Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown & Vice President of Player Personnel Andrew Berry:**
Brown:"Thanks everyone for being here. I look forward to good conversation and discussion with you all this morning.
"I wanted to start by recognizing the life of Mr. (Steelers Chairman Dan) Rooney and everything that he meant to the league. Obviously, a lot has been said over the past couple of years, but we would be remiss if we didn't start out recognizing his contribution to the game, obviously to the Pittsburgh community and the example he set for all of us around the NFL as a leader of a football operation but also just as a man. I wanted to make sure we started with that. We wish his family and the Steelers the best in that sense.
"Secondly, I wanted to jump to how excited we are in the building. We are on the eve of a really momentous draft class for us in terms of positioning our team to return to winning here in Cleveland. We feel really good about the year of work. Andrew and his staff have done a tremendous job. It was a great opportunity to work with the coaches for a full year and get a full cycle in. We are really pleased about how we are positioned. As we move forward over the next eight days or so to get to draft night, we know that we will make a lot of headway in terms of building the roster that we need to build and return the Cleveland Browns to the champions of the AFC North."
Berry: "As Sashi mentioned, it has been great to have a full year under our belt, know each other a little bit more intimately and to fully implement our scouting processes. We are very pleased with all of the hard work that our scouts have done over the past 14 months, with special mention to Bobby Vega, who is our director of college scouting and manages and oversees the process. These guys make a ton of personal sacrifices that are not usually seen by the public. They spend months away from their family and are on the road traveling to evaluate players and more importantly dig on who these prospects are as people. When we embarked upon evaluating this draft class last spring, we really start with a scouting database that has roughly 8,000 prospects across all levels of college football, and to whittle that list down to the 175 players roughly that we deem as draft-able and Browns' fits takes a lot of hard work, energy and sacrifice. They have done a great job.
"I would also be remiss if I did not talk about the outstanding work our coaching staff has done this entire spring really from the Senior Bowl onward. (Defensive coordinator) Gregg (Williams) and his staff came in and really hit the ground running, fit in seamlessly with the process and they have bean able to add additional outstanding insight. We are very pleased with the level of cooperation and alignment within the entire process. We feel very, very prepared for next week, and we are excited to add talent to the roster."
On if the Browns have received calls from other teams about the No. 1 overall selection and if the Browns have resigned themselves to use the No. 1 pick:
Brown:"We have received calls. We haven't resigned ourselves one way or the other. We feel really good about picking at No. 1, and I would leave it at that."
On if the Browns know who they will select with the No. 1 overall selection:
Brown:"Stay tuned next Thursday (laughter). I knew you were going to ask that, Pat (McManamon)."
On having in-depth discussions on who to take with the No. 1 overall selection and if the Browns have reached a unanimous decision:
Brown:"I am not going to get into our internal discussions, but even if we all agree on a particular player or a decision, we constantly are pushing each other to think about what we are not thinking about. Our job really isn't to agree; our job is to get decisions right. When we go through our processes, we actually force ourselves not to get to a point where we are just agreeing on everything. Certainly, we try to facilitate that type of environment."
On if QB Brock Osweiler will be with the Browns at the start of training camp:
Brown:"We expect Brock to be here. He is in and has done a good job coming in the first couple of days. He is a positive young man who has some ability and talent. We look forward to him trying to establish himself here and have a chance to compete to be the starting quarterback."
On reports that the Browns were split between selecting Texas A&M DL Myles Garrett and North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky :
Brown: "We don't comment on all of the rumors. We are in the No. 1 slot in the NFL Draft. There is a ton of interest and popularity. We just know that is what comes with the territory. Last year, we were sitting here and we were watching L.A. (Rams) answer the questions about (QB Jared) Goff or (Eagles QB Carson) Wentz and who they were taking and who wanted who in their building. It is just part of the territory. We don't get flustered by it. We keep moving and understand it comes with the territory."
On if rumors that there is division amongst the Browns are erroneous:
Brown:"Yes, that would be false, but I am not going to comment on every rumor that is out there. It would take me a lot of time to do it because every day there is a new rumor."
On if the Browns have determined who to pick with the No. 1 overall selection or what could impact the decision between now and the first round of the draft:
Brown:"Not much. You are right. We are really well prepared as AB (Berry) said. We have had a lot of good discussions. What happens now is you just understand what all of the options are, and we never take anything off the table. For us, it is just a matter of getting to draft night and seeing what new information if anything comes up or new opportunities may present themselves."
