Browns GM offers few clues about draft plans
BEREA, Ohio (AP) Browns general manager Ray Farmer didn’t give up a thing. He offered some clues, provided insight and lavished praise on several players.
But during a 30-minute news conference, Farmer failed to reveal any specific plans for his first NFL draft, arguably the most important selection of players for Cleveland’s flopping franchise in decades.
Farmer may be a rookie GM, but he played the guessing game like a seasoned pro.
Heading into next week’s draft with 10 picks, two in the first round and five of the top 83, Farmer has assets to improve the Browns. Along with Cleveland’s scouting department and coaches, he’s done his homework.
Farmer’s ready. More than ready.
”Let’s go,” he said. ”Can we call New York and get it done?”
The Browns won’t be on the clock until May 8, but the countdown to this year’s delayed draft has been unlike any in recent memory. With so much mystery at the top, and endless speculation and debate about the long-term prospects of high-profile players like Jadeveon Clowney and Johnny Manziel, this draft has something for everyone.
”This is bigger than a lot of sporting events,” Farmer said. ”It’s interesting because everybody is fired up about the NFL draft and rightfully so. This will be Christmas in May.”
Cleveland’s first gift will come fourth overall, a choice many feel should be devoted to a potential franchise quarterback. Farmer was careful not to single out anyone he has in mind for the pick; Houston, St. Louis and Jacksonville will pick before Cleveland.
Like he was in the pocket dodging a blitzing linebacker, Farmer smoothly danced around whether any QB is worthy of the No. 4 selection.
”That’s interesting because if I say yes, people will make the assumption that we’re going to take a quarterback at four,” he said. ”If I say no, they’re going to make the assertion that we’re going to pass on a quarterback. So, I’m going to plead the fifth (amendment).
”We have players on our board at the right positions that we do think are worthy with that pick and it just comes down to what happens in front of you. There may be somebody there that we think is worthy and he may not be available when it’s our turn to select.”
Manziel is the most polarizing player in this year’s draft. There are questions about the Texas A&M star’s size, character, durability and whether his dynamic game translates to the pro level. The Browns didn’t attend Manziel’s pro day, but worked him out recently in College Station, Texas.
Manziel visited the Browns last week.
”I don’t think I have any reservations about who Johnny is,” Farmer said. ”We had a lot of conversations and spent a lot of time with him. He’s a good young man.”
As for Manziel’s potential as a pro player, Farmer described Manziel as both ”dynamic” and ”different.”
”He’s not the quintessential everybody looks at and points to and says, `This is exactly how you draw it up and this is the packaging you want,”’ Farmer said. ”That speaks to a lot of who and what Johnny has been his entire life. It’s different. It’s not how you generally think of playing the position and being effective from the pocket, but the guy has definitely been a very good college football player.”
Farmer praised Clowney and Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, two players expected to go in the top five. He also was effusive in his approval of Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, considered the best talent in a deep class of receivers.
”Big, big, really big, ginormous,” Farmer said when asked what Watkins could bring. ”He’s a good football player. He’s explosive. He’s got really good hands. He’s demonstrated he can run all the routes. He can be productive. So saddle him on the opposite side of Josh Gordon and Wow!”
Farmer’s endorsement of Watkins may have been a sign of his interest in him or a ploy to get another team excited enough to propose a trade. Only Farmer knows the truth.
”It’s a game,” he said. ”It’s a game of figuring out who you like, where you think you can get those players, and then use the ammunition we have to put ourselves in position to take the best players.”
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