"Before we hop into the questions, I just want to say up front how excited we are for this week. We get the chance to add a lot of young players to the roster for the 2020 season and beyond. I want to actually make special mention to a couple of groups that we have internally. First, our college scouts, this week is really the combination of really a 15-month process. These guys make a ton of sacrifices living out of hotel rooms and spending a lot of time away from their families and their loved ones. Throw on top of that a general manager change mid-process, as well as the global pandemic, and these guys have responded to every challenge at every turn. They did outstanding work over the course of the spring. They really serve as a foundation that allows us to be prepared and ready to go this upcoming week. I also wanted to just mention our research and strategy group, which has done a really nice job of working with our scouts and coaches as we build this more collaboratively. They have done a fantastic job with their work. Last but certainly not least, our coaching staff and getting their input on a lot of the draft-eligible players and their fit within our offensive and defensive systems. We are really, really pleased about how our group at large has come together over the past several weeks. We are really excited for this upcoming weekend."
On if he has spoken to draft prospect T Mekhi Becton following reports of a flagged drug test and if the team's opinion on Becton has been impacted by the reports:
"I am not going to get into the habit of like coming out on a specific prospect here, but suffice it to say, we will take all information into consideration when making a player decision. I am not going to talk about any specifics for individuals, at least this morning."
On goals for Head Coach Kevin Stefanski and the team with the virtual offseason program beginning today:
"I will let Kevin speak on that more specifically the next time he is with you. I can assure that Kevin and the staff have done really a remarkable job given the circumstances of making sure that our guys have what they need during this kind of unprecedented period this spring. I have full confidence with Kevin, our coordinators and our position coaches that they have the plan and the resources to make sure that our guys are prepared and can hit the ground running whenever we do get back into the building. "
On how inclined the Browns may be to use the No. 10 pick or trade back despite not currently knowing who will be taken with the first nine selections, particularly if the team can ultimately fill LT with a veteran player available:
"It is a good question. I would answer that in two ways: No. 1, you are right, it is something you alluded to earlier that you never know how the first nine picks are going to fall. There are a number of different scenarios that could mean that we would submit a pick, move up, move back or do whatever. The second piece of that is we are not going to be pigeon-holed into a certain decision or a certain mode of operation. We are going to make the best decision that we think is right for the right and will not be pigeon-holedinto anything specific."
On characterizing other teams' interest to trade up or down for the No. 10 pick compared to past years:
"That is a good question. I would characterize it as I do not know if it is any more or less unusual than previous years. Quite honestly, you never really know until you get a little bit closer to the draft and then certainly on the clock, just because there are a number of different scenarios that can play out. I do think we will have options. You typically do every year in the draft, almost regardless of where you are picking. I think it is probably too early to say what things will look like on Thursday night."
On if limited access to in-person interviews at a team's facility complicates the draft process and research on a player's background compared to the opportunity for video calls this year:
"That is another good question. I do not think it really complicates matters that much for any prospect from a background perspective. The reason is a lot of the work that we do is with individuals who have spent the last three or four years with these guys on a day-to-day basis. In terms of the spring scouting process and not necessarily being able to have guys onsite, we are very fortunate to live in the age of technology where we have Zoom, FaceTime and things along those nature. We were able to sit with most if not all of these guys at the combine. I think there have been enough touchpoints where we get a really good sense of who these guys are as individuals, and we are very fortunate just with the video capabilities today where you can get a lot of – maybe not quite a 100 percent of the value – but a lot of the similar value that you would have with guys onsite. I think we will be well prepared there, and I think we will have good information for all the prospects.
On time assessing Ts in this year's draft and who on the team's coaching staff helps evaluate the position group:
"Our outlook with the draft has really been to scout and evaluate as if you have an expansion roster. That is really the case every year. We do not really go into a fall or spring and just say, 'Hey, look, we are just going to hone in on these specific positions.' Again, the draft is more about maximizing the amount of talent and the long-term talent on your team as opposed to filling needs. Very few rookies come in and hit the ground running and play at a Pro Bowl-caliber level in their first year. I think that is the wrong focus. In terms of your question regarding our coaching staff, our coaching staff's input across positions is always going to be valued. It is something I mentioned at the onset. It is going to be a part of how we build our core. We take our position coaches, our coordinators and (Head Coach) Kevin's (Stefanski) input very seriously in terms of what the final board looks like. That will always continue to be the case."