On if the Browns have the Patriots on speed dial:
Brown:"Mary Kay (Cabot) does, but we do not (laughter)."
On Garrett as a player and a person:
Berry:"We are not going to comment extensively on players specifically. Myles obviously has had an outstanding career at Texas A&M and is very talented. Look, we do like the player."
On how much of an understanding the Browns have with what may occur prior to the team's second pick at No. 12 overall:
Brown:"We do a lot of work on that. We do quite a bit of scenario planning and you start to dig. Really about now is when you dig and start to get some reliable information on who certain teams are after. We would like to think every year that we would go in knowing exactly what is going to happen, and every year we don't. There is always a surprise somewhere in that top 10, whether it is someone trading up or a team taking a player that you don't expect. We do have a pretty good sense, and it is important because we want to plan for us as we move forward. We really try to plan for the total haul. You don't want to look at any individual pick in isolation."
On the Browns last year trading from No. 2 overall ultimately to No. 15 and if the Browns could foresee trading out of the top 10 again this year:
Brown:"That would surprise me if we traded down that way this year."
On if the Browns' philosophy to acquire more picks remains or if the team is now ready to move up aggressively to get players:
Brown:"AB and I talk about this a lot. We talk about different opportunities that present themselves. I will let him comment on it, but at the end of the day, we try to make the best decision for the Browns, period. What is going to position us as best as possible? There are a lot of good players in the draft so there are times at which you may trade down and maybe there are times that you trade up. Most often, you stay put. I talked about this before, and in particular last year, we felt like we needed to add a lot of young talent to the roster so that really drove a lot of the decisions last year. We do think we are positioned obviously very differently than where we were coming out of 2015 so the need to continue to acquiring high-value picks is less intense this year. We feel really good about having effectively two draft classes through the first two rounds and sitting at No. 65, as well. There will be a lot of good Cleveland Browns players coming off the board on Thursday and Friday night."
On the Browns' philosophy on drafting the best overall player or for need, including weighing when it might be beneficial to 'reach' for a specific position of need compared to where a player ranks on the draft board:
Brown:"There is a lot to unpack there. AB, do you want to take a crack at it?"
Berry: "All of that comes into consideration – overall talent, positional value and need on the current roster. It really just depends on the circumstance. It depends on where you are picking in the round and what other opportunities may be available later in the draft, depending on how deep a particular position is. Really, it just depends on the individual situation. I know that is probably not as satisfying as an answer as you hoped for, but it is the truth."
On if the Browns rule out always taking the best available player:
Berry: "We would make the decision that really moves the roster forward the best. It depends on a number of different factors."
On what the Browns learned about Garrett in the time they spent with him:
Brown: "Bright young man, competitive. We spent a lot of time with him, No. 1. We learned a lot about what makes him tick, what motivates him, how he spends his down time, how he spends his time with his teammates. You can learn a lot. He is an enjoyable young man, very bright. Whatever team gets him, particularly if it's us, would be proud to have him."
On the perception that Garrett played soft at times and if that is a concern:
Berry: "I think that sometimes those concerns are a little bit overstated. The reality is in college football the number of snaps that these defensive linemen have to play on a down-in, down-out basis is usually greater than when they are going to have to play at the professional level. Every prospects is going to have his weaknesses. There is no such thing as a perfect player. Myles has obviously had a very successful career at Texas A&M and been very productive."
On how deep the safety class is in this draft:
Berry: "There are good players across all positions in this draft. Speaking specifically to the secondary, it is probably one of the deeper classes in our view, and we think there will be a lot of quality players at that spot."
On if the Browns believe that pass rusher is the second most important position on the field behind QB:
Brown: "There are a lot of positions and a lot of different ways you can build a roster to be successful and become a championship club. You see that across the league. You do know that obviously the teams that have great quarterbacks seem to perennially be in the playoffs and having a chance to win championships, but there is a scarcity, as well. You don't want to force it. At the same time, we certainly value that position, and edge is a place in terms of affecting the quarterback that can help defenses be much more successful."
On Trubisky as a player and a person:
Brown: "A positive young man, bright, very competitive and brings kind of a lunchbox, blue-collar mentality to the position. We were impressed by him."
