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Notes From Sashi Brown's Pre-Draft Press Conference for Cleveland

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Browns.com

The Cleveland Browns were supposed to hold their annual pre-draft press conference with Sashi Brown and Andrew Berry on Friday at 12:30 PM ET. Because of the trade that happened on Wednesday and the conclusion of voluntary veteran minicamp, the organization decided to move it up to Thursday morning, featuring Brown only. Here is a transcript of the press conference (provided by Browns.com), which I have organized by topic:

When the Trade Talks Started & Really Liking the 8th Spot

On how much the trade was precipitated by the Rams-Titans trade for the No. 1 overall pick or if the Browns-Eagles trade was in the works before it:

"Not much. We did receive calls earlier than when the Rams and the Titans finalized their deal. [Trading the No. 2 pick] was something at least was on other teams’ minds and ours pretty early on. We worked a pretty extensive process to understand the players that will be available at No. 2 and other positions that we could have potentially moved back to."

On making the trade now and if it could have been more lucrative closer to the draft:

"A couple things: I think we really liked the eighth slot. It is one thing that I will tell you was a particularly valuable piece of the deal for us. We think there are still going to be really talented players at that spot. There is a lot of depth throughout the first round this year so we like that aspect of being able to have Philly as a trade partner. We had very extensive conversations with (Eagles executive vice president of football operations) Howie (Roseman) and his team over the last few weeks and felt the deal was very fair to both sides."

On if the Browns considered or made an effort to trade up for the No. 1 pick:

"No, there was not."

On if the Browns considered waiting until closer to the draft to trade the pick and why the Browns executed the trade now:

"We had very extensive conversations with Philadelphia. It allows both organizations to plan, and they were very aggressive and fair. We were, as well. The third thing I would say is we really like the eighth spot. We understand someone else may come up and make a little bit crazier offer to Philadelphia if they are really in love with one of the players that are high. It is more than the quarterbacks, by the way, at the top of this draft. With the ends that are there, some of the secondary players and the linebackers, as well, it is a strong class at the top of the draft, some generational players there that you could see some teams coming up for. We were tempted to stay on the clock, but we felt like the offer to move back just six spots for the picks that we were able to acquire was the better bet."

On how much he factored into the trade the uncertainty that the Browns will be this high in the draft order in future years to select a quarterback:

"Not an easy decision. I think the better decision for us, but we did factor that in a lot, Mary Kay. Just in terms of, ‘When are we going to be this high again and be able to select a quarterback?’ We certainly factored that into the decision."

Could the Browns Move Out of the 8th Spot Too?

On if the Browns have ruled out the possibility to trade from the No. 8 pick:

"No, not at all."

On why the Browns would move down from the No. 8 pick if the team likes the position so much:

"It is the same calculus in terms of what someone is willing to offer and the players that could be available to us at that spot."

On the chances the Browns would move up from the No. 8 pick:

"Move back up? Possible, not likely."

On the possibility of continuing to trade down and where the Browns have to stop and draft a player:

"At some point, I think the odds turn against you in terms of the likelihood of players making your roster. You have realities in terms of the number of players that you can bring in and develop at a certain time. We feel really good about where we’re positioned. It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t trade back up or down, but we do feel good about the number of slots that we do have. Even after the draft, we’ll be filling the roster with 10-plus undrafted college free agents, as well. I would say we’re well aware of the quantity versus quality discussion there."

What the Trade Conveys About Their Vision

On what the Browns’ trade says about what the team is trying to do right now:

"We are committed to our plan and articulated strategy is the main thing, which is to find a nucleus of young players. We do believe in building through the draft so whenever we have an opportunity to have very valuable draft capital, not only a lot but very valuable draft capital in an extra one and an extra two in the next three years, so for the next three years we are going to have at a minimum of three picks over the first two rounds. We like that positioning. As I said, we have a plan. We are going to stick to it. We are confident it will produce results."

