Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Transcript: John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan discuss the 49ers’ Day 3 draft picks

Apr 27, 2019 at 3:56 PM--

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke with the media after the team finished up its Day 3 picks of the 2019 NFL Draft. Here is everything they had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Let's start with the fourth-round draft pick. It seems pretty early to take a punter, so why did you go with P Mitch Wishnowsky right there?

General Manager John Lynch: "Because we really liked him. We felt like with all due respect to the other punters, [New England Patriots P] Jake Bailey is a kid right up the road who went to New England, who we thought highly of, but we thought Mitch Wishnowsky was a big-time prospect. I think [head coach] Kyle and I studied punters more this year than I think we ever will, and hopefully he's the long-term answer. We're talking like a 10-year guy. He checks all the boxes in terms of what you want from a punter. He has a huge leg. Inside the plus 50, he's very adept at pinning people back. [Special teams coordinator Richard] Hightower tells us he's got all the clubs that you need in the bag. He's got different styles, which is kind of a new thing in punting. He can hit it with different spins, and so we just felt like a very good prospect at that position. You know, we had, we felt like had we not taken him there, he would have been taken, and so we moved back a little, gained some picks, and then took the pick, and we feel really good about it."

Did you think that the Patriots were your big competition for him?

JL: "We had a number of teams that we felt were interested in adding a punter and felt like he had distanced himself, and the fact he kicks off and is a very good holder, as well. So, all those things fit into the puzzle."

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan: "That's a hard thing to figure out. Everyone knows he's the best punter in the draft, and when is he going to go, and you always want to take that as late as possible, so you feel the same way going in the fourth. You'd love to do it in the seventh, but I promise you we wouldn't have gotten him if we tried to do it in the fifth. That's why the Patriots traded up to take next guy in the fifth."

A lot of fair catches. Is that part of his game, the hangtime?

JL: "Yeah, I think you have guys who have the ability to with the big leg but don't have the hangtime. He is a rare ability to hit it deep but also with elite hangtime. So, he's kind of the combination that you look for. Real good prospect, and that's a big deal. I think people saw last year with [Seattle Seahawks P Michael] Dixon up there in Seattle who really benefitted their team. We felt like this guy was that type of prospect."

Was that one of the guys that former area scout Reggie Cobb really had an imprint on your draft with him?

JL: "Yeah, that's another really cool thing. I think we come out of today's, Reggie had the west, and Wishnowsky is a guy that Reggie had really scouted hard. We sent kind of Hightower, [assistant special teams coach] Stan Kwan and [assistant special teams coach] Michael Clay in there to watch him work out, and Reggie was very meticulous as to how he set that visit. Hightower shared the story upstairs for everyone, and it's really cool that both Mitch and [TE] Kaden Smith from Stanford were two guys, we talked about Reggie's imprint on this draft, well, there's two guys that were his guys, and that makes us happy."

He had some issues with blocks. Were those blocking issues more so than his getting rid of it?

JL: "You know, like they do in the rugby punts in college sometimes, they were doing that. But, he's a behind the pocket punter, as well, and so we felt very comfortable on those."

You mentioned you guys were watching a lot of punting tape.

KS: "I hope it's not for 10 more years. But no, learned a lot doing it, and you can get a lot, to me personally, that was the first time I've spent a lot of time doing it. Hightower, all our special teams guys, that's what they do year-round. You can get a lot there from analytics because you need the number of the hangtime stuff so you can read a lot of it on paper, which is nice. But, to sit there and just watch it and put all the guys that are possible draft guys, possible free agent guys and just see the difference in each one, it's neat when you can see a big difference just on tape. I think when you get in person, you can feel it a little bit more. Sounds differently. But yeah, you can do a lot of that with the numbers and stuff and I presume with analytics. I didn't know before, but you could see a difference on tape."

When did he pop up on your radar? Was that February or maybe earlier than that?

JL: "He had been on our radar. I think we signed [P Justin] Vogel, and we liked Vogel. He was a legit punter who had punted with success in this league. I think Green Bay had a punter that they really felt highly of, [Green Bay Packers P] J.K. Scott, and so they drafted him in the fifth round, and Vogel was out there and sat out for a year. But, when we had a void there, we signed Vogel. But, we're hopeful that we could target Wishnowsky. I'm struggling with that name for some reason. Wish, we'll call him Wish. And we were able to do it."

