The NFL Scouting Combine is one of the few events each year that hosts the NFL's most important decision makers all in one place at one time.
With 330 of the best college prospects in the country coming to Indianapolis, Indiana, to put their abilities to the test, the entire NFL and all the media that come along with it make the pilgrimage to this Midwestern town each year to search and evaluate the handful of players these teams might add to their rosters later this spring.
On Thursday afternoon, it was Kansas City Chiefs general manager John Dorsey's turn to take the podium and make the rounds in speaking with the media—addressing everything from the recent contract extensions of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Eric Berry, the strengths he sees in the upcoming NFL Draft, which takes place April 27-29 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and many other things.
So here's a breakdown of what we learned from Dorsey and a few others on Thursday, including bits from his podium presser, as well as some more exclusive interviews with him off to the side.
With the Combine being in Indianapolis, Dorsey was asked about the Colts' new general manager and former Chiefs Director of Football Operations, Chris Ballard:
"He's a wonderful man. He is energetic, he's smart, he understands the system that we run in Kansas City—he gets that. He's a very good evaluator, he's an excellent communicator and you guys got a good man. He's a family man who's passionate and loves the game of football. He's like a brother to me and I wish him the best of luck."
Dorsey spoke on the contract extension for Eric Berry:
"A deal of this magnitude does not unfold unless you have the blessing of ownership. That's first and foremost. The good thing about it is, Eric [Berry's] representatives were in town that Sunday, and so what I decided it was best for us to do was all sit down as a group on Monday. We sat down for 10 hours as a group and we heard his side of it, myself, Trip MacCracken and Brandt Tilis. We sat down and heard their sides of it. We did a 10-hour face-to-face negotiation, which I think is very helpful. At the end of the day, we came down to an agreement that Eric Berry will be a Kansas City Chief. The most exciting part of the whole thing was not only that we got Eric Berry done, but that I was able to grab my bag, rush to the car, get to the airport and make my 8:25 Southwest direct flight to Indianapolis and here I am."
Dorsey was asked if there was any doubt going into the negotiations last Monday that a deal would get done:
"At that time, being the eternal optimist, I thought it'd be 70-30 that we'd get it done, but when you have negotiations of that magnitude, there are going to be flaws and they're going to be impediments, and roadblocks that do take place. There were some tense times there where we would have session, and then both sides would caucus and separate for about 20 minutes so they could strategically think different things through, and then we would reconvene and then we'd kind of hammer out the points of the deal until both sides came to an agreement and we could create a win-win situation for both.
"At the end of the day, you know what? Eric Berry—a very special man will be a Chief for a very long time."
Dorsey was asked about a couple of the guys behind the scenes—Trip MacCracken and Brandt Tilis—and their role in getting these deals done:
"They do the actual day-to-day responsibilities of interacting with agents—making sure from a cap-balance standpoint that the numbers are matched up, and forecasting and laying analytical models out to meet certain goals that we may have.
"We sit down on a daily basis and we're running through numbers and scenarios and I'm making some suggestions to them, and they'll come back and make suggestions to me. They do a wonderful job and it's part of that culture we talk about—about taking ownership in your craft and I think those two guys do such a very good job and I'm very thankful that they were here and that they were a part of that negotiation session."
Former Pitt running back James Conner, who battled his way back from Hodgkin's lymphoma and who called Eric Berry his friend and "inspiration," spoke about what it meant to him to see Berry get his contract extension:
"It just shows a great organization like the Chiefs believed in him for them to do that," he said. "It just shows that you can come back after going through something like we went through and still be successful, so it gives hope really."
For more on their relationship,***check out this story***.
Dorsey was also asked about the contract extension for Laurent Duvernay-Tardif:
"The doctor. I love the guy. He's exponentially grown since he's been a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. He has done nothing but take positive steps year in and year out. Philosophically, what we've always tried to do is identify the young guys that we think we'd like to have moving forward. He was one of those guys. We were lucky enough to strike a deal up. I feel very good where he is, and he will be here for some time."
