Close to the vest, but appeasing the masses, Browns general manager Tom Heckert took to the podium on Thursday morning to discuss the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft.
Chief among questions during the 45-minute press conference surrounded what he considers to be the Browns’ biggest “need,” an inquiry which received little to no answer with regard to specifics.
“We’re going to try to the best of our ability to stick to a philosophy of drafting the best available player,” said Heckert when prompted with a question regarding the team’s needs on both offense defense. Heckert feels that picking the best player, regardless of position, and attempting to not “get too cute” is the key to a successful draft.
Looking for an identity, the Browns are largely considered to be addressing key weaknesses by drafting either a defensive lineman or a wide receiver with their first pick, the sixth overall selection. LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson – considered one of the top overall talents in the draft – has also seen his name in the mix when it comes to Cleveland being a potential suitor.
Specific to Peterson, Heckert deemed his package of size and speed indeed makes him a “rare, rare guy” but – in line with the theme of circular logic – also referenced players like Alabama’s Julio Jones (foot), North Carolina’s Robert Quinn (character, condition) and Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers (knee), all of whom have question marks floating above their heads like giant Arby’s logos.
With specific regard to the wide receiver spot, Heckert stated that both Jones and Georgia’s AJ Green fit into a west-coast offense, the scheme which the Browns are fully expected to be running in 2011, but he also feels that current wide receivers Brian Robiskie and Mohammed Massaquoi will also flourish in what will be their third year with the team. Heckert is the man responsible for landing Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia, a second-round pick at the time. Admittedly, he feels that Jackson falling into the second round was a bit of luck, but this shows that talent can certainly be obtained outside of the sixth-overall pick in 2011.
In 2010, in first season as general manager, Heckert provided Cleveland with one of the best drafts they have seen since the Browns returned in 1999. Using the seventh-overall pick on cornerback Joe Haden, the Browns also landed key contributors in subsequent rounds, drafting safety TJ Ward and quarterback Colt McCoy in the second and third round, respectively. Running back Montario Hardesty, offensive lineman Shawn Lauvao and wide receiver Carlton Mitchell are all expected to contribute in 2011.