On if there is a need for extra conversations with Trubisky if drafted, given he is a local prospect:
Brown: "No, I think Mitch seems to be a pretty mature kid. All the quarterbacks were – (Notre Dame DeShone) Kizer, (Clemson QB Deshuan) Watson, (Texas Tech QB Patrick) Mahomes (II), (Tennessee QB) Davis (Webb) who we had down at the Senior Bowl – all of them really mature young men and I think would handle themselves well, whether they were in their home environment or they were on the road."
On if Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon is on the Browns draft board, given reports about multiple off-field incidents:
Brown: "We wouldn't comment on our draft board and are not really going to spend much time on any individual prospects, but I can appreciate why you asked the question."
On if there are a number of prospects that the Browns are considering for the No. 1 pick, given his comment that it was the case during the NFL Combine:
Brown: "We have narrowed it down. We feel good about where we are."
On how much more prepared the Browns are for the draft after having the staff together for more than a full year:
Brown:"We really have already started on our 2018 draft at some of the pro days. Our scouts go out and start gathering information on some of the underclassmen. You can imagine when (Head Coach) Hue (Jackson) and I were put in position here and AB joins us after the Senior Bowl how much of an abbreviated period there is in terms of being able to be prepared and get to draft night. It is a true sprint. It is about 100 days that you have once you hire your head coach to be ready, and I feel for all of the teams out there that had changes this year in GMs or coaches or both, which is what we had. We had just infinitely more time to understand our system, understand each other, understand the draft prospects and dig on them. We rely very heavily… We felt good about last year. We will feel better about this year just because we have had more time to prepare and work with our entire scouting staff and coaching staff throughout the year."
On how the Browns' free agent signings impact the team's draft:
Brown:"Going back to kind of I think Pat's question earlier, just in terms of positional value and then best player versus need, we certainly take into consideration there are some good interior linemen in this draft that may be a little less important to us at this point with (OL) JC (Tretter) and John (Greco) and obviously Joel (Bitonio) and Kevin (Zeitler) in the mix, as well as some of the other young guys that are going to come in and participate with us. It is certainly a factor. We feel good about where our offensive line sits, but we wouldn't hesitate to take a quality offensive linemen that we feel like can help us."
On if there is an advantage or disadvantage to announcing a selection at No. 1 before the draft:
Brown: "You never know what's going to happen when you are on the clock. I don't think we will get to the point, and in fact I can tell you we are not going to get to the point where we announce it before the pick. We just wouldn't do it. That is as simple as I can say it."
On if he considers this a make-or-break draft for the franchise and how much pressure the Browns feel to get it right:
Brown: "We view every single decision, whether it is free agency, cutting the roster down, draft opportunities, as critical. This league is too competitive to waste opportunities. Every time we go into a draft, for us, we view it as we put the pressure on ourselves regardless of what is going on outside. This is an important draft for us. We can get some players that can transform our franchise, and the way we are positioned, it is to some degree the volume of players that can help us. We want to get those right."
On if there is any difference this year because the Browns have the No. 1, No. 12 and No. 33 picks, which doesn't happen often:
Brown: "That is right. You want to have an impact. Again, the number of picks high in the draft, the way we have positioned ourselves makes it that much more important."
On Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians saying at the owners meetings that Trubisky's number of starts bugged him and if Trubisky's experience bugs the Browns:
Brown: "Not going to comment on Mitch's history. We appreciate Bruce's expertise. First, let me say that. Certainly, I think you would like to be able to look back on as many games as you can, and it is no mystery that Mitch hasn't played in a lot of them."
On how likely it is that the Browns will be willing to or will trade up from No. 12 to try to pursue a quarterback, specifically in reference to a report about a trade possibility with the Jets:
Brown:"I wouldn't comment on any of those reports or again rumors. Again, it is going to be one [rumor] every day to trade back, trade up or to trade to No. 2. I have seen them all and am just not going to comment on them."
On if it would be a stretch philosophically to trade up in the first round or if it is a possibility:
Brown: "We are open to it. Generally, we value picks. We think no matter how prepared you are there is always a lot of uncertainty in the draft. Every team misses. We are not going to be different in that regard. We like young talent. We have said the draft is going to be the pipeline. We don't want to get into a habit of turning two picks into one, so to speak. We just don't think that is a good way to do business over time. We have studied this around the league, and it is just our inclination. It does not mean that if there is a player there we might not go take a shot. We think we are positioned to be able to do that without impacting our draft much."
