When you looked a WR Rashod Bateman, what is it about [him] that separated him, at that point, in the first round for you guys from some of the other receivers? Is it just the explosiveness in small areas that you kind of … The cone drill is where that really kind of shows. Is that where you got most excited about him? (Pete Gilbert) "When you watch his film, he's really just a polished [receiver], and I tried to show it on some of those routes where he's coming across the middle and he's bending underneath [with] the safety closing in. You get excited about that, certainly. But when you saw the suddenness … Scouting was different this year. We're so used to going to schools, going to games, watching a player at practice, seeing and feeling the speed early in the process. And with Rashod [Bateman], really didn't see it [and] didn't get a chance to experience it until then. And when I came out of the [University of Minnesota] Pro Day, I called [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] and I called [head coach] John [Harbaugh], and I'm like, 'Hey man, you've got to watch his Pro Day.' You can definitely feel the speed. Because John will ask that question, 'Could you feel the guys' speed? Could you feel his power?' And there are times where you really didn't see it, you didn't' feel it. And with him [Bateman], you really felt it – his ability to really just get in-and-out and show that twitch and strength that can transition into the burst and explosion. So, yes, certainly the Pro Day helped, but again, other receivers had good Pro Days as well. He was just a guy that we … In the end, you've got to stack them, and you've got one above the other, and that's how it shook out. Not a knock on any of those other guys, because the receivers that went after him, there were some really good ones as well."
You hear a lot of times when scouting pass rushers, you'll see them do some things where you're like, "OK, they can do that in college. But when he gets into the NFL, they're not going to be able to do those certain things." With OLB Odafe Oweh, with his pass rush moves and things like that, do you think that does translate? And will what you're seeing translate to the NFL well? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, because Odafe [Oweh] is not a speed rusher – he's not. He is a power-bender, strong hands, [strong] core – that's what translates to the NFL. Now, don't get me wrong, there are guys that rush the edge as a speed rusher. But he's fast – there's no doubt. I mean, I saw it live in person at the [Penn State] Pro Day. I showed you on that Nebraska [highlight] – chasing the receiver. And you see it on multiple plays where he's tracking guys down. Heck, if you guys saw him running around out here in rookie minicamp, there's a couple plays where you just see him close fast in pursuit. There's no doubt he's speed – he has speed – but his rush is really a power, bend, hands, just core, and he's got the speed. That's where we've got to develop with him – using that speed and developing it even further, because right now … The way Penn State plays, they do a lot of read/run, [then] convert to pass, which we do, and that fits us. So, set the edge, come off [and] covert to pass, and get to the quarterback – he can do that. Again, he didn't have the sacks this year. If you went back and watched some of last year's film – which I know they showed highlights after we drafted him – of him getting some sacks on some deep [passes] and on some Hail Mary's and some other plays. He can get around the edge with his speed, but you've got to be able to get through guys as well, and I think he's going to be able to do that."
Going back to WR Rashod Bateman for a minute, you showed us all those little subtle things he did with his feet to set up the guy covering him. How unusual is it to see that kind of package for a college receiver? (Childs Walker) "It's nice to see. There are players, and there were other players in the Draft this year that could do that, and it's really just the level of polish and development the player has. We talk about running the stem, and I mentioned using the stem to influence the DB [defensive back]. There are some players that are just … They're not at that level yet and haven't been developed yet. I think one of the things that really stood out about Rashod [Bateman] is his safety awareness. That's really critical, I think, for receivers to find success early is just overall awareness of the defense and what the defense is doing to him pre-snap, during the play, post-snap when everything is moving, when bodies are moving – to be able to process that, and I think he can do that pretty well with his instincts and his feel. That's more advanced, certainly. I think they do a good job up there [at Minnesota] with their wideouts. So, it's not surprising to see from a player coming from Minnesota. But yes, it's one of those things that you don't see … Not every receiver has it coming out. Sometimes it takes a little bit more time."
