On Wednesday, May 3, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Director of Player Personnel Jerry Angelo sat down to answer 20 questions as part of the 'Your Turn' interview series on Buccaneers.com. The questions used to interview Angelo were submitted by Buccaneers.com users and were presented to Angelo using the fan's name and hometown. The following is a transcript of that interview.
Moderator: It is Wednesday, May 3, and today we are here with Jerry Angelo, director of player personnel for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jerry, thank you for taking time out today to spend with Buccaneers.com users.
Jerry Angelo: It's my pleasure…looking forward to it.
Moderator: Great! Well, what you've gotten yourself into today is an interview series called 'Your Turn', so named because the questions you'll hear came from actual Buccaneer fans using Buccaneers.com. We wanted to have you own, because you just finished up with another great draft, part of what has truly been one of the most remarkable offseasons in franchise history.
Jerry Angelo: You're right about that. We're all excited.
Moderator: Exactly. There have been lots of maneuvers, lots of issues for fans to discuss and of course lots of questions. So let's just get down to them.
Jerry Angelo: Go ahead.
Joe from Fairborn, Ohio: What is the main characteristic you look for when you're interested in adding a player, whether it's through free agency or the draft?
Jerry Angelo: Very good question. We try to play hard on the intangibles. We define what we call 'football character' and what we look for in a particular player for us. To define that football character, we use four criteria. We use his work ethic, we use his passion and love for the game, his intelligence factor and, lastly, his competitive nature. We feel if we get a boy that has those four traits, and he rates high in those four traits, if he has enough talent – and really, the talent part is a little easier to rate than these intangibles that I'm talking about – he's going to have a career in this league. It's going to be relative, obviously, to what talent level he has.
Moderator: And I think you told me the other day that you apply those four criteria to everybody from top, first-round draft choices to free agents.
Jerry Angelo: All the way, top to bottom. We do that even when we talk about the unrestricted free agents, such as Keyshawn Johnson and Hardy Nickerson and Martin Mayhew. Those have been our most successful – I'm talking about Hardy and Martin – and they all had those same traits parallel to their success here.
Lars from Parrish: I am curious about the role that Coach Steckel had during the draft due to his new schemes and the type of offensive players he would want to employ?
Jerry Angelo: What we do with all our coaches, particularly with our coordinators, is we bring them in and have them seminar Tim Ruskell, our director of college scouting, and myself and Rich McKay. In particular with Les, since Les is the new man on board, he goes over primarily position by position what he looks for his particular scheme coupled with, philosophically, what he wants to do, in this case with his offensive scheme. In turn, we take notes, we ask questions, we get in depth with him as much as we need to to make sure that we know exactly what he wants to do. In Les' case, his offense is going to be more tight end-driven, so we spent an inordinate amount of time at that position, as an example. We feel that Les did a real good job of educating us and we're not that far apart in our existing talent and we can hit the ground running.
Randy from Orlando, Florida: With the acquisition of Jeff Christy, Randall McDaniel and Keyshawn Johnson, have the Buccaneers changed their ideas about hiring free agents in order to compete for a Super Bowl?
Jerry Angelo: Well, yes, we have changed. I think every year you're ever-changing based on the nucleus of your football team. We feel that we knocked on the door last year in terms of that Super Bowl run. We feel our team is of age now in terms of its experience and its talent level that we could add a free agent or free agents such as the three that we added – Christy and McDaniel, and Keyshawn we traded for. We feel now we're a few players away, and we can do that. Maybe three years ago or four years ago, we couldn't say that, because these players are in their prime, and Randall is 35 years old, so we won't get too many more years out of him. That might not have been the best fit for us, but right now, we feel that that's the course we needed to take to take that next step.
Joe from Austin, Texas: Mr. Angelo, I am a graduating senior with a degree in sport management and would eventually like to be a director of player personnel in the National Football League. I would like to know the steps that you took in your career in order to reach your position of director of player personnel for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Jerry Angelo: Good luck, Joe. I want to say that first. This is a great job sometimes. The protocol for my particular position, I wish I could tell you it was step A-B-C, but it doesn't work that way. Everybody in my position has a little bit different background in terms of the avenue they took to get here. In my particular case, I had coaching experience and then I was an area scout for several teams – the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys prior coming here. So I had, in my opinion, a real good grass-roots upbringing in football. Coupled with that was the experience of just going through draft after draft. It's an ever-changing, ever-learning profession. That was my particular situation. Others have come in right out of the coaching ranks, others started as scouts and matriculated through the system.
John from Valrico, Florida: If the draft would have been 10 rounds this year, would Earthwind (Moreland) have been your Round 8 choice? I recently read in my Football Weekly that he runs the 40 in about 4.3.
