We continue this series of reviewing the post-draft press conferences of Rick Smith and Bill O'Brien as we dig for insightful gems into their draft strategy and the expectations they have for these new players in shaping the 2016 roster for Houston.
2nd Round - C Nick Martin
3rd Round - WR Braxton Miller
Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith
Head Coach Bill O'Brien
Could you take us through the two pics tonight and your thoughts on them?
Rick Smith: "Well the first pick in the second round, we really feel like Nick Martin is an outstanding addition to the football team. I think you know from my history, I put stock in careers, I put stock in leadership, I put stock in a lot of those things and Nick certainly has those. He's got pedigree, he has an NFL pedigree, so he's been around it. We've gone to the well twice in Indiana at Notre Dame, and as a Purdue man that's been difficult for me, but I've managed to survive. We just really feel like he adds to our offensive line group. He's a guy that can come right in, he's a plug-and-play guy, he'll compete right away we think, so we're happy to get him. We did move obviously a couple spots to get him and felt strongly about adding him to the team, and that's why we did that. Then obviously the last pick in the third round with Braxton Miller, just a versatile player, explosive player, again, trying to impact our football team and as we talked about a few days ago when we were talking about our preparation for the draft in terms of adding players who have dimensions to them, who can add dimensions to our football team, who can make plays with the ball in their hand or on the ball, and certainly he can do that."
Can you discuss Braxton Miller's versatility?
Bill O'Brien: "Sure, he's done so many different things in college. He obviously played quarterback, he was a Big 10 player of the year a couple years in a row as a quarterback, then because of injury and the other quarterbacks that they had there he went to Coach Meyer and asked to be moved to wide receiver. He went there and they did a number of different things with him there. He's a really good teammate, he's an excellent athlete, he's got very good instincts. We went to Ohio State and spent a day with him, felt like he was just a guy that would fit in really well with us and what we're trying to do here so we're excited to get him in here and get going."
What does it say about Braxton Miller as an athlete that he's done so many different things in his career?
Bill O'Brien: "Well I said this earlier today when we were talking about Will (Fuller) and obviously Nick (Martin) also and I'll say this about Braxton, their head coaches speak very highly of them. I don't know if you guys just saw Urban (Meyer) on TV talking about Braxton, I mean these guys that we've brought in here, I think Rick just said it correctly, these guys are really good teammates, they have leadership skills, they care about winning, they love to compete, they love football, all three of these guys. That's the core values of football players that we look for and that was big. With Braxton, he was a quarterback when he went there. He was one of the best in the country at that position, and like I said because of injury he felt like the best move for him was to make the move to wide receiver, and he suggested it to Coach Meyer and that shows you that he's a good teammate and like I said, we're really excited to work with him."
Do you look at Braxton Miller playing inside first because of his experience in the slot?
Bill O'Brien: "I think we're going to play him in a few different places, but definitely the slot is one of them. There are a lot of different things that he can do for us in the slot, we think he can do things for us on the outside, there's things that he can do for us at the number three spot, special teams, he can help us in that area too. Like I said, very excited to get going with him."
Is there a bigger element of unknown with Braxton Miller than some of the other receivers in this draft?
Rick Smith: "Well I think he hadn't had the reps at the position obviously. I think what you saw at the Senior Bowl, at least what we saw at the Senior Bowl - you saw a guy who has the ability to play the position, and it looked very natural to him. Like Bill (O'Brien) said, he went to coach and said, ‘hey listen, this is how I can help our football team.' He's into it, it's important to him, he loves football like Bill said, so we think that he's got all the skill set that's necessary to be successful at the position."
There was a run on defensive linemen today, were there opportunities for you to take any today and how do you feel about your chances tomorrow?
Rick Smith: "What I feel about that is I feel like we got three good football players in the first three rounds and that's what we're focused on. So much about the draft and successful execution on draft day, preparation is the most important thing but some of its gut feel, so you've got to have a feel when you need to move, when you don't, when you can sit and maybe get a guy you want. We just feel like so far we've been fortunate with the three young men we've added to our football team. We've got a lot of work to do. We've got to get back downstairs. Tomorrow, from a scouting perspective, is when you make your money on day three. So we've got a lot of work still to do with this draft and our guys understand that and they remain focused."
Your first three picks were all offensive players, what does that say about the focus of this draft so far?
Rick Smith: "I think it's a combination of things. I think it's a combination of the way that the board was set up. I think it obviously is a result of how the players have come off the draft board, but it is absolutely an intent for us. We wanted to add playmakers to this football team. We feel like we've got a good team, and we feel like if we can add guys that have dimensions that can help us, and again I talked about the creativity of our coaching staff, I really feel like the combination of our communication throughout this process with the coaching staff and scouting staff about what these players will do when they walk in the door and the vision that we've been able to articulate together I think has given us a chance to be very clear about what these guys are going to do and it's helped us. We can continue to do that tomorrow. I think we'll look back and say we've had a pretty good draft process."
Can you talk about Nick Martin who has played guard and center, and do you plan on him playing both or focus at center?
Bill O'Brien: "He'll start off at center, but the versatility of him being able to play guard was something that we really liked, his toughness, his leadership, he's a very bright guy. One of the guys that we spoke to was Harry Hiestand, their line coach there at Notre Dame, he really spoke highly of this guy. He was a leader in the room and somebody that really came to practice every single day with a purpose and was a guy that could communicate well with his teammates which is really a key at center in addition to his talent obviously. Obviously his versatility was something that stood out to us too."
C Nick Martin Conference Call
How does it feel to be a Houston Texan?
