The Browns drafted six players during the recent NFL Draft.
However, none of them were wide receivers.
As the draft approached, most draft analysts assumed the Browns would use one of their top draft choices to strengthen their receiving corps. Adding more weapons for Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel or whoever ends up being the quarterback could use multiple weapons to give the Browns a more dynamic offense given they’ve been one of the worst offenses in the NFL the past several seasons.
For that reason and the fact that Josh Gordon was just one misstep from a one-year suspension from the NFL were reasons Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans were talked about as targets with the fourth pick.
Farmer was asked at the pre-draft press conference about how big it would be to pair Watkins with Gordon and he raved more about Watkins than any other prospect.
"Big. Big. Really big. Ginormous (laughter)," Farmer said. "No, he’s a good football player. He’s explosive and has got really good hands. He’s demonstrated he can run all the routes. He can be productive. Saddle him on the opposite side of Josh Gordon, and wow."
Most of the local media translated that to be a smokescreen the Browns weren’t going to draft Watkins and that turned out to be true as he was on the board when the Browns turn arrived.
Farmer already knew that Gordon likely wouldn’t be available this year.
However, the Browns couldn’t pass up the offer of a first-round draft pick from the Bills to move down five spots, but that didn’t mean the Browns couldn’t use some of their assets to move up and get one of the top-rated receivers that were available. Ironically, the Bills also recouped their fourth-round pick, which they ended up getting for wide receiver Stevie Johnson from the 49ers. The Browns could’ve added Johnson, who is likely a better option than most current players that will be available to them.
Farmer re-iterated this is not the time to push the panic button, in terms of receivers, despite the possibility of losing Gordon. Also, it was reported that the other projected starter, Nate Burleson, will be out until training camp with a fracture of his arm.
Minus Gordon and Burleson, currently, the Browns roster of receivers has Andrew Hawkins, Greg Little, Travis Benjamin, Charles Johnson, Conner Vernon, Josh Cooper and Tori Gurley. In addition, the Browns have signed four undrafted rookie free agent wide receivers. Benjamin and Johnson are coming off ACL surgery.
Farmer said the Browns are not in as dire straights at receiver as it appears.
"I would tell the fans that are in panic mode because we didn’t draft a wide receiver that patience really tells the tale," Farmer said. "Like I said, there’s plenty of opportunity for us to address what everyone would believe is a need, but in our opinion, again, there’s plenty of opportunity to add players, to change the roster and really make a difference.
"I’d like to ask everybody here one question, as well," he said. "How many of the receivers that were with the Seattle Seahawks during their entire season last year and through the beginning of the playoffs were drafted players?"
We were proponents of the Browns taking Watkins with the fourth pick, but think the pick of Justin Gilbert could have the most impact of the team immediately this season. We would like to point out that we were correct in laying out a scenario that played out in our final Mock Draft on May 8 on FoxSportsOhio.com:
"Trade down several spots and select one of the top-rated cornerbacks such as Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard or take WR Mike Evans. It was no secret the Browns tried to trade for CB Darrelle Revis and tried to sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in free agency."
Farmer laid out his game plan for the receiver position.
"I think I’ve tried to articulate my game plan, it’s that there are plenty of opportunities," he said. "There will be college free agents. There will be other receivers to move off of rosters depending on whom they selected. There will be opportunities to make trades based upon how teams look at their rosters once they’ve had a chance to evaluate the young men that they’ve drafted or picked up as college free agents.
"All of those strategies and all of those opportunities, there will be moments that we can add more talent to our roster," he said. "When those opportunities present themselves, we hope to strike."
Farmer was asked if he feels there’s a need on the current roster at receiver.
"I think you always look to improve," he said. "I understand the word ‘need,’ everyone feels that there is this need, I would definitely go back to the comment or question I asked before about Seattle. It’s that you find players when you give players the opportunity to contribute. There are names that people don’t recognize yet. There are names that people don’t know."
Farmer intimated that he thinks some of the players on the roster will break through, if given the chance.
"There are players that people don’t recognize as being good players until they’re given the opportunity," he said. "When they’re given those opportunities, they demonstrate they can execute at the level we need them to and some become household names, some become general contributors to a roster. Victor Cruz came out and I don’t know how many people would have said Victor Cruz is Victor Cruz until he demonstrated he was Victor Cruz. From our perspective, we’re going to continue to give guys an opportunity to contribute and demonstrate what they can do."
Whether it be Gurley, Johnson, Vernon or Cooper among those with little experience or undrafted free agent receivers Chandler Jones, Jonathan Krause, Kenny Shaw or Willie Snead, that become the next Victor Cruz, if any, only time will tell.