Recap: Michael Lombardi and Joe Banner's Pre-Draft Presser

GEORGE: "I think I can sum up the show for you with one word: NOTHING."
RUSSELL: "Nothing?"
GEORGE: (Smiling) "Nothing."
RUSSELL:
(Unimpressed) "What does that mean?"
GEORGE: "The show is about nothing."
JERRY: (To George) "Well, it's not about nothing."
GEORGE: (To Jerry) "No, it's about nothing."
JERRY: "Well, maybe in philosophy. But, even nothing is something."

If you are not a Seinfeld fan, then please forgive the reference. It does, however, describe the Cleveland Browns' first pre-draft presser under general manager Michael Lombardi and CEO Joe Banner, which took place Thursday afternoon. Granted, teams are not expected to tip their hat too much, but there weren't many "takeaways" from the press conference. Tom Heckert and other GM's are vague, too, but there is often at least a little more substance.

Case in point? The first question asked to Lombardi was is he expects more trades at the top of the draft this year due to changes in the salary cap. He responded with three sentences, each of which conveyed the exact same thing: "I think you prepare for everything and that’s what the draft is," said Lombardi. "Just being prepared, so I really couldn’t say one way or the other. I think it’s about being prepared and thorough and making sure you have everything covered."

With all of that said, using my "throwback Butch Davis gut-feeling," here are my impressions on what Lombardi and Banner discussed:

  • Comfort at QB: I think there remains a comfort level with Brandon Weeden. Joe Banner has said before that he is not in to deceiving the media -- he might not reveal information, but if he does say something, he means it. The overall tone seemed to remain that a quarterback in the draft, specifically at No. 6 overall, is not in the cards.
  • First-Round Grades: Banner stated that there are 18-20 players who they have given first-round grades to. "If you have 18-20 names on your first round board that means that you have players that would still be there all the way to the 32nd pick that you have graded as first round players," said Banner. Regarding whether they will acquire a second-round pick, my impression is that they won't make a deal just to get a second-round pick; if it happens, a predetermined mission would not be the reason.
  • Who is in the Draft Room: Most of the good answers came from Banner, like this one regarding who would be in the Browns' draft room next week:
    "In the room is the same collaborative group mentioned before. It’s myself, Mike, Ray Farmer, Rob (Chudzinski) and Jimmy (Haslam). There will be other people who will have jobs in terms of phone lines, cap, making sure we are updated on all trades, who has what picks, but those will be the five primary people."
  • Voting on Players: Although Haslam will be in the room on draft day, Banner confirmed that only four people will be voting on the players who they want to select -- himself, Lombardi, Farmer, and Chudzinski.

    Banner also discussed the possibility of a "tie" in the votes, which he mentioned back at the owners meetings but seems relevant again with the draft approaching. If the vote is two-two on a certain player and an agreement can't be reached to sway the votes, then they will move on to the next player until there are at least three votes in favor of drafting a player.

    This is where you really hope the chemistry is strong between this panel ahead of time and that they've worked out all possible scenarios. The tie situation should not come into play in the first round, but rather the later rounds, where it's more difficult to prepare for how all of the previous picks unfolded.
  • No Danger for Former Criticisms: Lombardi again addressed the fact that people like Brandon Weeden and Josh Gordon, who he once criticized on NFL Network, have nothing to worry about.
    "I've talked and seen all the players and I think that was what I did at NFL Network," said Lombardi. "Moving forward, I'm part of the Browns organization and I'm excited to work with those guys."
  • Why Visit Other QB's? The final question asked Lombardi, "if the Browns are content with Weeden, then why evaluate other quarterbacks?" He responded with, "When I worked with the Oakland Raiders, if the defensive coordinator didn't know every quarterback in the draft there might be someone who was really upset with him." When it comes to a quarterback like Geno Smith, maybe defensive coordinator Ray Horton is trying to eye his weaknesses. Who knows -- the Buffalo Bills might end up with him, and Cleveland faces them in prime time in Week 5.
  • Lastly: When asked whether he values a cornerback or a pass rusher more, Lombardi said, "Can I say both? Then the answer is both." That's all, folks.

What were your takeaways from the press conference? You can read the full transcript of it here, or watch it in its entirety here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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