2017 NFL DRAFT DAY 3 PRESS CONFERENCE
Can you both please start with your first pick today and talk about each of them and how they fit in?
Rick Smith: “I will let Bill (O’Brien) maybe talk about each guy individually from today. I would just say overall I think it was a very productive weekend. I think our football team is better, starting with the pick on Thursday night and the two guys we added that we’ve talked about already on Friday. And, as you look at today’s group, I think if there’s a theme about this group, there is a leadership and production throughout the class along with some accomplishment throughout the class. So, even the guys today, (Julién) Davenport in the fourth round. This guy is a two-time captain. He’s got some things to develop, obviously, from the level of competition, but we see enough athletic ability, we see enough leadership, we see enough character that we feel pretty confident that he will be able to come in and compete and learn and grow and figure out how to be a pro football player. Carlos Watkins is a guy from Clemson that we took. Excited about that young man, to reunite him with some teammates from Clemson, obviously. We think that’s a good program and so we have some productive players from that program. When you look at his history, from a production standpoint, you talk about a guy who makes plays behind the line of scrimmage. He has double digits in hurries and sacks and tackles for losses, he plays big in big games and we like that about him. (Treston) Decoud in the fifth round is a guy that has some versatility. He is a longer corner with some press ability, might even be able to play safety. He is an aggressive tackler, so we like that skillset with him. Then the last pick, I really like the (Kyle) Fuller guy. He’s another guy that is a three-year starter at Baylor, has played a lot of football, graduated, has taken care of his business. Those are the types of guys that we like to add to the football team. In general, that’s the group, and maybe if you guys have specific questions for Bill to kind of ask about each guy.”
When you look at the Bucknell tackle, Julién Davenport, it seemed like he showed at the Senior Bowl that he could handle better competition. What did you see from him in that way?
Bill O’Brien: “That’s a good point. For a guy like that that’s – nothing from Bucknell – coming from Bucknell, a little bit lower competition relative to the other bigger schools, to go to the Senior Bowl is a good thing. I thought that he competed very well there. Wasn’t perfect but he competed. He held his own. Then, Rick (Smith) sent Mike Devlin to Pennsylvania. He worked him out and had a good day with him and that was impressive to us. Smart. He’s got a ways to go, just like most of these guys do, but really good length, arm length, height, athleticism. We think he could potentially play both sides, right and left. We really were impressed with him on that workout so every phase our evaluation with him was good.”
What is it about the Clemson program that makes their players appealing and how will reuniting him with NT D.J. Reader help you guys out next year?
Bill O’Brien: “Clemson obviously has done a great job. I think we talked about them offensively with Deshaun (Watson) and obviously, Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) being here. Defensively, they do a good job, too. Over the last two or three years, even beyond that, they have been very athletic up front. This guy is a guy that we feel can come in here with a lot of hard work and good coaching here can fill a couple of different roles for us. He can play on the inside in a couple of different of packages for us. Like Rick said, he makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage, bunch of TFLs, some sacks. He’s an instinctive player and we think he gives us, for lack of a better term, some juice on the inside in a competitive way. We were really happy to be able to get that guy when we were at that pick.”
Could you talk about how C Kyle Fuller will fit in? You have two really good centers now. Do you see him as a guard, too?
Bill O’Brien: “He can play both. He can play both, yeah. That was the big thing. When we just sat there and talked about this one there were some really good candidates up there for us at various positions, but I think one thing that put us over the top with him in talking to Rick (Smith) was his versatility on the inside. His ability to come in and be able to compete for a backup job at the guard spot in addition to the center spot. There’s some good competition there with some really good young players. That’s always a good thing.”
With Julién Davenport, do you think there’s an advantage to taking a player from an FCS school who may be hungry from being overlooked by FBS programs?
Bill O’Brien: “I don’t know. I think you probably need to ask him that. I think that’s more of a question for him. I think for us, we evaluate. We take into account the level of competition, and there’s no doubt about that. That’s all part of the evaluation. We also try to do the best job we can of getting to know the guy in more ways than just his skillset. Mike Devlin had a connection with his offensive line coach there at Bucknell, Joe Susan, who spoke very highly of the guy. Joe Susan has coached on the East Coast for a lot of years and has coached a lot of good players. He vouched for him, his work ethic. Like I said, when Mike went out there, the guy worked hard, he was smart. We feel like there’s a lot to develop there and we’re looking forward to coaching him.”
How would you evaluate this draft compared to previous drafts for you in terms of getting what you needed but also in taking the best players that were available to you?
