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Hickey: "We Want Smart, Tough, Productive Players"

Posted May 3, 2014

Dennis Hickey holds a pre-draft press conference to answer questions about some of his philosophies as he prepares for his first draft as Dolphins GM.


(Dennis Hickey Opening Statement) –“Welcome guys. I appreciate everyone coming out. I’ll start us off with a special word of thanks. This is an exciting time of year for the whole organization. One, we’ve had our players in here for several weeks in the offseason program really preparing. We now know our schedule and who we open up with. We are very excited about the 2014 season. As you interact with our coaches and players throughout the building, they really excited about this 2014 season and what we’re building here. That’s exciting. Also what this press conference is for, the 2014 draft upcoming, the draft is about the future. We are excited. It’s a cumulative work of a lot of people whether it be from out coaching staff, our scouting staff, our IT department, our football administration department, our medical staff, it’s really the whole building have done a lot of work in preparation for Thursday night and continuing through the weekend and even once the draft is over as college free agency begins. It’s a lot of work. I know we are very excited. We are prepared, we are confident about this weekend coming up here. We are ready to go.”

(On how he would assess the depth of offensive tackle in this draft) – “I think with this draft there is a lot of talent throughout at a lot of different positions. Like every other draft, certain areas of draft whether it be higher in the rounds or lower as you get through it will have different hot spots of talent. This draft is no different.”

(On how he sees offensive tackle shaking out) – “I’m not going to comment on specific positions. Obviously there are some really good players at the offensive line position. There are some really good players at all of the other positions, defensive line, linebacker, defensive backs, receivers, all of those things. We are prepared, and we evaluated a lot of players, gone through, and we are ready for that.”

(On how seriously he’s considered making trades in the top two rounds of this draft) – “We definitely explore all avenues that we feel like we can help. Obviously we are in contact with other general managers and just seeing where they stand and what their ideas and thoughts are going into the draft. Obviously once the draft gets started, it starts afresh. Yeah, we are exploring all avenues, trading up, trading down throughout the draft. We’ll be prepared for that.”

(On philosophy between need and best player available) – “This whole process, and we are a process-driven scouting department. It starts way back in last May, and obviously I’m jumping in the middle of the cycle and implementing a lot of different things. With that, it is all about evaluating each player independently, not only evaluating the players’ talent but the player’s makeup adding into the medical evaluation. With that we come up with a ‘Dolphins Value’, and that’s how we rank according to that ‘Dolphins Value’. That’s how we will pick players”

(On what he wants out of whatever player he drafts) – “Obviously we want talented players that help us to win on the field, but we want good teammates and guys that will contribute to our community and all of the things we stand for, tough, smart, disciplined. And really it can be summed up by being a good teammate. That’s kind of how we look at it.”

(On what he considers important qualities for offensive linemen) – “There are so many things. With each position, we generally have five major factors that go across positions and generally we have 10 specific factors. There are a lot of things that go into what makes a player good, and different guys compensate with different areas of their skillset to make them good. To just narrow it down, obviously we want tough, we want smart and we want productive players. But that would be it.”

(On if it is easier, harder or the same to project offensive linemen in the draft as opposed to other positions) – “I think more so it goes back to the individual players. Those players were talented. They were good players on and off the field, so I think it just goes back to the individual players there judging them and evaluating them. That’s our focus, evaluating each player on his own merits and ranking them accordingly.”

(On how much time he spent when looking at players the organization recently drafted) – “Primarily I focused on the players on this team and then just focusing on the evaluation of the players that can potentially be on this team via the 2014 Draft.”

(On how he would describe the assessment of how the team did in recent drafts) – “I’m focused on the 2014 Draft. Obviously we always, and in Tampa we were the same way, we always want to be reflective, learn from whatever mistakes, try to judge and improve your processes as part of that. That’s what we’ve done, and those are the processes that I brought to the Dolphins here.”

(On how the draft room in Tampa Bay was run when he was there was there one voice or many voices and will it be the same in Miami) – “Yes, most of the decisions, and I’ve talked about this several times before, I’m a big believer in pro-active decision making and making decisions leading up to the draft. The draft day should be calm. The only variable should be the trade element. That’s what we try to make decisions and work through players leading up to it. That’s part of the process that has been going on for the last three or four months here since I’ve been on the job, just working through that. That’s a part of it, and we want to make a decision based on players there.”

(On if he expects a small group in the draft room during the draft) – “Yes.”

(On any good or bad decisions in Tampa that have changed his thinking going forward in future drafts) – “You always look at your process and as you reflect back whether the picks were great, whether the guys ended up being Pro Bowl players or maybe they weren’t what you expect. You always go back to the process and was there a breakdown in the certain part of the process? Then you make adjustments accordingly that way.”

