April 24, 2005

Rick Mueller Interview Transcript: Saints director of personnel talks after the Saints' 5th round pick

Q: Talk about the background checks on Adrian McPherson that the team did?

A: "Probably as much as anyone before. We do that with everyone, but we spent a lot of time with this kid. You can't get around the risk, obviously there is some for us. But we're putting him out there, going to give him an opportunity. We feel good about it. I'd be lying if I didn't think there was some risk, the upside is tremendous, he has rare talent and athletic ability. And not just as an athlete - although you can talk forever about his athletic ability - because when you go to the football field, the knock he gets is he's an athlete playing quarterback. And that sells him a little short. He has limited experience, has played in a limited number of games with only four starts at Florida State. But when he played he was productive, his decision-making is good, he can run, bringing that element to the game. He's not running just to buy time, he can hurt you with his feet. But also, when he's avoiding and getting out of the pocket, he's looking to throw instead of run. But when that happens, he's got some rare skills for a quarterback. Athletically, he's 6-3, 210, and ran a 4.51 on bad grass in the workout&Vertical jump 40-plus inches&for pure workout numbers, that's outstanding for a wide receiver, not to mention quarterbacks. Those things can't be disputed. There will be some things that will need to be worked out in his game, with his release, but obviously we'll have time to do that. We didn't draft Adrian McPherson to come in here and start. He's a guy who is going to have a chance, an opportunity to develop and play in the league. Every indication I've had is he's going to take advantage of it. And I think he's going to come in with a little chip on his shoulder, something to prove. We kind of like the attitude of guys like that, too. In a nutshell, that's kind of our thought process."

Q: Was this the spot where you felt comfortable taking him?

A: "Yes, the fifth round. Obviously, talent-wise we think he's better than that. There is risk involved, and it just a matter of at what point in time you are willing to assume it. That was the benchmark for us. There was some discussion about it, but I think at this point of time we were happy with what we were getting in return for what we were putting out there."

Q: Had this guy finished his college career, where do you think he would have been drafted?

A: "I've asked everyone I've come in contact with the same question. It's difficult to say, if he'd stay out of trouble, would he be a first-round pick? He would have played a lot more football if that had been the case and we'd know a lot more about him. It's difficult to say. Some of those kids at Florida State think he'd be a first-round pick. The skill level is there, he has experience factors he'll have to adjust to. I think the Arena experience will help. One thing I like is he's really confident about his abilities, it's hard not to be when you see him running around. So I don't think he's going to be overwhelmed or intimidated coming in. I think he's going to have the confidence to learn and refine his game, which takes away from what can go through some guy's name, like whether they think they are good enough. He would have gone higher then when we got him, I don't think we'd be talking about him in the fifth round if he'd played. The experience factor of playing two more years at Florida State would have helped him, but it's hard to say."

Q: What was all the evaluation like?

A: "We spent a lot of time, there are still some concerns, I'll be honest with you. You are dealing with human beings, and every pick you are dealing with the same circumstances. I feel comfortable&if what Adrian is doing and what he's done in the last couple of years, I think he'll be fine. As a player, I think from a skill level he has a lot of things to like, a lot of things you can't coach, and I think from a standpoint of what's wrong, you can work with, and I think our guys are going to do a good job with that. Mike Sheppard spent a lot of time with him, I did, with his parents and high school coach and teammates from Florida State talking about this guy. And we got a pretty good feel for where he's at, and we're willing to give him a clean slate. All of those people you talk to, say he's done nothing in the last couple of years to think it's a habit or a problem. It's up to him now. There is loads of talent there, and if he does what he's been doing he's going to be just fine and we are going to be really happy to have him."

Q: What was the thought process with Chase Lyman in relation to where you selected him?

A: "We liked Chase because we saw a receiver with a lot of ability, a lot of skills. A physical guy with great hands&We like what he does, obviously the risk there is a durability factor. It's a risk, but if he's healthy, we aren't talking about him in the fourth round. We don't have a receiver who is 6-3, so he brings something that we don't have right now. I think the talent level in McPherson made it worth it. In these circumstances, it happens at this stage. Obviously, we're a little more comfortable taking these guys with these concerns on the second day."

Q: Did you evaluate McPherson's Arena Football career?

A: "Fortunately, we have a lot of insight into the Arena League because we have a team. He was a good player - you are talking about a 20-year-old kid and came in, didn't play in the first three or four games and was Rookie of the Year. On that short field, with the throws he had to make, he was really good...Special in that regard, just for the things that factor in including experience. He fit right in, as a leader. His feet and ability...n that league you have to make quick decisions. Most quarterbacks in that league do that, have to get rid of the ball quickly. Adrian was able to buy some time, and most of the QBs in that league aren't able to do that. On that short field, you give your receivers more time and it pays off. And that made him unique. And in the AFL, it's not just about arm strength, you have to have touch, timing...that certainly helped him in those areas."

Q: What does he say about the problems he's had?

A: "He owns up to it. He knows he made a mistake, made some bad choices and decisions. I think he's been humbled by it. He says the right things. You have to take the kid at his word, but there is some risk involved. I really believe he comes from a good family, his parents have their heads on straight, they raised him well and were shocked at some of the things that happened. Those who are close to him were a little surprised by it. From that standpoint, he's around the right people, and that's important when you are that age."