"It feels great. I mean, I couldn't be happier about it."
Where you surprised to come here?
"I was open to obviously anything in this process. You don't really knowing what's going to happen. I saw that Houston, Texas area code and I just was very excited, very excited."
Do you know they have an opening at center?
"Yeah I knew of that trade and obviously I'm going to work very hard when I get down there."
Did you grow up as a Colts fan?
"I did. I grew up in Indianapolis."
Are you looking forward to playing with your college teammate Will Fuller here?
"Oh my gosh, absolutely, that was one of the first things that I thought of. When we watched the draft last night as a family, I'm very happy. I texted Will when he got picked and he couldn't be a more explosive and better player and just a better guy and teammate off the field."
What type of contact did you have with the Texans in the draft process?
"Yeah, we met at the Senior Bowl and talked. I got to meet Coach (Bill) O'Brien and just been in contact with them throughout and great staff, very excited to work with them and very excited for them allowing me to have this opportunity."
You know Houston and Dallas hate each other?
"I know, it's about three and a half hours from my brother. We've been teammates all our life and we're enemies now."
What kind of relationship do you and your brother have and how influential has he been on your career?
"We're honestly best friends, went to high school together, became very close and we lived together in college, best friends at the same time and he's the person I look up to. He's the first person I go to when I have advice and he looked at me and said pretty much we'll be neighbors now in Texas. It's a pretty cool feeling."
Did he give you any advice about being a professional in the NFL?
"Yeah absolutely, the first thing he said is it's a job and you have to perform. You have to go to work every day and put in the extra hours. Like you said, there's people trying to take people's jobs and that's what it comes down to. You've got to perform on Sunday because they're not paying for school or anything. It's a job and they'll fire you if you're not performing."
Are you looking forward to joining an offense with so many new weapons?
"I couldn't be more excited. Obviously just thankful that the McNair family is giving me this opportunity and Coach (Bill) O'Brien. I want to do everything I can to help this team out."
How did the knee injury change your game?
"You know, it really hasn't. I had it, I started and played in all 26 games after that injury. Ten at guard and the rest at center and had success doing it."
Could you talk about your strengths and then what you think you need to work on?
"Yeah absolutely, I think one thing is versatility, being able to play at both guard and center and then even right tackle if need be. Also just finishing I think is one of the biggest things. Even going back to high school, Coach (Vincent) Lorenzano, my high school coach, just instilled that finishing every play no matter what, staying after it, even if you're in a bad position you can finish a play if you just work harder than the guy."
Who was your favorite Colts player?
Did you watch Jeff Saturday and do you pattern your game after him?
"I would say honestly I pattern more of my game off my brother. That's who I grew up watching. Even in high school, he had success when I was going into high school. That's who I learned from a lot. That's who I watched at Notre Dame. I started with him his last year, but I took two years to really watch him and his habits on and off the field and how he became the player he is and watching him in the NFL, too."
WR Braxton Miller Conference Call
What do you feel like you bring to the table as a wide receiver and how much do you still have to learn at that position?
"Oh man, explosiveness, big-play ability, speed, quickness, strength and just making people miss in a smaller area. Just making it easy for my quarterback and the offensive coordinator to call plays."
The camera caught you saying, ‘right where I wanted to go.' Why was this such an appealing place for you?
"Me and Coach Bill O'Brien have a couple historic moments together when he used to coach at Penn State. Coach (Mike) Vrabel is a coach out there and my former teammate John Simon. It's a lovely place to be, too. They need offensive playmakers like me. That's one place I really looked at and I really wanted to go to."
Are you looking forward to playing with Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins?
"Oh yeah, for sure. All of them, Will Fuller, D-Hop (DeAndre Hopkins), (Jaelen) Strong. The crew is going to be strong now. We're good."
What do you need to get better at and learn as a wide receiver?
"Just everything. I'm just trying to be the best I can be every time I step on the field, practice field, game field, weight room, and just little things. I want to get better at my outside game, too."
Can you wrap your head around everything that has gone on with your career at Ohio State?
"It hit me, but it hasn't hit me yet. I'm very blessed and very thankful to be in the spot I am today. Some guys really don't get their names called on days like this. I'm very thankful. This is a place I really want to be at. I'm here. I'm there. It's a lovely feeling."
What contact did you have with the Texans before the draft?
"Yeah, we met at the Senior Bowl. I talked to them at the Combine. They came down and worked me out individually."
What was the decision to switch to wide receiver a difficult one?
"No, just growing up and being an athlete all my life. I had two arm surgeries. The difficult thing was I really couldn't throw 45 yards. The easier decision was to change my position. I was very comfortable changing it, but the thing was I didn't know if I wanted to change to defense or offense. I like getting the ball in my hands and making people miss. I'd rather do that."
Were you not cleared to throw when that senior season started?
"Yeah, I was cleared to throw, but I can't throw over 45 yards so there was no reason for me to be a starting quarterback."
Do you have that full range back now?
"Oh no, I'm 100 percent. It's actually something in my left shoulder. It came back real great. That's why I took a year off."
Do you expect to be involved in returns as a rookie?
"For me, that's a cheat code. If I'm back there returning and after I return the ball, I'm going back on offense, that's a cheat code. That's an excellent way to get the ball in a playmakers hands. I'm available whatever they want me to do."
Along with Houston's first round pick of Will Fuller, the addition of these two players should help to dramatically improve the offensive capability of the Texans for years to come. Sound off below with your reactions to the comments from the GM, head coach and these two rookies.