And then let's go to LB Dre Greenlaw. What do you envision for him?
JL: So, Dre is a guy, competition at the linebacker spot, whether it be the stack or the SAM linebacker, you know, he's a guy who can compete to play and get, we had him a lot higher on our board and so we were surprised frankly that he had dropped this far and felt like there was tremendous value in the pick. He's a guy that was at the Senior Bowl on the other squad, so we got to be around him by virtue of that, being at the practices, watching him. We felt like he was a really good fit for what we do. I think his 40 that he clocked was slower than what he plays. He ran a 4.73, but the reports out of Arkansas is that like on the catapult, the GPS stuff. He's the fastest player on their team, and that shows up on film. Very good football player, and we felt like it was really a solid pick to add some depth there at linebacker for us, and we're really high on the kid, too. We met with him in Indy and felt very good about him.

He said you guys had scheduled a 30 visit with him and then canceled it and it hurt his heart. Was it just a matter of trying to keep it under wraps, your interest in him?

KS: "Half the guys we bring, we don't like. Half the guys we do. We can't let you guys figure everything out."

JL: "You guys are good, too. I don't know how you figure out all these visits, but you do. So, we have to kind of keep everyone guessing, and frankly we had had the exposure at the Senior Bowl. We felt good with the interview we had at Indy and felt like we had seen enough."

Does this reflect at all on LB Kwon Alexander and if he might be available or not available?

JL: "No, not at all."

KS: "Everything today after the punter was really just, who do we think had chances to make our team, not necessarily we have to go get this guy. It's who left has the best chance to make our team? I think we started right there because that was a guy who we had ranked higher. We thought he would go. We were a little surprised that he was there, and he does have a very good opportunity to make our team, and we feel fortunate to get him where we did."

You guys were both at the Stanford Pro Day, and it looked like Kaden Smith caught everything that was thrown. Did that influence you at all, or had you already had him pretty high on your list?

JL: "Yeah, I watch a lot of Stanford football for some reason, and the one thing that's always struck me with Kaden, he makes big plays in big moments. A lot of contested catches. Someone is all over him, and he's got an ability. I think he's got a big catch radius, and the nice thing about Stanford football is that they're playing traditional football. They're in line. He's up on the line of scrimmage having to block people, and so I think he had done some of the things he'll do here, and we studied him hard as the process continued and felt comfortable in the sixth round to add Kaden and are excited for it."

Does his speed or lack thereof, is that an issue?

KS: "No. I mean, it's what do they do best? When your speed isn't great, I'm not going to send him on a bunch of speed routes. But, there's a lot of good tight ends who run around there. Some guys who got drafted early aren't that much faster than him. Speeds not the issue depending on how you want to use him. He's effective in the pass game and we think he could be a good blocker for us, too. Hopefully, he'll put some pressure on [TE George] Kittle here."

JL: "There's a reason these guys go later. Much like Dre, Kaden felt like he played faster than what he ran, and sometimes guys just have a bad day when they're clocking their time. In our eyes, it was faster than the time that he clocked, and we look at everything. But, most of all we look at the film."

What kind of blocker is he?

JL: "He's a good blocker."

KS: "You look at what makes him successful in college, and he's not depending on his speed. He gets open with his hands and with his feet, and he's a tough player. He's not scared at all out there going over the middle or anything. He's big enough with his size. He's smart enough to be very good in how he blocks and how we would use him blocking. That's why he was a very good tight end for them, and that's why we feel he should be an NFL player and have a good chance to make our team."

Last year people, us, media, outsiders, thought you guys needed edge rushers. You guys came out of the draft without addressing that position. Obviously, you did significantly this off-season. I think we would have similar questions about the secondary, whether it be corner or safety. Is it a philosophical thing for you guys to say, 'we'll see what we have this upcoming season and maybe next season will be the time when we invest the resources'?

