Eric DeCosta opening statement:"We're excited to draft Trenton Simpson from Clemson. Clearly, for us at that time, it was the best available player. [He is] a run and hit linebacker, very, very explosive, outstanding. [Special teams coordinator] Chris Horton – one of the happiest guys in the building. [Trenton was] one of his favorite players. [Inside linebackers coach] Zach Orr, that was his number one linebacker in the Draft this year. So, we got wiped out to be honest in the third [round]; it was a long day, as I feared it would. I just kept thinking about Roquan [Smith]. At one point, we actually facetimed with Roquan, believe it or not – and that is true; we did. (Head coach John Harbaugh: "That was just to remind the whole room when we didn't have a second round pick … Here's your second round pick.")We were very excited to get Trenton. We think he's going to help us in a lot of different ways. We see him as a four-down linebacker, eventually. [He has] tremendous potential and upside, and he's a great kid. Questions?"
It seems like LB Trenton Simpson has played a lot of snaps at a lot of positions – even some at corner. Where do you project him playing? (Jamison Hensley)
_John Harbaugh: _"That's the point, kind of. He's versatile; he's a run and hit linebacker. [Director of player personnel] Joe [Hortiz] talked about that just a few minutes ago. He can play really across the board. He can play from the slot all the way back across to the Will, and he can play on the edge of the line. So, that's kind of nice. He's fast, he's a kind of straight-line, cover ground kind of guy. He can actually rush; I think when we blitz, he'll help us. Then, special teams – he's going to definitely be a part of that. He already started talking about that on the phone. He's going to be on all the special teams stuff. So, it's always great to add speed and kind of that … He's a missile. To add that kind of mindset to our defense and our special teams is a big plus."
Eric, what do you mean by you were wiped out? Were guys who you had third-round grades on, besides LB Trenton Simpson, pretty much all gone? (Jeff Zrebiec)
_Eric DeCosta: _"You have players in every round that you aspire to take. You look up there like, 'Man, that would be a great pick. That would be a great pick.' At one point, in the early part of the third round, we probably had seven or eight names. By the end, we had one. So, you pick the best player – that's what we do. It was interesting – as an aside – thinking about looking at the receiver position. Starting that round, there were a lot of really good receivers available. At one point, this process fall, I'm thinking maybe we would have a chance to draft a wideout in the third round, and it just got annihilated in the span of about 10 picks. We're very thankful that we got Zay [Flowers]."
Does drafting LB Trenton Simpson have any impact on ILB Patrick Queen's future at all? (Jamison Hensley)
_DeCosta: _"That's something that, as I said yesterday, we'll address at some point. We love Patrick [Queen]; I love Patrick. Patrick is, in my mind, one of the better Will linebackers in the league. He's smart, he works his butt off, he has a bright future. I think he's a Pro Bowl linebacker in the making. In Trenton [Simpson], we get a guy that was honestly the very best player available at the time. That's our philosophy; that's how we build our team. The fact that he's an outstanding special teams player factored in because that transcends positional defensive football. That guy's going to be on the field for us helping us win games, and that's a huge thing for us. We love his mentality, we love his background, his family and it was an easy pick for us to make."
Just to be clear, is the timetable to pick up ILB Patrick Queen's fifth year option by the end of the Draft or just by that Tuesday deadline? (Jonas Shaffer)
_DeCosta: _"Well, I think the deadline is what – [May] first at 4 p.m.? I think that's probably when we'll make it, I would say. By then."
Joe, what kind of stood out about LB Trenton Simpson while watching film and throughout the whole scouting process? (Jamison Hensley)
_Joe Hortiz: _"It's been mentioned twice – the versatility. He came in as really an outside 'backer, nickel-type player for them. You mentioned where he was playing some corner, even. So, the athleticism, the speed. When you put the film on, you watch him go from sideline to sideline. He can close ground very quickly in pursuit. He's very active on film. Then, like [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] mentioned, his character is off the charts. There at Clemson, they rave about him. We get a lot of information from them about their players, and he comes from a great program and a great place. So, [when you] put everything together, it just feels like a good pick."
Eric and Joe, we've talked to you guys a lot about the cornerback position. Is that a position where there's still going to be good value when you guys are picking in the fourth and fifth rounds tomorrow? (Childs Walker)
_DeCosta: _"I think so. We look at the board now, of course, there's always an element of luck involved and teams taking other players, but as we look up there in this coming round, we see some guys that we would consider taking in the fourth round, for sure. Definitely. I'll tell you: that's an important position. There's no team in the league … Well, probably there are other teams – but as you guys all know – you've seen us. We realize the value of that position, and we'll continue to address that via the Draft, via other means. There are a lot of opportunities out there for us to get better at that position. The Draft is certainly part of that. I think we have a board where we see players that we would take in the fourth, fifth and the sixth round, definitely."
