CHIEFS GENERAL MANAGER BRETT VEACH
*OPENING STATEMENT: *“I appreciate everyone being here today. With the draft right around the corner and our players back in the building it’s certainly been an exciting week for us. Before we begin, I just want to thank my scouting department. There’s so much work that goes into this whole draft process and setting the board. You start with four or five hundred players and then you kind of narrow it down to 160. I’ve said this from the time I took this job, I’m very fortunate to have a group of scouts that I work with, I’ve worked with these guys for the last five years, know them very well, trust them and the amount of time they spend on the road away from their families, I just can’t thank them enough. It certainly wouldn’t be possible without them and I know they’re as excited as I am for this process.”
Q: How do you think the defensive personnel is better than it was this time last year?
VEACH: “I don’t think as an evaluator, as a personnel member, you’re ever happy with your team unless you win a Super Bowl. So we’re going to look to improve the defense. We’re going to look to make changes. But I think when you get a guy like Eric Berry back, that’s a big loss, and then you add a guy like Anthony Hitchens, we were able to add Xavier Williams who I think will do a great job for us. I think we’ve made some good moves, but we’re certainly not finished.”
Q: Do you have your own plan for how you like to attack every Draft?
VEACH: “I’m sure every evaluator is different just by their personality and how they see things. I learned a lot from John (Dorsey) and I think some of the processes that we still have in place are very similar. John brought the 17-day pre-Combine film evaluation here. I learned from that and I certainly implemented that this year. Then you piggy-back that off of your Pro Day workouts and then into your second and third wave of film. I think some of the structure is the same, but everyone inherently is different in how they see things and how they envision the team both now and in the future. They’ll be some of those differences, but I think some of the processes are the same.”
Q: Is there anything that is particularly unique about this draft class?
VEACH: “I think in regards to the draft classes it’s always different in regards to where the pockets are. One year you may have a pocket at this position and the next year be weak at that position. So I think in regards to it being unique it’s just how you as an evaluator and how you as your staff see the draft as a whole. Where you need to be aggressive, but where you maybe can look in a different direction because maybe you can get similar value because of the depth. I think it’s just the process of really identifying where those pockets are and where the strengths and weaknesses are.”
Q: Some GMs are less aggressive than others when it comes to making draft trades and trades in general. You’ve been pretty active with this being your first go around. Where’d you get that philosophy from?
VEACH: “I think that’s just kind of who I am. I have a group of guys up there who are worried that I’m going to be too aggressive, so I’m glad I have those guys. Everyone does this, and we’ve done this the last five years, you go through mock drafts just like you see online. We kind of just play that game ourselves in regards to what do we do if, or what about if this guy slides. I think every scenario had me trading up and my guys were like, ‘we have a lot of good picks here.’ I think I’ll have a good group of guys helping me out there.”
Q: Draft picks are among the best and most valuable pieces in football and if you can evaluate talent you have a cheap, cost-controlled option for four years. Is it hard to get out of that rut of thinking I’m not going to trade, I’m going to keep my picks and get this value and trust my evaluation?
VEACH: “It’s kind of a double-edged sword. It’s hard when you do believe in the process and you do believe in your ability to evaluate and you know if a guy slides this may be the only opportunity that you have to get that guy of that caliber because once he goes off the board, you won’t find someone with those exact traits. But there’s the flipside in regards to the league is all about depth and I think the Philadelphia Eagles showed last year, you lose a quarterback, you lose a tackle, you lose a running back, you lose a starting Mike linebacker, and they had depth. Where do you get those guys? You get them in the draft. You get them in all rounds, first, second, third, fourth, fifth, after the draft free agency. They are valuable because those guys will not only turn to starters, but they can turn into depth level players who will able to start and get you through a 16-game grind.”
Q: I think you’re probably pretty happy with the Reggie Ragland and Cam Erving trades. What’s your evaluation of how those trades have turned out for you and the picks you had to give up?
VEACH: “I’ll start off with Reggie. I think we’re all excited about him and we think he can be a star. We were very fortunate to be able to execute that trade and we think him and Anthony Hitchens will be a dynamic duo and as I said earlier, will kind of change the mindset and bring a temperament with them. Then Cam’s a guy who has all of the ability in the world. He’ll get a shot to continue to compete for those interior spots and provide flex at tackle and those guys are very hard to find. Lineman go off the board quick and when you’re looking at the fifth, sixth round they’re hard to find, so we traded a fifth-round pick for him, but really that skillset is hard to find in the fifth, sixth round. So having two years of him we felt that was advantageous to us.”
Q: Andy said earlier this week that you were one of the few teams that could step out on the field and play a game right now because of the balance on the roster. Based on your analysis, do you feel like the draft needs to be slanted more towards the defense or do you truly feel like you’re in a situation where you can take the best player available?