KS: "No, no, you try to improve your team wherever you can. It's not the easiest. We were in some good draft spots this year where we could draft an edge rusher that definitely was, we felt, better than guys we had with the second pick in the draft. We didn't necessarily feel that in all areas where we were last year, and we went a different direction in a tackle knowing we were going to have to replace one a year from then. You look at our secondary now and everything, and it's not the easiest thing in the world to go draft a guy who can just come in and beat out [CB] Richard Sherman, [CB] Jason Verrett, [CB] Ahkello [Witherspoon], [DB] Tarvarius Moore. Those aren't easy things. And you look at other positions and stuff. So, that goes to each round. It's not the easiest to go find a safety who can beat out [DB] Jimmie Ward or [S Jaquiski] Tartt or the two guys that we drafted in the last two years with [S] Marcell [Harris], [DB Adrian] Colbert and [DB Antone] Exum [Jr.], who stepped in and did a good job for us, who's played on other NFL teams, too. That's not an easy thing to do. If there's guys there, who you think is better than the guys you have and that makes more sense than another position, then it's an easy decision. But, you never go into something like, hey, we don't address this this year because we did something last year and you've got to wait and see. You do the best thing at every single moment, whether it's trading, whether it's free agency, whether it's the draft, whatever round it is. You do whatever is best and not every single option is always there."

JL: "I would also say at the corner position, we went out there and got Jason Verrett, and history says he's been banged up, but we took a flier on that because when healthy he's one heck of a football player. So, we did that. And then Tim Harris, we never look at these picks as throwaways. I think being able to move back in the fourth round gave us a couple of sixth-round picks, and of course we take those seriously, but we've also hit on some of those and we feel like these are quality players. Skule from Vandy started 40 games in the SEC and played at a high level. We like his ability to come in and compete at kind of that swing tackle spot. And, Tim Harris, very talented football player, and we felt very good about him and felt like having a, you just can't have enough good corners. So, providing competition, athleticism, and he is a profile fit. We aren't married to that profile, but he certainly has that profile at 6-2, 200, and a kid who can run at 4.43, I believe."

KS: "I think to help that, for all positions and all just draft, you look at the second round and the way you approach it from scouting and everything is, who in there looks like a second-round draft pick? All right, whether it's you've got some tackles, you've got some guards, you've got corners, you've got receivers, a quarterback, whatever. You've got eight guys, you think, at those positions. Do we like that starting quarterback more than that starting corner, more than that starting receiver? All right. We have all of them about the same. Which one do we like more than our guy? Do we think that guy could be a starting receiver for us? Do we think that guy could beat out our starting corner? Do we think that guy could beat out our starting quarterback? Man, I bet that guy could be our starting receiver, so you go to that. It's not just, but you look in all areas. What if there isn't one in all that stuff and there's a great corner? You go with that corner. There's so many different ways to go into it, and it's not just get here, here, here and here. It's how does it unfold and what do you think is the best?"

What gives Skule a chance to be your swing tackle?

KS: "Well, he's played a lot of games, and I think he started 40 games in the SEC. He last 'til the end -- maybe not the total prototypical tackle that will go early in the draft like you see a lot. So, you look at the end, who has a chance to make it in this league and the game is not too big for him? He has the ability to make it, and to me he's got as good of a mindset on what's inside of him as anybody out there. When you start 40 games in the SEC, play at the level he did versus that competition, you know the guy is made of the right stuff. For us to be able to get him here, I think he's a good guy who can come in and compete with [T] Shon Coleman, try to push him a little to be that swing tackle and we'll see how it works out. But, we took him, definitely believe he has the chance to do that."

JL: "I felt like he won at a high rate. It wasn't always beautiful, pretty, but just kind of a scrapper who at the end of the play was on his guy and won his leverage at a very high rate. And, so when you find those guys, you look at the level of competition. Well, his level of competition was as good as it gets in college football. Sometimes it's not always how pretty it looks, it's are you getting the job done?"

Those last two guys weren't invited to the combine, right?

JL: "Tim Harris and Skule? I think you're correct. Yeah."

Does that change at all the scouting of it knowing that maybe you're picking up more stuff on your own--?

JL: "No, you still get all the numbers. They do pro days and all those things."

KS: "For us, at least the coaches especially, we just find out about them a little bit later because the first guys we hear about are the guys we see in Indy. Then we come back and watch them all. Then you get, 'hey, watch this guy, I know you didn't hear about him because he wasn't at Indy,' and that happened with the linebacker, Quinnen Williams' brother. Everyone was shocked he went early to Jacksonville and it's probably because he didn't go to Indy, but we found out about him a little bit later, and that guy went exactly where he should have gone. He was a really good player and that happens with a number of people. They just -- you hear about their names later for obvious reasons. I bet it works the same for you guys, too."

Does the level of competition that he would have in the SEC jump out to you because you can see him going against guys who are going to get drafted?