Rick Smith: “I think we are pretty consistent with respect to that. But I will tell you this: just the way that the board fell, we felt really good at multiple times in this draft about getting guys at value where we really had him valued a little bit even more than where we got him. There were some positions that we loved. I mentioned, for example, in my press conference last week that I thought it was one of the strongest safety classes, and there were some safeties that we really liked and it just never worked that we were in a position to take a safety at the corresponding value. Conversely, you look at some of the guys that we were able to take and we had those guys positioned and we had those stacked and some of those instances where we just felt really good about the value that we got some of these players. That’s just the way the draft typically works.”
Last year you had 11 undrafted free agents who had signed here originally on the team. Some of them really contributed. How important are the undrafted guys for what you want to do?
Bill O’Brien: “I think it’s really important. I think that, obviously, this phase of it, the draft phase of it is very, very important and then the CFA process, which is going on right now, is really important. The thing that is really cool for me is to watch the scouts and the coaches work together to anticipate who might be there and rank those players and try to go out and get the best players available in that process. That’s what they are doing right now downstairs. We’ve been very successful with bringing in guys that have played a lot of football for us over the last three years that were not drafted, because I think the philosophy here is once you get here, we don’t really care how you got here. It’s what you do once you get here. What are you going to do preparation-wise, in the weight room, in the meeting rooms and obviously on the practice field to help our team get better. It helps with the depth of our football team. I think that’s the process that is going on right and it’s very important.”
Looking back at your record over the years, finding cornerbacks in particular, whether it’s Johnathan Joseph in free agency, Kevin Johnson early in the draft, A.J. Bouye undrafted. Is there anything about that particular position that makes you feel confident that you found a good player in CB Treston Decoud?
Rick Smith: “I think we all have our lanes. Obviously, being an ex-DB, and ex-DB coach in college and in the NFL I have an affinity for that position group. Maybe I’m just a little bit more keen to that position group, but I would like to think in this role that I have been in for a while, I can do that at multiple positions. It goes back along with what Bill (O’Brien) just alluded to, what he actually just specifically talked about: what’s happening downstairs that we are about to get back to is such an important process. It’s communication between the scouts and the coaches. I’ve got to listen. As much as I think I know about defensive backs, I have to listen to John Butler because I have to understand what he wants from his defensive backs. So, as long as I can understand that and he can articulate that and we can talk about that and figure that out and identify those players who can come in and execute what they’re going to ask them to do, that’s how you get successful draft picks. I think that’s what’s good about our process right now and that’s why I’m excited about this entire draft class.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH T JULIÉN DAVENPORT
Did you have a good feeling after Offensive Line Coach Mike Devlin worked you out that maybe they were a team that liked you a lot?
“Definitely had a good feeling. I would say me and him, we had a real good relationship, bonded really well. He really liked my workout, really liked me in the classroom as well. Then we went out to eat and just kind of chopped it up and had a good time. Definitely felt like a good connection there.”
You have the biggest wingspan in the draft they say. How much does that help you to lock out pass rushers?
“Definitely helps out because you have to keep those guys off of you and away from you in the pass pro. Just having very long arms and just keeping them that much further away from you.”
What do you think you do well and what do you think you could improve on in your game?
“I feel I move very well. I’m able to stay low and I just have to keep that going. I just have to improve on technique issues along with the game and having the consistency in my play. I would say consistency with keeping my hands up and consistency staying low. Just little technique issues.”
What are some of the personal traits your dad has instilled in you?
“Definitely learned to just be a hard worker, to continue that at everything. Anything that you start you pretty much have to finish. I’ve never really quit at anything in my life. Just having that dignity and integrity and respect. Me and my dad, we really mirror image each other a lot. We are just pretty much the same person – real laid back but hard-nosed, to-the-book and get-everything-done type of people.”
Was he demanding of you given he’s a retired Marine and police sergeant?
“Yeah, definitely expected a lot. He always showed up. I wouldn’t say he was too tough, just had a policy and rules that he followed and just instilled them in me. I went along with the ride and followed everything that I was taught.”
What do you think about you think about the opportunity that you have with the Texans, either this year or in the future?
“I’m coming in and I’m ready to get right to work and I’m ready to be fighting for that starting spot. I want to play right away. Anybody that doesn’t have that mindset, then I don’t know if they belong in this league because I’m real competitive and I want to be one of the best to go down. I want to be that overachiever, hard worker that comes every day with a purpose.”
There sounds like there is a part of you that has a chip on your shoulder from not being recruited to an FBS school. Do you feel any of that?