Dorsey, who didn't use the franchise tag this year, was asked about the impending free agency of defensive lineman Dontari Poe:
"We all like big guys. I had a great conversation with his representative yesterday – just to inform him that we're not going to use the tag for him. I also let him know that I want to stay in an open line of communication because I don't like to let good football players go. I consider him a really good football player. I'm going to let the process take its way out. As long as that line of communication is open, I'd like to have him back. We'll just let the process unfold as we go here."
Dorsey was asked what he looks for in an edge rusher:
"I think the very first thing that I look for is the ability to get off the snap of the football and then how fast can he get around the corner in terms of hitting that perfect angle. Everybody rushes the passer differently – some guys do it with power, some guys do it with finesse, some guys do it with agility and quickness. So I think what you do is as you go through each respective draft class you have to see what makes that player as an edge rusher or pass rusher unique and can he fit into your system."
Dorsey was askedwhat stands out about this year's draft class:**
"We've all said that each draft class is completely different. There are certain depths at certain positions if you want me to identify a few of them, I'll give you a few, not many, but you'll probably know. I think the wide receiver position has some depth to it, I think running backs has some depth to it, I think corners have some depth."
Dorsey was asked about what he sees specifically in this year's quarterback class:
"I see a lot of spread-option quarterbacks, I see a lot of athletic guys. I see a lot of guys that—you know, have a little work to do. I mean there are some talented players in this draft class, but there are some mechanics and flaws they're going to have to work through to translate to the pro game."
Dorsey was asked about the inside linebacker position in this draft:
"There are some pretty good (inside linebackers in this draft). I don't want to identify which ones I think are pretty good, but I think there are some good players to be found at various stages, but there's a player or two that's already caught my eye."
Dorsey was asked about the evaluation of Michigan's Jabrill Peppers, who was been linked to both sides of the ball:**
"He is a very unique athlete. East Orange, New Jersey guy, I mean the guy is going to come here, he's probably going to blow the Combine up and I think it's whichever team selects him where they feel most comfortable, because there's some people at one time thought he was a top-10 running back, could have been a top 10 running back early in his career. As you see, Don Brown now moves him over to the other side of the ball where he can try to work him up closer to the line of scrimmage, so now he's a dime linebacker. There are other times where we see him on the jet-sweep-reverse and you just see him explode through the defense. I do find him a fascinating study in terms of where do you play him. It's kind of like the study a couple of years ago I think with Shaq Thompson that the Panthers drafted, he was the running back-linebacker guy. It'll be interesting to see where at the end of the day people have him on their boards."
Dorsey spoke about one of his big free agent signings last year in right tackle Mitch Schwartz:
"Consistency, veteran leadership, passion for the game, smart fellow. He's everything I thought he would be and my long-term goal has always been to have a stable offensive line and he just anchors the right side as well as Eric [Fisher] anchors the left side. You begin to build the cohesiveness along the offensive line and he's helped there dramatically."
Former BYU running back Jamaal Williams, who became the school's all-time leading rusher last year, spoke about his former teammate, Daniel Sorensen:
"Sorensen was great, I called him 'White Chocolate' as safety. We had two 'White Chocolates' at safety, and they would just come down banging. I love Danny for his effort and how he plays the game. Off the field, the nicest person you'll ever meet. On the field, the nastiest person you'll ever meet. I really try to just mold my game, especially on the field, like him and take his characteristics off the field and just be a humble person off the field and let your actions speak."
Despite the obvious BYU connection with Andy Reid, Williams said he hasn't yet heard from the Chiefs or Reid:
"I'm waiting on him to come and see me," he laughed.
Former Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, who is seen as a first-round prospect by many, spoke about the Chiefs' all-time leading rusher:
"Jamaal [Charles] has been banged up a lot, but when he was healthy and when he was full-go, I definitely patterned my game behind him. The things he did—you know I'm not a big back, shifty, ain't afraid to run downhill, just every down back, that's who I pattern my game behind."
Dorsey was asked who the Chiefs will draft at No. 27:
"Best available player."
It was worth a shot.