BEREA: Browns General Manager Ray Farmer knows which prospect he wants to draft fourth overall on May 8.
“The question is do I get a chance to take him?” Farmer said Monday during a pre-draft news conference at the team’s headquarters.
Farmer opted to “plead the fifth” when asked if any of the quarterbacks in this year’s class are worthy of the No. 4 selection.
He revealed that he believes there are five players who could become top-three picks, and he wouldn’t rule out trading down if his favorite player isn’t available at No. 4.
The identity of that player might never be revealed, but for what it’s worth during smokescreen season, Farmer gushed about Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins more than anyone.
If Watkins lives up to the hype and the Browns pick him, he and All-Pro Josh Gordon would instantly form one of the most dangerous receiver tandems in the NFL.
“Big, big, really big, ginormous,” Farmer said when asked what type of impact Watkins could have in Cleveland. “He’s a good football player. He’s explosive. He’s got really good hands. He’s demonstrated he can run all the routes. He can be productive. So saddle him on the opposite side of Josh Gordon and wow.”
Farmer also rejected the notion that the 6-foot-¾, 211-pound Watkins might have trouble in the league because he doesn’t have prototypical height for the position.
“If you just watch the guy play football, he’s different than a lot of wide receivers,” Farmer said. “I get that he’s not 6-2, 6-4, 6-5. I get that. But he plays the game violently and aggressive, which is kind of a rarity for most wide receivers. You see things in him that aren’t standard. So he’s a really good player, and he’ll be a good player in this league. He would be dynamic, so we have to kind of wait and see where he goes.”
The Houston Texans (No. 1 overall) probably won’t nab Watkins, but the St. Louis Rams (No. 2) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 3) represent logical landing spots.
Regardless, Farmer said signing receivers Andrew Hawkins and Nate Burleson doesn’t affect the way he views the position in the draft.
“Not at all,” Farmer said. “We want to drive competition. I’ve seen teams keep as many as seven [receivers]. It’s not meant to be a knock on anybody 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.”
Farmer shared his thoughts on several other prospects and potential draft-day scenarios.
Breaking down QBs
Farmer reiterated that he’s “comfortable” with incumbent starter Brian Hoyer, and he expects Hoyer’s health to be “fine” despite the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in his right knee last October. Still, the Browns are expected to draft a quarterback with one of their first-round picks (Nos. 4 and 26 overall) or their early second-round selection (No. 35).
Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel has an unconventional size and playing style, but he’s also “exciting, electric” and “dynamic” in Farmer’s opinion. He’s a presumed candidate for the fourth pick.
“You look at what he is as a football player — the guy turned a lot of heads,” Farmer said. “He won a lot of games. There are things definitely to be excited about. The questions 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 everybody looks at and points to and says ‘This is exactly how you draw it up and this is the packaging you want.’ Again, that speaks to a lot of who and what Johnny has been his entire life. It’s different. It’s not how you generally think of playing the position and being effective from the pocket, but the guy has definitely been a very good college football player.”
The 5-11¾, 207-pound Manziel has often been criticized for partying too much and living a TMZ lifestyle. Farmer, though, seems to think Manziel will be dedicated to football.
“I don’t think I have any reservations about who Johnny is,” Farmer said. “We had a lot of conversations and spent a lot of time with him. He’s a good young man. … You go from being a kid … 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 paparazzi.
“He will 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 toward the end of his college career, but you live and you learn. And that being said, there’s good things ahead for him. It’s just a matter of how does he handle that when he gets to his new destination.”
If the Browns decide to target a quarterback at No. 4, the debate would likely be between Manziel and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles.
“Oddly enough, [Bortles] probably wasn’t as heralded going into the year,” Farmer said. “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 that people get really excited because he is a bigger guy, 6-foot-5, he’s 230-plus pounds. So people are definitely fired up to see can he be the complete package for what you want and inevitably for us, it’s a product of trying to find the right guy for who fits.”
Farmer also voiced support for Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater despite the lackluster March 17 pro day that draft analysts believe has caused his stock to fall.
“It really comes down to guys in my position deciding, do you hold onto the tape?” Farmer said. “Do you hold onto a private workout? Do you hold onto his pro day? All of those pieces kind of factor into it. But again, it really comes down to how does he play football?”
Some analysts believe Bridgewater or Fresno State’s Derek Carr could be in play for the Browns at No. 26.
¦ Farmer on Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack: “Really good football player, explosive, he can rush the passer, play in coverage, he can do a little bit of everything.
“In general terms, I’d say a physical anomaly for the [Mid-American Conference]. This guy looks like the real deal. When he got on bigger stages, he demonstrated he could perform.”
¦ Farmer on whether having seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas would preclude the Browns from picking one of the top-rated offensive tackles, Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews: “Having players on this roster that Joe looks over and says, ‘Oh, boy, that’s a real guy right there,’ that’s something good for our franchise and good for our football team. I think there’s no way I would tell you that those guys aren’t interesting players for us as well.”
¦ Farmer on whether he has any problem with South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney’s work ethic: “Do I have any questions about it? None. … Every single guy in the draft, you could shoot him full of holes and say this is wrong with him. 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 could do those things.”
¦ Farmer on Texas A&M receiver Mike 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, he makes a ton of plays.”
By Nate Ulrich
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