“Definitely have that chip on my shoulder. It’s there and I know it’s there and I’m going to keep it there because there’s going to be a lot of doubters in the process and all you have to do is either prove them right or prove them wrong. Everything is just in my control, and I’m looking to handle everything that comes across my path.”
When you were at the Senior Bowl, did you feel like you were able to prove somethings and how do you think that affected your draft?
“It definitely shows that I can play against the better competition because that’s where some of the best guys were. I had a fun time down there playing against those guys and I felt like teams saw that maybe this kid can play with this [inaudible] and kind of answered some of the questions – or I guess concerns – surrounding me coming from Bucknell, not a traditionally great football school.”
Who are some of the tackles that you watch and you’d like to model your game after?
“I’ll watch pretty much every tackle position. When I’m watching any game of football, I’m always analyzing and seeing how certain things are playing out or how somebody got beat or what they did successfully to beat their man. Just pretty much in the NFL, I watch a lot of Trent Williams and Tyron (Smith) the most, but pretty much all tackles throughout the league I’m analyzing, trying to take anything from their game and see if I can add it to mine.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH CB TRESTON DECOUD
What is this moment like for you after overcoming a lot to get to this point?
“It means a lot to me. This is something that I’ve worked hard for my whole life. I’m very excited and I’m glad to be a Houston Texan.”
What do you think about the opportunity you have with the Texans?
“I am just thankful for the opportunity to give me a chance to come and put their uniform on and now I’m big on competing, be a good teammate and a hard worker. Whatever happens from there, I’m confident in myself and I’m glad the Houston Texans picked me so that means they are confident in me, too. So, I’m thankful for the opportunity. I’m just going to come in and compete and do whatever they ask me to do.”
What was it like for you to go to a couple different schools?
“I never second guessed myself. I always believed in my ability, so I didn’t care where I would go o I didn’t care what round or I didn’t care if I went undrafted. I just wanted the opportunity to showcase myself. I’m a hard worker. Nothing has ever been given to me. I have always been the underdog. I’m used to this and I’m ready to work. That’s all that matters.”
How big of a day is this for you?
“It’s the biggest day in my life because this is something I’ve always wanted. I’ve dreamt of this since I was 14, so now it’s finally here. I just want to thank God for the opportunity and Houston for the opportunity.”
Your mom has written that she has had breast cancer twice and has overcome that. How much of an inspiration was she to you?
“She was the motor that kept me pushing. She normally always kept the focus off of her and had it on me throughout the situation that she was going through. It helped me be the young man I am today and it helped me on the football field because I took that anger out and bring it on the football field. She was my big motivation.”
You get to be a part of the Texans No. 1 defense. What is it going to be like to play alongside guys like DE J.J. Watt, DE Jadeveon Clowney, CB Kareem Jackson and CB Johnathan Joseph?
“It’s going to be awesome. J.J. Watt, he’s one of the best defensive players in the country – the best. He makes my job a lot easier. [Inaudible] That’s one guy that I want to pick his brain and see how he came to be successful in the NFL. It’s a great opportunity and I’m glad to be a Texan.”
You visited Dallas and you worked out with the Saints. Did you work out anywhere else? Did you do anything for these guys?
“No, sir. I did visit the Cowboys and work out for the Saints.”
Is there something you would like to share with us that hasn’t gotten a lot of publicity?
“My story is what it is. I’m pretty sure it’s out now. I’m just a hard worker, a great kid and I’m just going to come in and compete. I talk a lot of trash, so I hope you can like that.”
Any lines you care to share with us?
“Whatever comes to the mind. I don’t have a favorite line, just whatever comes to the mind and I just say it and just be who I am.”
When you held California WR Chad Hansen to four catches for 16 yards, did you have anything to say to him?
“Yeah, I had a lot to say to him. I told him this was my home, this was my turf, you have to get out of here. So, we got the victory against them, so they got out of there.”
When you look back at Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith’s record with free agents like Johnathan Joseph, undrafted guys like A.J. Bouye, drafted guys like Kevin Johnson. It seems like he has an eye for cornerback talent. How excited are you that you were one of the guys he identified in this draft and wanted to make a part of this team?
“I’m very excited. Coach Bill O’Brien, I remember watching him on Hard Knocks and just to see what type of person he is. I love how he [inaudible] and his personality. All my life I’ve been coached around hard coaches, hard-nosed coaches, in your face, scream at you, so I feel like Coach Bill O’Brien is one of those. I love coaches like that. They’re the reason why I play this game. I think it’s going to be a great opportunity and like you said, I think he has an eye for the skill, so I’m glad he chose me in this fifth round.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH C KYLE FULLER
How surprised are you that the Texans took you?