KS: "Yeah, it's not like the only reason, but it's something that helps you. Everyone is projecting everything, and when you can see a guy that you believe has the skill set to do something who's played a lot of games. That's the first thing you want to say, 'all right, I think he has a chance at the next level,' and when he is in the best conference that makes you a little bit more confident with your evaluation as opposed to feeling that when he's at a small school. So, it does help."

Was there one opponent that kind of jumped out to you guys that he did a nice job against?

KS: "I wouldn't say in particular, at least for me personally. Our O-line coaches go through all the games, they put a cut-up together to present it. So, not one game would stick out to me, but I promise you [offensive line coach] John Benton would have an answer."

As you know, you guys had two interceptions last year. So, a lot of people would say, 'geez, there's a problem with the secondary.' Obviously, a lot of things go into interceptions. How much weight do you put into the fact that you're likely to have a better pass rush that could well generate, A, more turnovers, but specifically interceptions?

JL: "I think of my own experience, I had a lot more interceptions when I was in Tampa than. I love the Denver Broncos and love Mike Shanahan, but we didn't have as good a D-line, and I loved the guys I played with, but it was just a different situation. I did a lot more blitzing because we didn't have the D-line in Tampa. I was back and we hit the quarterback early and we hit him often and that affects quarterbacks. So, I think there is a correlation. Now we've got to go show that there is a correlation. We feel much better about our D-line, but as I said yesterday, now we've got to go prove it. It's there on paper. We feel like we've completed a lot of the things that we didn't have, now we've got to go become that force to be reckoned with where you're there every week, and they know when they turn the tape on, my goodness, we'd better get rid of this football. If not, we're going to pay the price. That excites us."

KS: "If you looked at it as this year, we set the record for not having those, and we just went and signed Richard Sherman who I think has been pretty good over his career with getting picks. If we just did that this week, I think everyone would be like, 'oh, you're doing that to solve your interception problem.' But, he was on our team last year, too, and he didn't drop many. I don't think we dropped too many as a whole, which that should tell you something. We've got to cause more havoc on that quarterback so he throws some wild passes that do come to us, and if they drop too many, then we'll have to put our receivers there."

Could you explain the thinking for the LB Dekoda Watson trade?

JL: "Yeah, so the fifth round has been pretty good to us, so we really wanted to get up there, and we were looking for trade partners. At some point we had had a conversation about Dekoda, thinking that we might go edge, and we had a conversation with Denver, and it led to this, which happened today. We were excited to get up into the fifth round. I think they were excited to have Dekoda in their equation, and we're excited for that."

Did you have to fight Hightower on that?

KS: "We made it up to him."

JL: "He's got Mitch. He's got a big smile on his face."

KS: "We love Dekoda. We brought him here to really help us out on special teams and to be an edge rusher for us with the get-off and speed, and we've gotten better in some special team areas, and we've gotten better at our edge rusher, so I think it was a better situation for him in Denver, and we love Dekoda and appreciate everything for him, and think he's at a place that appreciates him, also."

JL: "Those are hard things to do because Dekoda not only on the field with his contributions in that locker room was a big part of that group. You guys see him each and every day, and in our community he's one of the guys that every Tuesday is out doing something in the community. That's hard to do, but that's part of the business. If you feel like you can improve your team and circumstances had changed a little bit with adding some edge pieces and that was going to affect him and his ability to make our team, and found someone where it could work, and he's going back to a place he really likes, as well."

How much did special teams factor into the evaluation of Greenlaw?

JL: "He'd better be able to do it. Now, he hasn't done it because he's been a starter there, but we really feel like his skills correlate. He's a guy who can run and hit extremely well, and Hightower and his group do a tremendous job of at each position he also grades, 'Okay, here's my special team value,' and he ranks them, and Dre, although not having played a ton of it, was very highly rated for Hightower in the special teams."

Is CB Tim Harris exclusively a corner?

JL: "Yes."

And so, what is he, he's had some injury issues, he's been there forever. What did you see--?

JL: "When you're that talented and you're in the sixth round, there's something there as to why everyone is not drafting him. But, I think he had a year where he had a medical redshirt. He took care of that. As we looked at it, there was a shoulder injury. I think there was a broken arm, and so some upper extremity. But, at some point you have to trust your medical staff that we're comfortable with where he's at, and we were comfortable with where he's at and where we were at in the draft. Tim is another guy we brought in here, got comfortable with the person, loved the talent, and we jumped at it."

