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Transcript: Ray Farmer Pre-Draft Press Conference

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Cleveland Browns general manager (Photo by Chris Allen CBS Cleveland)

Cleveland Browns general manager (Photo by Chris Allen CBS Cleveland)

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Opening statement:
“I really just wanted to start by thanking everybody for coming out. I know that the draft is big. Everyone’s excited about this opportunity for the Browns to get better. I know we are here, internally. With that, I really wanted to thank the scouts. We have guys that are on the road. The draft is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, 365-day-a-year job for a lot of our scouts, specifically those guys that are on the road. I wanted to definitely make a comment that I appreciate the hard work that they’ve put in. Specifically, I’m going to name a couple guys just because I think they went above and beyond the normal scope for us this year. (Browns college area scouts) Chisom Opara and Bobby Vega both stepped up tremendously and did, I’m going to say ‘a yeoman’s work’ as far as what they were tasked and what they were able to accomplish this year – definitely demonstrated that they are frontline scouts and guys that can really make a difference in this organization. Also, I would be remised if I didn’t thank (Browns owner) Jimmy Haslam. He’s definitely given us the resources and put us in a position to have success with all of his support. He constantly ends every meeting that we have with what else can he do to support us. That appreciation from my perspective doesn’t go unnoticed. The scouts are very appreciative and our coaches, as well. They’ve all had insight into this process, worked through countless hours of meetings, studies, interviews and time spent with players to try and unearth the right information for us to move forward with. I definitely wanted to extend those thank-yous to the people that are involved.”

On if QB Vince Young at the facility today, and if he will participate in this week’s minicamp:
“That is 100 percent true.”

On the Browns interest in Young:
“The interest in Vince is that he’s been productive. He’s had success in the National Football League. We wanted to take the opportunity to get a chance to see what he was. We had been kind of following him through the offseason, and he had been doing some things that kind of caught our eye and made us take note and we wanted to see what that looked like in his own time frame. When the opportunity was right, minicamp seemed to be the appropriate time, then we brought him in. This may get some ears: he’s not the only one.”

On what other quarterbacks are visiting the facility today:
“That makes it too easy. If I tell you guys all the information, then it’s not a secret anymore. (QB) Tyler Thigpen will be here, as well.”

On if any of the quarterbacks in the draft are worthy of being picked fourth overall:
“That’s interesting because if I say yes, then people would say or make the assumption that we’re going to take a quarterback at No. 4; if I say no, then they’re going to make the assertion that we’re going to pass on a quarterback so I’m going to plead the fifth. I would say that every draft board in the National Football League is different. We have players on our board at a variety of positions that we do think are worthy of that pick. It just comes down to what happens in front of you. There may be somebody there that you think is worthy and he may not be available when it’s our turn to select. I think inevitably for us, it’s best to stay quiet as to who’s graded where and where those guys really sit on our boards.”

On if there is a lot of uncertainty about who will be selected with the first three draft picks:
“No, I think, at least from internally, I feel like No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 are starting to shape up in my mind. I do. I think there are, I would say, five options I think go one, two and three. I think I’m starting to narrow it down, at least in my head. It’s a speculation game at this point. You don’t really know. I’m not in anybody else’s building, but inevitably, you start to kind of slide down the scale of what are those options and what do they look like and what teams may be considering based on the information that we have.”

On concerns about Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel and his dedication to football:
“I don’t think I have any reservations with who Johnny is. We had a lot of conversations, spent a lot of time with him. He’s a good young man. I think the interesting part about Johnny is that, much like a lot of us, you don’t get a handbook for how to operate in certain instances. When you go from being a kid from Tyler, Texas, to being Johnny Football and winning the Heisman Trophy really quickly, they don’t hand you a manual and tell you how to handle the media swarm, how to handle the paparazzi, how to handle people coming up to you at dinners. He would tell you very candidly that it’s probably not how he would have written it up now that he’s at the end of it or getting towards the end of his college career, but you live and you learn. That being said, I do think there are good things ahead for him. It’s just a matter of how does he handle that when he gets to his new destination.”