Jerry Angelo: He was somebody we were considering even in the seventh round. There were probably three or four players, he being one of them. So, had we gone to an eighth round, I would say that, yes, he would have been a top consideration again. We loved the name. I think that probably had a little bearing on why we took him.
Moderator: So, a very astute observation by John.
Jerry Angelo: Yes.
Shane from Pikeville, Kentucky: You got an All-American Tight End in the fifth round in James Whalen. How will he fit into the Bucs' system?
Jerry Angelo: Well, we hope, just the way he fit into the Wildcats' system. We feel strongly that he has very good talent, great football character, as I alluded to earlier. We feel that, again, Coach Steckel has a tight end-driven offense and we feel that (Whalen)'s going to find his niche here. He's more of an H-back than he is a true tight end. We saw that role with (Frank) Wycheck in Tennessee, so we hope James comes in and in a year or two time finds that same niche here.
Chris from Valparaiso, Indiana: During the draft do you pay attention to what school/area the player comes from. For example, in the past a lot of Florida players have been drafted to the Bucs. Is this just based on their talent alone, or because they are from around the Tampa area?
Jerry Angelo: I would answer yes to both. We look hard at our own state universities, and their records speak for themselves. They have a great track record, and I don't think it's just because they have fine coaching. I think they have special talent as well. You start in your own backyard and then work out. We spend an inordinate amount of time in the Southeast Conference as well. We feel that, two-fold, those are the better athletes, and we can get the most information because geographically we can get to those places a little bit easier and because of that, we get there more often.
Joe from Oxon Hill, Maryland: Early polls have WR Drew O'Connor making the team this year. He was a free agent pickup last year so I don't know that much about him. Could you tell me what skills he has that will make him a good player? Also, how did you find him?
Jerry Angelo: We found him through our area scout, Joe DiMarzo. Joe has the northeast part of the country, and he's been in that sector for 15 years. So he knows quite a few coaches up there, and one of the coaches, a friend of his, told him about Drew and Joe went up there and looked at him. Drew was a safety when he first started in college, then a new coaching staff came in, more pass-oriented. They said, we need to get our best athletes on offense and moved him over to the receiver position. If memory serves me right, he was there for I think just one year – spring and then the season. We like his raw traits. He's big, he's strong, he's tough, great work ethic. Again, that football character was outstanding for Drew. So we just said, it's going to take him a little bit of time, but the nucleus of what we look for, both intangibly and tangibly, he has. And he's progressing. Coach Dungy thinks he's going to be the sleeper of this year's team.
Moderator: So another astute observation by one of our fans.
Jerry Angelo: Yes, sir. You've got some pretty good writers.
Moderator: Exactly. They know what they're talking about. And not mentioned in this question is that Drew O'Connor is from Maine, which is not a school that has produced a lot of NFL players.
Jerry Angelo: No, and we usually go with the bigger schools, but Joe did a great job of uncovering him and getting him to us. The other thing is, when we take a player from a smaller program, or one from a greater distance, we need to have more time in terms of evaluating him. So Joe got on him early, giving us enough time to do our A-to-Z work, and it fell right for us.
Tim from Lakeland, Florida: Were the Bucs considering drafting an OT in the draft, such as Michael Thompson, or are they satisfied with the current quality/depth at that position?
Jerry Angelo: Well, you can never have enough tackles. I think it's one of the hardest positions to find in the draft and to develop. They're just dinosaurs. They're so hard to find. They're the only position in football that has a size requirement. No other position has one. They have to be at least 6-4. They have to be in excess of 295 pounds, usually in excess of 300 pounds, to 320. Probably after the quarterback position, it's the second most intelligent position on the football field. And he's got to have a degree of athleticism, and he's got to be a tough guy with good placement. A couple of those traits together, that's a pretty tough guy to find. So, yes, we're always looking every year. We feel Jason Odom will go over and play the left tackle position. We signed George Hegamin off the street last year – we felt he was the best 'street' player, meaning a player that was unsigned – and we were really looking at George for this year. We signed DeMarcus Curry out of Auburn and we had him in training camp last year. And obviously Jerry Wunsch and Pete Pierson are back, so we have the numbers there and we feel all these players are ascending. So from that regard, we don't feel like the cupboard's bare.
Moderator: And we still have the possibility of Paul Gruber returning.
Jerry Angelo: Yes, we do. So that's a nice little insurance policy as well.
Verlyn from Bradenton, Florida: Who do you consider the steal of the draft, and why?
Jerry Angelo: We watched a lot of Joe Hamilton. I know all the media people throughout the draft, particularly on the second day, were talking about Joe and saying, 'Boy, this is the best player available.' They just kept going on and on. I don't know if that influenced us. Maybe subconsciously it did, but we feel that Joe has got some magic to him, not unlike Doug Flutie when he came out of Boston College. A lot of things have to happen for Joe for him to play at that level for us, but we feel that he's going to be a fun guy to watch.