Q: When did the Adrian McPherson evaluation begin?

A: "Last year, when he went into the AFL season, and been debated ever since up until 30 minutes ago. We've been talking about this kid for a long time, with the history, with the risks, the ability...there's a lot to talk about."

Q: Was there a unanimous feeling on him?

A: "I don't think there was anyone dead-set against him. Everyone is happy with him, especially at this point in the draft. The farther along you go, the more excited you get about a guy like this. There is certainly a lot of upside in it. Everyone is united, excited. I know I am. I'll be honest - I was one of the biggest supporters of Adrian McPherson."

Q: What did he show you in his workouts?

A: "When you talk about his workout, it depends if you talk about him throwing the ball or his workout numbers. When it comes to the workout, you can throw that into the wide receiver group and he is top 10 probably in physical measurements. Shuttles, cones, jumps, those types of things. That puts him obviously at the top of the quarterback position. We went to his workout at his high school in Bradenton, and you can see he's a little raw with some things. He's going to need some work on his drops and some of his mechanics. He does look a little side-armed at times, but the ball spins off his hand really well, he has a lot of velocity on it. He stood flat-footed and threw the ball 70 yards without a step. That doesn't happen...heaving it 70 yards. A long ways...he can make all the throws. Physically, his arm zips. He's going to have work on his footwork, his release, he has outstanding feet in the pocket. But he can improve on his mechanics. He probably threw over 100 balls at his workout, and his arm gets stronger as he throws. If you look at him at Florida State, he was a thin guy. He's filled out. He's muscled up. His high school coach hadn't seen him in 18 months, and he has re-shaped his body. It might help him take some blows. But the one thing you see is throwing ability and athleticism."

Q: Are you going to appoint a mentor for him with the club?

A: "Everyone eyes are going to be on him in New Orleans. It's not like he's a troublemaker, he made a few bad decisions that are a strong concern. We'll do our best, but this is on Adrian. He says he's going to do the right thing, and we're going to go with him."

Q: How extensive are the background checks?

A: "The league does them, and we get that on most of the players. Really, the background check you are going to get is public knowledge. The background checks I'm talking about are talking to people he is close to, talking to the people he hangs out with. That's where you are going to find out what the kid is about. I'm talking about sitting down with the kid, talking to him, seeing what kind of feel on where's he's at, and more importantly, where he's heading in the future. Hopefully it will pay off."

Q: What kind of chance does he have to make the roster?

A: "He's fighting for a roster spot at that third quarterback spot and we'll see how it shakes out. He's coming in with an opportunity, and we'll see how it goes. Unlimited upside, but we'll know better once he gets here. Realistically, I think he's fighting for a roster spot."

Q: Was he a guy you wanted all along?

A: "We kind of had an asterisk on him, at some point in time we knew we wanted to have him because his physical skills. There are some other quarterbacks at this point in the draft who may develop into backups or make a team. Talent-wise, this kid has a chance to develop into a player in the league. Whether that happens or not, we'll find out. From a skills standpoint, this guy has the most potential."

Q: How much discussion was there about Chase Lyman?

A: "We brought him in here to check him out physically, spend a lot of time with him, checked out his injuries. We had our doctors look at him. We felt at some point in time we thought we might like to get him. We wanted to check him out because of the durability issues. He's a taller guy, bigger, that right now we don't have in the mix. If he works out, that's the role he can fit with us. The discussions now are more on the position, rather than who it is. We know who we like at each position."

Q: Are a lot of teams going with the best player available? People could say you would have loaded up on defensive players.

A: "We could make a case to take a defensive player with all seven picks. But if you do that, you are going to miss out on a lot of good players. We took the linebacker we wanted in Fincher, then there was a little bit of a drop. Defensively, we just didn't see the player there that come out and struck us, guys who could make your roster and contribute. That's not saying there is no one left who is going to do that, we just felt better with some of the guys we picked, and they just happened to be on offense...for where we were picking."

Q: Was Alfred Fincher a guy who was a sleeper?

A: "A little bit. But I think everyone had him in the same ballpark as two or three other guys. That's a guy we had pretty good agreement on with him. That's a guy we had pretty good consensus on. He's rare when it comes to dedication, motivation, intelligence, want-to...You guys talked to him last night, he's going to hang out with his family and then go run stairs in the stadium? I wouldn't do that if I just got drafted, I'd celebrate. That's rare. It's not fake, the kid cares that much."

Q: Yesterday, did you consider going with a tackle in the second round and taking a defensive player first?

A: "Yes, we've had those discussions a lot over the last couple of weeks. I'm a big Jammal Brown fan. The first tackle taken at 13th is a long ways to go to get the best tackle in the draft. As a player, he's about as consistent and polished as you'd like. There aren't a lot of knocks on him. He plays with great technique, he's powerful, big, strong, nasty&he has the attitude and makeup we want. There isn't a lot not to like about him. This guy is going to make us better and be here for a long time. We thought Jammal Brown was the most consistent player"

Q: Yesterday, did you consider going with a tackle in the second round and taking a defensive player first?

A: "He's not going to want to be a backup, but realistically there will be a learning curve. I would anticipate he's going to be a solid player, I don't want to get the expectations too high. I guarantee he's going to be a good special teams player. He's very motivated. He's going to do everything he can to get on the field, and a guy who will contribute at some point this year for us."

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