On Manziel as a football player:
“Exciting, electric. He’s dynamic. You look at what he is as a football player, the guy turned a lot of heads. He went to the SEC and was productive. He won a lot of games and there are things to definitely be excited about. The questions that everybody wants to talk about are: Is he big enough? Is he going to get hurt? Is his arm strong enough? Again, he’s different. He’s not the quintessential guy that everybody looks at and points to and says this is exactly how you’d draw it up and this is the packaging that you want. To me, that speaks to a lot of who and what Johnny has been his entirely life is different. It’s not how you generally think about playing the position and being effective – what everyone would say – from the pocket. The guy has definitely been a very good college football player.”

On if Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is looking for a mobile quarterback to fit his system by working out Thigpen and Young:
“I think it’s a piece of the puzzle. I wouldn’t say that it’s the top piece. They both are mobile. They both are very good athletes. They both have had relative success. I know Vince easily I’d say more than Tyler, but yeah, that’s a good piece. I think Kyle would tell you that he likes a quarterback that is mobile. The offense definitely is going to require the quarterback to do different things, throw on the move, play outside the pocket to some degree. I think that’s a fair assessment.”

On if there is a player the Browns are set on picking fourth overall if available:
“Absolutely. The question is, do I get a chance to take him?”

On if the Browns will trade back if that player isn’t available:
“I wouldn’t say I’m more likely to trade down. I think that any time you talk about trades that you’ve got to have a partner. Then, you’ve also got to have players that you want at the spot that you’re going to. I’d say it this way: if there were five guys that I really love could I really trade to No. 6? I’d have to hope that somebody else liked somebody in their top five or six that would push one of the guys or two of the guys to me that I thought could be or potentially be available.”

On how many players the Browns would be interested in selecting fourth overall:
“I’m definitely not going to answer that question. We’re going to avoid that one 100 percent. I will tell you that it’s a game. It’s a game of figuring out who you like, where you think you can get those players and use the ammunition that we have to put ourselves in position to take the best players.”

On how many general managers he has spoken with in the past 24 hours:
“In the last 24 hours, I’m going to say eight to 10. In the last week, I’d say all. That last week will be spent having those phone conversations, deciding who’s where because the interesting part about it is that we’re not close to certain teams in the draft, and it would take a yeoman’s effort to get to certain spots, but then you never know what their temperament is or what they’re doing and they may trade with somebody else and end up right beside you. Having those conversations on the front end definitely prepares us in a way that allows us to be prepared in the instance that now instead of looking at the draft how it lines up now, you have to look at it in the total sense that you could be beside anybody at any point in time.”

On the possibility of trading down, and weighing the value of a higher pick or more draft picks:
“Yeah, I do have a sense. I’m starting to formulate some of those opinions as to who’s interested, who may be interested, and then the question goes back to the original one, which is who’s available. Nobody wants to trade up if their guy’s gone. That’s the hard part. The interesting piece for us, though, is really having a plan for what that could look like, what the trade would look like on the front end so that when you get to the moment, it’s not you try to negotiate what that looks like just in a short period of time. You have some of those conversations to kind of prime the pump or set a standard for what the expectation is. I think when you look at the totality of is one player better than this player and another player, you’ve got to consider those options. You’ve got to consider – we’ll talk in generic terms – if there’s blue player, in a general sense, are considered the elite players in the Draft. Below blue, there’s generally red. Is one blue player worth two reds? It’s a good debate. It’s a great question. I would then tell you it depends on what positions they play. The question is can you get the right guys for the Browns is what we’re really focused on. It’s not a one-year reclamation project. It’s not all going to be done when the draft ends. We’re going to look at our team and say, ‘Guess what guys, we’ve got 53 of the best guys in the National Football League, bar none.’ We like our team. We think we’re well on our way of getting where we want to go, but as it stands right now, the more pieces you can add and the better those pieces are the more excited we’ll be as a team and the more the city will be behind what those guys’ names that finally associated with those picks are.”

On the possibility of moving up from No. 26 overall:
“That’ll depend upon who’s on the board and the value that we have associated with that player. If there’s a guy – again generalities – at No. 15, 16 and we’ve got to go up 10 spots, what’s that cost look like from our perspective of what do you have to give to get there; and No. 2 is that a player that we really can’t live without, or is there a player in, we’ll say, similar value range that we’re going to get at No. 26? And if that’s the case, then what’s that point of moving if we’re happy with both instances?”

