The following is a transcript of General Manager Gene Smith's press conference following the selection of Eugene Monroe in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
(on the pick) "The one thing we got was an outstanding player; a guy we do feel has the ability to start as a rookie. He's a guy that is a pure left tackle, but he does have the versatility to play either side. He has the strength in his hips and thighs and he's a knee-bender. A guy that can develop into a good run blocker. I think at the college level, his reputation was as a pass blocker. Very technically sound coming out of an outstanding program, and he actually won the Jacobs Blocking Award in the ACC this year for the top offensive lineman. So we feel very fortunate to have him fall to us."
(do you envision Monroe playing on the left or right, or is that still to be determined?) "To be determined, and I'll leave that up to Andy Heck. Obviously we have some depth at tackle now. Last year it was an area of concern because injuries came early and often, and we feel like we've done a good job here with this pick to help fortify that offensive line."
(you have definitely rebuilt the offensive line the last few months, so you have to be pleased about that.) "Right, and we would still like to add to it if that's possible. But again we're in a situation, we have a couple players coming back from injuries last year that will certainly get back on the playing field and compete at a high level. I feel confident there have been no setbacks in the rehab. So you add the draft class, you add Tra Thomas and you add the guys coming back from injury and I think we've got an opportunity to be very strong up front."
(was Monroe there in any of the mock drafts that you did in preparation or was it a bit of surprise?) "Yes it was a surprise. You go through the mocks and certainly you never know how it's going to unfold. There's always that human element and the fact that there is no givens on draft day. And for this guy to make it to number eight, again I just feel very fortunate that that happened today. Everything came together. It doesn't always work out that way. It's nice when it does with your number one pick."
(how did you feel when you saw the Jets moving up to Cleveland's spot? There was a lot of talk about perhaps trading down?) "There was. I think the core of the cause and the dialog that we had with teams prior to today was moreso for the quarterback. We knew it was (Mark) Sanchez. There were a couple other players potentially in play. The one who went to Kansas City, Tyson Jackson, was a player of note. So we knew it wasn't just the quarterback. There was a possibility there could be a fallback guy and when they went off the board, certainly it gave us hope that he may come to us."
(in the end, were you true to your board and he was the best player available?) "Yes, that's correct."
(tell us about Monroe's character) "He comes highly recommended, from a large family, I mean 16 children. It's hard to believe that he could be that big when you've got to share that much food. I grew up in what I thought was a large family. I have five brothers and two sisters and you had to be at the dinner table on time or you might get shortchanged. But this guy's done it all – academically, he's done right off the field. He just comes highly recommended from everyone at the University of Virginia. He's got his head screwed on right, for sure. Very impressive individual and I think you'll feel that way when he comes down here and has an opportunity to talk to everyone."
(how tempting was it with the two wide receivers, Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin? Was it easy to stay true to your board?) "We try to stay to our board. Ben Franklin once said that necessity is never a bargain, and I think that applies directly to the draft. Obviously you have a strong affection for a number of receivers in this draft. It is a deep draft for receivers with the underclassmen that declared. But again, we took the best available player and we got an outstanding individual as well."
(did you expect Monroe to be available at the eighth spot?) "No. Obviously the two players that we thought through the process the last week and a half in particular when we were dealing with teams about the possibilities of trading up to our spot. The one player, Sanchez, we knew was in play. The other player we thought was possibly Tyson Jackson. We certainly thought an offensive tackle could be. We try to do a lot of research on the teams particularly in front of us through our pro scouting. We really try to study who they've lost, who they've added. We just do a lot of work to have an idea as to who they'll possibly take. For it all to come together today, it doesn't happen very often and it's certainly nice to see that it did at the number one slot."
(what tipped the scale in favor of Monroe?) "Again, we stayed with our board so I think we just let the process work, so we're very happy that he came to us like that. Again, it doesn't always work that way and to have it with our number one pick, the eighth slot in the draft, I think we're fortunate."
(when you say number one pick, are you suggesting he was number one overall on your board?) "No, I'm saying he was our number one pick. He was the eighth slot in the draft. He's our first round pick."
