Browns GM offers few clues on draft plans

Wild rumors are flying around about Cleveland’s plans in next

week’s NFL draft.

A hot one is they’re trading down. One day, they’re using the

No. 4 pick on Texas A &M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The next,

they’re taking Alabama running back Trent Richardson or Oklahoma

State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. LSU cornerback Morris

Claiborne is ranked highest on their board. They’re in love with

28-year-old quarterback Brandon Weeden. Southern Cal tackle Matt

Kalil is their guy.

It goes on and on.

Only man knows the truth.

But Browns general manager Tom Heckert is keeping it a

secret.

”There’s a lot of mis-stories out there that I like right now

and I want to keep a lot of them where they’re at,” he said. ”I’m

feeling pretty good about it.”

As he prepares for a critical draft that could finally push

Cleveland’s franchise out of its depressed state, Heckert dodged

specific questions Thursday during a 45-minute news conference

where he talked a lot but offered little.

Heckert was tactful with his responses, careful not to divulge

any information. He doesn’t want to tip his hand, which is stacked

with 13 picks, including the Nos. 4, 22 and 37 selections.

Heckert acknowledged that the Browns would like to keep the No.

4 pick and that the team has narrowed that choice down to two

unidentified players. He added there’s agreement between himself,

president Mike Holmgren and coach Pat Shurmur over the pick.

”We’re all on the same page,” he said. ”We know we’re getting

a really good player no matter what happens at No. 3. We know we’re

getting one of two guys, we just don’t know who is going to go at

three (to Minnesota). We’re extremely happy and excited with

whoever is going to be there at four.”

Richardson and Blackmon are both expected to be available when

commissioner Roger Goodell puts the Browns on the clock Thursday

night.

Both would make an immediate impact on a Cleveland offense

desperate for playmakers. The Browns scored just 218 points last

season and Heckert needs someone to get the ball in the end

zone.

”Everybody knows, it’s not a secret,” Heckert said. ”We need

guys that can score points.”

Although the trend in recent years has been for teams to draft

running backs later in the draft, Heckert said he wouldn’t hesitate

to take one at No. 4. Richardson, who rushed for 1,679 yards and 21

touchdowns last year, is the highest rated back in this year’s

class and would fill a major need after the Browns decided not to

re-sign Peyton Hillis as a free agent.

Hillis’ off-field drama and injuries to running backs Montario

Hardesty and Brandon Jackson curtailed Cleveland’s ground game last

season. The 5-foot-9, 228-pound Richardson showed in college he

could run inside and outside and Heckert said there’s more comfort

with a player coming out Alabama, which uses a pro-style

system.

”You get to see him catch the ball and in pass protection,”

Heckert said. ”Some guys you never get to see catch the ball.

There are some guys in this draft, at least our top three running

backs, all can catch the ball and block. Sometimes you can’t

tell.”

Blackmon would be another weapon for Browns quarterback Colt

McCoy, assuming that is, he remains Cleveland’s starter.

Heckert downplayed a report that he favors Blackmon over other

possibilities at No. 4.

”Everything you’ve heard is complete nonsense,” he said.

”It’s that time of year and I understand that. Everybody is on the

same page here with who we are considering.”

As for McCoy, Heckert still believes the third-year QB can be a

solid starter. The Browns tried to move up in the draft to select

Baylor’s Robert Griffin III but were outbid by Washington. The fact

that they pursued a young quarterback showed there’s still doubt

about McCoy, who was inconsistent in 13 starts last season before

he was sidelined by a concussion.

Heckert said the Browns’ quarterback situation hasn’t ”changed

much” and that he wouldn’t rule out taking a one in the draft.

`We like Colt,” he said. ”Left tackle’s probably not where

we’d go, but most other positions, if we find somebody we think it

a really good player and is better than that guy, we’re gonna do

it. But that’s all positions. It’s not Colt. We like colt. We think

Colt can play. I know everybody talked about the Washington deal,

but it’s not like you’re saying Colt’s a bad quarterback by doing

that..”

Heckert was asked if he’ll use one of his top three picks on a

quarterback.

”That’s a big question mark,” he said. ”I don’t know.”

Tannehill may have soared up other’s draft boards, not

Cleveland’s. Heckert said the Browns’ view of Tannehill, who made

only 19 starts for the Aggies after switching from wide receiver,

hasn’t changed.

”People talk about Ryan Tannehill flying up after his workout,

that’s just simply not true,” Heckert said. ”He had a good

workout, but to be honest with you, I haven’t seen a whole lot of

people who have bad workouts.

”He’s a good football player.”