Trader Ray

The 2014 NFL Draft has come and gone with the Cleveland Browns adding six new players to the team. The team made headlines throughout the weekend (especially with the selection of quarterback Johnny Manziel) but what may be the real story is that the Browns were very active throughout the draft making five trades and acquiring three additional draft picks for the 2015 NFL Draft. This was the first draft for the newly named general manager Ray Farmer wherein he addressed several of the team’s needs and, juding by his thoughts throughout the weekend, seemed pretty comfortable running the draft as the man making all the final decisions.

Throughout the draft, Farmer showed the willingness to trade up, trade down, trade out, and stay true to the team’s board, all while taking into account head coach Mike Pettine’s opinion on what he looks for in a player.

The Cleveland Browns 2014 Draft Class

Round 1 (8) – Justin Gilbert, CB
Round 1 (22) – Johnny Manziel, QB
Round 2 (35) – Joel Bitonio, OG
Round 3 (71) – Christian Kirksey, LB
Round 3 (94) – Terrence West, RB
Round 4 (127) – Pierre Desir, CB

*Team acquired Buffalo’s first-round and fourth-round picks and Baltimore’s sixth-round pick in 2015 in addition to dealing multiple picks to move within the 2014 draft.

Even with this being Ray Farmer’s first draft, he immediately drew a reputation in the league as a wheeler and dealer. His peers have given him the nickname “Trader Ray,” asking for such when making calls on Days 2 and 3.  He was aggressive using his many picks to target players the team liked and went up to get them. “There were other times where we felt we were going to miss out if we don’t make something happen so we took the liberty to do those things,” Farmer said. As he stated in his post-draft press conference, the team will move up if necessary to get the player that is high on their board. They will also move down if the value they receive is better then just staying pat and selecting a player. Farmer said perfectly when he said, “I still think it was predicated on the player that’s available.”

Perhaps the most glaring of characteristics was shown by Ray Farmer during the three days of the 2014 NFL Draft was his staunch discipline on sticking to his draft board no matter what. Farmer trusted his pre-draft process and all the work he and his staff put into it. The Browns selected players based on the best available rather then skipping over players because of their needs. This was undoubtedly illustrated by the recent news about the possible suspension of wide receiver Josh Gordon. Even with knowledge of this news, the Browns stuck to their board and selected the player at the top of it, not selecting a wide receiver with any of their six picks. Farmer said, “Again, when you look at the number of wide receivers that were drafted and when they were drafted, I would tell you that we made the decisions that we made because we really valued the players that we got at a certain point. When, in our opinion, the most talented of that group was surpassed, we weren’t in a position to take the top-rated guys we had on our board; those guys had already been drafted.” He did not panic and reach for a wide receiver that may have been lower on their board.

[Related: 2014 NFL Draft: Scott Raab talks Johnny Manziel, Josh Gordon and the Sin Tax]

The last major trend that the Browns showed during the draft was that head coach Mike Pettine had a huge influence on who the team picked. The selections of Justin Gilbert and Pierre Desir were a big example of how the Browns weighed in Pettine’s opinion. In Mike Pettine’s new defense, he requires good press coverage corners that can cover on an island. Farmer went and got the type of players that Pettine needed to in his offensive and defensive systems. The team also selected players who had the overall make-up Pettine wants on his team. Pettine wants tough, passionate, hard working players who Play Like Browns. These traits can be seen in all of the selections that were made over the three days.

I left the weekend very impressed with what Ray Farmer has done over the past few months. He is an aggressive general manager who trusts the people around him and also his own knowledge. Farmer has an overall vision of what he wants the team to look like. He has gotten players that are talented but also tough with other intangibles. I like how he works well with Mike Pettine, getting players who fit Pettine’s schemes. They are both on the same page, which is a nice change from the recent past turmoil that has happened in the front office. We will not be able to judge Ray Farmer until the team gets on the field, but so far it feels that we are in a better situation then we were at the end of last season.

  • hutch058

    Miles Austin?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Farmer moved back and forth masterfully for being a rookie GM. The way he moved up to grab guys like Manziel and West was a breath of fresh air especially after last years basic non-draft.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I;’d kick the tires why not.