On evaluating Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater’s pro day to his tape:
“Teddy’s a good college football player. Definitely, I think he’s had the burden of dealing with answering the questions of the differences between his pro day and his performance. Oddly enough, I think there’s a lot of media speculation that he was the top quarterback going into the offseason. It comes down to guys in my position of deciding do you hold onto the tape? Do you hold onto a private workout? Do you hold onto his pro day? All of those pieces kind of factor into it. Again, it really comes down to how does he play football? The analogy that I keep throwing out is if we went outside and shot basketball and I can’t hit a shot – I just can’t buy a bucket; I can’t make a lay-up; I can’t really dribble; I dribbled off my foot twice; and it’s gone out of bounds – but then every time we play, I score 30, have 10 boards and five steals, do you want me on your team or are you going to pass me because I couldn’t warm up right? That’s the way I look at it. It really comes down to how does a guy play football.”

On why the Browns didn’t work out Thigpen and Young last season:
“When you talk about any one player and him fitting in a place, it’s styles make fights. If a guy doesn’t fit with a potential coach or scheme that we’re operating before, then those guys get passed over. Now that there may be an opportunity for a fit, you tend to be a little bit more aggressive or follow guys a little differently. Inevitably, you’ve got to find guys to fit what you do and then ask them to do those things.”

On the value of a pro day:
“It depends on who you ask. If you’re asking me, pro days are important. When you see pro days, we have all the films. I have every single one that I either did or didn’t go to. You guys speculated me being all over the place. The reality is I’ve watched a ton of them. I’ve watched them. I’ve seen guys perform. I’ve seen guys perform in ways that some look good, some don’t look so good. Inevitably, it’s a piece of the puzzle. It’s not the be all end all. It doesn’t tell you if a guy can play or not. It’s just another piece to try and confirm what you think you saw on tape and that’s what you use it for. It’s the combine. The combine uses it in a way of some of the things that they ask the guys to do don’t really equate to what he’s going to do at his position. Does it matter if a corner(back) can bench 225 (pounds) 25 times? Not necessarily, but we ask him to do it. You’ve seen that we get excited when he does certain things in a positive way. When you look at some of these players, they’re asked to do things at pro days that are scripted, that are pretty laid out for them. They’ve been practicing them for weeks. For me personally, I like the idea of let’s do it ourselves; let’s put him through some things that are a little more off the cuff; put him in some situations that he wasn’t expecting; and then see how he handles those because that’s what the game is really predicated on.”

On if attending pro days are a waste of time:
“I don’t think they’re wasting their time. I think pro days have a value in the sense of it gives a young man a chance to demonstrate his skill set and he can do it for everybody. Historically, people haven’t had an issue with guys doing individual workouts for everybody. The real purpose is to cut down on the number of workouts that a guys has. Certain spots, I agree. You go to a pro day, you watch a (defensive) back pedal. Good. You’re going to see all of the things that you generally want to see, but specifically, and I’d say this, to probably more of a quarterback, you definitely want him to have him do the things that you want him to do and not just generic things that he thinks he’s good at.”

On the Browns cornerbacks and if it’s a position of need entering the draft:
“I feel good about who we have on our roster. Again, every position on our roster, we want to drive competition so it doesn’t matter if it’s a quarterback or cornerback, whether it’s a linebacker or it’s a defensive lineman or if it’s an offensive lineman. We want to drive competition to the point where the first guy on the depth chart feels like the guy right behind him is on his heels and the guy right behind him is on his heels. We’re going to constantly look and push to drive the competition on our roster at every position possible.”

On how vital the 2014 NFL Draft is for the Browns, and how many immediate impact starters may be selected:
“Again, I think that every draft is important. It’s really the lifeblood of every organization. Adding guys through the draft is an interesting piece to the puzzle. Some guys you take because you realize they’re not going to be ready right away, but they have a greater upside. Other guys you take with the hopes that they’re going to contribute immediately. That being the case, I think that as we look at the draft from our team’s perspective, there are guys that you’re going to want to see contribute right away; there are going to be other guys that we will look to redshirt, in some sense, as far as we’re not looking to throw them out on the field and see what they do right away. We’ll have to wait and see who’s available. I think there are guys in this draft that will come in and contribute immediately, and they’ll be good players in the National Football League. There are other guys that it will take them a year, maybe even two, to demonstrate what their true capabilities are, and you’ll be happy that you have them at that point in time. It’s just a matter of when you get that guy, how you get him and what that looks like. The interesting thing about the draft, though, is no one cares after you pick them where you picked them. You have to find the right guys and get them in your system and use them accordingly.”