(did you have him in the top five overall?) "I don't talk about our draft board, but he was our best player on the board when we selected."
(what was your reaction and that in the room when you knew he was going to fall to you?) "I'm probably one of those guys that never gets too high or too low. I internalized a lot. I think some people think I should smile more, and I probably should, but I am happy on the inside, I'm doing cartwheels. But we've got a lot of picks left. He was our first one and to get him at the eighth slot, we feel very happy to get him, as a player and as a person."
(what does he do well?) "From our evaluation, he was the best pass blocker coming out of college football this year. For a college guy, he's really technique-sound. Now there certainly are some things he can work at, don't get me wrong. Every player has things they can work at and it's probably the one position that has to be taught when you get to this level, is offensive line. There's just so much technique and footwork involved in playing that position. But he does have the hip strength to develop into a good run blocker. I know Andy Heck is confident of that. He can play either side but he's been a guy that's been a pure left tackle that I think transitioning into the NFL he'll have a shot to have success for a long time in this league."
(why did you use all your time? Did you have any trade offers?) "We always try to maximize our time only because we have to contact the player and make sure he's healthy. We go through a list of questions. There's just a check list we go through, and then we certainly listen to see if there is anything else out there because you never know what someone's willing to give because a player's worth what one team's willing to pay. But it would have had been such a good deal for us to consider it because again he was the top player on our board when we were selecting, and for me it was an easy decision because the process brought us to selecting him."
(when you went on the clock you knew he was your pick?) "That's correct."
(you didn't use your time to debate any other player?) "Right."
(you were just using your time because it was your time?) "That's correct. We don't want people to feel pressed, and we have a check list and certainly we're open to any call that we get. And you'll be amazed sometimes the calls you get when you're on the clock, but again he was the guy."
(was there any point where you thought you would get involved in a trade?) "No, because there wasn't anything of substance in terms of people really trying to work a deal. Sometimes when you're on the clock, when people are calling you, you feel like there's a chance to make a deal. People, I think in mind, they called and basically said that we know who you're talking; a great pick. So it was more of that than people trying to wheel and deal, per se."
(on a report that you had a tentative deal with the Jets if Sanchez fell to number eight. Is that true?) "We had with a number of teams. We had some deals put together if their player was there so that when we got on the clock we could anticipate it. We had already talked it through, and usually if you do the deal prior to the draft it's going to be a lesser deal. You get on the clock. You take a calculated risk. The price can go up or the player maybe won't be there. We started the month, we even started the week, we never anticipated this guy coming down this far, but what happens is when people trade up into the range above you, sometimes it pushes you a player. Sometimes it doesn't work that way but today it did."
(what can you tell us about Monroe regarding character and medical?) "He's an outstanding individual, from being a good student in college to a good person. He's a total team guy, very committed to being the best player he can be. He comes highly recommended from a head coach there that has been in the NFL. We have good ties there at the University of Virginia. It's a place where you can go and get a good feel for the players who are draft-eligible. They can't say enough good things about him as a person. So you put that into the mix with he's a good player, he was good medically. For us again, for that all to come together like that at our first pick, I'm very happy."
(does he have any knee issues?) "No. He had something earlier in his career, I don't want get into the details with his knee, but the last two years he's missed two games just for a MCL sprain, but our medical staff felt very good about him coming in. No restrictions in the weight room, no restrictions in practice. This guy is a tough that we felt very comfortable with in all three areas."
(did you have a trade offer that you could have consummated better than the Browns trade?) "We actually had a few but you don't how serious they're going to be until you're on the clock. Some of them came out a little stronger as you got closer to the draft or when you get on draft day and you're calling them. There's a little back-pedaling going on."
(what if he isn't there? Would you have been in a tough spot?) "Obviously when Sanchez went some of the trade possibilities left the table, but if we have to be in a position to take a player then obviously you've got to have somebody in mind and we stack our board accordingly. And again, when we were on the clock and it was Eugene Monroe, I knew Andy Heck was very happy."