Tampa Bay Buccaneers director of college scouting Dennis Hickey sat down with the media on Wednesday afternoon to answer questions about this weekend's NFL draft. It will be the first draft for new general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Raheem Morris. The questions from the media appear in bold in parenthesis below.
How are things going to change for you with a new general manager and head coach after years of working with Bruce Allen and Jon Gruden? "I take the same approach. My job is to coordinate the scouts, evaluate the players, and equip both Mark [Dominik] and Raheem [Morris] to our evaluations of the players. All the character evaluations, our evaluation of their character, medical information, and all that is my job to collect, and include in all of my recommendations to equip both Mark and Raheem to make the best decisions when it comes to the draft pick."
Will anything be different in war room and who will be in there? "The scouts will be in the war room. We will have various people, [information technology] people, Chris Wells our computer guy on the football side, and basically it will be pretty much the same as it has been. The coaches are drafting in their room, as needed we'll bring them in to talk to them. It is pretty much the same structure as it has been since I've been here."
Over the past five drafts the team has had 32 picks after the third round and only one of those has become a consistent starter. Why haven't those players made it on the team, become starters, or become more successful picks for the team? "Each player, as you look back at each player there are different reasons. Again some of those players, I know a lot of people have given up hope on those players, but some players take longer to develop. That could play a part of it. I don't know specifically, each player is different."
Do you guys feel you have to do better on the second day of the draft? "I approach it the same way. I'm trying to as scouts, as personnel people, we are trying to improve the talent of our football team to bring us to a championship. We had a championship in 2002. Until we reach that championship I'm not going to be content."
Do you look in the mirror and say that we have to draft better? "Every year I look in the mirror. We always evaluate. We evaluate the history of the draft. We evaluate our history of the draft. We look at those and look at what we did right, and look at what we can learn from that to improve in the future."
Do you change your approach to scouting players? "When you say approach to scouting players it comes down to the same things, and the evaluations, that stays the same. Now there we are obviously looking to improve in every way. Whether it is structurally with our reports, or those type of things. We are always looking to improve in every way we can."
Could it be not a scouting issue, but the picks made by people above you? "Each player is different. We evaluate each player individually on that. Again we are always looking for ways to improve the process."
Is there ever a time when look at a draft and say this was not a good draft? "I don't think you can ever say that to be honest because the talent pool is the same for all teams. There are good players in this draft, and there is going to be good players in every round of this draft. You have to pick them, and you have to get the right ones. Some people say it is a lousy draft, but I don't think that is accurate for any draft."
Would you say there is a position group that is strong in this year's draft? "That will play out, some years you say this is a strong whatever position draft, and then time tells in three years and maybe it wasn't. I think time will tell and play that out."
Do you take people off of your draft board because of character or do you lower them because of questionable character? "Every player is done individually, and on their own merits. We just analyze them all and at the end of the day we come to a decision as to where they stand on our board."
Have you ever taken a player off the board, in particular one that has first- or second-round grade? "I think some of that is our board is a little bit different. It is computerized so every player is dropped, so no player is ever, we go one through 950."
Have you ever taken someone in the top 64 off of your board? "Again, it is each player we are going to judge individually on that."
Do you ever get asked for a recommendation based on a positive drug test from the combine? How does it factor in? "We look at every part. Again, I know the emphasis is on what happens recently. Again it is completely on an individual basis. Our scouts are hammering. They put a lot of work into all of these guys, talking to everybody that they possibly can. It all goes into the evaluation and at the end of the day we make a recommendation. But it all plays, it is all part of it."
In last five drafts there has been only one Pro Bowler, and no All-Pros for the Bucs. Why hasn't there been more elite talent drafted? "That is where I would disagree with you. Maybe they are not voted to the Pro Bowl, but we do feel like we have some elite players on this team that we've drafted in recent years. That we are very excited about."
Do you feel you reached on Dexter Jackson in the second round of last year? Did you have a second-round grade for him? "We evaluated him and we took him at a position that we felt he deserved. That's where we took him."
You don't think that was a reach? "That is up for you guys to decide. It is the ultimate second-guess, right? Let me say this, we are excited about Dexter. A lot of guys want to judge everybody based off their first year, and we think Dexter has made a lot of progress and we are excited about him. "
Do you have to guard against reaching for a player because of needs on the team? "If we were picking based on need, yeah, I'd be careful, but that's not what we're doing."
When you have one pick in the top 80 does that put any more pressure on you guys to get the No. 19 pick right? "I'm focused on every pick and getting it right, whether it's 233 or 229. Of course money values come into play at 19, but it doesn't change our focus at all."
Has it become easier over the past few years in terms of projecting these spread offense guys? "With more guys you have more history, and just seeing how those guys project initially, yeah, it was difficult before because there wasn't a lot of info. As scouts we always like to build our database. As we get more of those guys into our database, yes, it does make it easier."
What are Mark Dominik's strengths as a general manager and talent evaluator? "He's very bright and he's had a lot of experience. He's had a lot of experience – a lot of people get caught up in first-round picks, but Mark has helped this team by making some moves to bring in some guys that were not necessarily high-profile free agents, yet they contributed to this team. He's always got a eye for down-the-line guys as well as seeing the big picture. He values input from coaches and personnel, and he does a good job of putting it all together."
Is there one position in this draft that stands out in terms of talent and depth? "There is going to be good players available in each round. Maybe there is more depth at certain positions, but there is going to be value everywhere there."
When do you like to have things settled prior to the first-round pick being made on the draft board? "That's what we're finishing up now. We want to make the decision on players now while we still have time to go back to tape or answer any questions there might be. If there are different opinions we get our guys in a room and hash it out and put on three or so tapes of the individual player, and we see where we are after that. We want to make the decision on these players now. Of course we have to react to different things in the draft as it happens. We'll have it lined up before Saturday."
Within the coaching staff are you looking for different skill sets at certain positions than you have in the past? "There are new schemes and we've seen a mini-camp worth of it. We've also gone back in history and looked at it, but our focus is on getting quality football players. If you get the right player he's going to fit regardless of the scheme."
People outside of One Buc Place will form their own opinions of previous drafts, but how do you personally feel about how Tampa Bay has drafted from 2004 when Bruce Allen arrived as general manager to this point? "I feel like we've added some quality guys. Some guys have not maybe turned out like we expected. But we'll continue to work on adding quality players in the draft."
Is there a realistic scenario on Saturday where the Bucs will do something to acquire a second-round pick? "We're open to all scenarios. At 19, you pretty much have to be open to all those things. That's what we're doing right now. ‘What is our plan? How do we react if this happens or if this happens? We'll go from there."
How many players are you talking about being in the pool of ones being considered by the Bucs at 19? "We'll have players ranked 1 through 330. That's how we'll have them lined up, regardless of position."
Is [defensive tackle] Peria Jerry too light to play in this system? "Peria Jerry is a very good football player. He's been productive at the SEC level. He's a quality player."
What do you think of Peria Jerry's weight? "It works for him."
Is it safe to say that if this was another year for the draft all three of the top-rated quarterbacks in this draft could be second-round picks instead of in the first round? "Each draft is different. Every year what you think the next draft class will be, with more scrutiny, doesn't turn out to be what you thought it would be. We're focused on this draft and getting the players individually lined up and putting our value on them."
Are these quarterbacks legitimate in your mind? "In this draft there are a lot of quality players at a lot of different positions that will be quality players in the league."