Eric, were you at all tempted to trade up? Did you attempt it at any point? Was it too rich, or did you know with the capital you had it was probably going to be unlikely? (Jeff Zrebiec)
_DeCosta: _"In another year, we probably might've traded. Had we had 12 picks, I could see maybe us trying to trade up potentially. This year, [we were] hamstrung by the picks that we have. It was probably prohibitive. Our trade up was, like I said, Roquan [Smith]. That was our trade up this year basically. We gave up a two [second round selection] and a five [fifth round selection] for an All-Pro linebacker; that was our trade. We kind of went into the process knowing that. We did consider trading back in the round. We fielded a couple calls, [but] the value wasn't there for us to do that. So, we decided to pick."
Eric, in the pre-second round video you guys put up on social media, you said that you planned on adding five players in the next 24 hours. At that point, you only had four picks left. Was that just a flubbing of the words, or did you expect to add another pick? (Jonas Shaffer)
_Harbaugh: _"The video, did you see the video?"
DeCosta: _"No, no. _(laughter)You never know. That's what I'll say; you never know. You never know."
John, there is a lot of talk about LB Trenton Simpson as a versatile linebacker. Do you envision him competing more outside or inside, or is that to be determined? (Kyle Barber)
_Harbaugh: _"I think he'll be an inside 'backer that can probably go out to the edge. We do move those guys out there quite a bit. We'll kick – even in our even front package, nickel package – we'll kick our weak side end down to a three-technique and bring the Will linebacker up on the line of scrimmage. We do that a lot with Malik [Harrison]. So, those guys are versatile doing that. Patrick [Queen] does that a lot. So, he'll be involved in all those types of things."
In that same vein, just how valuable is this positionless defense and being able to match up against tight ends with linebackers like that? How much versatility does that give you and defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald? (Ryan Mink)
Harbaugh: _"Yes, [defensive coordinator] Mike [Macdonald] talks about it all the time. Really, when we draw our defenses up, a lot of times we do use X's, we do use numbers. We'll talk about we number of coverages, in terms of not just man coverages, but also zone coverages. So, sometimes it's even defensive tackles dropping out into coverage, or it's guys blitzing in certain gaps. It can really be anybody that does it, and we try to build the defense in that way. We have since 2018. That's when we reorganized the whole defense, so the idea is for guys to be all around. So, you say, 'Where do they play?' Well, really, they all play everywhere, most of the time. I don't really think he's going to play corner though, [director of player personnel] Joe [Hortiz]. _(laughter) That's really not part of the plan, but we really want all our guys to be able to play that way."
Did any of you guys call ILB Patrick Queen at this point? Is that something you could do in the coming days maybe after the draft, or you don't think that it's necessary? (Jeff Zrebiec)
Harbaugh: "Oh, yes, we talked to him. I think [inside linebackers coach] Zach [Orr] has already talked to him. I talked to Patrick [Queen] yesterday or the day before. Patrick is good. He'll be – the more good players we can have on our team, the more our guys should be happy. So, this guy [Trenton Simpson] – when this guy comes in, all of our players, our linebackers are going to love him. I know Roquan [Smith] has already talked to him. I'd be surprised if Patrick hasn't talked to him yet. That's on Patrick, but he's going to be great in the room, and is going to be great for our team. Patrick is going to love him. Let's roll."
LB Trenton Simpson talked about how ILB Roquan Smith was the linebacker he looked up to because he's a Georgia guy. Was that something he talked to you guys about at all when he met with you? (Childs Walker)
Hortiz: "Did he speak to us about looking up to Roquan [Smith]? No. To me personally, no, but he's definitely a proud Georgia player and most of those guys are. So, not surprising that he mentions that to all of you guys."
Eric, I know you may not know this for sure later on the clock when the phone rings, but would you still like to get more picks here? Do you like what could be on the board tomorrow and feel like you need more picks to kind of take full advantage of that? (Jeff Zrebiec)
DeCosta: "We just look at the board, but we can always get more picks. Getting picks, I have to say, it's not that hard to get picks. But you have to have players to pick too, so you have to look at the board, figure out like – all the analytics guys upstairs do a great job of figuring out the range of players that we're going to be picking from. Even today, [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] said, 'Who should I look at?' We had a range of players, and honestly, Trenton [Simpson] fell smack dab in the middle of a 10-player range of players based off of 25 years of draft history at a certain spot. You have to see the players that you might look at that you like. For us, we're trying to get players typically that are in our Top 125 on our board. If we trade back and we don't feel like we're going to be able to get those kinds of players, it's probably not worthwhile doing it, but you can always trade back. Teams are always calling, especially as you get into the third day of the Draft because other teams – they want to move up. Teams always want to move up. It's that bias, that consensus bias that they want to move up and get those players. So, they want to do it, but you have to have players. As we've said, we think our roster is pretty good. It's going to be hard for guys to make the team. We've had a lot of draft picks in the last three or four years and so we went into this year really not thinking that we wanted 10 picks."
For Joe or Eric, did you guys see more value at outside cornerback or slot cornerbacks of the guys that are still out there for day three picks? (Jonas Shaffer)
Hortiz: "Yes, I'd say there's a combination of both on the board right now for us. Again, we mentioned versatility all the time and we can project players inside that may not play outside or that may not play inside in college but their moving skills, their toughness, their instincts. There are some guys on the board that may not have the experience playing inside that we feel they can move inside."