The following is a transcript of General Manager Gene Smith's press conference following the selections of Terrance Knighton and Derek Cox in the 2009 NFL Draft.
(on Terrance Knighton) "Terrance is a guy that we feel very strong about. Thought there was a chance that we would lose him late last night or early today. He's 6-032. He's 317 pounds. He ran sub-five flat; he's a 4.9 guy. Actually, in high school in played wide receiver and tight end and defensive end. He was All-State player as a skill athlete; he was a basketball player. He went to Temple after Milford Prep (Academy) and each year got better. Al Golden is the head football coach there. He took that job when he left the University of Virginia. Again, he spoke very highly of Terrance. Actually a guy I played college football with is on that staff and everybody there endorsed this player. Certainly when you look at the tackle position in the draft, we thought that he was probably the one guy left that has the ability to be an eventual starter. He's got ready-made size. The arrow's up on his development. He did play in the Texas versus the nation game. He was at the Combine. We just, again, knew he would go late two, early three at the latest if we had some good fortune. And we had another player come to us and we stayed with our board and we felt like we got value and got a good young player up front defensively."
(can he start this year?) "I would never say any of our players are going to come in here day one and start. I trust our coaching staff, and every player on this roster has an opportunity to come in and compete to be our starter. We felt like this guy would definitely strengthen the group that we have at the tackle position."
(on Derek Cox) "The next player we brought in on a visit, we did a lot of work on this guy. The last player that I actually evaluated out of there myself was Darren Sharper when he came out of William and Mary. Like I said, we brought him in on one of our 30 visits. He's an outstanding individual. Terrance is a one-time team-elected captain; this guy is a two-time team-elected captain. Coach (Jimmye) Laycock has been there 29 years, and it's rare that they have two-time captains, but this guy in the spring was 6-012, he was 190 pounds. He ran 4.39. He had two punt returns out of 12 opportunities that he returned for touchdowns. We do feel he's a guy who can come in and compete at the corner position, give us special team value, outstanding character. We were hoping in the third round that he would be there and certainly it fell that way. So again, to get the two players going into the second day for value, we made the move with New England and basically we gave up the (round) two pick next year and to close it, a seven (round pick) this year to secure the second of two players that we did target going in today based on our board."
(why did you trade away your second round pick for next year?) "You get a guy a year early, a guy that you feel is a second-round talent. That's why you do it. Certainly when you're given a pick for next year you have to feel that this guy has second-round type talent. So from that standpoint we felt very comfortable with it. We get a player a year early and again a player that has done it on the field and he's done it off the field."
(if you believe Cox has second-round value, why do you think he was glossed over?) "I know you guys don't study the amount of tape as the scouts, and we felt very comfortable with a) Terrance and b) with him because of the fact we thought late second, early third there were players that our staff, coaching and player personnel, really liked, we did a lot of work on, and we're very happy to have both of them."
(trading for Cox was a gutsy move. What happened to cause you to do something this bold?) "I think you're looking at two tackles, a defensive lineman and a corner, all of them are at premium positions. Obviously the first one is quarterback but it's a position, I think, that I know us and I think you tell out in the open market and certainly in the draft that people covet if you have a strong affection for a player. So we'll trust our eyes. Obviously, Terrance and Derek have an opportunity to come in here and compete, to help us win games, and I feel very confident in their abilities."
(who was the area scout that evaluated Cox?) "We have a number of people that do them. We typically, on guys that we draft, we have multiple evaluations. In the northeast it's Chris Prescott."
(so this is Chris' guy?) "It's our guy. You've got to understand now, when you have a player that we select, it's not Gene Smith's guy. It's not one scout's guy. It's a staff evaluation because we put a lot of eyes on a lot of guys. So I just want you to understand that he is the regional scout, but we have many evaluations done on players."
(you're crazy about Cox, right?) "We feel that we got the two guys that we felt very strong about on our board as a staff, as well as the two tackles yesterday."
(do you think Cox has starter ability? Could he push Brian Williams back to safety?) "It gives us some position versatility, for sure. Obviously if we take any player in the first or second round, and I think you made a good point because I do believe that; we feel he has starter ability. So at some point, do we think they'll be eventual starters? Yes. We're going to trust our eyes on the tape and they're two players we feel very good about. It's amazing, I have more questions about our two thirds than maybe I did about the first two but that's ok because they're players on the second day of the draft. Although they were a little bit under the radar, they weren't from a player personnel standpoint."
