Cleveland Browns general manager Tom Heckert spoke with the local media Thursday morning to primarily answer questions about the upcoming draft. Saying he "answered" questions so to speak might not be accurate, as you would expect from a team not wanting to tip their hat regarding their draft plans. Don't believe me? Take a look at these excerpts...[full transcript available here]
(On if it is safe to assume that they will pick offensive players early) -- "I wouldn’t assume that, no. I really wouldn’t."
(On if there is no chance the Browns will take a quarterback with the first pick) -- "I wouldn’t say that there is no chance of that."
(On what their biggest need is) -- "That’s a good question and I think we have a few of them. I don’t know what the biggest need is."
(On if Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert will be gone by the sixth pick) -- "I don't know. I really don't. I have no idea."
You might be able to draw some conclusions based on your interpretations of Heckert's statements, but I'm not going to try to decode the littlest thing knowing full well it probably has no meaning (i.e. he is being intentionally vague or doing a smokescreen). Understandably, Heckert was more candid regarding questions that did not specifically pertain to the draft. I will recap a few of those points after the jump.
Heckert again gave a vote of confidence to right tackle Tony Pashos, stating that he would be the projected starter assuming he is healthy. He also paid compliments to Shawn Lauvao, but he did not address him as a candidate to start at right guard.
Here is a real gem from Heckert, after he was asked who the team currently has on the defensive line after Ahtyba Rubin: "We have the guys that we have on our team and that’s what we have right now." In other words, we have no one. He did give a shout out to Jayme Mitchell, something I did weekly in my gameday previews last season despite him never getting into a game.
Heckert addressed the report that Colt McCoy had gathered the wide receivers together to get some workouts in. He was pleased to hear about it, but also made it sound like a standard even if there was not a lockout:
"I think that's great. To be honest with you, I don't know how things worked in the past, but when we were in Philadelphia, that happened anyway. That happened right before we had off-season conditioning and even during off-season conditioning when guys didn't want to come back to Philadelphia they would hang out in Arizona or go around to workout. I think it's probably more publicized now, and it's nice to hear. If they do it great, if they don't I don't think it's a big deal. They'll be ready when they come back and we'll have time."
Regarding his reaction to playing our division rivals for five out of the last six games, Heckert had precisely the same reaction that I did. That is because we are one in the same.
"I think it's good for the fans, it's kind of weird playing them so close. I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it to be honest with you. I glanced at it and it is what it is. I don't think it is any big deterrent, positive or negative. We'll play them."
To close out the conference, Heckert did have one compelling answer to a draft-related question, although it might not be draft-related so much as it is "football strategy"-related:
(On if taking a corner like Patrick Peterson with the sixth overall pick won't help if you do not upgrade your pass rush) -- "I disagree with that. You are going to play close to 60% nickel so you are going to have three corners on the field 60% of the time. If you don't have three of them they are going to find the one. They are going to and you have to roll coverage that way and then you are putting that guy on the island. The more cover guys you can have the better you are. You get a corner hurt, you can't have enough corners. It’s the same thing with defensive and offensive linemen. Everybody talks about the starters and that's great. On defense, the nickel guys, in the secondary and as pass rushers, it's great to have an inside pass rusher or a nickel pass rusher. There are spots for that and the same thing with the offensive line. If one of your tackles goes down you better have someone who can replace him. That's why those positions are so key that if you don't have one you are going to be in trouble."
The draft is next Thursday; I can't wait!