BEREA—The long awaited day that GM Mike Lombardi was made available to speak to the media arrived and ended with little fanfare.
Lombardi had not been made available to the media since the day he was introduced as the team’s Player Personnel Director because CEO Joe Banner referred to him as a “lightning rod” when asked why Lombardi hasn’t been made available before.
Lombardi and Banner answered questions for about 27 minutes. However, it was Banner who offered more insight than Lombardi did.
During the session, Banner said the Browns have assigned about 18 to 20 players a first-round grade. He said it is his experience that since other teams assign different grades to different players, the Browns should be able to get a player they like even trading to the bottom of the first round.
“We’re not with the conventional wisdom and we think there are some very good players at the top of the draft that will serve us well.”
Banner said the team has had preliminary discussions with many teams, exploring trade options to either move up or back in the draft. At least three national publications see the Browns trading down to the 11th spot with the Chargers.
“You prepare for everything,” Lombardi said. “It’s just about being prepared and being thorough.”
The Browns currently do not have a second-round choice due to selecting Josh Gordon in the second-round of the supplemental draft last summer.
“If we feel trading up or back gives us more value, then we’ll do it,” Banner said. “If it’s value to move up or move back, we’ll consider it.”
Banner thinks there will be interest in the Browns pick, if they desire to move.
“I think there are teams interested in moving up but there are also teams that are interested in moving down, depending on who’s there (at the time),” Banner said.
Banner said that it is normal to put feelers out before the draft since teams get just 10 minutes once they’re on the clock in the first-round.
“It’s normal at this time to be talking with teams,” he said. “You’re trying to get a feel and you exchange opinions and see who is open to moving up or down. There are really no specific conversations, but more feel you out conversations.”
Banner was asked if he would be disappointed if the Browns can’t trade down.
“No. I think we’d only be disappointed if we made a pick that we don’t want and I can’t see that happening.”
Banner did indicate if the Browns trade out of the six spot, it will most likely happen while they are on the clock.
“It’s highly likely if there’s going to be a trade.”
Banner also said that there isn’t a limit on how far the Browns would trade down, if they feel the situation warrants it.
“If you have 18 players on your board, you almost certainly will get one of them all the way through the first round.”
Other topics covered during the session:
Q: What position do you feel is the more important on defense, cornerback or pass rusher:?
Lombardi: “Can I say both cornerback and pass rusher?”
Q: Who will be in the war room?:
Banner: “Myself, Mike, (Assistant GM Ray Farmer, R ob (Chudzinski) and Jimmy (Haslam). Those will be the primary people.”
Q: How is your role different than when you were with the Eagles regarding the draft?:
Banner:”Yeah, but nobody knows what I was doing with the Eagles. I’m doing what I did with Philadelphia, but nobody knows that. I’m very involved as much as I was in Philadelphia.”
Q: How will the collaborative effort work?:
Lombardi: “We’ve been very clear on a collaborative effort. It takes more than one person to make a decision.”
Banner: “The real function is if there’s a player two of us like and two don’t. If there’s a strong difference of opinion, we’ll probably move to a different player. It would usually a better move to switch to the consensus of opinion. There’s not one player at that point and there’s going to be a player that has a consensus of support.”
Q: Is your draft board set?:
Lombardi:“We have a lot of information, but there are a lot of things have to be determined.”
Q: Do you feel the group of outside linebackers is deep in this draft?:
Lombardi: “There are outside linebackers as pass rushers in most draft guys and guys who can rush the passer. I think there are a lot of rushers. There are always certain levels, but it is important that you get the right guy for your team.”
Q: Is that a priority considering Paul Kruger was drafted?
Lombardi: “Rushing passer is always a priority.”
Q: Why have you spent so much time evaluating the quarterbacks?:
Banner: “I think as Mike said you have to prepare for any possibility. We certainly don’t want to under evaluate and be thorough in everything. We’re trying to be very through. There are quarterbacks in this draft that are intriguing and seeing what is available.”
Lombardi: “I think every year there are always quarterbacks who do positive things and this draft offers this. “
Q: Do you feel this is a deep draft?:
Lombardi: “I think every draft is unique and different. The right seven players for your team is what is important.”
Q: Are there certain positions you feel you need to address?:
Lombardi: “I think you have to build the team based on the criteria. You have to evaluate the draft and move forward. There’s an ongoing evaluation process.”
Q; Do you see Brandon Weeden as the starter going into the draft?:
Lombardi: “I thought Joe handled (that topic) well. I’ve been busy studying the draft.”
Q: Do you feel this draft is deep at cornerback?:
Lombardi: “Because of college football’s passing game, a lot of guys cover, and there is a lot of depth to it.”
Q: What was your strategy about addressing the cornerback position in free agency?:
Lombardi: “The strategy was to be sure we got good players at positions of need and that’s how we addressed it.”
Q: Being your first pick as GM, do you think it’s more important to make a safe pick?:
Lombardi: “I think in the draft it’s about taking good players.”
Q: What are your thoughts on Ziggy Ansah fitting as more of a 3-4 or 4-3 player?:
Lombardi: “Ziggy’s a good player and I’m sure he can do both.”
Q: Will torn labrum injuries to Dion Jordan and Dee Milliner affect your evaluations of them?:
Lombardi: “Injury medical grades are about today and also the future.”
Q: Do you feel there is a lot of pressure on this first draft?:
Banner: “There’s a lot of pressure, mostly self imposed for us to be successful. We want to resist the temptation to do something quickly and not being able to sustain it. We want to be patient and build it the right way so we don’t sneak into the playoffs once and not do it the right way.”
Q: Have you talked to the players you criticized when you were on NFL Network:?
Lombardi: “I’ve talked to all the players and have seen the players. That was when I was with the NFL Network. I’m with the Browns now and excited to work with them.”
Q: Could you update us on the Pilot Flying J situation?:
Banner: “I think Jimmy (Haslam) made a statement the other day and I can’t add a lot to it. The Browns operations will remain the same.“