With the odd timing of general manager Scot McCloughan’s departure from the organization, the media scrutiny will be heavy on Singletary’s broad shoulders if these draft picks flop, even though it was Director of Player Personnel Trent Baalke who had the final say in the room. After the three day bonanza ended, the coach addressed the local beat writers to talk about this year’s draft haul.
Q: What do you think about the draft class overall?
A: “I’m very excited about the players that we were able to acquire, draft and bring in. You already know about [tackle] Anthony Davis, [guard] Mike Iupati, [safety] Taylor Mays, [linebacker] Navorro Bowman, I’m very excited about him. This guy is a playmaker. We’re very excited to get him where we got him because he’s a guy that can give us some depth inside. When you look at [linebacker] Takeo [Spikes] and [linebacker] Pat [Willis], Takeo’s been playing a long time. Takeo’s always talking to me, trying to negotiate time off practice because after the game he’s beat down pretty good. The [running back] Anthony Dixon kid that we have, I’m very excited to get him where we got him. He’s a big back. He’s a guy that’s got great feet, great quickness. [Offensive coordinator] Jimmy [Raye] cannot wait to get his hands on him. When you’re trying to close out a game, that’s the kind of guy you want in the fourth quarter. [Tight end] Nate Byham, I talked to Dave Wannstedt early on in the offseason and he told me a lot about this young man and his ability to really be a physical guy, and really give us some added protection there at the tight end position. I really feel good about what he’s doing. He can also give us some flexibility as an H-back. He can line up and play fullback and go downhill and go and dig out a linebacker. That’s helpful as well. Kyle Williams as a slot receiver, quick guy, quick and fast and gives us a lot of speed. That’s a good weapon to have. It also gives us some flexibility as a punt returner and a kickoff returner. That was very nice to be able to add him at the place we did. Of course, Phillip Adams, a little more of a raw type corner, but has all of the tools. It was a guy that given the skill and the time to develop, is going to really compete at that position. I’m really excited about him as well.”
Q: Why use both first round picks on offensive linemen?
A: “[Director of player personnel] Trent [Baalke] and I talked a lot about hopefully having the opportunity to take both of these guys. We didn’t know if it was going to work. We certainly didn’t think Davis would be there, but fortunately things worked out and he was there. We traded up a couple of picks to get him. Trent and I just felt that rather than sit there and twiddle our thumbs and hope that we got the number one need that we had, we felt let’s just take all of the excitement out of it and let’s move up and if he’s there we’re going to take him. That’s what we did. Iupati, we felt hopefully he would be there and thankfully he was. To me, this guy is a devastating, physical blocker, both of these guys are. Iupati is a little bit of a different style, extremely physical. He’s going to be quite interesting. I know [offensive line coach] Mike Solari and [assistant offensive line coach] Ray Brown are very excited about getting their hands on both of those young men and being able to work with them and implement them into our offense. Our number one priority was to upgrade our offensive line to allow us some flexibility in terms of what we wanted to do offensively.”
Q: Do you expect both guys to start in Week One?
A: “No, I wouldn’t expect them to be starters week one. I would say for both of these young men we don’t just want to throw them in there. We’re hoping that soon they can work their way in there. That’s why we brought them in here. We see those guys as possible starters at some point in time. As far as when, that will be a work in progress.”
Q: Were there any concerns about Davis’ reputation for lackadaisical play at Rutgers?
A: “I don’t know. I think sometimes whenever you hear of a young man with a weight problem, he comes in and he’s overweight, sometimes you can get a label and it’s hard to get rid of. So many people that I talked to that I have tremendous respect for just said, ‘Mike, this kid is special. He has a tremendous amount of upside. Every day he goes out to practice, he works hard. He gets after it. He’s your kind of guy, I’m telling you, your kind of guy.’ Guys that know me pretty well, I got that information from and I trust that.”
Q: Given Iupati’s age, would you expect him to be ready to start before Davis?
A: “I think Iupati, simply by some of the things that he’s been through, coming over and trying to learn the language and adapting to a couple of new different coordinators, being a defensive tackle first, and then becoming an offensive tackle, but, at the same time, really understanding the concepts. He’s a very proud young man. He wants to do things for his parents and his family. He’s very appreciative. He knows exactly where he’s come from. He’s a guy that wants to give back to the community. He wants to give back to his family. He’s all about giving. There’s a tremendous amount of maturity there.”
Q: What level of temptation or interest was there in using one of the first round picks on a quarterback?
A: “Very little. That’s about the best answer I can give you.”
Q: Many critics question Taylor Mays’ coverage and ball skills. What about him appealed to you?
A: “I think Mays is one of those guys that I really don’t know what he was asked to do at USC. I think when you look at the film and you see the guy, he’s back 20 yards, it’s pretty amazing. When he came in and we had him for the interview there were just some things that he was just not asked to do. Sometimes, I think as coaches, you assume that they can’t do it. But I’m excited about him. Anytime you find a guy that has the intangibles that he does, just the ability to move and being able to have the range that he has. I think our defensive backs coaches, Johnnie Lynn and Vance Joseph will get their hands on him and get some work done. We’ll see exactly what we have, all of that potential, put it in place and make him the best football player that he can be. The one thing I know is he’s hungry. He wants to be a great football player, and he wants to be a 49er.”
Q: Do you think Mays will be motivated by dropping into the second round?
A: “Everything has to be put in perspective. I remember going through the draft when I felt I had done everything in college that I could possibly do to be a first round pick. When they tell you that you’re just not tall enough, you kick every tire you can find on every car you can find. You probably say a lot of silly things just out of hurt. But the most important thing is you put it behind you and understand the opportunity at hand. There are a lot of guys that got drafted the first day, but they won’t play very long and they won’t be very good football players. There are other guys that get drafted or may not get drafted at all that will be in the Hall of Fame. I think it’s very important for a player to come into the league to understand that.”
Q: Did you use the slight of being drafted in the second round as motivation?
A: “Oh absolutely.”
Q: How long did that motivation last?
A: “I don’t think it ever went away.”