(On if he feels it is better to have more picks or higher picks in this draft) – “It’s a little bit hard to say, but I always like more picks. I always want to have more picks.”

(On how he weighs value versus need) – “Those are the decisions we made leading up to it with the proactive decision making. Basically we have levels of players. When I talk about the ‘Dolphins Value’, that’s where we are placing them considering there are a lot of variables that’s obvious during the player evaluation but there is always the character makeup and the medical evaluation which is all very important part. You bring it all together and at the end of the day this is where we would take this player, and that’s the ‘Dolphins Value’.”

(On what his vision is in analytics and how he has used it so far) – “We’ve always kind of used in on a smaller level, but we are looking to expand that. Again, analytics to me is a tool to aid in the decision making. There is a lot of data out there that we have access to that we are just looking at different ways to extrapolate that out and help us in a decision whether it is separating two closely ranked players. It’s a tool. Still the most important part is going back to the tape, what these players have done on the field versus the 11-on-11 with the scoreboard running. That’s the important part for me, going back to the tape.”

(On how he uses the numbers in football for analytics) – “There’s a lot of different numbers whether it be measurables or whether there would be different aspects of getting quantitative data that we are able to use. Again, those are things that we are exploring as we look forward to putting that department together.”

(On an example of how he evaluates players with analytics) – “I never said I use that to evaluate a player. I use it as a tool to help the evaluation process. I evaluate the player by watching the player, watching him live, watching him on tape, those types of things. There are different tools to say with the analytics using measurables and different aspects. There’s a lot of different aspects. A lot of the things you can probably see on the Internet with different websites, but we want to put our own spin on it. I have my own vision of it, and some of those details it’s kind of a competitive advantage for me.”

(On his general guidelines for players picked in the first round compared to the second and third rounds) – “Every player is different. It’s important as we evaluate these players talking with the coaches and talking with our scouts is outlining what our plan and vision for these players are. It’s important that we want them to contribute, but each person is unique. Each player is unique, and we just want them to help contribute to us to make us a better team, and that’s both in the short-term and the long-term.”

(On if it is fair to expect starters to come out of this draft at positions of need) – “We want to get good players and the starting element, that plays itself out. We want to build a competitive environments, bring guys in, but again that plays itself out. We just want to get good players in here that fit the criteria that we are looking for.”

(On his thoughts on the draft being moved back two weeks) – “It’s changed it a little bit, altered it. Obviously it is what it is, so you just kind of adjust your schedule accordingly. We’ve had to pace a little bit. Certain times there has been a lot more opportunities for like injured players that maybe in the past that maybe if it was a week ago they maybe wouldn’t have been able to work out and that they are healthy enough to work out. That’s probably been the biggest change with that with the advent of more pro days and visit structure, those types of things.

(On if he likes the idea of seeing more pro days and injured players because of the draft moving back) – “Yeah especially with the injured player. I want players to be successful and get opportunities, so sometimes the health depending on their medical situation, maybe they aren’t able to work out prior to the draft, gives them a couple of extra weeks. There are pros and cons to it, but it is what we deal with and we control what we control.”

(On if NFL teams should be aware of their local talent more specifically than other areas) – “I think one of the great advantages I think that we have here in Miami is the great amount of talent that comes out of this area every year. It was evident when we had our local day. We had over 50 quality players in here. Not only were they talented, but wow, they really represented themselves well just in a lot of things, just taking care of business and being on time, just being professionals. It was really impressive. There is so much talent, it is definitely an advantage to us. We would love to keep a lot of that home-grown talent here in Miami.”

(On it is a reflection on returning talent if a wide receiver or cornerback is drafted in the first three rounds) – “It’s about the individual player, and that is what I keep going back to. The important thing as we prepare for this draft is evaluating the individual player and placing the value that we see on them.”

(On if he feels the quarterback unit is competitive enough with the four quarterbacks currently on the roster) – “Yeah, I do think it is competitive. Those guys are working hard. The last couple of weeks are big now that they get an opportunity to start learning the new offense. They do a great job, and we are excited about that group.”

(On if he has a system on draft day to evaluate trade offers while on the clock) – “We have a couple of (draft point charts). Those are just kind of guidelines, just ballpark figures to kind of see how the value stacks up. That’s more of the general feel about how you feel how many players you really like are available and if you are trading back what are the chances you will be able to get them, what the drop-off is if you do trade back. All of those things are taken into account, and again we try to prepare for as much of that as possible before.”

