The title says it all ..................
Despite the media speculation that the Browns will select any and every top-rated player in the draft, there are only three people that know EXACTLY what the organization is thinking and leaning toward doing -- those three people are team owner Jimmy Haslam, general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine.
This just happens to be what we reported days ago and the mainstream media has gotten on the same page, but we'll go a little further.
Farmer will not disclose the final decision until the draft-room is closed for the start of the Browns draft process. While we have been quick to report names in play, getting to the bottom-line has been a difficult task.
The decision-makers of the Browns are not telling those in the media who they will select, because according to the Browns they like every player. Farmer and company have played the draft to this point very well.
- A little tidbit was passed along to the Fast Lane late Wednesday evening. This tidbit tells theOBR discussions inside the organization may be ultimately leading to LB Khalil Mack as the preferred selection at #4 for the Browns -- if they cannot secure a trade-down.
- To be a QB or not to be a QB at #4 continues to be a highly debated question. This column continues to be told the Browns do not believe they must select a QB with the #4 pick in the draft and have players rated higher than the top-rated QB on their draft and positional boards.
Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr and Blake Bortles continue to be named in association with the Browns and an early QB selection. The residing issue is according to voices within the Browns organization, the staff has been debating whether selecting a QB at #4 and potentially getting questionable impact in season-one has been a constant throughout the thought process.
Speculation throughout the media points to the Browns selecting Manziel, if he is available with the #4 pick. This column continues to be told the Browns are highly unlikely to select Manziel at #4, as well as it remaining unlikely the team selects any QB with the fourth overall selection. TheOBR has been told the Browns would entertain the notion of Manziel later in the first round, but he not the top-QB on their board.
As the Fast Lane has stated for a very long time, if Manziel is selected by the Browns with the #4 selection in the draft, it would be a most shocking development. Absolutely nothing leads the Fast Lane to believe, much less entertain the notion.
When specifically inquiring about Manziel, our friends in the orange and brown made one simple comment, "You watched the film, you cannot help but love how he plays the game and finds a way to make plays, but he misses on far too many opportunities, the normal plays you have to make. I think he has a chance to be successful in the right situation, he is going to need time and a patient team."
The Fast Lane continues to maintain, as we have since late December / early January that Farmer is really high on QB Teddy Bridgewater. But, theOBR continues to hear the Browns are not likely to select him with the #4 pick, but remain very much on his trail.
The Browns also think highly of QB Derek Carr. The organization loves his athleticism, how he throws the ball and believes he has solid developmental properties. All be told, theOBR has been told the Browns like Bridgewater slightly more overall, but some within the process believe Carr has the physical tools that are undeniable and is very easy to work with.
Now, the intrigue at QB rolls in, that being Blake Bortles.
The Browns love his size, toughness, mental make-up and ability to make plays while on the move. Of all the early selection candidates, Bortles is the one player which will need more time to develop, he needs plenty of refinement.
Late information making it's way to the Fast Lane is the Browns have a serious interest in QB Tom Savage and it is believed he has been targeted as early as the top of the second round. The Browns have talked with teams within the past 48-hours about moving up from #35 to the end of the first round, top of the second round.
As for the Fast Lane, we believe Bortles is the wild-card and Savage is the sleeper at the QB position to the Browns. At the end of the day Thursday, Bridgewater or Carr are the odds on favorites to be selected by the Browns, but would not discount the team going the Bortles or Savage route.
And as of this writing, the Fast Lane has been told Farmer continues to explore the opportunities.
- For all wanting to see WR Sammy Watkins in a Browns uniform in the 2014 season, the odds of such occurring could be waning.
The Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills are expressing legitimate interest in the St. Louis Rams pick, the #2 overall in the draft. The Lions are believed to be interested in Watkins and the Bills appeared to be locked into OT's Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews.
