Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
Extra Points …
Be careful what you say. Somebody may be listening: Browns GM Tom Heckert faces the media Thursday morning for the club’s annual pre-draft press conference.
These Q & A sessions, which are done by every team in the NFL, rarely generate news.
One headline you won’t read tomorrow is: “Browns’ Heckert says Ryan Tannehill not in team’s plans.” Another you won’t read: “Browns planning to load up on defense for a third straight draft.”
Heckert wisely doesn’t disclose his draft plans. To his credit, he also doesn’t blow smoke or try to use the local media to throw other teams off the Browns’ scent.
In fact, if you go back to the previous two pre-draft press conferences conducted in the Mike Holmgren-Heckert era, you will find they score fairly well on the credibility meter.
Let us now check on some pre-draft statements from the two highest-ranking football executives in Berea.
The 2011 Browns draft: The big news was Heckert moving down from No. 6 to No. 27 in a bombshell trade down with Atlanta that netted five draft picks, including the Falcons’ first- and fourth-rounders in 2012. Heckert passed up receiver Julio Jones by moving down.
Heckert wound up taking defensive tackle Phil Taylor with the 21st overall selection. He had to give up a third-round pick to move up for Taylor. Heckert then took defensive end Jabaal Sheard with his own second-round pick and receiver Greg Little with a second-round pick acquired in the Atlanta trade.
Prior to the draft, Heckert appeared on the dais by himself. Here are a few selective nuggets from his pre-draft presser in 2011:
* On whether the team needed to draft offense early: “I wouldn't assume that, no. We have some holes to fill all over the place. We still have holes on defense, and on offense. We're going to try sticking with our philosophy of best available player.”
* On the possibility of trading out of the No. 6 spot: “I think it's more of what we think we can get for that pick. It's not going to affect us who's there, I don't think.”
* On how far he would be willing to drop down: “It depends on what you're getting back.”
* On lessons learned from past drafts: "Everybody wants more picks. That's great. But don't sell yourself short. If you like a guy, take him.”
* On rampant criticism of the current receivers on the roster: “I heard this conversation every day in Philadelphia about our receivers -- they weren't good enough. It's not as bleak as people think. But trust me, we're not against having other receivers here. More competition the better. But we do like our guys.”
* On the team’s abysmal pass rush: “I don't think it's a sore spot. It's a fact (we have to get better up front). It's a truth.”
The 2010 Browns draft: Heckert took cornerback Joe Haden with the No. 7 pick, completing a circle that began with Haden being the team’s consensus choice in early draft projections. Haden’s disappointing 40 time because of an injury had him slide out of the picture – but not in the Browns’ minds.
Heckert added to the secondary with safety T.J. Ward with the second pick, and then moved up for an additional pick in the round for running back Montario Hardesty. The headline, though, belonged to quarterback Colt McCoy, taken in the third at the behest of Holmgren.
Holmgren dominated the pre-draft presser with Heckert. They’d been on the job together about 3 ½ months at the time.
* Holmgren, on taking a quarterback early:“While I would like to do it, I am not sure we will do it this year.”
* Holmgren on the need to take a running back: “That’s something we talked about today. In those situations I would just reiterate the fact that you have to be careful about reaching … We have to be smart with this because that sense of urgency, I hope we can eliminate some of that when we get into the draft itself so you don’t make a mistake and reach too far.”
* Holmgren on McCoy’s arm strength: “Arm strength to me ... if the person can get the ball to you on time and all that kind of stuff, while you have to be able to pass the ball, having a rocket for an arm isn't the number one thing. Colt falls somewhere in the middle, I would guess that, but he is really an impressive young guy. He is.”
* Heckert on expectations for a player taken at No. 7:“If you are drafting a guy at number seven he better be able to play and he better be a good guy and he better be a leader. He better be all that stuff. That's what we are looking for.”
Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.com
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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