when you tell other teams that have asked if they are interested in your own players, whatever that is, whether that can bring you two players, whether that can move you into the draft to get a different player that might be a bigger need, you want to explore all those avenues. If your team is just set and you feel like you’re one player away, I’m not trying to mess with you. I’m just trying to find that one player. That’s kind of what I mean by we did take over a 2-14 team. We don’t feel all the answers are here right now. We’ve got a lot of work to do and we need to improve it every way possible and we’re going to do that. You do that from an organization standpoint, how can we improve the building, how can we improve the coaching staff, how can we improve the personnel department, how can we improve the players. Just getting from Vance’s text back, I think people understand that. I think that does make sense. I don’t think that’s something personal. I would be surprised if Vance took it personally and just reading through his text and knowing what he said to me, how he’s going to see me Monday, I think he completely understand.”
JL: “And, I would add to it, it left me thinking, because I would say a quarter of the teams called us with various players that they’re kind of shopping. It got me thinking, how many times in my career I was shopped and never knew about it. I can tell you that in this day and age, things tend to get out. I think it’s something that’s been going on for years and our big deal, Kyle and I, is just that we were always going to be upfront with players, because I know from my experience in this league, so long as people are upfront and tell you what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Guys understand that this is a business. And so, that’s something we’ve committed to do and will continue to do. I think as long as you operate as such, players will understand.”
Do you feel like with the draft over, the chance to trade Vance is probably gone or will you try to still explore that?
JL: “I’ll never say never, but I think he comes back in here Monday and we’ll welcome him with open arms and go compete. That’s the message to all our players.”
KS: “We want Vance here. All the guys we have here, we want here until you can get better. I try to give an analogy. If someone called and offered to give the Niners [New England Patriots QB] Tom Brady, but I had to go, they should listen to that. I wouldn’t be offended. I would get that. You explore all avenues to improve your team and that’s nothing more than that.”
How much do you feel you have improved the team over the last three days?
JL: “I think a whole lot. I really do. I think that’s the great thing about this game is that we’ll see in a few years. All these guys have got to go prove it. We have to go prove it and support it by, you draft players and now it’s Kyle’s job and his staff’s job and our job to continue to give them competition so that we develop these players to the best of their ability. But yet, just like free agency, there’s a story. There’s a vision for each one of these players and I think when you do that and you force yourself to be very clear in terms of what you’re looking for, to think that we did all of this, we did what we did in free agency and we added a number two pick in next year’s draft and a number three pick in next year’s draft, real proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
With DB Jimmie Ward playing safety, you guys didn’t draft a safety. Does that signal that he’s the favorite to start and were there things that you saw from him leading up to the draft in mini-camp that made you say, OK, we’re comfortable with him back there?
KS: “Yeah. I was real excited with what we saw from him in camp. It was the first time I’d seen him at the safety position and thought he did a very good job. It was just two practices, it’s unpadded, but he has definitely the ability and the want-to to play there. Again, that’s not why you go into a draft and say we’re not taking that position. I don’t think we really did that with any position. But, we’re very excited about him and the possibilities of him being a very good safety.”
As far as the last pick, Adrian Colbert, is he a free safety or where do you envision him?
JL: “Well, as I said, we think he has corner versatility as well. He did a graduate transfer year at Miami and played corner and played it well and fits the profile that we’re looking for there. But, we know he can play safety. We’re going to give him a go at probably corner first. Don’t want to speak for the coaches, but this is what we were thinking when we drafted him and know that he has safety versatility and is we believe going to be one heck of a special teams player as well. We’ve seen it on film. And so, we were kind of crossing our fingers that he stayed up there and he did and we jumped.”
Seems obvious that you guys will give Jimmie the fifth-year option? You’ll extend that to him?
JL: “Yeah. It’s looking that like. Had no clue when you guys asked me that the other day. I had no idea. I had been focused on the draft. But, made me go check.”
As far as Taumoepenu--?
KS: “At least you attempted it.”
Who else are you guys looking at at that position? Is that something where you’re going to have different guys kind of go through there during the spring and figure out the best LEO pass rusher?
KS: “Yeah. We need to find out who the best pass rushers are on this team. We got there in the sixth round and we felt Pita was the best pass rusher who was there. So, that’s why we took a shot on him. We want to continue improving in pass rushing. I don’t think we’re done improving our team also. People get let go in June. You never know what happens in training camp and we are always looking to improve. So, it’s by no means are we totally set with our roster, but we are very happy with what we’ve done so far and I feel like we’ve given ourselves the best chance to improve in every avenue that we’ve hit. And I don’t think that stops. I think that’s what you continue to do day in and day out. The two big ways to improve your team are the draft and free agency. But, I still think that continues.”