I'm wondering, you almost get the feeling watching DB Shaun Wade, sort of like how T Orlando Brown Jr. slipped in the Combine and fell down to the third round. It felt like he had a lot to prove, and he did. He turned into a Pro Bowl player. DB Shaun Wade going from what some people called him a first-round talent, dropping down to pick 160, is that a quantifiable thing? That factor where you feel like you've got to prove something and maybe you get a guy that's got this added fuel? (Kirk McEwen) "That's what you hope when you pick them. Certainly, I hope that. He had that chip when we drafted him. [Executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] mentioned that after he called him. He was like, 'Oh, he's fired up.' Some of the guys, he said, were pissed [that they fell in the Draft] and were ready to go. I think he fell into that role, so to speak. There was a lot of anticipation, excitement [and] projection for a higher value for Shaun [Wade] coming out. I think that comes with the territory of being an Ohio State corner, in all honesty. I think there's an expectation from really everyone – scouts, media [and] everyone – [that] this is the next one. He didn't have a great year to Ohio State's standards and certainly to his standards. He didn't have a bad year, either. He had a couple bad games while he was dealing with [an] injury. So, what we're excited about is you look at his film as a nickel, and you look at the size and the speed and the potential of the player and the ball skills, and you say, 'Hey, this is a guy that has talent that we can work with and develop, and he has inside [and] outside flexibility.' That's what gets you excited. Hopefully, he comes in and just stays hungry and driven and builds off of what he's done and continues to grow. Again, Orlando [Brown Jr.] … It was great to see Orlando become a two-time Pro Bowler, and hopefully, he can have success – Shaun can."
G Ben Cleveland obviously played right guard at Georgia. I don't know how much he played left guard, but is that an overblown switch that we talk about in the media from having to go to left guard? What do you have to look at to see given the success he had at right guard? Will it translate well over to the left side in the offense? We all know G/C Bradley Bozeman did a ton of pulling at left guard last year. What do you see in his ability to make that transfer? Or is that in general just if you can play right guard, you can play left guard and that's overblown? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I don't want to say it's overblown in the sense that it is different. It certainly is. I've had … Ben Grubbs we did it with, if you remember. We drafted Ben [Grubbs] in the first round, and he went from right guard to left guard his rookie year – right guard in college to left guard. When I asked Ben how it was going, I think … Or maybe it was the next year we switched him [from] right guard to left guard. But when he made the transition, I asked him, 'How's it going?' He said, 'It's similar to going from writing with your right hand to writing with your left hand. It's not as difficult, but your body has always been … You're always in that stance, it's just changing your feet, muscle memory and things like that.' Certainly, many players have done it. When you watch Ben [Cleveland], you watch him move. You watch him pull. I only put one pull on there, but heck, I was at his workout, again, watching him run at  pounds running a 5.01 [40-yard dash]. Pulling is not going to be an issue for him, because he can bend his knees, he can get out of his stance and he has quick [feet]. So, it's just really adjusting to the left side, which so far, he's looked pretty good at. I really don't think … It's really right hand down, left hand down, and then you're just going [in the] opposite direction. So much of guard play is really about staying square and sliding, which you do at either position. Obviously, the angles are a little different coming off the ball, but I think that's something that guys can adjust to pretty easily."
One thing that I think people pointed out on scouting reports of OLB Odafe Oweh … I kind of noticed when I went back and watched some of his film was that he doesn't have the quickest get off despite being a 4.40 [40-yard dash] guy. What do you attribute that to? Is that something that a guy with his raw experience you just have to learn to adjust to in terms of the speed of the game? (Jonas Shaffer) "I'd say there are a couple things you can attribute it to. Like I said, what's the scheme requiring? Are they reading run? [Is it a] down-and-distance situation? Watching him on those Hail Mary situations, you see the burst off the ball when you know you pin the ears back and go. Certainly, when I was at his Pro Day, you saw explosiveness off the ball in drills. Again, it's different, because you're not reading what's in front of you. Again, it's reps [of] timing, timing the snap, if it's a true pass rush situation, technique [and] honing the technique. It's in the body, and he did flash it, but it may be not as consistent. Again, I really do think the way they play and the way he played, he was more to the closed side a lot. He's reading the tight end. He's reading the run. He's making short and then inverting. I think in just pin your ears back and go, I think he'll be able to show some explosive bursts off the ball, because he certainly showed it when he ran his 40 [-yard dash] and in his workout."