On ideally how many starters the Browns could select in this draft with the team’s current picks:

"We wouldn’t look at it that way. Fair question. I do think what we want to do is find some players at positions that can impact our team. We are not necessarily going to reach for positions. We do understand that we are in a position now to have 12 new faces on our roster this year, which is almost like two draft classes, a number of those high draft picks. Our hope would be those guys coming in start right away, but we know we have an increasingly young roster here and some guys that are going to be fighting to keep their positions. We want to bring competition with young, passionate, tough football players that will start to change the culture here. We are excited about the opportunity to do that. We would hope all of our guys we bring in come in and start. Certainly, we hope to have three or four guys come in and be starting for us in September, but if that doesn’t happen, we are not panicked at all."

The Role of Analytics in the Trade & A Strong Draft Class

On if he can identify how analytics affected the Browns’ decision to trade with the Eagles and how it was not just a football decision:

"Probably not, unfortunately. Sadly, no. No, this was mostly a football decision. From a scouting, coaching perspective, we sat down and talked about positioning our roster for winning. Every decision, as we’ve said, is going to be based on winning. Analytics, information is really what it comes down to, is a piece of all of our decisions. We are going to make informed decisions here, but there was no driving force for this deal that came from analytics functions."

On having eight picks in rounds three through five and on the talent pool in that part of the draft:

"I’m not a big believer in, ‘this is a week draft or a strong draft.’ I think that plays out two or three years down the road. I know there’s always talk about that, but we feel very good about players we’re able to get every year, frankly, in all the rounds. Here, we like having more picks, certainly. I feel like we’ll be able to get some very good players, even outside the first and second round."

On how strong the top of the draft is relative to past drafts:

"I think it’s always hard to, in the current year, project how strong the draft class is. I’m not a big believer in that. Certainly, in retrospect you look back and you realize there was some weakness in certain parts of the drafts or certain drafts as a whole. Generally, at the top of the draft this year – and this a little bit of what I was speaking to in terms of pick No. 8 – the thought is that there’s a lot of talent particularly high but also some depth throughout the first several rounds. I think a generally strong draft class. People go position by position, but we’re less focused on that, more focused on the players we’ll acquiring and we feel confident about where we’re positioned."

On if his responsibilities have been more or less of what he expected:

"In terms of expectations, I would say probably about what I expected. I’m really happy with the team we assembled – (vice president of player personnel) Andrew Berry, (vice president of player personnel) Ken Kovash, (chief strategy officer) Paul DePodesta, (director of football administration) Chris Cooper, (director of research and strategy) Kevin Meers, (Head Coach) Hue (Jackson) and his coaching staff. We have a very young, talented, smart and collaborative group that the main thing is to make sure that we empower them and listen and keep the egos out of the decisions and make sure that we’re focused on our plan and our goals. As long as we stay there, and we have done that so far, I feel really good about where we’re heading."

Thoughts on the Top QB Prospects, Goff & Wentz

On if the trade indicates the Browns do not believe prospects Jared Goff and Carson Wentz will not become franchise QBs:

"No, good question. I think that certainly could be the implication. That is not necessarily what the driver of the decision was. We think that Wentz and Goff, at this point, are pretty consensus No. 1 and 2 in terms of the quarterbacks. There are some other talented quarterbacks in the draft, as well, but this shouldn’t be interpreted as an indictment at all on their potential to be good starting quarterbacks in this league. As always, there are risks when you are drafting any quarterback, even if you are drafting a quarterback in the first or second slot in the first round, that they pan out or don’t. We understand that risk in moving back that we may have passed on a quarterback that is going to go on to certainly have a great career in this league, but we felt like for the other additional picks that we were able to acquire that we were in a much better position to build our roster moving forward."

On reports that the Browns wanted Goff or no QB at No. 2:

"No, that is not accurate either."

On Wentz:

"We think Wentz is a talented young quarterback that has a shot to be very good in this league – tremendous leadership, very bright."

On if the Browns rated Goff or Wentz higher:

"I won’t get into that (laughter)."

