Cleveland Browns general manager Tom Heckert met with the local media Thursday morning to field a bunch of questions related to the draft, as well as a few questions about the team's actions in free agency. When a news conference is as long as the one that Heckert had, you look for the "little" things to see if perhaps the person tipped their hand a little bit as to what the team's intentions are with the No. 4 overall pick next week. As far as remaining secretive goes, I guess I'd award Heckert a "mission accomplished" sticker.
One of the rumors that has been coming up over the past few weeks is that Heckert and team president Mike Holmgren were not on the same page regarding who the team's first pick should be. It has been suggested by some members of the media, including Sports Illustrated's Peter King, that Heckert prefers to take wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Heckert responded kindly to King:
"I haven't spoken to Peter King in years so I have no idea where that came from. Everything you have heard is complete nonsense. It's just this time of year and I understand that. It's fun for all you guys. Everybody is on the same page here with who we are considering."
"I know who that fourth pick is going to be if we stay there. We are all on the same page. We know we are getting a really good player no matter what happens at three. We know we are getting one of two guys. We don't know who is going to go at three, but we are extremely happy and excited with whoever is going to be there at four."
Heckert would not rule out a trade, but he confidently stated several times that they know they are getting one of two guys. I tried several times to analyze this to see if there were any cryptic clues that could be derived from it.
- We already know Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are off the board (will be drafted No. 1 and No. 2), so the Browns have two other definitive selections on their mind. Taking Minnesota's pick into consideration, of course the Browns are guaranteed to get one of those top two players.
- Internally, they have narrowed it down to who they want. It would seem likely that the subset of players Heckert is referring to includes Matt Kalil, Justin Blackmon, Morris Claiborne, Trent Richardson, and
Ryan Tannehill. I crossed Tannehill's name off because I just...don't...see...it...happening.
- Last year, I personally felt that the Browns traded down because the two guys I believed they really wanted, either wide receiver A.J. Green or cornerback Patrick Peterson, were off the board. The Browns likely need a receiver, running back, and right tackle in this draft, but they don't necessarily need a cornerback unless he is off-the-charts freakishly good (which Claiborne probably doesn't fall into). That leaves Kalil, Blackmon, and Richardson.
- When joking about the media, Heckert said, "Everyone is talking about who Minnesota is taking and I have no idea if they like (Matt) Kalil or not. Who knows. Everybody that says stuff they don't know." It goes against what he says, but just as Heckert is aware of the top two quarterbacks being gone, he has to be aware that Kalil is probably going to Minnesota. Let's leave it to Blackmon and Richardson, then. (No surprise, eh?)
- The Vikings could take Blackmon, too, which creates the potential trade scenario for Cleveland. If Richardson is their "other guy," odds are, they would take him. The exception would be if they get an offer that is too good to refuse. Heckert wouldn't comment on how far he'd be willing to move back if a trade happened, but he did give in a little bit in regards to whether he would make a similar deal to the one with Atlanta last year:
- "I would say I wouldn’t do that trade this year," said Heckert, in discussing the deal with Atlanta last year. "I think we are further along than last year in terms of talent. Moving all the way down to that pick, it would be tough for me to do this year."
- If the Vikings take Kalil, then it ultimately comes down to Blackmon or Richardson. Everyone here should no my personal opinion by now. While Blackmon and Green aren't the same players, I'd like to think that Heckert sees the impact Green had on a young quarterback last year, helping turn what was expected to be a terrible Bengals offense into a pretty compelling one.
All of the above goes back to what Heckert said about the media: "Everybody that says stuff, they don't know. I don’t know if they are making it up, but it's their best guess I should say."
Blackmon remains my best guess, but Heckert was secretive enough to the point where the Browns could go a lot of different directions. I am already getting anxious for the moment I hear, "with the fourth pick in the 2012 NFL Draft...," because it is going to be the culminating moment after all of these months of speculation regarding who will be in a Browns uniform in 2012.
I'll try to have a bit of a recap of some more of Heckert's news conference from Thursday on Friday morning, with more of an emphasis on the team's quarterback position and how things were handled in free agency.