On ESPN you mentioned WR Jalen Hurd and felt comfortable with how he transferred. If I've got the story straight, he left Tennessee kind of mid-year. Was that, if that's accurate, was that a concern for you at all as far as the way that went down?

JL: "I think what I mentioned, I got comfortable with his story because there were a lot of versions. So, we spent a lot of time with him to try to get to the crux of exactly what happened. Through our conversations we got comfortable with the person. We got comfortable with how that all transpired. And you just, you spend as much time as you can with someone. You watch the tape, see what does he do us, and are we comfortable with the person he's going to be, the teammate he's going to be, and we were there."

You mentioned Richard Sherman a little earlier. I think he said that he had a procedure, a cleanup maybe on his Achilles. Where is he as far as the recovery? Will he take part in OTAs?

JL: "Yeah, I look out my window, and he's getting up there in years, but he's right at the front of the pack. He's pushing those guys. I think my own feeling, we'll see a better version of Richard Sherman this year because he's a year further away from those procedures and had that cleanup. But, we'll see. But, I'm hopeful."

I think there were rumors of you guys being interested in Philadelphia Eagles TE Trey Burton a couple years ago. Is Hurd somebody who, I know you mentioned maybe tight end down the road for him, is that maybe a role sort of like a second tight end, H-Back type thing that you might be able to work him into?

KS: "Yeah, definitely. I see him, he's got that type of body. I think he can do a little bit more things. I don't know if we would have used him as a running back and stuff, also, but yeah, I think he's a very similar build."

Any reaction to President Trump's tweet in support of your pick of DL Nick Bosa and telling him to stay true to himself?

JL: "I didn't--."

You didn't see it?

JL: "No. I didn't see it."

5:00 a.m., I thought you guys would be up studying?

JL: "We were."

I think one of the themes of these picks is that a lot of the guys came in and visited. Other ones were at the Senior Bowl. Was that a coincidence this year or was that sort of your point, you really wanted to kind of see firsthand a lot of the guys that you're taking?

JL: "I think at some point you want, you get very limited exposure. So, whether it's through relationships, people you trust implicitly through watching the tape, there's so many different ways to evaluate, but you do want to have a little knowledge of who this person is. We've done a nice job, I believe, of defining who we want as part of this team in talent and spirit. So, the talent speaks for itself. That's the film. The spirit, you've got to hear from coaches who you have relationships, or you've got to touch the kid and be around him. So, that's not always, you heard the story of Dre Greenlaw who we were at the Senior Bowl. We didn't coach him. We spent time. I think there was one little crossover where we spent some time and kind of interviewed their squad. But, whether it be through a great relationship you have on the staff, through our scouts who do a tremendous job, and I really want to commend all those guys for the work they've done yet again let by [director of college scouting] Ethan Waugh and [vice president of player personnel] Adam Peters, absolutely tremendous job in being prepared. Our coaches do a great job. I think our coaches are extremely involved in the process. So, they all do a great job of finding out exactly that."

KS: "I think it is a coincidence, but it is the hardest thing. I would think you guys would know the same. You spend 15 minutes with someone and you know they're just there to evaluate whether to commit the next four years to you and pay you a lot of money, I bet you guys are going to be pretty impressive in those 15 minutes. So, it's always tough. It's a lot easier when you can spend seven days with them. But, I still think I could do it for seven days. The best thing to me is a scout, who saw them as freshmen when those guys didn't even know they were coming out to the NFL, saw them as sophomores, juniors, and then hey, all of a sudden their senior year they acted different once they realized they could get there, and now this guy has been this type of person since day one, and the only people who really know those answers are people who have been around them longer than just this process. That's usually scouts."

Ballpark, how many UDFAs and how many tryout guys--?

JL: "They're up there working right now. In the tryout camp we like to be two deep at each position. Sometimes there's some veterans who qualified to practice in that. As to exactly what the numbers, they're up there working right now, we'll have that for you shortly."

How does that work? Can they like fax in, if fax is still used, can they sign contracts tonight or do they come in and sign?

JL: "Well, we've got to wait for this draft to end, but we're there kind of solidifying, okay, if this guy doesn't get drafter here, here's our number one priority, here's our number two priority, here's our number three priority and then we get on the phones and we try to work these deals, and it's actually a fun process. Looking forward to getting back up there."

KS: "And getting back as soon as possible."

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