The next time we hear from Browns general manager Ray Farmer, the first round of the 2015 draft will be complete.
Here's what stood out most from what he said, and didn't say, at Thursday's pre-draft press conference.
1) Browns' pre-draft work is essentially done, but there's no predicting what will happen next week -- and last year's draft is the perfect example.
• When Farmer met with reporters at this time last year, he had no idea the Browns would be one of the most active teams -- in terms of trades -- in the first round. Specifically, Farmer said there was no foundation for the trade Cleveland ultimately made with Buffalo to move down in 2014's first round and acquire the Bills' 2015 first-round pick this early before the trade was made official. That's the kind of "curveball" Farmer used as an analogy to describe where the Browns are one week before they are set to make the 12th and 19th picks in 2015's first round. With prospect visits coming to an end Wednesday, Farmer said the Browns' pre-draft work is essentially complete outside of the constant repetition they go through with the seemingly endless scenarios that could unfold at this time next week. One unexpected pick or one unexpected trade pitch, though, can change everything -- just like it did last year -- and Farmer and Co. know they'll have to be able to respond in the moment with the clock ticking.
2) Farmer more confident in system he's put in place entering second draft as GM
• On Tuesday, coach Mike Pettine said he felt "so much better" entering his second draft as the coach of the Browns, and Farmer hammered home that point Thursday. Farmer took over as Cleveland's general manager shortly before the 2014 scouting combine and had a little less than three months to prepare for his first draft. Most of the grades on prospects came from the previous regime and were based largely on how they fit into a completely different system. Since that draft, Farmer said there's been a "blending and blurring of the line" between his support staff and the coaches with draft preparation. The chain of command hasn't changed -- Farmer makes the final call on the Browns' 53-man roster and practice squad -- but Pettine expressed confidence in how he and his coaches have been involved in the evaluations. "I think that blend has been a lot smoother this year for how we kind of come about and get together and get everybody organized so that we can make the right decisions for our ball club and how those guys fit," Farmer said. "At the end of the day, we feel good."
3) Free agent acquisitions have not changed Farmer's approach to draft
• In sum, the Browns added nine free agents since the 2014 season came to a close and saw seven depart via free agency or contract termination. Wide receiver, in particular, was beefed up with the additions of Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe, two veterans who have combined to start hundreds of NFL games. Asked specifically about that wide receiver tandem and how it affected his draft plans, Farmer said it doesn't impact them "one iota" and said he wouldn't hesitate to take a wide receiver in the first round if that's who happened to be the best player available when it was the Browns' time to pick. His answer to a question about the biggest need on offense reiterated that point when he said "all" of the position groups could use an injection of competition.
4) Browns' phones will be buzzing when 1st round begins
• For different reasons, Farmer and Pettine laid out why the Browns' phones might be buzzing more than other teams' on draft day. Pettine explained it through recent history, identifying that the Browns made three trades in the first round alone last year en route to acquiring defensive back Justin Gilbert, quarterback Duke Johnson Jr. and Buffalo's 2015 first-round pick. "I think when you get that reputation of moving either way that … because it always takes two," Pettine said. "You've got to have a willing trade partner, and we showed last year that we were willing to move." Farmer, meanwhile, looked simply at the ammunition Cleveland carries: two first-round picks, 10 overall. Because none of the Browns' picks are compensatory, they carry the most available to trade of any team in the draft. "That's what spurns people to call you," Farmer said, "the flexibility that you may have in the draft because of the number of picks you possess." Asked if he expected to be as active on the trade front, Farmer said he wouldn't be "aggressive for the sake of being aggressive" or "moving for the sake of moving" but would be open to opportunities that best allow him to capitalize on value.
5) Pre-draft speculation, particularly about QBs, puts a smile on Farmer's face
• Farmer took a page out of Pettine's book when he responded to a question about possibly trading the Browns' 12th and 19th picks to land Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. "Sure, why not?" Farmer said with a smile. He used the same line when he was asked about potentially drafting a running back in the first round to emphasize how little he's willing to share publicly about the Browns' draft plans one week before the main event. Farmer said he was unsure why he's been linked so much to Mariota in pre-draft buzz and speculated it might stem from answering a question about Mariota in slightly different fashion at the 2014 NFL Combine. "I don't know why that is but it seems to make for good media because people like it. You read it, you see it, it's what it is," Farmer said, referencing the constant speculation about the Browns looking for a quarterback. "At the end of the day, the objective is to improve your football team and to win football games. I get that there's this notion at times that there's this silver bullet or there's this one magic player that's going to walk in here on a horse and we're going to start winning games and he's going to be the reason we did it. I just don't believe in the fairy tale anymore."