(do you think you got caught up in him being a work out wonder?) "No, not at all."
(he did it on the field, right?) "Yes."
(is he a big-time punt returner?) "No, I wouldn't say a big-time punt returner. He had 12 returns; he had two of them for touchdowns. Can he do it? Yes. We feel he can play special teams in other areas as well. We liked him as a corner and I feel very confident in his abilities. I think when you look at it, too, like in the draft, what people typically do around the league is futures are one round higher but you've got to make sure when you make a move like that, you feel confident he can play to that level. And we do. And again, to get the two tackles, come back and the defensive tackle was still there and then the corner that we liked, he was the guy. I'm very happy. I really am."
(so you felt there was no way Cox was going to last to the next round?) "No. It was very difficult to get any of the picks in front of us. I worked last night. Terry (McDonough) worked last night after the draft. We felt very good, not just about both of these players but a number of other players, and they came right off in front of us."
(were these players the best on your value board at the time you picked them?) "Yeah, we feel very good about them."
(Cox was the 106th rated cornerback) "Judge him when he gets here. All I can tell you is I respect what you do. You're not sitting there watching all the tape and we'll trust our eyes on this one and see what Derek becomes. Because again, we're very happy and I knew I would have more questions so I think that's fair."
(does Cox have potential to return kickoffs, too?) "He may be able to. Again, he's had limited history but on limited history he's had very good success. We like his history at corner the best. An outstanding individual and then on top of it everything postseason, from a workout standpoint, validated what we saw on film. And so he wasn't a combine invite. We brought him in on a visit and that was even better And then like I said, we had a lot of exposure to Terrance as well and we felt very good about his upside, too."
(was Knighton at the combine?) "Knighton, yes. Cox, no."
(Cox did a pro day at school, right?) "Yes."
(do you have him at 6-0 or 6-1?) "He's 6-012."
(why wasn't Knighton invited to the combine?) "That's a good question. There are like 30 guys every year that get drafted that aren't invited. "
(but not usually third round prospects) "There was one taken yesterday, actually in the second round."
(who was that?) "The Raiders took him, out of Ohio."
(why is it notable that they're team captains?) "Since I became the director of college scouting, it's an emphasis that I put on, and it's team-elected captain. To me that's very important, what their peers think of them. I think that tells a lot about how they conduct business, and certainly when someone is a two-time (captain), I think it speaks volumes. I really do but it starts with the talent and then it obviously goes to character, it goes to medical. I appreciate all the questions because they're very good ones."
(in other words, if Cox played at Ohio State, he'd be a first round pick?) "You never know."
(did he fall because he attended William and Mary?) "It could be. I have a lot of respect for that program, though. The last time I was there it was Darren Sharper for me. The head coach has been there a long time. We have good contacts on that staff. We feel like we have good information on him. We have plenty of tape to evaluate. I don't know what the future holds for any of our players. There are so many variables that play into their success, but I feel very confident in these two."
(did he go up against any big-time receivers?) "They play Virginia Tech. They played North Carolina State this year. We looked at both years. We try to get the best people they play against. Richmond won the national championship; he had a punt return in that game. You could go through this season and last season and I think you'll see a player that continued to get better, a player with good play history and a player that just happens to be from William and Mary. I know when Rashean (Mathis) was drafted I got the same questions, 'You drafted a guy because he's from Jacksonville.' We drafted a good player that just happens to be from Jacksonville. He chose Bethune-Cookman. This gentleman chose William and Mary, and so I'm not going to hold that against him on draft day. We scout the player and not the school."
(what is Cox's weight?) "188 is his verified weight."
(was there any hesitation or pause in trading for Cox?) "Certainly if you have guys at the bottom end of two or anywhere in the second round, but if a guy slides to the bottom end of two, we didn't know if that would happen last night. They were still on the board. We got a chance to get them at the top end of three. Some of the guys in the second round that we had were gone by the time we were picking. So you just stay with the board. There is, I think, an opportunity to garner value early the second day. If you trust your grades, that's the big thing, and we felt like we stayed with our board."