On if signing Browns WRs Nate Burleson and Andrew Hawkins has affected the Browns’ draft outlook:
“Not at all. Again, we want to drive competition. I’ve seen teams keep as many as seven [wide receivers]. That’s not meant to be a knock on anyone else that’s on the roster. Our goal is to add as many good football players as we can, and as we continue to add really good football players, our team will be better as a result of it.”

On Buffalo LB Khalil Mack, and if the MAC has produced better players than past years:
“College football is becoming a landscape where the average kid isn’t going to the football powerhouse, if you will, to sit on the bench and watch. He wants to go play. Regardless if he was overlooked or people second guessed him coming out of high school, those players are now willing to go other places to demonstrate their ability to contribute and play football. That’s why I think you start to see guys come from alternative conferences that haven’t been the powerhouse conferences in the past. As that goes to Khalil Mack, he’s a really good football player, explosive. He can rush the passer. He can play in coverage. He can do a little bit of everything. In general terms, I would say he’s a physical anomaly for the conference that he plays in. This guy looks like the real deal. When he got on bigger stages, he demonstrated that he could perform, and that’s what you want to see. You want to see a guy that has the ability to play on the big stage. When he got in big games, he played big.”

On Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s alleged comments:
“I think anytime that those comments are made, and again, we’ll say allegedly made, it is disappointing. That’s a different subset. I’ve been focused on the draft, but I will say I’m happy that I’m in a situation where we don’t have to worry about those comments being made.”

On Browns QB Brian Hoyer’s health and if it will affect his decision to draft a quarterback:
“I’m comfortable with him. Again, I don’t really want to comment about guys’ health and who’s injured who’s not and where they’re at, but he’s fine. He’ll be fine. It’s a long way away before we play any football. I’m excited where Brian is right now.”

On Haslam’s involvement and potential pressure during the draft process:
“I don’t feel any pressure. Jimmy’s been more than supportive. He is involved; he is in meetings; he comes around; we keep him up to speed on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. He’s not a guy that applies pressure. He’s very supportive, and he wants to make sure that we are doing our due diligence in all factors. Inevitably, I would tell you that he’s not a guy that’s going to impede the process. He hired me to do a job, and he’s going to allow me to do it. To that regard, I’m confident and comfortable with his involvement in any meetings and anything we’re doing. He’ll ask 40 million questions and he’ll want to know, and that’s OK. He has a right to know. Even if he didn’t want to know, we’d still try to inform him. He’s been more than enjoyable to work with. It’s definitely been a positive for us.”

On if Haslam participated when prospects visited Berea:
“He had some interaction. He definitely was involved, and we made sure he was involved.”

On if Haslam met with all or select prospects:
“He was involved with certain guys, and we made sure that he had time to spend with certain guys.”

On concerns about South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney’s work ethic:
“Do I have any questions about it? None.”

On recent public speculation that Clowney’s work ethic may be a concern:
“Again, it’s interesting that there’s a commentary. As we get closer to the draft, the more you’ll see smoke. It’s not as substantive as people may think it is, but it’s interesting to talk about. Is he supremely talented? Yes. Do people wonder about different pieces of his game? Sure. The more you overthink it, the more you… We could shoot holes in all these guys. Every single guy in the draft you could shoot him full of holes and say, ‘This is wrong with him. This is wrong with him. This is wrong,” but the reality is you want to take the time to really unearth what can this guy do, how can he help your program and can this guy be a difference maker, and I think Jadeveon Clowney can do those things.”

On if Clemson WR Sammy Watkins could impact the Browns:
“Big. Big. Really big. Ginormous (laughter). No, he’s a good football player. He’s explosive and has got really good hands. He’s demonstrated he can run all the routes. He can be productive. Saddle him on the opposite side of (Browns WR) Josh Gordon, and wow.”