Discussions within the past 24-hours point to the Jacksonville Jaguars having discussions with teams to trade the #3 selection in the draft, which has led to the Fast Lane being told Watkins, the OT's and WR Mike Evans drawing interest. Talking to league-types within the past 24-hours, the Fast Lane has been told the Jaguars have discussed LB Khalil Mack and DT Aaron Donald extensively and have Watkins high on their board.
- The Browns have Watkins and WR Mike Evans (Texas A&M) rated very closely. I am told members of the Browns organization are split on the two receivers. As told to theOBR by one member of the Browns organization, "It all comes down to which flavor you like, a smaller, dynamic receiver or a big-body receiver that can go up and get the ball. Both players fit what we are looking to do here."
Adding Watkins or Evans could certainly help enable a Browns offense seeking play-makers and dynamic presences on the offensive side of the ball. A Browns revamped offense with one of these WR's lined-up opposite WR Josh Gordon, with the FA additions of slot-WR Andrew Hawkins and RB Ben Tate immediately changes the complexion of the Cleveland offense.
As one AFC North executive told the Fast Lane, "You add one of those receivers (Watkins and Evans) and get average QB play, this will be one tough offense to contend with. This Browns team is going to surprise many people in 2014."
While discussing the WR's with an NFC player personnel executive, the Fast Lane was told, "You cannot body Evans off the ball and you will beat a defense over the top with his size and deceptive speed. With Watkins, he needs to work on running routes and can be bodied off the spot, but he is damn quick. Personally, we have Evans rated higher."
- An area of great debate has been the Browns internal discussions regarding the potential selection of an offensive tackle with the 4th overall selection in the draft.
Make no mistake, the Browns are very high on Greg Robinson (AUB) and Jake Matthews (Texas A&M) and have both players rated very highly, theOBR has learned. Interesting, the Fast Lane has heard within the past 12-hours that the Browns had an interesting discussion with those around the Texas A&M program, for which OT Jake Matthews played for.
The Fast Lane has been told the Browns see similar upside between Matthews and Robinson, with Matthews being more refined and a definite plug and play caliber player at the tackle and guard positions. TheOBR has also been told Matthews is one of the 5-6 players the Browns see as candidates at #4.
- There has been plenty of trade-down talks over the past week, with the discussions at a high-level at this time. Teams have specific players targeted and are gauging the waters as to the ransom teams require to secure one of the top 4-5 selections in the draft.
As up to the time of this writing, teams within the first 4-5 selections have been wary to make a move and they are demanding a ransom in discussions. With such identifiable, significant talent available within the top-end of the first round, teams want to fill specific needs with serious talent and those willing to deal want to rake in a haul to move.
While the amount of discussion should lead to a deal in the top 4-5 picks, the asking price and teams seeking a deal with other draft needs are making such prohibitive even for the most desperate of teams.
And the Browns? The Fast Lane is told the Browns are willing to drop to the early teens at best and seek a second and third round pick as compensation.
In a trade-down scenario, dependent on where the Browns would fall, the Fast Lane has been told the Browns have taken interest in CB Justin Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard along with DT Aaron Donald, TE Eric Ebron, OT Taylor Lewan and the QB's, as Robinson, Matthews, Watkins and Evans are believed to be off the board at that time.
- Dependent on how the draft plays itself out in the mid-teens, the Browns selection opportunities, which includes trading up to secure talent will unfold.
The Fast Lane has been told Mike Pettine wants a cover-CB and the Browns appear to be on the radar to oblige the head coach. With the #26 pick barring a trade-up to secure a QB or possibly the CB, the Browns could be in position to select a CB such as Kyle Fuller, but there has been some talk that the Browns have FS Calvin Pryor on their radar as well as LB Ryan Shazier.
Pettine and Farmer agree that the Browns defensive backfield requires a cover-CB for Pettine's press-man coverage to be successful, as well as enabling the staff to move CB Buster Skrine inside.
A trade-down plays right into the hands of their theory, as the Fast Lane has been told Farmer believes he can obtain for better value slightly later in the first round.