BEREA, Ohio – The Browns had CEO Joe Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi talk about next week’s NFL Draft on Thursday.
Banner and Lombardi didn’t want to say much. And they didn’t.
This is life in the ultra-intense, ultra-important and ultra-secretive world of the draft, at least with this newest new group of Browns decision makers.
The Browns may want to trade down from the No. 6 overall pick — or they may not. Banner said the Browns have talked with other teams, but not in “specific conversations.” He said it’s “highly likely but not absolute” that any trade would come with the Browns actually on the clock next Thursday night.
That’s the drama the draft brings. The pre-draft press conference brought none.
Lombardi, making his first public appearance since being named general manager, offered very little in the way of insight besides sharing that he believes this draft is deep in edge rushers. For a portion of the press conference he had his elbow on the podium and his hand on his cheek like he’d rather be anywhere else.
Asked how he’d evaluated incumbent quarterback Brandon Weeden during the Browns three-day minicamp this week, Lombardi said he’d been busy studying the draft. So, maybe he just wanted to get back to the film. Or maybe he could have answered 100 more questions without actually answering any of them.
“Every draft is different,” was one Lombardi answer.
“It’s all situational,” he said of a potential trade. “It comes down to the situation.”
The situation for the Browns is they need a lot of players at a lot of positions as they switch coaches, switch to a 3-4 defense and try to climb out of the basement of the AFC North division. Two reasons the Browns have popped up as a strong candidate to trade out of the No. 6 pick are that they don’t figure to prioritize offensive line in a draft that has a bunch of offensive linemen likely to go in the first round, and that they don’t currently have a second-round pick after selecting Josh Gordon in last year’s supplemental draft.
Banner said the Browns have given “18 to 20” players a first-round grade. He said the key men in the draft room will be himself, Lombardi, head coach Rob Chudzinski, assistant general manager Ray Farmer and owner Jimmy Haslam, though Banner said Haslam hasn’t been studying draft prospects from a football perspective.
It’s this group’s first draft working together, and that group includes scouts and personnel people left over from prior administrations. Lombardi and Banner have weighed those scouts opinions, formed their own and have built a draft board and a priority list that may or may not be subject to change between now and next week.
We don’t know.
Asked what it’s been like to be back in a draft room, back overseeing scouts and back working towards conducting a draft, not just analyzing one, Lombardi said he’s enjoyed being back in the draft room and being privvy to information that the general public and the most plugged-in draft analysts don’t know.
Then he said, “it’s been good.”
He didn’t say much else.
It’s been good. For the Browns to inch back towards NFL relevance, the finished product needs to be good next weekend. Then and only then we’ll have some answers.