How much of a general manager’s press conference can you actually believe just before the draft? On Monday, Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer spoke with the media. Depending on how much you believe him, he may have actually said quite a bit.
The Browns obviously have a plethora of choices with the fourth overall pick. They could select the guy they feel is the quarterback of the future or take a big-time playmaker at another position.
By now, Farmer has to know whom he really wants, right?
“Absolutely,” said Farmer to the media. “The question is, do I get a chance to take him?”
So who is he? Who is this mystery player that Farmer would love to get his hands on? Let’s go through the evidence and try to figure it out.
The first guy who gets eliminated from the equation is wide receiver Sammy Watkins. His praise of Watkins was far too over the top for a guy they will likely have the chance to land. You expect him to say nice things about everyone but never fawn over a guy who many think they actually will select.
“Big. Big. Really big. Ginormous (laughter),” Farmer said when asked how big of an impact Watkins could have. “No, he’s a good football player. He’s explosive and has got really good hands. He’s demonstrated he can run all the routes. He can be productive. Saddle him on the opposite side of [Browns wide receiver] Josh Gordon, and wow.”
While those statements are accurate, if Farmer was really dead set on Watkins as his guy with the fourth overall pick, then he would not want other teams to know how much he loves him. Those types of comments could force a team’s hand into trading up, and then you lose out.
So what about the quarterbacks? Teddy Bridgewater is a guy who could be available at No. 4 but held a terrible pro day. Does that even matter?
“Teddy’s a good college football player,” said Farmer. “Definitely, I think he’s had the burden of dealing with answering the questions of the differences between his pro day and his performance. Oddly enough, I think there’s a lot of media speculation that he was the top quarterback going into the offseason.”
Oddly, he was considered the top quarterback? Yikes, I guess you can scratch Bridgewater off the list at No. 4.
So what about the big name? What about the guy who would instantly divide a fanbase in half? What about Johnny "Football" Manziel?
Farmer said of Manziel:
Exciting, electric. He’s dynamic. You look at what he is as a football player, the guy turned a lot of heads. He went to the SEC and was productive. He won a lot of games and there are things to definitely be excited about. The questions that 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.
Notice how he gave praise but backed that up with the obvious questions that are raised when discussing Manziel. This one is tougher, so let’s keep digging through the evidence.
Another huge concern with Manizel is his off-the-field persona and dedication to the game. These are things that general managers have to take into account when selecting their franchise quarterback. So are there reservations about Manziel? Farmer went on to say:
I don’t think I have any reservations with who Johnny is. We had a lot of conversations, spent a lot of time with him. He’s a good young man. I think the interesting part about Johnny is that, much like a lot of us, you don’t get a handbook for how to operate in certain instances. When you go from being a kid from Tyler, Texas, 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 the paparazzi, how to handle people coming up to you at dinners.
Farmer sticks up for Manizel in this instance. I agree with him that there is no manual to help you deal with the swarm of media. Even I, who thinks Manziel will be very good in the NFL, know that he has some growing up to do before he reaches his full potential.
The most interesting evidence that points toward Manziel being Farmer’s guy was not revealed when talking the draft. It was actually revealed earlier when talking about a pair of quarterbacks who will be invited to mini-camp.
Farmer said that they would have both Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen attend minicamp this week. The common thread between them is that they are both mobile quarterbacks. So was that by request of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan? Farmer had this to say:
I think it’s a piece of the puzzle. I wouldn't say that it’s the top piece. They both are mobile. They both are very good athletes. They both have had relative success. I know Vince easily I’d say more than Tyler, but yeah, that’s a good piece. I think Kyle would tell you that he likes a quarterback that is mobile. The offense definitely is going to require the quarterback to do different things, throw on the move, play outside the pocket to some degree. I think that’s a fair assessment.
Well if that last quote does not point to Johnny Manziel, then I do not know what does.
But what about the owner? There has been plenty of speculation by experts that owner Jimmy Haslam wants Manziel to make the franchise relevant again:
I believe the Browns will take Manziel if he's there. Haslam did not buy this team for $1 billion to see them be irrelevant. He's the pick.— P. Schrager (@PSchrags) April 24, 2014
Farmer was kind enough to shed some light on just how involved in the scouting process Haslam has been:
Jimmy’s been more than supportive. He is involved; he is in meetings; he comes around; we keep him up to speed on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. He’s not a guy that applies pressure. He’s very supportive, and he wants to make sure that we are doing our due diligence in all factors. Inevitably, I would tell you that he’s not a guy that’s going to impede the process.
He continued to talk about Haslam’s inquisitive nature and if he speaks with all the potential draft picks.
What did you take from Ray Farmer's comments?
“He’ll ask 40 million questions and he’ll want to know, and that’s OK,” said Farmer. “He has a right to know. Even if he didn’t want to know, we’d still try to inform him.
“He was involved with certain guys, and we made sure that he had time to spend with certain guys.”
Something tells me that those “certain guys” all played the quarterback position and would become the face of his $1 billion franchise if drafted. It is only smart to keep a close eye on your investments, and the Browns are no different.
So while the evidence is certainly not concrete, there are clues to be found. I feel like the Browns are leaning more and more toward Johnny Manziel with the fourth overall pick, and Farmer’s comments only strengthened my resolve.
But then again this is the NFL, and general managers might as well be trained spies. They tell you what they want you to know just so they can mislead you away from what they do not.
I am starting to feel like a government conspiracy theorist. I don’t know what to believe anymore.