Today began the 19th combine for Hickey but first as a general manager and he couldn’t wait to get started on evaluating the more than 300 college prospects on hand. He has a plan in place in concert with Head Coach Joe Philbin on how they will go about preparing for the NFL Draft in May and shared what his preparation has been like compared to in years past.
“It really wasn’t that much different,” said Hickey, who spent the previous 18 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “We went through our college draft meetings for about 10 days with our college days preparing that way and I already had a pretty good feeling for the country that way. It’s the ancillary aspects and the different duties of the job outside of strictly the evaluation, which I was accustomed to.”
Hickey reiterated a point he made a few weeks ago when he was introduced to the South Florida media in regards to how he and Philbin will work together. He did so by hitting on some of the things he liked about his head coach during the interview process and sharing how similar their visions are to each other.
“We wanted to be a tough, smart, disciplined football team,” Hickey said. “And that means bringing tough, smart, physical football players into here. From that standpoint we had similar philosophies going in, in addition to all the other commonalities that we had. That part was easy. We’ve been very intentional with our communication and our time together just because we’re starting fresh and we’re kind of right in the middle of things.
“Every morning we get together whether it’s draft preparation or free agency preparation or even just watching our own players, getting together and talking, watching film and just kind of continuing to build that relationship and just communicating. That’s one of the things we’re about and we want to continue to foster that and not only in our relationship between he and I but also throughout the organization.”
With his background as a scout and personnel director, Hickey is a firm believer in building a team through the draft and he was a direct part of that process in Tampa Bay when the Bucs built a Super Bowl winner between 1996 and 2002. So while he was faced with a lot of free agency questions during his official press conference with the entire media, his eyes lit up afterwards when he was given the chance to explain his draft philosophy in his new role.
“That’s the importance here, and why I’m so excited to be here and be with our scouts, as we learn more about our players and building towards that,” Hickey said. “That’s how I cut my teeth, in college. Spending all of those years on the road and evaluating college talent. That has to be the foundation and the key to building championship teams. … The first thing we do is evaluate the player, evaluate good person, good teammate, and judge them individually and place a value on them. The rest kind of takes care of itself. Without getting too far into the scenarios, we want to rate the guys on the value that they are and make decisions accordingly.”
This incoming draft class is deemed by some experts to be the deepest in a decade at a number of different positions and Hickey agrees with that assessment.
“I think it’s very strong and it’s strong at all kinds of different levels at each position,” he said. “Every draft is kind of a different animal with different strengths, whether it’s early, mid or late, but I’m excited about this draft class and I’m anxious to get to know these guys better as we go through this process that is the Combine.”
In keeping with Philbin’s message of creating a winning atmosphere and a positive environment in and around the organization, Hickey outlined a mantra behind how he intends to build and maintain the roster in Miami.
“There are all kinds of different methods and that’s the way we’ll approach this and always trying to get the best 53-man roster and never being content with the roster,” he added. “We’re always going to push the envelope whether it’s suing innovative ways or different ways to get to our ultimate goal, which is to win a championship.”