On the external focus on LTs for the Browns and if this could be a draft that is heavy on defense for the team, as well as the depth on defense within this class:
"For the first part of your question, I think there are a lot of good football players across the offensive and defensive sides of the ball for this draft. It is not heavy on one side versus the other. There is a lot of talent within this class. I will really echo the sentiments that I mentioned earlier, I really don't anticipate us being pigeon-holed into any specific direction or any specific side of the ball. We are going to go into it more with the approach of maximizing the overall talent that we can add to the roster [as opposed to having to fill needs]."
On the strength of T in this draft class to others, particularly the top-level group of Ts:
"I think there are a lot of good football players in this draft. I am not going to talk specifically about any position. There are a lot of good football players – O line, skill, D line, secondary, linebackers. I think we will have a lot of options for us throughout the three days."
On who the Browns were assigned by the league to take in today's NFL 'mock draft' when testing technology:
"Honestly, I wouldn't mind telling you, but I actually can't remember who it is. I will have to actually pull up the PDF after this call. I can't remember who it is off the top of my head."
On potential items to overcome when on the clock during the virtual draft process:
"I actually really do think it will be smooth when we are on the clock. We actually had probably our second run through this morning. We will have the league's [mock draft] on Monday. We will have multiple simulations on Tuesday. We do feel very comfortable and we will feel even more comfortable as we head into Wednesday morning. Honestly, the biggest challenge is more just ironing out communication because outside of using video conferencing, a lot of the technology is very similar to what you would do if you were onsite in your facility in your typical draft room. I don't think that will be as big as of an adjustment, but just making sure that we have the appropriate backup plans in case there is an internet issue or a power issue and then – no different than we are seeing on this call – making sure people know when they are on mute and unmute, people aren't talking over each other and things of that nature, which I think we will work through just fine."
On how different he is feeling heading into his first as a GM:
"I actually don't think it is too much different. Obviously, it is different with having the decision-making authority, but it is really more excitement. I have a ton of confidence in our group and what we have done over the course of the spring. I do feel very prepared. It is exciting because we have spent so much time on these prospects. It is a little bit like Christmas come early because now we get to see who the newest members of the Browns organization are going to be. That is a really fulfilling and rewarding time not just for myself but everybody else who has put countless hours into this process."
On the number of people connected to the Browns' main draft communications system between personnel and coaches:
"Roughly about 12 or 13 people across some of the different groups. We will have a couple of live channels for our broader group. (Chief Strategy Officer) Paul (DePodesta) mentioned this last week: I think one of the bigger disappointments of the current setup is not being able to share the experience physically with everybody in the organization. There is something special about being in one place together as all of the picks roll off, but we are going to do our best to make sure we can replicate that as much as possible."
On if anyone from the Browns has spoken with WR Odell Beckham Jr. following a report of trade talks with the Vikings, which DePodesta responded to say were 'completely false' and that Beckham is part of the team's future plans:
"We communicate pretty consistently with all of our players. Probably the last thing I will say on this Odell piece is just as an organization, we really have addressed this several times at this point. I really don't think any more needs to be said about it."
On the challenges ranking players who are widely considered to be bunched together in talent and potential at the same position:
"It can be challenging at times depending on the year or depending on the position. That is fortunately why we have such a long process and we get a variety of inputs and perspectives on any player that we are doing work on in the draft. At this point, all of those distinctions are pretty clear because there have been a ton of hours put into it from all of the different groups I mentioned at the onset of the call. At this point, really I feel like I have a pretty clear mind across all of the positions, but it definitely takes some time and that is why we work through the entire process."
On the likelihood of the Browns acquiring or trading away a veteran on draft weekend:
"In terms of likeliness, we will probably never know until we are closer to the draft, but we will explore any avenue that can improve the roster. I know I have said that a couple times and some of you are probably tired of me saying that, but it truly is the approach. Anything that we think can help improve the team, we are going to be actively exploring it and will certainly listen but I can't say anything specific."