On his philosophy pertaining to wide receivers’ height and concerns about Watkins’ height:
“I would contend the same thing [as I did about Clowney]. Like I said, the longer this goes, the more you’re going to find guys ending up as casualties of war for the wrong reasons. If you just watch the guy play football, [he’s] different than a lot of wide receivers – I get that he’s not 6-2, 6-4 or 6-5, I get that – but he plays the game violently and aggressively, which is kind of a rarity for most wide receivers. You see things in him that aren’t standard. He’s a really good player, and he’ll be a good player in this league. Moving forward from him, he would be dynamic. We’ll have to wait and see kind of where he goes.”

On if he is energized or overwhelmed by the upcoming draft, now that he has reached his dream job:
“I’ve definitely worked to get here. I wouldn’t say it’s overwhelming; it’s actually intriguing. It’s interesting from my perspective that everybody is so juiced about the NFL Draft. This is bigger than a lot of sporting events. Nobody is playing anything, yet still everybody is fired up to see what happens. I think it’s the intrigue and the mystery around it because it’s really a lottery. It’s not like they’re going to go off the board in a certain order. If we had a chance to look at everybody’s draft room before the draft and compare the boards, you’d see that it’s beauty in the eye of the beholder. There are 32 different paintings around the NFL of how people put this thing together. It’s interesting because everybody’s fired up about the NFL Draft and rightfully so. This will be Christmas in May.”

On if the Browns conduct mock drafts as part of their process:
“Absolutely. We’ll have plenty of time to play mock draft with the added time this year, but it’s good. It gives you some ideas as to what teams may be thinking, and there are ways to structure and organize it in ways that it’s not reality, but it definitely gives you some insight as to how teams could be looking at things a little bit differently than we actually are.”

On Texas A&M WR Mike Evans and Central Florida QB Blake Bortles:
“Both [are] good college football players. Evans, obviously, the size and the speed is the great intrigue that a lot of people see. When you watch him make plays, he’s got ball skills, he jumps up over people and he makes a ton of plays. Bortles, [it’s] the same thing. Oddly enough, he probably wasn’t as heralded going into the year; everybody didn’t know his name. He definitely was a guy that I think his play demonstrated that he was worthy of being in consideration. The interesting thing about him is people get really excited about him because he’s a bigger guy – he’s 6-5, 230-plus pounds. People are definitely fired up to see can he be the complete package for what you want. Inevitably for us, it’s a product of trying to find the right guy who fits. Both of those guys are talented players. They really are.”

On Texas A&M OL Jake Matthews and Auburn OL Greg Robinson at No. 4, considering Browns OL Joe Thomas’ success:
“They’re really good players. We were sitting in the suite at the combine when Greg Robinson ran, and Jimmy turned and was like, ‘How big was he?’ You go back and you start reviewing the number, the size and the movement and then his play, and he’s a very, very interesting prospect as far as to what he could possibly bring to a franchise. It’s the same thing with Jake Matthews. His history and pedigree speak for themselves. The idea of what he can be and what he’s going to be in the National Football League going forward are definitely intriguing.

“I would tell you again the same thing: I want to drive competition on the roster. Joe Thomas is a very good football player. He’s been to numerous Pro Bowls. He’s been a successful player for reason, but having players on this roster where Joe looks over and goes, ‘Oh boy, that’s a real guy right there,’ that’s something that’s good for our franchise and good for our football team. I think that there’s no way that I would tell you that those guys aren’t interesting players for us, as well.”

On how many quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the Browns’ internal mock draft:
“How many went in the first round? I can’t tell you that. We’ll say 16 (laughter). It’s fun. It’s good. I’ll tell you, it’s not just one mock draft that you do. We run multiple scenarios. In those scenarios, you could have as many as five or six go; you could have none go. It just depends upon which mock draft, how people really pick and how people value those players.”

On draft boards changing in the final few weeks:
“That’s a dangerous piece of the puzzle. The more boards change and the more people get further away from football, and they still think they see these grandiose changes, it’s a dangerous proposition.”

On being ready to draft today:
“Am I ready? Absolutely, let’s go. Can we call New York and get it done?”

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