JL: “We’ve talked a lot about, Kyle and I, about how many shared philosophies we have in this game and I think Kyle, from being an offensive coach and playing against great defenses, and me, from having the opportunity of being a defensive back, we both believe you win up front. You’ve got to knock quarterbacks down. You’ve got to make them feel you. You’ve got to stop the run. And so, we really wanted to get really strong up front. And so, we’ve done that. Not only with where we started, with [DL] Solomon [Thomas], but in numbers. Adding D.J. Jones and Pita, I think all of a sudden you’ve got a lot of numbers. But, I think pass rushers these days, you play so many snaps in that nickel deal, you’ve got to have a lot of them and you’ve got to be able to roll them in there and have them compete. And so, I think we’ve set up a great situation there for, hey, may the best man win.”
Going through it now for the first time, at least in your current roles, anything that surprised you throughout this process?
JL: “I had no idea I was going to trade that much. I thought I was a fairly conservative guy and that we were just going to have a calm draft. I think the only reason that transpired like that is because of the opportunity that came our way with Chicago. We came in with a lot of picks, 10. We ended having 10, but also as I said, gained two in next year’s. So, put ourselves in great position. But, what that also did with all the picks we already had is gave us the ammunition to win C.J. Beathard and Joe Williams were guys we really wanted. We could say, ‘Let’s go up and get that guy so we know we get him,’ and still feel good about the quantity of picks we had.”
Talking about Joe Williams, one, do you guys believe he can be a feature back and two, can you talk about his patience and hitting the hole? As a young running back, some players just hit a hole and don’t have the patience to hit the cut back. Talk about cut back? Can you just talk about what you see in his cut ups?
KS: “Any back that we want on our roster, we want to believe that they have a chance to be a feature back. Unless it’s a specific gadget-type role or something, which it’s usually hard to make the team when it’s just that type of role unless you can be a returner and provide other value. So, anybody on our roster who’s a true running back, we want to believe that he has the ability to be a feature back. That’s how it happens all the time. Guys get hurt. You need competition. You never know who’s going to be your guy. When you come to the style of runner, that’s what we liked about him the most. He can press it. He can make a one-foot cut. Everyone says the cut back. I look at it more as just getting downhill because the more you can make a defense play sideways, you just get downhill and it looks like you cut back but it’s because everyone’s scared you’re running outside. And so, they go sideways and you get downhill, but it’s behind the backside tackle. When you have a guy who can run as fast as he can, he was clocked at high 4.3s at his pro day. The problem is, usually when guys run that fast, they can’t cut. So, when you’ve got a guy who can run that fast and can cut, which is what Joe Williams is, I do think you have a chance to be pretty special.”
Is the 20-yard short shuttle an indicator of that?
KS: “Usually, the 20-yard short shuttle is the quickest players and they usually aren’t that fast. I had a good 20-yard shuttle, a horrible 40. So, he’s got both. So, he’s a little better than me.”
Do you want to add another quarterback?
KS: “I don’t know. We’re looking into free agents. You always would like to bring four to camp and you usually do. Again, we’re not going to do it just to do it. I don’t want to bring a guy in that we don’t think has a chance and then hurt another position. I still think you can get by with three in camp. But, if we feel we can get one here in free agency, and there are some guys out there we’re targeting, if we could get one of those, I’d love to have a fourth.”
Where are you guys at with DL Arik Armstead in terms of trying him out at LEO? I know the practice that we saw, he was sitting out, presumably with the shoulder. Where he is in terms of how he fits in that position?
KS: “When it comes to LEO, and this is you guys learning the words like LEO and stuff, so are we. We’re just looking for our best pass rusher and that’s what we’d like to put at the LEO spot. So, I think Armstead has a chance to be one of those. I think he also can play inside too. So, I think we have a few guys like that who are capable of playing a number of spots. So, it’s tough to figure that out until we get out there on the field. And he didn’t get to go in mini-camp, but that’s something we’ll be looking at throughout OTAs and training camp. Usually the best pass rusher, when it’s all said and done, we’ll most likely put him at LEO.”
JL: “I’d just add with Arik, one of the things that we’re really excited to see once he gets healthy, and this is not to disparage the system that they were playing and systems are different, we’re going to let him cut loose. We think when this guy starts going that way, that it can be pretty special. Now, it’s up to him to go do it. But, we believe that he has that versatility Kyle talks about about being inside in pass rush situations, outside. You can move all over and I’m excited to see the product, particularly with all the different combinations we can put out there now.”
Sorry Kyle, I just wanted to circle back if there was anything that caught you off-guard or surprised you throughout this process?
KS: “It was similar to what John said. My goal going into this draft was I thought we needed to add a bunch of players and we had 10 picks. So, usually, I think the philosophy is if you trade, you usually don’t get as many players. And so, if you would have told me that we traded six times, I would have been, well, dang, we didn’t get 10 players. What did we give up to go get whatever players we wanted? What surprises me when it’s all said and done, to know we traded six times, the goal was to get 10 players and we still got 10 players and plus added a second and third from next year. If you would have told me all that, I would have been very surprised. Usually, I think of when you trade, that means you go into a draft with 10 picks and you end up only getting six players. To be able to do that that much and to get the players and that ammo for next year, that’s something I didn’t think happens very much.”