You said something sort of as an aside that prompts a question about your process. You said when you were watching WR Rashod Bateman, you could tell that general manager Brian Gutekunst and the Packers were very intrigued by him as well. Is that part of your report whenever you come back from a Pro Day that it looks like these teams are interested, this is who they're sending? Does that ever play a role in how you assess who's available on the board in a certain spot? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "We try to give [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] all the information that we can get at a Pro Day [or] at a school visit. When I'm at a Pro Day … And all of our scouts do a fantastic job. They do a better job than me, honestly, when they go to a Pro Day. They tell you who was there, [which] GMs, [which] head coaches [and] which position coaches were working them out. They really do a great job. Now, pretty much every team is there. It's the damnedest thing; I feel like every Pro Day I go to, I'm there with [Steelers general manager] Kevin Colbert and [Steelers head coach] Mike Tomlin – it's unbelievable. Maybe it's because we keep going to the same Pro Days every year. You have your favorite Pro Days to go to, but I really do feel like I could just get on their plane and travel with them. But, yes, you do. [Packers general manager] Brian [Gutekunst] is a good friend of mine, and obviously, [Packers director of football operations] Milt [Hendrickson] spent a long time here with us. I actually rode to the Pro Day with them, and they took me back to the airport after the Pro Day. So, certainly, we knew they liked him, and a lot of teams liked Rashod [Bateman]. You don't know for certain, but you do try to kind of pay attention to, 'OK, the GMs were at this Pro Day.' Especially this year, because the GMs weren't able to get out and see players. So, Brian [Gutekunst] is going to go out and look at players he was interested in. Now that being said, when we were watching their [Minnesota's] corner, too, [Benjamin] St-Juste … I told you, we'll make comments. I made a comment on St-Juste. I'm like, 'Wow. That's impressive that a player that big can bend like that.' Green Bay loves tall corners, as we all know, right? Brian was like, 'No, you don't like him. You don't want him.' (laughter) And I said that knowing that he's watching the same thing I am. He's like, 'You guys have plenty of corners.' I'm like, 'You never can get too many.' So, we're all aware [of] who's good and who's bad, who they like and who fits who. Certainly, I'm sure Bateman was a player they were interested in, but I'm sure St-Juste was also a player they were interested in, because he fits their profile."
I noticed a couple times you kind of bringing up … We all know that you guys value the mental side and guys who you were saying were staying with it mentally. I know you were talking about that with G Ben Cleveland. How much of your process in watching the film and everything is picking up on that mental side? (Shawn Stepner) "Mental is extremely important in our process – a player's ability to learn [and] a player's ability to apply. I think as scouts, we watch the film … Again, when we watch our film, we have the play call, we have the defensive call [and] we know what's happening. The hard part of scouting is when you're watching Georgia's film, or anyone's film, or Penn State's film, you don't know what concept is being called. So, what you have to do is a lot of follow-up [work]. You see a guy miss what you think is a bust, and you write down, 'Play 23 – let the wideout go, beat for a touchdown.' Well, you watch the play again and you look at the safety rotation, and you're like, 'I think that safety was supposed to help him out.' So, you have to find the answer. You hopefully have a contact at the school to say, 'Hey, on this play against so-and-so, it looked like he got beat.' 'No, that was the safety.' 'It was the safety?' 'Yes.' 'OK, I'm good then.' So, that happened, I can think of, with a corner in the Draft this year against Ole Miss. I just really couldn't tell. Ole Miss had an explosive offensive, and they ran a lot of verticals and they try to confuse you. I thought it was the safety's fault, but the safety was so bad. He blew it so badly that I was like, 'It might have been the corner's fault.' But it wasn't, it was the safety's fault. He just blew it so badly. You look for those things. Twists, I think with Ben [Cleveland] … The one thing when you're evaluating them, you look to see where their eyes are going. Are they getting in the right spot? Especially with offensive linemen, when that man that you're responsible for disappears, where are you going? Are you lost, and then all of a sudden, you're getting ear holed by the twister? Or are your eyes at the twister and your hands are ready and you're making contact with them? So, those are things that you certainly look to pick up, and we evaluate that. We have a critical factor, position-specifics, on all players, and mental is one of them. Our scouts do a great job of talking to a lot of sources about it."
Do you follow up at rookie minicamp? Do you look and say, "Oh, yes – we were right. This guy is getting it right now?" (Shawn Stepner) "It's more like you start talking to the coaches then. You'll see a guy make an instinctive play in practice and you're like, 'Wow. That was a great play.' But it's more feedback from the coaches. If we had [said], 'Hey, this player, he's going to need some reps. And that's OK, but he can process. He needs the full process. We have to put him through it.' That's OK. We'll ask, 'Hey, how's he doing?' 'Good.' A lot of times, you get, 'Oh, he's better than we anticipated. He's picking it up really well.' But there are times where it's like, 'Yes, he has to go through things. He's a little slower than the other guy to pick it up.' Or [say], 'He's a little slower as a rookie, but he's going to be fine once he gets in there and gets a foundation underneath him.' You certainly try to identify players that can, regardless of how they can. Whether it's through reps, on the field, through the board [or] watching tape, there are different ways to learn for all of us. It's whether or not the player can learn. It's not how he learns; it's just can he learn? Does he have the ability to pick it up, to process it and then apply it? So, we work our way to that and how they do it, and then we follow up with the coaches, certainly."