VEACH: “We’re going to continue to add to both sides. The one thing that you have to protect yourself against is being too comfortable at any position. I’ve gone to minicamps thinking ‘Wow we’re really good at tight end or running back’ and then all of the sudden you lose three guys in a week or two. I’ve been on teams where we have had a starter go down and then two or three days later a backup go down. I think you never just want to dismiss really good players, but I certainly think you’ll attack the Draft in regards to best player available and your eyes are always going to point to areas you feel are positions of need. They’ll be a little give and take. So if you have a guy ranked in the second round and at a certain position that maybe you feel is not a need there’s some give and take in regards to if a guy is of a similar value or maybe a little lower and could go in that position of need. But if that value is in the fourth or fifth round you’re not going to take a fifth round lineman over a second round receiver.”
Q: When you look at what your team’s needs are and if there was a guy that slipped in the first round, are you open to the idea of getting into the first round?
VEACH: “I think all cards are on the table. That’s the great part about the draft you really never know how everything’s going to play out and sometimes you think this guy is going top 15 all day and then you look up and you’re at pick 28 and the guy’s on the board. So I think it’s our job to be prepared and maybe it doesn’t make sense to us and maybe the equity is too much, maybe you don’t want to give up two or three picks to get all the way up there. I believe in the process and I know that we’ve identified guys all throughout the draft, one through seven, but if there’s that guy who we thought was a top 10 pick and he’s there at 28, we have to be a least prepared and we have to have dialogue throughout this process. That’s why we have to start calling teams now and letting them know that we’re always open for business.”
Q: If you look at the drafts since you and Andy have been here, you guys have done a really good job of finding offensive players in early rounds, mid rounds, late rounds, but not so much on defense. Something you can put your finger on as for a reason why things haven’t been as successful with the defensive guys?
VEACH: “I don’t know if I can put my finger on anything, but I know as a staff we continue to evaluate ourselves and evaluate the draft and the pockets of players and where they go and being smart about things. One thing I’ve probably noticed over the last three or four years is when you see a guy, get him. You don’t always have to acquire picks. Sometimes I think the draft equity is the most valuable asset you have, but also another valuable asset you have is your ability to evaluate talent and be confident in guys. That’s where I think my aggressiveness comes in. Sometimes if you trade back there, are guys on the board that you feel better about? I think we’ll operate with that mindset.”
Q: Looking back are there defensive guys that you’re surprised didn’t turn out better for you?
VEACH: “Yeah, but I think you could say that for some offensive guys. It’s a collective deal. I think as a whole in general we’re more on track to be where we need to be and I think we’re going to have an exciting product out there. I know we don’t have a first round pick, but having a two and two threes and two fours, I think we’ll be able to maneuver and acquire a lot of great players.”
Q: What are your expectations for a guy like Tanoh Kpassagnon?
VEACH: “That is the thing with Tanoh, he came from Villanova. Obviously, a 1AA program and they used him all over the field. We brought him here and asked him to do a bunch of different things. So for a while he is playing 3-4 outside linebacker, then we kicked him inside to big end. I think having a year with our strength and conditioning program and having a year with our staff and terminology, and just getting used to the speed of the NFL. It is one thing to go from Alabama to the NFL or LSU to the NFL, but when you go from Villanova to the NFL, it is obviously a little bit different. He has done a great job in the offseason program. He has been busting his tail. And I think he will be a guy that really helps us out.”
Q: How will it feel walking into that room for your first draft as the GM?
VEACH: “I am looking forward to it. I’ve been working up to it, been doing this for 12 years. I’ve been going to the draft room for a long time. Certainly, it will be different as a GM. I am surrounded by a lot of great people and trust those guys and it will be a lot of fun.”
Q: How comfortable are you at corner and interior D-line?
VEACH: “At corner, we feel really good about Kendall Fuller and Steven Nelson has shown that he continues to get better and he can help us out. And then you bring in David Amerson who is a guy we know has been up and down on the consistency level, but he has all the physical attributes you need. We still have guys like Keith Reaser and Will Redmond that people won’t really talk about. Will Redmond was a mid-round pick by the 49ers coming off an injury and Keith Reaser was another guy we liked, and I think he was also coming off an injury out of Florida Atlantic a few years back. A lot of people won’t talk about those guys, but when you start stacking those types of players in regards to what is out there in the draft class, you feel good about them. We will be certainly aggressive in all areas. And the defensive line, Chris (Jones), we feel he has a chance to be one of the best in the NFL. Xavier Williams filled a really big void for us and getting Allen (Bailey) healthy and playing a full 16 games will be big. We will have opportunities to add depth at both positions I believe.”
Q: As a GM, is there anything that has stuck out to you or come as a big surprise?
VEACH: “No, just all the media stuff. Everything else I am used to. I am used to the players, I am used to setting draft boards, sitting with the coaches and talking ball. That is where I am most comfortable.”