On the Browns’ conversations about trading back, considering one of the top QB prospects could ultimately become a franchise player:

"We had a great process and good discussion with everyone – talking about the pros and cons of each, talking thoroughly about each player, what they bring to the table and what their strengths and limitations are, chances for success, how they fit in our system with our personnel, our strategy group Paul (DePodesta) and coaching, as well – and then were able to present that to Jimmy (Haslam). That is how we really make every decision here. We really make sure that we have robust discussion and think all the way through these decisions. It doesn’t mean we are going to get them all right by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly, we feel like we had the right discussions and pushed holes. Even if there is consensus on something, we will slow ourselves down and ask, ‘OK, what could go wrong here? What are we missing?’ I think Jimmy is really good about challenging us to make sure we are thinking very thoughtfully through each decision we make, and we feel no different about this one. We had weeks of discussions about this."

What the Browns Do at QB Now, and RGIII's Effect

On the Browns prioritizing the acquisition of more picks over selecting a QB with the No. 2 pick, despite the team’s struggles at QB:

"I wouldn’t call it so much a priority. We came into the offseason with four or five goals. A couple of them we have already accomplished. One is finding a great head coach in Hue (Jackson) that can help start to transform our culture. We have done some things within the building. We are off to a great start. There is a positive energy with the guys back early buying into Hue’s program and our program here. We are excited about that. The other two things that we really wanted to be able to accomplish were to address the quarterback position – we haven’t solved that in any stretch by acquiring (QB Robert) Griffin (III), but that is certainly one of the things we were able to accomplish this offseason – and with this trade we have positioned ourselves, I think, to have a really strong nucleus of young talent come onto the roster over the next year or two or three. We are excited about that. It was less about prioritizing as much as it was the opportunities that presented themselves by this particular trade and this haul of picks."

On passing on the opportunity to select at QB at No. 2 and Jackson’s involvement on those QBs and ones on the Browns roster:

"We have got four quarterbacks here competing to be our starting quarterback in (QBs) Connor (Shaw), Austin (Davis), Josh (McCown) and Robert (Griffin), but we absolutely worked hand in hand with (associate head coach-offense) Pep (Hamilton) and Hue, (vice president of player personnel) Andrew (Berry), (chief strategy officer) Paul (DePodesta), myself and others here in the building. We had some discussions with (owner) Jimmy (Haslam), as well, to bring him up to speed in terms of where we were. We kind of put all of the information on the table and got through some healthy discussions. Not an easy decision, obviously, to move out of No. 2 with some talented quarterbacks potentially being at that spot for us to take, but we felt like this was a better bet. There was consensus and agreement in that decision."

On if signing Griffin enabled the Browns to focus less on selecting a QB at No. 2 and move back in the draft:

"Robert isn’t even our starting quarterback yet. He has to earn that spot. I would say no there. Is he another piece of our roster? Absolutely. In terms of bringing Robert to Cleveland, we are excited about the potential for him to earn that starting job. On its merits of No. 2 versus what we were able to acquire, this was the right choice for building our roster and where we sit now."

On where the Browns can find a franchise QB after not selecting on at No. 2, if Griffin does not become it:

"The first thing, not to be argumentative, is even if you take one at No. 1 or 2, it is not like you have solved it. We have taken first-round quarterbacks previously. Those haven’t panned out, some very high here in Cleveland. Nonetheless, we know that quarterbacks come from different spots in the draft, but as (Plain Dealer columnist) Terry (Pluto) sitting behind you has articulated vehemently over the last month or so, there are no guarantees, even if you take a guy at No. 1 or 2. We felt like with where our roster was the better decision was to acquire the first [round pick] next year, the second in ‘18 and two additional picks here and still be picking at No. 8. We like where we are sitting."

On where the Browns are at in regards to the quarterback position if Griffin doesn’t win the starting job:

"We have Connor and Austin and Josh here competing along with Robert, and that’s what we want to provide, Tony, which is competition at that position. We won’t be panicked. We feel like those guys are going to compete their butts off, get into this system, and we’ll evaluate it as time bears out. We know what we’ll do when we get to September is have a starting quarterback on this roster, get behind and support the heck out of him."