Pete from Kansas City, Missouri: I was wondering if the team in the seventh round ever considered taking Shyrone Stith instead of Joe Hamilton?
Pete must have been the fly on the wall, because it really came down to Joe and Stith. We really liked Stith, we thought he was a great pick. I felt that we would have been very competitive if Jacksonville had not taken him when they did just a few picks ahead of us in the seventh and he would have been a free agent. We would have probably signed him like we did Earthwind (Moreland). Stith was one of those three or four players we were considering with that pick. So, yes, to answer your question."
Micah from St. Petersburg, Florida: Joe Hamilton at 234! What a steal! Was he on the Bucs' wish-list, or was he just too good of a player to pass up that far into the draft?
Jerry Angelo: Well, when we got down to that last pick, we felt like Joe probably had the most potential. I don't like to use that word, it's probably not the right word to use for Joe because Joe was highly productive. But we felt that the quarterback position was the most valuable position, and probably that's the way I should have put it first, because that position is such a tough position to evaluate, to play. Based on the value of his position, we just went that way.
Don from Nashville, Tennessee: I have noticed that the Bucs take a look at players from college programs that don't often seem to get much attention elsewhere in the league (Texas A&M-Kingsville and Vanderbilt being two examples). What is it about those programs that causes the Bucs to take notice?
Jerry Angelo: Well, they are two distinct programs. Texas A&M-Kingsville is a small program, very small, and they have gotten probably the best of what the major Texas schools didn't want in the recruiting wars. As you know, the major colleges have been limited to 85 scholarships from 120 not more than five or six years ago. So we feel like Texas is a great football-playing state, and there are a lot of good football players that aren't recruited in that state by the major schools and wind up at Kingsville because of their great tradition. Remember, Gene Upshaw came out of there, Darryl Green came out of there, John Randle came out of there, so they have a great tradition in Texas and they have acquired a lot of good football players. We are just the benefactors of having gone down there. Ruston Webster, who is our area scout, does a great job down there and we've had good success. Those players really love the game, they love to play football. When they get here, they're not spoiled. This is like coming to Orlando and literally going to Disneyland for them. In Vanderbilt's case, so much is required of those players academically that we feel this: when they get to the pro level, you take the academic part away. Because they spend so much time in the classroom, they really don't have the same allotted free time, in some cases, that other players have at other schools. We've seen players from there, Georgia Tech and Northwestern - your old alma mater – that, when they come into the National Football League, if they have enough NFL talent, they take quantum steps. So it's just been a little bit of history that we've done over the years, and we've had pretty good success with some of those players from those particular schools.
Moderator: Thank you for the Northwestern plug. It sounds as if your job causes you to be very familiar with all aspects of athletic programs around the country.
Jerry Angelo: Without question. There's something in the water at all the major schools. Certain schools produce certain players at certain positions better than others, certain conferences do the same thing. It's just the experience of having gone through it, the trial and error of watching them over the years. It's still guesstimation, but you try to play the percentages when you can, particularly when you have the data bank that we have, having worked together for as long as we have here.
James DaCosta from Palm Harbor, Florida: What is the hardest part of your job?
Jerry Angelo: Well, when you're winning, this job's the best job in America. The hardest part of the job, when you really get down to it for me personally, is when you draft a player, particularly with a premium pick – and those are the first, second and third-round picks – and that player isn't utilized based on the way you projected him when you brought him into your program. That's tough. Now that player is...you're playing to his weaknesses and not his strengths. When you take him in those premium rounds, you're really counting on him to be one of the pillars, meaning a player that you're going to build your team around. So, it's critical. You invest a lot of money and a high draft pick. There's just so few with our present regime, but in the past, we had fatalities. Some of it was based on the fact that we said Player A could do this, this and this and for him to ascend and play to his strengths, we have to do this, this and this. And for whatever reason, it just never materialized. That's hard from a personnel man's standpoint. What you learn there is that you have to have communication. We have great communication with Coach Dungy and his staff, so those things have lessened greatly, which makes life a little bit easier.
Jim from Virginia Beach, Virginia: My question has to do with Virginia Tech DE Corey Moore. How high did you have him on your board at the linebacker spot? I had a feeling he was targeted as your third round selection. Any truth to that, or am I way off?
