As crazy as it sounds, the 2015 NFL Draft is seven short days away.
With the rumor mill operating on overdrive, uncertainty shrouds the Browns' draft plans. Will the team trade up for Marcus Mariota? Will the club avoid players with character issues?
Browns general manager Ray Farmer addressed these questions and more in his pre-draft press conference on Thursday. Farmer's main points are summarized below. Farmer made a number of interesting points, but also gave a lot of vague answers, as expected. The full transcript is available here, courtesy of the Akron Beacon Journal.
- The Browns will draft players who model the team's motto of "Play Like a Brown." Farmer brought up the regime's catchphrase in his introductory comments, describing the club's attitude towards players with off-field problems.
"The things I think are hot buttons in the league now – character’s obviously one of them, guys have existing issues, understanding what they are, understand your risk and your tolerance for risk and when you take risks. Those are all out there. I think we really focus on the idea of continuing to ‘Play Like a Brown’ and add guys to that. I think last year was interesting for us – ‘Pett’s first year, my first year, new coaching staff. I think that blend has been a lot smoother this year for how we kind of come about and get together and get everybody organized so that we can make the right decisions for our ball club and how those guys fit."
- Farmer is playing it coy on trading up or down. As expected, Farmer is not revealing much about the Browns' draft plans. Asked to elaborate on the team's plans, Farmer provided relatively vague answers.
"I think the big thing for us now is the fact that we have picks. They’re not compensatory picks. They’re just regular picks. We can move any of them. I think that’s what spurns people to call you is the flexibility that you may have in the draft because of the number of picks that you possess ... For me, it’s more about looking at not being aggressive for the sake of being aggressive or moving for the sake of moving but trying to create the opportunities that you can create value and you can capitalize on that value."
- The next week will be review for Farmer and the Browns. Farmer made an apt analogy about the week prior to the draft, comparing this upcoming week to batting practice.
Now, it’s almost nauseam at the moment of, ‘Let’s go over again…What are we going to do here? What if this happens? What if that happens?’ You play the what-if scenario it seems like 10 million times, and it seems like we’ve played it so many times that you feel like you know kind of where things are going to go. I hate to say this. It’s almost like going to the batting cage and you feel like you kind of get in a rhythm and you know where it’s at. Then, there’s this curveball. It’s the one ball that dies on you. You swing and miss like you haven’t been in there all day. That’s what the draft’s become in my mind. There’s always going to be that one selection, that one move that nobody truly anticipated, and that’s what you’ve got to be able to adjust to."
- According to Farmer, rumors and media coverage do affect draft stock. When asked about what it might take to acquire Mariota, Farmer went on to say:
"The reality is that – this is interesting – a lot of the scuttlebutt that you hear and the conjecture and the noise that’s out there, it changes the complexion of trying to get a deal done. If everybody thinks that you want something, your price just went up. If you’re the guy that’s dying in the desert for thirst and you need a cup of water, your cup of water costs $10,000. Meanwhile, we just gave one to Mary Kay [Cabot] for $1.50. It’s different. I think that’s where it’s interesting is that you hear it, you see it, but then there’s no reality until somebody truly makes an offer or makes a push to get something done."
- Farmer spoke at length about why he likes Mariota. Farmer especially likes the fact that Mariota won a lot at Oregon.
"I think the thing that distinguishes him is that the guy’s been successful. You look at the differences of what guys do and accomplish and how they play, and a lot of it comes down to ‘What was your performance? What did your performance yield?’ It’s easy to see why. Whether it’s Marcus, whether it’s another player, they get the benefit of the doubt because their teams have had success with them at the helm. That’s where it starts. There are a lot more, I’d say, nuances and intricacies that we can talk about – as far as how he delivers the ball, what his footwork’s like? What is his accuracy like? What’s his decision-making like? Can he make a progression read? Can he take a three, five, seven-step drop with a hitch, make a throw in rhythm? All of those things come into play and they’re technical and they get past all of the generalities I think people look at. It really comes down to how well did the guy play his position in college and how well do you think your staff and your coaching staff can utilize his skill set to help you win?"
- The Browns have not received any concrete trade offers to move up or down. As Farmer said, most deals will occur closer on draft day.
I can tell you right now – nobody’s saying anything that’s substantial at the moment. They’re just not – all the reports, all of the conjecture, all of the ‘this is happening’ and ‘that’s happening.’ It’s a pretty fluid process. People say when you make calls and you talk to other teams – ‘Hey, we’re willing to go up. We’re willing to go down.’ That does me no good.
- Speaking of trades, Farmer didn't reject the idea of trading the team's #12 and #19 picks for Mariota. Asked about this scenario directly, Farmer said:
"Sure. Why not? [With a smile and laughter]."
