BEREA, Ohio– Everyone is trying to read the tea leaves concerning the upcoming NFL Draft. Every word is scrutinized and analyzed when GMs and head coaches speak.
It’s no different with the Browns.
Browns GM Ray Farmer praised several of the players that most feel will be high on the Browns draft board for the fourth pick, including the likes of non-quarterbacks such as Khalil Mack, Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Sammy Watkins.
Farmer said in his pre-draft press conference that having Joe Thomas at left tackle wouldn’t preclude the Browns from selecting one of the top rated tackles in Robinson or Matthews with the fourth pick.
"I want to drive competition on the roster," Farmer said. "Joe Thomas is a very good football player. He’s been to numerous Pro Bowls. He’s been a successful player for a reason, but having players on this roster where Joe looks over and goes, ‘Oh boy, that’s a real guy right there,’ that’s something that’s good for our franchise and good for our football team. I think that there’s no way that I would tell you that those guys aren’t interesting players for us, as well."
If the Browns were to draft Robinson or Matthews with the fourth pick, it is speculated they would be moved to right tackle or to a guard spot.
One of the biggest questions has been how the new regime feels about current right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. There has been speculation that he wasn’t highly thought of by last year’s front office, which Farmer was a part of.
However, Mike Pettine was asked about Schwartz at mini-camp and he said the Browns were in good shape at tackle.
"Mitchell’s a guy that we were happy with what he put on tape last year," Pettine said. "We’ll potentially address it in the draft, but I don’t really see tackle right now as a position of need."
Fact or fiction?
There has been some speculation that Schwartz might be moved inside to guard.
"Through this camp, he’ll be a tackle, and then we’ll assess where we are after this camp and then post-draft, if we feel the need," Pettine said. "I always like to cross-train guys, always be in the business of having your best five [offensive linemen] out there. If a guard can learn to play center, if a left tackle can learn to play right, I think the more versatile you can be, especially with all your guys, but if you’re only going to dress seven or dress eight of those [offensive line] players that aren’t in there need to be able to play multiple spots."
Schwartz graded out among the top third of right tackles in the NFL by ProFootballFocus.com. Among right tackles who started 15 games, he was ranked as the 11th best last year.
Schwartz said he would rather continue at tackle, but is open to moving inside to guard if asked to.
"I have only played tackle here for two years and going back into college," Schwartz said. "O-line coaches always preach ‘best five on the field,’ regardless of position, so if it needs to happen, of course, I would do it. But obviously, I’m more comfortable at tackle."
Desmond Returns: DL Desmond Bryant returned to practice on Wednesday after missing the first day due to ‘personal reasons.’ Bryant missed the final four games of the 2013 regular season with an irregular heartbeat and had a cardiac ablation procedure done on his heart after he was sidelined in December.
"It’s something I want to put behind me," Bryant said. "Having heart surgery makes you really think, but I feel good where I am."
Bryant said the scariest part for him was immediately after he felt the irregular heart beat during the Bills game.
"The scariest part was right after it happened when I went to the hospital."
Bryant said he was cleared three months after the procedure.
"It was a great feeling to get cleared," he said. "I believe in the work done by my doctors and that hasn’t deterred me from what I needed to do."
Mingo’s Bigger: One of the biggest topics concerning LB Barkevious Mingo was that many observers felt he needed to get bigger. He’s listed the same on the roster that he was last year at 6-4, 240, but he was asked if he is bigger this year.
"It’s kind of like last year, I’m not going to discuss (my) weight," Mingo said with a smile to reporters.
When pressed, he said, "Let me say this, the coaches are happy with where I’m at."
Mingo thinks the weight issue is overrated.
"At the end of the day, it’s about leverage, not weight," he said. "It’s your core strength and quickness."
Browns defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil told a story that his wife baked Barkevious Mingo cupcakes the day of the draft last year in Buffalo, hoping the Bills would draft Mingo with the eighth pick, but the Browns took him at six.
Mingo is excited about what he’s seen of the defense and the opportunities for him.
"I’m definitely excited about the possibilities of this defense."
Trading Places: Keavon Milton, who formerly was a TE has been switched to the offensive line. Milton (6-4, 293) was claimed on waivers from the Saints in 2013 appeared in eight games as a reserve. He was inactive for the other eight games. Milton wore No. 83 last season and is wearing No. 63 now.
Holmgren Talks Manziel: In an upcoming cover story in Sports Illustrated about QB Johnny Manziel, former Browns president Mike Holmgren was attributed as describing Manziel as too "Too playground. Too freelancey."