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Farmer gives glimpse into draft

April 29, 2014
By MIKE McLAIN - Tribune Chronicle ( , Tribune Chronicle

CLEVELAND - Let's just say it was better than the show former Browns general manager Michael Lombardi staged last year at a pre-NFL draft press conference.

Lombardi, the master of egotism, was more than evasive in front of reporters. His conduct bordered on being rude, snickering when asked a question or responding with short answers in a tone of voice that was barely audible.

It was Lombardi being Lombardi - ever smug and arrogant. Those same personality traits undoubtedly did him in when they rubbed enough raw nerves on owner James Haslam.

Juxtapose Lombardi's style to the manner in which first-year general manager Ray Farmer conducted himself Monday during a pre-draft press conference. Farmer didn't reveal which prospect he's targeted for the fourth overall pick, but at least he was cordial and willing to give more than a few bland comments on multiple subjects.

We know that Farmer has his man in his sights. Now it's just a matter of waiting to see if the player makes it beyond the first three picks.

"Absolutely (I know who I want)," Farmer said. "The question is, do I get a chance to take him?"

The Browns will surely select a quarterback at some point to groom behind probable starter Brian Hoyer. Speculation regarding the top quarterback prospects has ranged from all should be top 10 picks to none should be chosen in the first round.

Farmer understandably had good things to say about each prospect, including non-quarterbacks. He wouldn't be so bold as to give his opinion as to the worthiness of the top quarterbacks as first-round picks.

"That's interesting because if I say yes, then people would make the assumption that we're going to take a quarterback at four," Farmer said. "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 every draft board in the National Football League is different. We have players on our board at a variety of positions that we think are worthy of that pick. It comes down to what happens in front of you."

Farmer was asked about most of the top prospects, including quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater, offensive tackles Jake Matthews and Greg Robinson, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, receiver Sammy Watkins and linebacker Khalil Mack. He was most effusive in his praise of Watkins, but, before reading too much into that, it could have been his way of sending out a smoke screen.

"He's explosive," Farmer said. "He has really good hands and has shown that he can run all the routes. He can be productive. Saddle him on the opposite side of Josh Gordon and wow."

Manziel is the name that keeps popping up regarding the Browns. No player in this draft creates such a wide range of opinions. Manziel was an incredible playmaker at Texas A&M, but lack of size and durability issues are red flags.

Farmer wasn't as over the top in his praise of Manziel as he was for Watkins.

"Exciting, electric; he's dynamic," Farmer said. "You look at what he is as a football player. He turned a lot of heads. He went to the SEC and was productive. He's not the quintessential guy that everyone looks at and says, 'This is how you draw it up and the packaging you want.' That speaks to what Johnny has been his entire life, which is different."

Farmer called Mack a "physical anomaly" and said that Haslam was impressed by how fast Robinson was at the NFL combine.

As for being a window into what the Browns plan to do next week, it wasn't very clear. Then again, it was better than the stone wall put up by Lombardi last year.



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