It’s an annual ritual: NFL teams provide a pre-draft preview without tipping their hand on what they are going to do.
GM Tom Heckert spent about 40 minutes talking with the local media about next week’s NFL Draft and covered a variety of topics, keeping all of the team’s options open as they ready to make the first pick with the sixth overall choice.
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Heckert was asked about many of the top prospects considered to be in the running for the Browns pick. Heckert maintained the Browns could go either offense or defense.
“It’s probably a positive for us that we can go in a lot of directions,” Heckert said. “We have holes all over the place. We’re going to try and stick with our philosophy of taking the best available player.”
The Browns used their first two picks in 2010 on the defensive side, but could end up going that way again.
Heckert wouldn’t tip his hand whether he could go offensively or defensively if they have players rated the same.
“It really will depend on who is there for us,” he said. “If we have the same grade, we need help on both sides of the ball. The best thing about it is we need help on both sides.”
Heckert was asked what the Browns biggest need is.
“I think we have a few of them,” he said. “I don’t know what the biggest need is. I think we’re in a situation that we can fill a need by drafting the best player.”
What about trading up?
“It’s probably unlikely, but we have talked to teams about moving up.”
What about trading down?
”I think it’s more of a risk vs. reward for what we can get for that pick,” he said. “It depends on what you’re getting back. If you get three players, it might be worth doing.”
And is Heckert concerned that a team will take someone they really want ahead of them?
“No, if we end up staying where we are at we’re going to get a good football player,” he said. “We have six guys we’d be happy with if we stay there.”
The general consensus is the Browns need to take a wide receiver or a defensive lineman in the first round.
Heckert defended his receivers.
“Internally, we feel better about some positions than the fans or media might, but we’re not looking at it as we have to get a certain position,” he said. “We like those guys. Robo (Brian Robiskie) and Mohamed (Massaquoi) are good players.
“Last year, they didn’t get a ton of opportunities, but I think the West Coast offense will get them a better opportunity. They’re both big and catch the football. Everybody wants the top players and we heard it every day in Philadelphia that our receivers weren’t good enough and we went to five NFC Championships. We do like our receivers.”
The Browns have been linked to A.J. Green or Julio Jones as their choice at six by many draft experts. Heckert, obviously, wouldn’t say who the Browns had ranked higher.
“It’s up to each individual club,” he said. “They are both good receivers. Some teams might like some things better than the other guy. At that position, it’s kind of hard. But they are very similar players. Either one is fine.”
The Browns are very thin on the defensive line and many experts feel they desperately need a pass rusher.
“I don’t know if it’s a sore spot, but we know we have to get to the quarterback,” Heckert said. “We knew last year we needed to get pass rushers.”
Concerning the defensive line, Heckert was asked about most of the candidates that are considered to be available to the Browns, other than Marcel Dareus, who is expected to be taken with the second pick.
On Robert Quinn, he said his missing last season doesn’t cause the Browns to shy away from him.
“I don’t think it’s a risk, but you would’ve like to see him play last year,” Heckert said. “We look at two years of tape anyway.”
Heckert said the Browns have checked out DaQuan Bowers’ knee and the doctors have signed off on him.
“Our doctors have looked at him 100 times and are satisfied that he is healthy.”
Nick Fairley was listed early as the top defensive lineman, but might be available to the Browns.
“He’s a one year wonder from a sacks standpoint, but not as a defensive lineman,” Heckert said.
Why does it seem that everyone is ranking Quinn higher than Fairley?
“I wouldn’t say everyone’s perception is (Quinn) over (Fairley),” he said. “There are a zillion things. You watch the tape and make your decision.”
And then there’s cornerback Patrick Peterson, who many think is the best player in the draft. Would the Browns consider taking another cornerback with their first pick?
“He’s a very rare football player,” Heckert said. “He has the size and speed. Patrick is a very good football player.”
Heckert said you can never have enough cornerbacks.
“If you don’t have three (corners), they’ll find you,” he said. “The more cover guys you have the better you are. You can’t have enough of them, just like pass rushers or offensive lineman.”
And then there’s always the quarterback issue.
Heckert didn’t rule out taking a quarterback in the first round.
“I wouldn’t assume that,” he said. “I wouldn’t say there is no chance. But we like Colt McCoy. In Philadelphia, we had Donavan McNabb and don’t know what the perception was but thought Kevin Kolb was a very good football player when we drafted him.
“If we thought there was a legitimate Hall of Fame quarterback, we’d consider it.”
Heckert was asked if either Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert were available at the Browns six, if it would help the Browns cause in terms of trade possibilities.
“We don’t really do mock drafts, but I have no idea.”
Other topics covered:
Does injury history matter on how high the pick is?:
Heckert: it depends on the injury and what the doctors say.
How is Montario Hardesty doing?:
Heckert: The doctors have talked to him and he’s good and we expect he’ll be back and will help us. Peyton (Hillis) helped us a lot, but he could use some help.
What about Von Miller?:
Heckert: He can rush the passer, where he plays, I don’t think that’s an issue. Whoever has him, will find ways to rush the quarterback.
Do you feel adequate on the right side of the line?:
Heckert: We like Tony (Pashos) and indications he’ll be back (from injury). We’re comfortable with him and Shawn (Lauvao) on the right side.
What is the top weight of defensive ends you project in the 4-3?:
Heckert: 250 pounds top at end.
Do you feel there is a pressing need on the defensive line?:
Heckert: We have the guys who are on our team that we think they are serviceable guys. We’ll find players.
How do you evaluate character?:
Heckert: You have to talk about each individual thing, but if you say you’re not going to take anyone that has any (situations), you’re not going to draft many players. They’re young kids and you have to talk about it on a case by case basis.
Currently, the Browns have eight picks with one in each round and with two in the sixth-round (168th and 170th) and one in the seventh round as a compensatory choice (248th). They pick sixth overall, 37th, 70th, 102nd and 137th.