JL: “Now, I’m kind of ticked we were one away from a team record. We should have just done it.”
KS: “We definitely should have.”
Of all the congratulatory texts or messages you guys got, was there anybody or anything said that blew you away or surprised you?
JL: “There was a lot of fun stuff going on. That’s something that’s neat about this league. Just like playing, I didn’t know what to expect in the role we’re in right now, but when you play, I think people don’t understand that there’s a great respect amongst players, even though you compete against them. It’s the same way here. You see a lot of, hey, when you appreciate someone else’s pick, people reach out and that’s a neat deal. Kyle got it, I got it and we were proud of our draft and other people I think appreciated what we did.”
Just curious about Beathard. Last night, when you guys chose him, a lot of us, myself included, were like, OK, weren’t expecting him at that spot. Did you hear from teams around the league about that pick where you took him?
KS: “Usually you hear from your pears, people you’re close to. Most offensive coaches will reach out to me when we take an offensive guy. ‘Oh, he was my second favorite guy. He was my fourth. I thought that was a great pick.’ Whatever it is, you get that from whoever the quarterback coaches are that you’re friends with around the league. Everyone’s waiting to see because everyone’s ranking the same guys and we all lie to each other for two straight months who we have where and no one knows the truth until they see what you do. So, ‘I knew you liked him. You never talked about him so I had a feeling.’ It’s a bunch of mind games and everyone gets to see what the truth is when the draft comes.”
Not draft related, but in the locker room, you switched, it used to be organized by position, the lockers. Why is it switched?
KS: “More just to change it up. I want our team to be close and I don’t want just groups to be close. You’re with your group enough in your position meetings and usually, all day. Each position group’s broken up and that gets real tight and then the sides of the ball are broken up. So, I think the more you can mix up the locker room and you can have a running back next to a D-Lineman or a corner next to a center, I just think it mixes it up. It forces you to get a little bit out of your comfort zone and I think in the long run it makes your team a little closer.”
Were you trying to find a specific profile at wide receiver and what about Trent Taylor?
KS: “One thing I’ll say about receivers is they come in all shapes and sizes. The thing I look for the most in receivers are specific traits you can take advantage of. If they have elite speed, then we can use them a certain way. If they have elite quickness, you can use them a certain way. If it’s toughness or hands. What Trent did is I thought he was as good at the slot role as anyone that we were looking at in the draft, is he really owned that spot. He was very quick. His body’s always under him. He can make cuts. I thought what impressed me the most about him besides the separation ability is that when he did get the ball in his hands, he ran angry and pissed off. He got up the field. He’s not scared to get hit. He’s a very competitive, violent runner and those are the guys to me who keep you on the field and move the chains.”
He was kind of half joking that he’s always compared to former NFL WR Wes Welker and New England Patriots WR Danny Amendola and every single white slot wide receiver who’s small, but is he like Amendola and Welker and New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman?
KS: “Yeah. I’d like to come up with someone else, but just speaking facts, that’s what he looks like. He moves similar to [WR Jeremy] Kerley, yeah. He’s built that way. We’re talking slot receivers. There’s different types, but usually the quicker guys who’s feet are always under them, who can make cuts at any time, those are the guys who make it and usually those guys are smaller guys who aren’t so fast. What I just told you guys about a running back, if you run a 4.3, it’s usually hard to just cut right away. Usually, the slower guys can cut a little better. If you can get guys in between, that’s usually the best slot receivers. There’s not many slot receivers who run 4.3. There’s a reason. They can’t cut as well as they need to underneath. It’s the same with nickel backs. In order to cover those slot receivers, not many of them are real long and lanky. They’re pretty short and quick too. So, it’s all about matchups and who you want to put against other people when it’s man to man coverage. That’s usually what you get on third down and that’s a real important thing to staying on the field.”
He said he didn’t have much contact with the team. Was he just someone that really stood out on film that you didn’t need to speak with?
KS: “Yes. Contact is, some people you need to talk to more than others, you need to find stuff out. But, it all starts with the tape and all we base our opinion on is the tape and once we like the tape, then we see what we need to dig into. And you trust your scouts a lot because they’re the ones who have been at the schools. They’re the ones who have been doing the homework for a while and know the guy a lot better. And if their character completely checks out, there’s nothing you’re worried about and you love what’s on tape, I don’t want to be in contact with them a ton and have his agent tell every other team how much we like him. You don’t want people to totally know. But sometimes, you have to. You’ve got to look into it more. You’ve got to talk to them, develop a relationship so you can check up on stuff that you might have heard.”