On how hard it is to judge college QBs during an era when fewer play within a pro-style system:
Berry: "In terms of evaluating college quarterbacks who come from let's say an Air Raid or a spread system, the physical components – arm talent, accuracy mobility – that is still relatively easy to judge. That's also why the spring is so important because system is not necessarily as important as aptitude, football intelligence and the ability to prepare and learn. For any college quarterback, it is going to be a pretty difficult transition to the NFL, regardless if they run a more 'pro-style system' or something that looks a lot different than your typical NFL offense. If the quarterback has the physical talent to produce, has the work ethic, has the preparation and then most importantly has the aptitude, it may take him a little longer, but those guys typically do have success in the NFL."* *
On if any of the top QB prospects come from a pro system:
Berry: "Out of the guys we are speaking about, all of them have pro concepts in their offenses. None of them perhaps played under center as frequently as you would see in the NFL game."
On weighing evaluation for a player who could help right away versus a guy who may have more of a learning curve but has a bigger upside and if the team needs guys who can help right away:
Brown: "We can do both, and we will have a mind to both. I think the guys that can come in and impact right away typically are the guys you just have more certainty about. The two go hand in hand, but we consider that, certainly."
On if the team go into the draft with a plan and how confident he is the team can pull it off:
Brown: "We do go into each draft with a plan. We prepare a lot. We run ourselves through different scenarios. We try to figure out how we can optimize the three days, particularly the first two where you can predict a little more. Once you get into Day 3, it is a little tougher. We do go in with a plan. That said, a lot of it is outside your hands – what players will be available, what trade partners might be willing. You do what you can to try to at least align yourself and position yourself so you can execute on that and come out in a way where the organization is going to feel we did the best we possibly could to maximize day one and day two of the draft."
On if it is fair to say that it will be a defensive heavy draft for the team this year:
Brown: "I wouldn't say that one way or another. We know we have a ways to go to build this roster to be a championship roster so we will take the best players available."
On if the decision on what to do with the No 1. Selection is easy or hard:
Brown: "I think it becomes easy because you are not dealing with so many guys. There is known certainty and you have a long time, but that can also make it hard in its own way. We feel good about where we are going to be and who we are going to pick there."
On if Head Coach Hue Jackson was any more involved in the QB search this year compared to last year:
Brown: "Only from the sense of time. In that sense, we were all involved. Hue is a guy we lean on tremendously because of his expertise. It is his system. He understands what he needs there in terms of evaluating quarterbacks and facilitating discussion about who would be a fit for us."
On if there is more discussion about QBs because it is a unique position:
Berry: "It is probably not too different from the other spots on the roster. There are only so few people who walk the earth who can play the quarterback position in the NFL so that makes it difficult in terms of projecting a number of college players to have success in the NFL system, but there is rigorous debate for all position groups as you go through the draft process, and that is no different for quarterback."
On if it is more spread out at other positions compared to QB or if there are three guys the team likes at No. 12 and likes all three and the team would be happy with any of the three:
Berry: "I wouldn't say that is necessarily the case, no."
On how much the Browns have studied other teams' successful drafts in the past and how realistic it is for one draft to turn around the fortune of a team
Brown: "We are not trying to take some approach where it is this draft or bust. I talked about this when I took over, I think my job is to make sure that our organization makes a series of good decisions. When you do that over time with a good plan, strategy and alignment amongst your staff, you are going to be good in this league. We have seen this in our division. The teams that we play against have all been together a long time and have those systems very right. That is what we are heading towards. This is going to be a draft that moves us forward a lot because we affectively have a double draft in the first couple rounds, and we are also picking high. That said, we also understand we are going to have to develop the players that come in. As we move forward, we will have a draft class next year that will also contribute heavily towards our success long term, and we need to continue stacking successful drafts on top of each other to get to where we need to go."
On if the Browns are confident the team won't have a top-five pick next year:
Brown: "I would have a few more gray hairs, and I have a number that I didn't have last year when I was sitting with you. We do think our roster will move in the right direction. It has been an exciting offseason, both in free agency and now as we head into draft a number of players in the amount of talent we will be able to add to the roster. I think we are positioning this team to be young and good and they will be together for a long time."
On if the Browns envision trading for a veteran QB on draft weekend:
On if the Browns could trade for a veteran QB before draft weekend:
Brown:"I wouldn't… Could we in theory? Yes, but are we planning on it or is that the plan? No."