Assistant General Manager Eliot Wolf and Vice President of Player Personnel Alonzo Highsmith:
Wolf: "With our pick in the third round, we picked (LB) Sione Takitaki, linebacker from BYU – a really physical exciting player. Plays super hard every play. He can run, can cover and can blitz. He played defensive end last year so he has some pass rush to him. We are really excited and fortunate to get him here with this pick."
On if Takitaki is an ILB or OLB:
Wolf: "He has done both in his career. He started the season more as an outside guy and moved inside as the season went along. He is versatile. We feel like he can play all three [linebacker positions] in our defensive scheme. That will be up to the coaches to decide where to best utilize him."
On if Takitaki is a strong tackler:
Wolf: "This is. This is a physical, physical football player. He plays with violence. We felt like that was something that separated him from some of the other linebackers in this class. We feel really good about the value here and his ability to contribute to the team."
On if the Browns felt a need to add depth at LB entering the draft:
Wolf: "Definitely, we feel like we need to add depth to every position, but that was one that ones we identified early on as an area that we could use some improvement on depth."
On CB Greedy Williams:
Wolf: "Just the coverage aspect of what he can do, he was a competitive guy in coverage just locking people down in the SEC. He can man cover. You can put him on an island over there. He has tremendous fluidity, tremendous ball skills. Felt like he played big at the catch point, which is something that we like at 6-2. We have a chance to really hit on that. We are extremely fortunate to get him where we did."
View photos of BYU linebacker Sione Takitaki, whom the Browns selected with the 80th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
On if SEC players stand out due to the quality of competition:
Highsmith: "I think it is all about the quality of competition like you just said. Overall player for player, I don't think there is a better conference in college football than the SEC. You look at where most of the good players come from, a lot of them come from the SEC. It is in the south. High school football is huge in Louisiana, Texas, Georgia and all of those states. They play football year round. Kids train year round. It is a hotbed for talent in all of those places so it is going to be good for football. The thing about Greedy Williams is you have a talented kid who the sky is the limit for him. He can be as good as he wants to be. He slipped in the draft. I never thought we would get Greedy Williams at No. 49. In the beginning of the season and the draft, he is a 4.3 [40-yard dash] kid. He is 6-2. He was just a guy that I never thought would be there at No. 49. He slipped some in the draft because he had some miscues this season and didn't tackle as well as he should have. A lot of people dinged him for that, but coming here, I think we will get the best of him. Hopefully, he comes here with a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove to everybody that he can be the best player in this draft because he has the talent."
On Takitaki's suspension and time off of BYU's football team:
Wolf: "The thing that is exciting about Sione is he really changed his life around, and I am sure when you get him on the conference call that he will talk about that. This is a kid who came in immature. He is from California and went to Utah. He probably wasn't ready to be away from home. The cool thing about this guy is he is a success story at BYU. You talk to anyone there, they kind of didn't think he was going to make it after his first year. He completely turned his life around. He became a team captain this year. He was just that guy in the program. You go out to practice, and everyone is looking to him. He is a ball of energy, and he is a real leader and culture changer."
On why Takitaki was available in the third round with his skillset:
Wolf: "I don't know the answer to that. We were really high on him. We are just really excited to get him here."
On additional attributes that stood out with Takitaki:
Wolf: "Really the first time and my first exposure to him was watching film Against Wisconsin, he was an absolute wrecking ball. That was the second game that they played. If you weren't looking at him, you would have noticed him. He was all over the field – bashing people, breaking up passes, sacking the quarterback and knifing into the backfield to make tackles for loss. It was really exciting to watch. You kind of watched his maturation throughout the season. They were using him more off the edge early – this was his first year as a linebacker and so they started expanding his role and you could see him do some of the other things that more of a pro style or what (defensive coordinator) Steve Wilks is going to ask him to do as a linebacker. You could see him do more of those things as the season progressed."
On if Takitaki can immediately join the LB rotation:
Wolf: "I think so. That is obviously up to the coaches, but from a talent standpoint, we feel like he is a guy that we feel he can do so many things that they are going to have a role for him early on."
On the Browns scouting and draft process in their second year together:
Highsmith: "My personal opinion about the draft is it never changes for me. I don't think it ever changes for us mindset wise. Every draft is different. Your needs are different every year, but you are always going to draft the best player available for your team. I think anytime that you go into a draft saying you need this and need that, I don't think it works out well for you; but when you take the best player available, it doesn't matter. Every draft is important. Next year's draft will be more important than this year's draft. This year's draft is more important than last year's draft because every year is so different and we can't live in the past. We are always going forward trying to make the team better. I think one of the most important things to do is always add talent to the team. I think as a personnel, scouting staff and coaching staff, one of the things we want to do in Cleveland is continually add talent to the football team and make our team competitive every year."
Greedy Williams is a Cleveland Brown. Take a look at photos of the LSU cornerback, whom the Browns selected 46th overall Friday in the 2019 NFL Draft.
On if the Browns initially planned to take two defensive players with their first two selections:
Wolf: "No, that is just the way the board fell. We feel really good about both of the guys. We do feel great about what happened."
