Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert met the press for almost an hour on Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Here is the final transcript from his talk, concerning issues surrounding the NFL Combine and the upcoming NFL Draft:
How difficult is drafting players?
"It is guesswork. I always say you don't know a player until you've had him in your locker-room for three years, at least. People will say that's a cop-out, but it's the truth. Until you get a guy in your locker-room, see him practice, see him in meetings, see him interact in the building, you don't know what you have. So you have to do as much research as you can to limit the mistakes you can potentially make."
Is any part of the NFL Combine meaningless?
"No, you learn about a player walking into this building watching how he interacts with [the media], you learn about him when he runs a 40-yard dash, you learn about him in the interview. In every drill, you might learn about some athletic trait you didn't see. As much as we can get out of this process, I don't think anything's meaningless. You're never going to pick a guy based on one athletic trait, but all of it's important in putting together the whole picture."
How do you think free agency will look this year?
"I think there'll be a flurry like there always is early, then I think there'll be a lull. And then I think it'll be a big back-end market because there's going to be a lot of players left with contracts after that initial wave, after that initial wave probably more than ever. Teams will be scrambling to add guys they can still fit under their cap. It'll keep unwinding up until the draft."
Is nose tackle less of an important position nowadays?
"No, because you can't get to third down unless you stop 'em on first and second. So that's important. Traditionally anybody you take in the first round you want them to be three down players. But, a nose tackle chances are you're not going to get him if you don't take him high because they're worth that much. Can you take a players who's not a three down player high? Absolutely. But it's got to be unique and they've got to be special and nose tackle is a special part of our defense."
Will it remain so?
On the nose tackle crop in the 2012 Draft:
"It's a good group. It's not as deep as a couple of the other positions but there's enough that we'll have opportunities to look at some in higher rounds."
What do you think of this draft's offensive line group?
"It's a little different, a little better on the interior specifically at guard which is unusual than it has been in recent years. Tackles are still good, it's not as deep as it has been. And center is not very deep at all."
"It is deeper than it has been. Traditionally, for the last two years, tackles have been bigger, more of them. This year there happens to be more guards. Every year is a little bit different. Except for the tight ends and fullbacks, they've been dwindling."
Do you have to hit the offensive line early in the draft? Is it a mis-perception that you've ignored that position in past years?
"I don't necessarily agree with that, I mean you're not going to have five rounders we're very fortunate to have one first rounder up there. Max [Starks] was a third rounder, Marcus Gilbert's a second rounder, Willie Colon's a fourth rounder. Sure you fill in with a couple free agents and they develop. Ramon Foster did a great job. Doug Legursky, I mean they developed into NFL starters in some form or fashion. No team has five Pro Bowlers, no team has five first rounders on the offensive line. It's always going to be a collection of different players."
On the TE crop in the Draft:
"It's either 1 or 2 [in rankings] with the least number [of good players]. I think there's 13 or 14 tight ends [at the combine], well there's 32 teams. So obviously there's going to be a deficit in that talent. There are great tight ends in this league, it's just they're few and far between coming into the league. So we have to dig a little deeper, make sure we don't miss guys that maybe aren't playing in a pro style offense day in and day out but have the ability to do so from a size and athleticism standpoint. We'd have to make sure we try to unearth all those guys and give them their due even though you're not seeing them do the same thing you're going to ask them to do."
How about ILB?
"Not a real deep group."
"There's not a lot of numbers in either of those groups. With more teams running 3-4 [defenses] it makes it harder. I wouldn't say it's an especially deep group. I think the change in college football you're seeing more linebackers that can cover, but they're smaller. They usually have grown out of safety into a small linebacker and they're usually better cover people than they are rushers that can take on the run."
Any position you can rule out in the first round?
"Punter. Ok, quarterback. Probably not kicker."