S Ar'Darius Washington was a guy who got a lot of attention around the league as a priority undrafted free agent, and you guys were able to land him. What did you like about him? And in general, when you have a player who is clearly an outlier – size, whatever the trait might be – how challenging is it to evaluate him, when you see production, you see numbers at the collegiate level, but then figuring out how that will translate at the next level, knowing that there are some clear challenges on paper? (Luke Jones) "Are you taking about Ar'Darius [Washington] – undersized, safety? (Reporter: "Right, right.") "Ar'Darius – it was great to get him. He's a really competitive player. Like you said, [he's] productive. I think PFF [Pro Football Focus] rated him really high, as an undrafted player, of the undrafted players left. You're trying to find the right spot for him. Is he big enough to be a safety? I don't know. Is he fast enough to be a corner? I don't know. Is he a good football player? Yes. Is he instinctive? Yes. Does he make plays? Yes. Alright, well, he's a good football player. Let's get him here and see what he is. Frankly, that's how we evaluated him as a draft pick – a potential draft pick – and he was a potential draft pick for us. We just didn't draft him, [but] that doesn't mean we didn't have draftable grades on him. Our scouts really liked him. Everyone, to a man, talked about how tough he was. Heck, I think it was the Texas game [when] he knocked himself out coming up on a tackle. I think in two of the games I watched with him, he actually hurt himself, in two separate games, tackling. So, he's fearless, unafraid. They use him as a safety, but they put him in some nickel-type roles. So, yes, we were excited to get him, as we were with a bunch of our free agents after the draft. [Assistant director of college & pro personnel] Mark Azevedo does an awesome job coordinating it and running it with the coaches, and we feel like we got some guys who are going to compete for roster spots or positions on the practice squad. Again, we feel really good about our team, and I think we mentioned how deep we are, so it's going to be a tough 'nut to crack,' so to speak, but we feel like we got the right types of guys to come in and compete for it."
How did you and your staff weigh the risk versus reward when it comes to CB Brandon Stephens and his inexperience at the position? (Bobby Trosset) "I think you just note it. You say, 'Hey, this guy was a running back who' … I think the one thing you love is he wanted to play corner. He wasn't moved to corner from running back because he couldn't … He wanted to play corner. He actually asked to do it at UCLA. They didn't want to do it, [and] that's why he transferred. But the fact that he has the desire to play on defense is awesome. Then when you watch his physicality, and then you just watch his natural athleticism and ball skills and ball production and strength, yes, there is some work that's going to need to be done because of limited time on the job, but the work that he has done and what he's shown us is exciting. So, yes, there's a risk/reward for every player, but he's not a raw, fundamentally raw player; he just lacks the experience. And then just the temperament and the effort which he plays and the production he's put out there on film, that kind of makes it exciting. We feel like there's going to be a process of him developing, but a process of him developing into a good player."
With WR Rashod Bateman – and you talked about it when you were pointing out the plays – he's just so well-polished. He does a lot of things really well for a player just entering the league. So, a lot of the talk with him is, "Well, Rashod has a really high floor." What have you seen on the tape that also might suggest he also has a really high ceiling? (Ryan Mink) "Knowing that his production inside and outside, his run after-the-catch ability … And heck, all receivers leave some plays out there, and I only showed you a majority of the good plays. He does drop the ball occasionally, not a lot, but he's got a couple of drops. There are things he can clean up about his game, but what you love is the temperament and the work ethic that he's showing right now. He is polished as an athlete and feel, and to come in with that … But there's still upside, physically – levels that he can take his game to – and I think our coaching staff is really excited about it and feels like we can take him another step further. So, I think there's still room for growth. And the way our offense operates … He got some deep-ball shots, but more of his production – deep-ball production – actually came from the year before. The other thing with Rashod [Bateman is] I think COVID-19 was tough for him, as it was for a lot of players, and his yards per catch may have been down a little bit this year, or just the explosiveness was down a little bit, and you saw that back at the Pro Day, which is really exciting. So, that's why I'd say you could say there's a little bit [of] a higher ceiling as well. But again, it's up to him, and he's going to have to continue to keep the paces up and work and develop and grow. But we're excited about it."