- Farmer didn't seem concerned about the team's depth at wide receiver. Farmer said that the additions of Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline doesn't impact the team's strategy "one iota." Asked about how he feels about the wide receiver position, Farmer said:
"Very good. They fit who we want to be and what we’re going to do."
- If presented with the right opportunity to take a wideout, Farmer will pull the trigger. Last year, Farmer seemed to take a hard-line stance against drafting a wide receiver in the first round. He doesn't have that mentality this time around.
I always think think that you have the opportunities where you get them. If there's a receiver that provides the best value and the best player, them we'll probably take that guy. If there's not and there's a guy that we think who can influence our team or help out our team in a different way, a better way, we'll take that guy. Somehow I'm 'anti-wide receiver.' That's not the case at all. I do think that we have guys who can contribute and can play. To that effect, I think our guys played pretty well last year, and I think they'll do the same this year and probably can do a little better.
- Farmer refuses to admit error in regards to the first round of last year's draft, but said the team has been proactive this year to sniff out potential problems. As Farmer stated, the Browns have done their due diligence in researching off-the-field issues with draft prospects.
"We’ve taken extra steps in trying to challenge kind of what others could dig up and what they could figure out and what they would know and what they could kind of utilize to garnish a better idea of who a player is. The reality is I think we do a really, really good job of unearthing the information that’s out there. End of the day, you’ve got to believe kind of what people tell you about kids. No team gets the luxury of living in whatever city for four years and understanding who that young man is. You’re at the mercy of what people tell you. The information that we got was consistent around the league, as far as what I’ve been told. I’ve talked to probably half a dozen teams, more here recently, just to make sure that you kind of quality controlled that. At the end of the day, the character background stuff is what it is. You’ve just got to determine, if you assume that risk, how much risk you’re willing to take."
- Previous rumors regarding the Browns and the Eagles involving Manziel are "not true." Farmer also responded to the rumor that Sam Bradford refused the idea of signing a long-term contract with the Browns:
"You’d have to ask Sam. I have had no connection with Sam. I haven’t spoken to him. I do not know the answer to that question."
- Speaking of Manziel, Farmer echoed Pettine's comments about Manziel.
"Right exactly where we were before: we support the young man, that he took steps that he needed to take and at the end of the day, we realize that he’s a part of our organization and we’re moving forward. He said it best. He’s going to do his best to show and not talk about it. I’m probably in that camp, as well. Let’s just see what happens."
- Asked if the team's future quarterback is on the roster, Farmer responded with a non-answer. Not surprisingly, Farmer is not committing to anyone at quarterback.
"He very well may be. He might not be. It depends upon what you have an opportunity to acquire and then if that guy comes in and plays better than the guys that are currently here. It’s an opportunity-driven league. In some respects, nobody would assume that Tony Romo would become Tony Romo, but somehow he’s Tony Romo. It’s just the nature of the beast. There was time when Aaron Rodgers was sitting behind Brett Favre and people were like, ‘Well, he’s never played so he can’t be very good because they would do something.’ Then three years into it, they roll him out and now he’s Aaron Rodgers. At the end of the day, I think that patience and a plan and the consistency to drive that competition is kind of where it lies to me."
- Farmer isn't against using a first round pick on a running back. Most Browns fans are likely weary of selecting a back in the first round following the Trent Richardson saga, but Farmer is open to the idea.
"Sure, why not [laughter]. I should probably stop using Pett’s words. Right player, right price, sure. There’s always guys... Again, it’s interesting how people get into these swells of ‘running backs shouldn’t go in the first round.’ I don’t see why. If you get a guy and that’s kind of who you are and what you want to be, why wouldn’t you? I guess that’s probably where I’m at. Some people say, ‘The guy has got to be Adrian Peterson to be taken in the first round’ just to throw a name out there. I don’t know if anybody could ever say they knew it was going to be what it was going to be because otherwise, somebody would have drafted him as the first overall player and not where he went."
- Tashaun Gipson's absence at voluntary workouts isn't concerning to Farmer. The team's general manager empathizes with Gipson.
"All voluntary. Tashaun is at home and has his rights to be at home. I would say I hope he is doing what he is doing to prepare himself for the next season. Again, the NFL has decided that these guys deserve downtime, and as a former player, I used to love downtime. It’s a positive in that respect."
- The Browns have not named the person who will serve as the interim general manager during Farmer's suspension for "text-gate."
"That decision hasn’t been finalized yet. Jimmy [Haslam], myself and Pett will have some conversations about what happens, but at the end of the day, there’s not one decision that I make in this building that is made in a vacuum where I just walk out of my office and deem that this is what’s going to happen. To that degree, when I’m not around for that time, I would assume and I believe that they are going to continue to operate in a way that we’re collaborative and we work together and we make decisions that benefit the club and it’s not just my decision that rests autonomously over everyone else’s."