On what the team tries to identify when asking players and coaches about a prospect with conduct issues in the past:
Highsmith: "I have been doing this 22 years. I have talked to a lot of players. I have seen a lot of good situations and bad situations. I think what you are always looking for is honesty in a player and being forthright with the situation, what happened and why those things happened. We all make mistakes. Eighteen-year old kids make mistakes. Nineteen-year old kids make mistakes. Thirty-four year-old men make mistakes sometimes. One mistake shouldn't ruin your life, but if there is a pattern of continual mistakes, that becomes a problem. I think the thing you want to find out is if guys are forthright and honest about what happens because I think that is the first step to anybody changing their life – that they come forward with what their problem is. If you get a good feel for the kid, you talk to the coaches. If the coaches say he has changed and the kid has changed, that process is the beginning of it."
On reports of Takitaki saying marriage helped him turn his life around, as well:
Wolf: "Yeah, they give a lot of credit there. I have never met [his wife], but I look forward to meeting her. She sounds like she is a real rock in his life and really helped him out maturing."
On if any offensive players were considered at No. 80:
Wolf: "The way the board fell, it was heavier on the defensive side. Sione was easily the highest-rated player we had up there."
On how players who have transformed themselves carries over to the team trying to transform itself:
Wolf: "I think the key is being able to overcome adversity because in the NFL, it is the highest level, obviously. You are going to run into adversity no matter where you came from. These guys have shown the ability to overcome it, and it just speaks to their character."
Highsmith: "I also think it is a maturation of life. I think in any endeavor you do in life if you are going to be successful, you are going to have to overcome something. Personally, I have always liked those players who have had to overcome something in life, guys who have bumps in the road. You guys are reporters. I am sure we have all had something happen to us in life to make us get to where we are in life. Sometimes it is good. Sometimes some guys everything adds up right for them and their life is perfect. Sometimes some guys it is that snag in the road or that wrong direction that you go that turns them around, makes them better people, makes them better husbands and makes them better people and now they are in the NFL and can go forward with their life and change their fortune for themselves."
On if Highsmith met with Takitaki:
Highsmith: "Oh yeah. One of the greatest things about my experience here in Cleveland is being able to work with one of my best friends in the business [with Eliot]."
Wolf: "Thanks, man."
Highsmith: "We talk about football all of the time. I will be on the road and I will call him on the phone, and he will say, 'Hey, did you just watch the game? Did you see that linebacker?' I kind of knew he was really in love with this guy back when I called him on the phone. He called me talking about the BYU linebacker. When I am on the road, if there is a BYU game on, he was like, 'Check out the BYU linebacker. Oh man, this guy is a pretty good football player. He is making every tackle.' Once the process starts, we come back for the draft and we get in the draft room and we continually watch film over and over. We ask these questions all the time – how does a guy who you really, really like fall to the fourth round? That is the history of football. You could say why did (Pro Football Hall of Fame QB) Joe Montana last until the fifth round? Why did (49ers DB) Richard Sherman last until… It is just like that in football. It just happens sometimes. It is good to be fortunate and the bearer of good fortune sometimes. I have always thought in this business you need a lot of luck sometimes. You have to be fortunate. Hopefully, we are fortunate enough to get a great player and a guy who goes on to be a cornerstone of the organization."
On if Takitaki was a good fit for Wilks' defense and NY Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' defense:
Wolf: "I think he would have fit in either scheme."
On if Takitaki will start in a specific LB position, given his versatility to play all three:
Wolf: "That is a question for Coach Wilks and (Head) Coach (Freddie) Kitchens. I have my personal thoughts, but I will defer to them on that one."
On if Takitaki's size makes him more suitable for ILB:
Wolf: "In Coach Wilks' defense, they are somewhat interchangeable. He is looking for three guys who can run, three guys who can cover, three guys who are physical. It is going to be a little bit less of the traditional on the ball SAM linebacker and less of a traditional stiff, slow MIKE linebacker. We are just looking for speed."
On if there is a hope strong players like Takitaki who are not from major football powerhouses fly under the radar of other teams:
Wolf: "It would have been tough for this kid to stay under the radar because he had such a productive season. He was at the East-West (Shrine) Game. He was at the Senior Bowl. He was at the Combine. It was not like he was a secret. I think maybe he was under the radar to start the season. Last year, he played defensive end at 255 and had some production, but at 6-1, 255, people probably weren't looking as closely at him as now. He is dropping weight and he is running around in space."
On Takitaki's weight now:
Wolf: "He was 238, I believe, whenever he ran."
On what Takitaki contributes that the Browns didn't previously have at LB:
Wolf: "I don't know that we didn't have it – he is really physical. That is the thing that stands out about him. H
On the Browns LB corps now:
Wolf: "We are excited to add talent to any position. (LB) Joe (Schobert) is two years removed from a Pro Bowl. (LB) Christian (Kirksey) had an unfortunate injury thing happen last year, but we still think he can be productive. (LB) Genard (Avery) is a guy who is going to fit into the defense someway, whether it is rushing or playing off the ball. We signed (LB) Adarius Taylor from Tampa, and we have (LBs) D'Juan Hines and Xavier Woodson-Luster who are going to compete for positions."
On similarities between Takitaki and Avery:
Wolf: "There are some. They are both physical. They are both just completely relentless and run to the football. We are looking for guys who hunt the football, and both of those guys can do that."