When we did the presser with CB Brandon Stephens, I think he mentioned that all he knew junior year when he transferred to SMU was man coverage. I don't know if you dropped in on an interview with him, but during the interview process, the vetting process, did you get a sense for just how far mentally he'd come in those two years at SMU, in terms of on-the-job learning? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, certainly. When I tell you it is all in, our scouts … We spend more time, probably, talking to sources than we do watching film. And not just like … We talk to the coaches. [Southeast/southwest area scout] Kevin Weidl goes down there to SMU [Southern Methodist University], and he does a great job building contacts and having sources at all his schools. We get a strong foundation of at least what the staff says about a player. One: where he's at; Two: where he's come from; Three: what they believe he can become. So, through our process, our scouts interviewed Brandon [Stephens]. They interview, obviously, their sources at the school. They talk to their sources at the school, they interview Brandon, and then our coaches get involved, and they do a Zoom call with the player. And so, we had a comfort level about where he was mentally, as a player. And again, when you watch the film, there was not a glaring mental concern. It's like, 'Wow, this guy just has a good awareness, and he's reading route concepts, and he's making plays.' You saw it versus North Texas, to be able to cover the wheel-fade and make the play. So, there's a lot of upside and potential for him, because he hasn't had as many DB reps as most guys coming out."
Going back to OLB Odafe Oweh – I know you explained there are a million reasons why he ultimately didn't have any sacks, but when you see that stat line, do you kind of go in looking to be proven wrong about him in some way? And then the second piece to the question is, if he's so raw, where do you think he actually is technique-wise? Does he have any bad habits that you need to break, or does he still have so much to learn, actually, in terms of proper hand placement or whatever? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "I would say, the rawness comes from … And I don't know if I'd call him raw, overall, because he does use his hands. The rawness is like the raw potential – just when this guy learns a secondary move off his speed rush. [He uses] a lot of double swipes, punch, rip. When he learns the counters off of that … He's raw from a reading blockers' hands [standpoint] – the small aspects of the game. To answer your first question, when you go into it, you go into it with like, 'Wait a minute. This guy has no sacks, and we have these types of grades on him?' And then you put the film on, and you're like, 'Wow, this guy is really … God, he's so powerful and explosive. And holy cow, he's in the backfield the whole time against Indiana, and he's taking the quarterback's head off against Nebraska.' If he was literally not even a fraction of a second sooner, it's a sack, forced fumble. Instead, it's a floating interception. But you do go into it, with any player that you can keep track of stats, and you see big grades on a player – and it happens all the time – you're like, 'Argh, what are our scouts looking at? What is this person looking at?' And then you put the film on and you're like, 'Holy cow, I see what he's seeing.' But you can have it the other way. You can go out and do it and say, 'You know what? I'm not going to like this guy because he doesn't have sacks.' You can just ignore him knocking the tackle or the tight end back or driving it back for a hit on the quarterback, and it's like, 'Yep, couldn't get there again.' As I mentioned with Daelin Hayes – he misses some sacks. It's like, 'Alright, if we can figure out how to finish, that sack total is going to go up.' But there's so much versatility he shows, so you don't want to just ignore it and just, 'Well, he doesn't have enough sacks.' With Odafe [Oweh], he doesn't have a lot of sacks – he had  in 2019 – but he's only a redshirt sophomore and where he's come … Again, his run play was so good this past year. Setting the edge – I think that's the one thing you can hang your hat on. Sacks are going to come. He's going to get enough pass-rush reps where he's just going to power through guys at the minimum, right now. But the work ethic, the attitude he has – you really do feel like there's an upside to him."
When you look at WR Rashod Bateman's tape and you see the polish that he has, were you surprised he was there at 27? Entering Draft Day, did you think you had a shot at him, or were you surprised that he was still available? (Jamison Hensley) "No, I was not surprised that he was still available, but I wouldn't have been surprised if he would've gone at 20. With the receivers that went ahead of him, it's so easy to follow along, and the mocks come out for two years from now, it feels like. We probably have the 2023 mock [draft] out there right now. But those receivers that went ahead of him, they were up there, and they were going to go. And just whenever they fell off the board … You knew all the quarterbacks were going to go, and the offensive linemen were going to go, and then sooner or later, someone had to start taking defensive players, which started happening. So, yes, we knew what area he would go in. Are we surprised he made it to us? I would say no, we're not surprised. But again, like I said, if he was gone, it wouldn't have shocked me either. But it's just the way the Draft goes. Every year, we're stunned a player goes in front of us. Like, 'Wow, he went that high?' And every year, we're shocked a player goes that low. Like, 'How is he still on the board?' It happens. The needs have got to marry the desire to take the player, and there's got to be nobody above him on … There are 32 boards, so all it takes is one player to be above Rashod [Bateman], and they're going to take that player. So, it's just the way it works, and we're happy to get him. We had our list. [Executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] has his list, and he's going to pick off of it. So, we were ready if he wasn't there, but we were happy to get him, for sure."