(On if the draft board is set up) – “I would just say the board is setup for the most part, especially in the early rounds. We are still working for later in the draft and with college free agency, we’ll keep working at it. There may be minor tweaks here and there, but again, there are still always players out there, so we still want to keep digging for potential guys that will help our team.”

(On if Koa Misi has been approached about moving to middle linebacker for the upcoming season) – “I believe that question was asked earlier I believe at the owners’ meetings. Again, we are always looking to get our best 11 players on the field and put them in position where they can be successful and we can be successful. Obviously the offseason is a time where you experiment with a lot of different things. This is no different. We are just experimenting with different things. The linebacker room has been great under Dave Corrao and Mark Duffner, who is our new head linebackers coach. It is a great room. They are working really hard. We are really excited about them.”

(On if he has seen the Draft Day movie) – “I have not. I’ve been a little busy. That’s probably more an offseason, maybe I’ll watch that. I haven’t had much time for that.”

(On who would play him in a movie) – “This will probably come across wrong, but Leslie Nielsen I guess with the grey hair. I don’t know (laughs). A serious Leslie Nielsen, not ‘The Naked Gun’ Leslie Nielsen.”

(On if he knows that fans on the Internet call him ‘Silver Fox’) – “(Laughs) No, I was not aware of that.”

(On if he’s had any clarity on Mike Pouncey’s availability for Week 1) – “With those kinds of deals, obviously we exercised the option on Mike (Pouncey). We are excited to have him back. We had a lot of good conversations. In regards to the league, that is something we always will work in conjunction with the Commissioners’ Office and with Mike and his representation. Mike is having a great offseason He’s real excited about the future of this team and the 2014 season.”

(On if there are positions where they feel that they do not need to draft) – “No, we are always looking for good players. Again to refer back to some other comments, this year’s need is next year’s surplus and vice versa. You always want to build for short-term, but you also want to build for the future, and that is about getting good players and adding good players to what I feel is already a really strong roster. Again I can’t tell you how excited I am just walking through the halls, watching, interacting with these guys and just talking with them. The look in their eye, they are so hungry and excited for that 2014 season.”

(On if he is more excited or nervous as the draft approaches) – “I’m excited. This is a great opportunity, again we are always trying to add good players and this is the next process. Obviously free agency is still on-going, it’s not as active as it once was in the process, but this is the next opportunity and really I am fired up about the players we are going to add to this team.”

(On if the injuries concerns of the wide receivers factor into his evaluation of this year’s class of wide receivers) – “It doesn’t factor into the evaluation of the receivers that we have, we try to keep that separate. Now when you say the needs, but those guys are doing well in their rehabs, real excited seeing those guys in the training room, they are progressing well and we are excited about them this fall.”

(On he figures out how aggressive he needs to be if he has a player he wants to move up for) – “Again you identify and place a value on the player and then you kind of measure it against what you may have to give up and what type of player that you would be potentially losing out on. It’s a feel thing, it’s a balance that you go through and a lot of it depends on the player, how good the player is.”

(On if his department does a mock draft and if so is he good at it) – “I don’t know, it’s more of a preparing for, just preparing for all type of contingencies. Again, thinking through projections, we will have 12 players drafted or these are the guys still left on the board, how do we feel about which players if they are still on the board would we trade up for? Which players, if it gets to our pick would we trade down and still feel like we have a chance of. So in that way we do that, just to go through that, almost a walkthrough so to speak of trying to decide and think through those decisions.”

(On what his day will be like on May 8th, the first day of the draft, leading up to 8 p.m.) – “Yeah, we are still making those final, it kind of depends on a lot of things. Most of the things will be done by then, again the goal of draft day is to be calm. To be measured, and that (we will) already go through the tough decisions and we will feel good about. We will feel prepared. We will be confident and ready to go and eight o’clock can’t get there soon enough.”

(On when he expects to arrive to work at his usual time of 6:00 a.m. on May 8th) – “Probably. I won’t be sleeping much the night before.”

(On if he puts into stock the position coaches’ evaluations) – “Part of the process, that’s one of the first things we did when I got here that week, sitting down with Coach (Bill) Lazor and Coach (Kevin) Coyle and just walking through for each position what are the traits we value and how do we rank those traits? What does the player look like, what are we going to be asking them to do and what are the traits that are important for us? That was kind of the start, and that is important for us to understand that. Then you evaluate the player (and) then you kind of marry those two things, the fit for the scheme. It’s important to know those things, but that was almost the start getting that baseline of what the scheme is going to ask our player to do.”

(On his favorite Leslie Nielson movie) – “Airplane, it’s hard to beat Airplane.”

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