Investing Other QB Prospects, Including Future Years

On how much the Browns looked at QB prospects in upcoming drafts in their decision to trade down this year, given the Eagles’ comments:

"A bit, but I think it is dangerous to try to forecast where position groups will be. Frankly, it is hard enough to do with the single year, much less trying to calculate where the sophomores and juniors are that will be up in the next couple of years. Guys do come out of nowhere. Not much, to be direct."

On if the Browns will now spend additional time with other QB prospects prior to the draft:

"No additional time. We feel like we have spent sufficient time to understand who those players are and their talents and who they are as people, as well."

On if there is potential to find a franchise QB in the ‘second tier’ of this year’s draft:

"It is always hard to project, right? But if you think of it as a ‘second tier,’ we do anticipate that there will be good quarterbacks potentially coming out of that group, but there is just not... The supply of franchise quarterbacks is very, very slim, no matter where you are picking. It is not a preference necessarily to pick a guy in a later tier. It is just an acknowledgement of the lack of supply at the position."

On Jackson saying the Browns will draft a quarterback, if that is still true and what round that will be in:

"We may, we may not. We haven’t decided that at this point, Scott."

Thoughts on Wide Receivers

On the Browns’ philosophy on drafting WRs:

"I don’t know if we have an isolated philosophy on that, but we would like to have talented wide receivers on our roster, and we feel like the draft is a good place to get them. I know that is probably not the answer you were looking for, but we are not afraid to go get a wide receiver."

On how important it is to have a dynamic WR:

"Important. It can have a huge impact on the game in terms of contributing to both the passing and the run game when you have a threat down the field, a threat in the red zone when the field gets short on you. Those are important pieces to have. We are going to look to see what the draft provides. There were a couple of guys that we talked to in free agency, as well, that we didn’t acquire, but it is a position that we know we would like to have some very young, talented people at and we will look at that."

Considering Past Failures & Not Signing Free Agents

On the past regimes trading back and not selecting quality players and if there is a concern that the Browns are sacrificing quality for quantity by trading back again this year:

"No, directly. We are confident in our preparation in terms of evaluating players. There’s always a risk whether we we’re going to…Somebody wrote this the other day, ‘If we’re going to mess it up at No. 8 we’re going to mess it up at No. 2 also.’ Not to be funny about it. We feel really good about the fact that we have what could have been a bet on one player now becomes a bet on four understanding that the player that you get at No. 8 may not be the same choice that you had at No. 2, maybe for us in our case actually. We feel really good about our opportunity to move forward and select players, and that’s without comparison or disparagement on the past groups."

On if failing to keep some of the Browns’ free agents solidified the strategy to trade back and gather more draft picks:

"No, and when I say in terms of what we want to build in terms of the roster, it’s less a reflection on the talent on the roster. It’s really just our vision is to bring in as much competition and talent as we can and let the chips fall where they may. Then, Hue and the guys will have them out there ready to go come August and September. It’s less looking at what we have on the roster now, but really our vision for what we want. We want every spot to be competed for in terms of who’s going to be our starter there, and we like the volume of picks and the quality of picks here. As far as guys that aren’t here, we’re not focused on them. We’re focused on the 66, 67 – I can’t keep track day-to-day, it seems to bounce around – 66, 67 guys that are on our roster and the 90 that’ll be on our roster post-draft."

Best Player Available vs. Need

On where he falls in regards to the philosophies of drafting best player available or for need:

"One thing we like about having a lot of picks is you don’t feel the inherit pressure that if you feel like at a position you’re a little void of talent that you have to reach for a player. This is good as a check against our own biases – the volume of picks that we have – but we do want to find the best player that we can at each position. Over time, we think if we’re consistent with that – obviously free agency is another place that you can address positions specifically – but we don’t want to get to a point where we’re taking a lesser talent just because we need to address a position."