  • mgbode

    Bullet points on lessons learned from previous Brown’s Front Offices:

    (1) Trust your board

    (2) Do not be an egomaniac
    -To balance with the trusting your board it means trusting your scouts
    who helped create your board – do not over-rule 3-4 months of work
    on a whim.

    (3) Need is important, but shouldn’t trump guys who are obviously better talents.

    (4) Boom or bust on guys with red flags is not a terrible strategy.

    (5) Do not undervalue LOS positions
    -You cannot utilize skill guys if you lose the LOS battle.

    (6) You don’t need a ton from later rounds, but you better not whiff on everyone either.

    (7) Second round guys won’t be elite across the board, so you better make sure their non-elite characteristics don’t make them non-viable NFL players.
    -Butch corollary – great athletes still need great film
    -WR corollary – fear the second round WR (unless it’s the supplemental draft)

  • mgbode

    Grades on how they followed the rules.

    (1) A+
    (2) A
    (3) A+
    (4) B
    (5) A
    (6) D
    (7) A+

    So, outside of punting rounds5-7, they did pretty well by my count. And, if we had to fail one category, that was the one that least affects us (and could change if a couple UDFA prove worthy).

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Nobody expected them to use all 10 draft picks anyways they just allowed for movement up and down which Farmer sure loved. I don’t mind “punting” on rounds 5-7 either especially since as soon as the draft ended they had so many undrafted free agents. Clearly they had a plan and from all accounts they not only executed it but executed it well. It’s been a very long time since anyone has had anything positive to talk about when it comes to a Browns draft. Now lets see if the new coaching staff can develop the talent. If they do anywhere near what Farmer did in his first draft as a GM, heck if they do 50% as well, me thinks you will have plenty to talk about for awhile. Or at least me hopes so anyways.

  • nj0

    For some reason, Disqus won’t let me reply to posts so I’ll just make this a comment unto itself.

    A while back, I looked at the last six or seven Browns teams to see how many undrafted free agents made the squad and contributed in some/any meaningful way. That number was very, very low.

    Finding guys rookies AFTER the draft is such a huge, often ignored part of building a good team.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Box doesn’t include the 4th rounder from Buffalo

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    And yes lets not forget the additional picks next season. This is right out of the Patriots Guide To the NFL Draft. Nicely played Ray Farmer!

  • vespo09

    Turning the 2014 7th rounder into a 2015 6th rounder got the Browns 400% of the trade value of the 7th rounder. Pretty nice punt.

  • Harv 21

    Joe, agree with your entire piece. Except this: “He has gotten players that are talented but also tough with other intangibles.”

    I want this to be true but none of us, including Ray Farmer, will know until the players play. And if it’s not true Farmer’s adroitness at moving up and down the board is a useless skill. And he will be fired, just like Mangini/Kokinis and Savage. The central skill for a GM is the competent evaluation of talent. If he doesn’t have that nothing should save him, not the increased ticket sales, not a good Mel Kiper’s draft grade the day after the draft. He appears to have plenty of moxie, but we all best wait and watch before throwing roses.

  • Big Z

    By all accounts, Ray seems to have handled this draft well. Now for the important part – can his picks help turn this thing around?

  • steve-o

    I liked all our trades except burning a fifth round pick to swap with the Vikings. I’m convinced this was an unnecessary trade, in part because they fleeced a third and a fifth from us in 2012. If I’m Farmer, I don’t take a phone call from the Vikings ever again, unless there is a clear chance to absolutely stick it to them. That 5th rounder could have been Abbrederis WR, but chances are we’d have done something else with it.
    I hated the Bills trade at first because I assumed we did it for a 2nd round pick. If the positions were reversed, there is no way I would want us to trade the 9th pick and a 2015 1st and 4th for any WR.
    Before the draft, I expected us to use that extra 3rd rounder to move up from 26 for a CB or QB (Bridgewater or Carr, I assumed). I still can’t believe we got Manziel that late. It was a trade we had to make.
    I wanted us to trade up from the 3rd into the 2nd to get in on the WR run. In hindsight, had we done that we would not have had the ammo to get West or Kirksey, who fills a need almost as big as WR. Ozzie would probably have grabbed West if we didn’t trade back into the 3rd round. We’ll be glad we pulled this off if/when Tate sits down with his annual injury.