Jerry Angelo: Wow, there's another guy who must have been a fly on our wall. They're looking at our board. I'm going to have to start checking our security. But, anyhow, we had Corey as a third-round pick, and we felt like Corey had to go to a team that was more of a 3-4 defense, where they could utilize his pass-rush skills from a standing position, not a down position, where he played at Virginia Tech. Corey went to the Senior Bowl, and they didn't play him at that position, so the teams like Buffalo got to see him play there and it worked out well for him. He's a great football player. He's one of those players that, boy, if you just had an extra pick somewhere in those first two or three rounds you'd like to take a flyer on him. Because if he hits, he could be a special guy.
Rick from St. Petersburg, Florida: In past years teams have concentrated on picking the 'best player available' regardless of position, but with salary cap restrictions, is it fair to say teams are placing much more emphasis on need and becoming more predictable in their draft tendencies?
Jerry Angelo: I would say that's a pretty astute observation," said Angelo. "Yes, team's are becoming more need-conscious. I think team's always have been need-conscious, but when a real top-flight player would be there they would go that way. It's really gotten to that point. We've been able to discipline ourselves, and I use the example of Anthony McFarland. We really didn't need to take Anthony McFarland last year from LSU when we had the 14th pick. We had Brad Culpepper on board, we had James Cannida, and both of those players we liked, but we felt that Anthony's value was too great, and because of that, we didn't want to leave a level. Coach Dungy, again, is understanding of that. We do have needs, we do want to address those needs whenever we can, but we don't want to leave levels. When we have a player on Level A, to take a player on Level B because he's a need – we don't do that.
Ian from: Yokohama, Japan: First, congratulations on an outstanding draft. The Bucs seem to have done better than most teams in the NFL draft in the past few seasons, what approach do you take to the draft that allows you to get quality players exactly where you need them?
Jerry Angelo: It's a culmination of a lot of things. It starts with a good team – I'm talking about a good personnel team. We have excellent scouts, in my opinion. I know I'm a little biased, but I would say even if you ask our competitors they would echo the same things that I'm saying about (the Buc scouts). We've worked together for a goodly amount of years. I've been here 14 years, Tim Ruskell's been here 14 years. It's not that we think alike, but we understand how each other thinks and we're on the same page. What we try to do is not so much look for the great finds. I think we're all wanting to do that, but we want to be solid. We don't want to make the big misses. We've eliminated that. We have a formula that we use on each player that we all go through and we've had pretty good success, particularly in the last five or six years.
Ian from Brighton, Massachusetts: It still seems like we could use a solid blocking back for Alstott so we can best use his abilities as a runner. Any chance we're still looking for one? Sam Gash comes to mind, he's a phenomenal blocker.
Jerry Angelo: Right. Sam does and there are a couple others. We have a few players that we signed in the offseason – Jim Kitts and Jamie Spencer – they were both out there and they're talented players at the position. Plus, Kevin McLeod comes back. Tough position to play, because he has to be so multi-dimensional. He's got to have good hands, he's got to have some running ability, he's got to be a good in-line blocker. Hard player to find, and every coach, when you ask him how he evaluates the fullback, you get varying evaluations. What we've tried to do is really pin the coaches down to what does he have to be first. And, in our case, it's not necessarily blocker first. So we feel like we have enough players to fit the bill. He's only playing on Sunday about 15 to 20 snaps max, so he's not even a full-time player. But we're looking. We feel there's a couple of players like Sam, but the trouble with Sam is that he'll command a big salary and it's hard to pay that big of a salary when you're only playing that number of plays.
Michael from Atlanta, Georgia: What are the hardest positions to judge college players at before the draft and why?
Jerry Angelo: Well the hardest player, again, comes back to the quarterback position. That's without a question not only the hardest player to find but the hardest position to play in all of sport, irrelevant of what sport you're talking about, baseball, basketball. Quarterback position is by far the most demanding. I think it starts there. In our particular case, we haven't really hit the receiver position as well as we would have liked. In some cases, it's just been a matter of putting a square peg in a round hole. We didn't have the right fit, again alluding to how the player fits within the framework of the scheme. But there's no easy position. I don't think there's one really harder than the next. The quarterback position would be the one that stands out the most.
Marc from Inverness, Florida: Why did you select Nate Webster over Brandon Short of Penn State? Also, what was it you saw in him to make the choice?
Jerry Angelo: That was pretty easy. That was cut-and-dried for us because we felt Nate fit our scheme. He's a little undersized while Brandon's a big, strong guy. Nate was more athletic and had better speed. Brandon would do a better job in closed quarters, stuffing the run, taking people on, but that's not how we play our linebackers. We want more athletic linebackers. We free them up and let them take angles to the ball, so it's more predicated on speed. Brandon did not run that well, yet he's a bigger guy. So they were really two different players in our mind and Brandon didn't really fit into the framework of what we look for in our linebackers.
Moderator: Thank you so much for spending time with us here. Obviously some great insights into the draft.
Jerry Angelo: My pleasure.