Q: How much does it help grading players having been with Coach Reid for so long?
VEACH: “It certainly helps a lot because I have been around him a lot. I have been around him a long time, been around his offenses and defenses a long time. It just helps with that trust factor. I think Coach knows I am really prepared. If we are going to talk about our roster, a free agency plan, an offseason plan, a draft, we speak the same language. And he knows if I am going to come to him with a pocket of players or an idea of how I think we can get better, he knows the homework is going to be done and I am going to bring him a lot of information.”
Q: When you bring him a player and say, “Let me know what you think…”
VEACH: “Oh, I will wear him out. He will tell you, I will wear him out. The one draft where LeSean McCoy came out, I think I sent him highlights every day for 10 days straight. He got the picture.”
Q: When you send him a guy, are you trying to tell Coach you like that guy or are you trying to decide on a guy? How do you decide on that?
VEACH: “I don’t know. I just wear him out. Trust your abilities and trust the scouts around you and trust the process. He knows that when you bring something to him, it’s not going to just be one player. You are going to look at the whole. You aren’t going to look at two or three guys at one position, you are going to look at all those guys. You are going to trim the fat and give him what you believe is best for the Chiefs.”
Q: The last three years, the Chiefs have drafted a rookie that made the Pro Bowl, what do you attribute that to?
VEACH: “It speaks to the process and really understanding and having a great deal of information of every player. It goes back to knowing where the pockets of players are and what direction you can go. It goes back to the scouts and the process and what we can build here. John (Dorsey) did a great job of laying down the blueprint for that. I think the volume of film that we watch is immense. I couldn’t even tell you the amount of hours. We will sit there for 17 days before the combine and we will go through every position and we will watch three games on all these players. And then we will go to the pro days. And while they are at the pro days, in house we will go back and watch three more games on all the players on our draft board. And now our scouts are back in here and we are going through rounds three through seven and watching three more games. So by the time the draft is here, we have watched 10 games on every single player on our board. It goes back to rolling our sleeves up and getting into the film room and watching tape and having a bunch of really good guys that know what they are talking about. In conjunction with that, their ability to process the information in regards to the work ethic and how they can learn and retain information. There is a lot that goes into it, but it goes back to the process and how we do things.”
Q: What was your reaction to the schedule?
VEACH: “When it came out, we were watching tape. I kind of glanced at it. I just knew we played the Chargers and the Steelers away, but after that I don’t know if I could even tell you the rest of the schedule. I know it is tough, but I find it interesting that everyone always talks about, ‘Oh, we have a really hard beginning.’ These are all tough games. It doesn’t matter who you open up with, who you end with. You never know who is going to get hurt and how this is going to play out. I know in this league, and Coach mentions it every week, you win a game in this league, it doesn’t matter who you are playing or when you are playing, it is tough. I think the schedule all looks tough.”
Q: Zach Fulton was versatile on the offensive line. Is that something you need to address in the draft or do you feel like you have that in house?
VEACH: “Yeah, I think swing offensive lineman, whether it be guard, center, swingman or guard to tackle, swing guys are always a priority. That is why it is going to be a big loss. Zach was a really good player for us. He did a lot of great things. He can go play guard, he can play center. That will certainly be a direction we go in. Talking back to Cam (Erving), that guy can do a lot of different things. I think versatility is a premium and that is why linemen go high and that is why you have to draft a few linemen every year.”
Q: Do you expect Tanoh Kpassagnon to drop weight or play at 280?
VEACH: “I think he will be right around that 275, 280. I think he will give you some stand up edge rush and potentially kick inside in some nickel and dime stuff. I just think the adjustment from year one to year two is always a big deal to these guys. Getting acclimated to the speed and the day in and day out regiment. But I think he will be in a good position to help us out this year.”
Q: What is a constant characteristic that all the guys that your draft will have?
VEACH: “I think you saw it with our free agency approach and with Anthony Hitchens and back to Reggie Ragland. We are looking for guys that bring a temperament with them. Tough football players, guys that love the process. Guys that want to be a member of the Kingdom.”
Q: How do you feel about your current cap situation and projecting the next couple years as well?
VEACH: “We are comfortable where we are at. I talk about the cap staff I have is really good. One of the things that we put a high priority on is making sure that we maintain financial flexibility. We know that a year from now, Kendall (Fuller), Reggie (Ragland) and Chris Jones, they are all going to be eligible for an extension. We have done things and structured our cap situation so that we always have flexibility to keep our guys. You want to draft guys and keep them here. That is how you win.”
Q: John used to have guys around the league feed him info on players. How is it going for you having guys around the league that feed you info?
VEACH: “I am just going to call John (Dorsey). He has been around for a while. He always used to say the birdies are talking. I’ll just let John do all the work and call him on Wednesday and see if he can help me out.”