“Man, it’s crazy. I’m from Texas, so it’s really a dream come true for me to be able to stay right here. So, I’m happy.”
Can you put into words what this moment means to finally have your name called in the draft?
“It’s been a long road. Everybody comes out of here and they work as hard as they can to get somewhere. It really pays off in the end. The journey is just now beginning. I’m super excited about it.”
What do you think you bring to the table for a team that has two good centers in C Nick Martin and C Greg Mancz?
“I think I bring versatility, for sure. I’m a big, physical guy. I’m a guy who likes to get out there and work every single day. Obviously I’m going to come in and I’m going to learn and I’m going to do what I need to do to get out there on the field.”
Have you played any other positions and have the Texans talked to you about playing any other positions?
“Yes, sir. They talked to me about center and guard for sure. I’ve been training to do that. It’s just going to be a matter of getting in there, getting the reps that I need and doing what I have to do to get on the team (and) make sure that I get out there next year.”
What was it like for you to have to play last year with the circumstances of the scandal over your head?
“It was tough. It was something that you never want to see your school go through, but I think the bigger thing was that we were successful this year, this season. I had the Baylor family. We stayed together and we really watched each other’s back.”
Did you expect to be called by the Texans or were there other teams interested?
“You never know really what to expect. The draft has a mind of its own so it’s really just one of those things where I’m just thankful and I’m happy and I’m celebrating with my family.”
Where are you right now?
“I’m in my house in Wylie (Texas) right now.”
Some say the kind of offense you played in at Baylor makes the transition to the NFL tougher. What would you say to that?
“It’s just a learning deal. That’s all it is. It’s just a deal where I have to go out there and really just figure out what the differences are and then I have to go out there and give it my all because at the end of the day, football is football. So, I’m going to go out there and do what I have to do.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH DE CARLOS WATKINS
How does it feel to be a Texan?
“It feels great. It’s a blessing.”
How surprised were you that they took you?
“I had talked to them at the combine. I think them and the Buffalo Bills were my only two formal visits, formal meetings. So, I kind of had an idea. When I got the call, it just really made everything better.”
What is it like to be reunited with DE D.J. Reader and QB Deshaun Watson?
“It’s really a blessing. These past few years getting to play with those guys – Deshaun has been a great player, the leader he is, and D.J. being the big bro, guided me along this last year. Getting to play with him again, it’s really a blessing. I think we can do a lot of great things.”
I believe this is the fourth member of the Texans that’s from Clemson. What do you think it is about the Clemson program that it has been able to produce so many talented players?
“That’s Clemson. Coach (Dabo) Swinney did a great job of not only preparing us to become better football players, but mentoring us as young and just becoming a great pro. We have all the qualities and what it takes to be a pro. That’s the kind of school that Clemson is that builds us to be great young men and professional athletes.”
What do you think you do really well and what do you think you need improvement on?
“There’s always room for more improvement for any aspect of the game, but I can bring you anything you need, honestly. I had 10.5 sacks this past year. I can rush the quarterback, stop the run, I can help out on ball screens. Anything that coach needs me to do, I will do it.”
What do you think about your performance against some of the top teams in the country the past couple years?
“The big games, I feel like I stepped up and played well, especially this past year. I didn’t start off the way I wanted to but I finished out the season strong, especially playing against (Virginia) Tech, Ohio State and Alabama. Just really tried to solidify myself as a top pick in the draft (and) just show what type of player I was and what I could do.”
Do you envision yourself being a true nose tackle?
“Yes, I’ve played it a lot. This past year, we had a couple of schemes in our defense and I actually played nose majority of the time. We got in a three-man front and I definitely can take on that transition and turn it into nose. I really did it a lot this past year and I think I can make that adjustment.”
Can you talk about your experience? You played five seasons at Clemson.
“I came in as a freshman and I had a couple of guys in front of me. Coach (Dan) Brooks, he kind of let me get a little experience earlier which was beneficial for me going into my sophomore year. I started the first game of the year, and that’s when things started to really look good for me. I faced the car accident, but after that all the experience I had throughout the course of the years has been a tremendous help. Starting from 2012, getting experience as a true freshman really helps you to know what to expect in the upcoming seasons. The experience I had, it was tremendous and was very, very beneficial.”
Can you speak to that overcoming that horrible incident with the car accident and getting things back together? What does this moment mean to you especially having gone through something like that?
“It’s a blessing. I sit back and think about it. I could have lost my life. I did lose one of my close relatives. When I sat down and just thought about it, it was truly a blessing to make it to this point, and all the things I’ve been through, me and my family and now we get to celebrate with the Texans, it’s really been a ride.”