2014 NFL Draft: Farmer's vision for Browns? QB still No.1 priority
New Browns GM Ray Farmer is a respected talent evaluator who will carefully vet Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater as he attempts to identify a franchise quarterback.
The latest bombshell from the Cleveland Browns saw the organization elevating Ray Farmer to general manager just more than a week before the Scouting Combine is set to kick off in Indianapolis.
CEO Joe Banner will transition out of his role and general manager Mike Lombardi is out of the organization immediately, six weeks after head coach Rob Chudzinski was fired after just one season on the job.
There are plenty of long-term questions about the franchise, but the immediate focus will be on preparations for the 2014 NFL Draft. The overhaul does mean a new, streamlined version of the Browns front office that owner Jimmy Haslam is hoping will help create a clear organizational structure to improve the personnel process from top to bottom.
Haslam said on Tuesday that he is "highly confident" that with Farmer and new head coach Mike Pettine leading the charge, the Browns are headed in the right direction.
In January 2013, the Browns strongly considered hiring Farmer as general manager, but instead opted for Lombardi. However, Haslam and Banner felt so strongly about Farmer's impact in the front office that they hired him as assistant general manager, effectively bumping up Lombardi's title to general manager.
A respected evaluator around the league, most said it was just a matter of time before Farmer would become an NFL general manager. That time proved to be just 13 months away.
Farmer's time is now.
The Browns have 10 draft picks in May, including five in the first three rounds and two of the top 26 picks overall. Quarterback was presumably at the top of Banner and Lombardi's wish list, and with Farmer taking the reins that likely won't change.
Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Central Florida's Blake Bortles and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater are all considered options for the Browns, who own the No. 4 pick in the first round. It's too early to assume they are leaning toward a specific player, but you can bet Farmer and his staff are vetting every candidate to find the best player that fits their vision. I currently have the Browns selecting Manziel with the No. 4 overall pick while Rob Rang projects Bortles going to Cleveland in our current Mock Drafts.
"It will be a decision we make in house," Farmer said when asked about possibly taking a quarterback early. "I will be aware of how the coaches feel. How the scouts feel. And how I feel. We'll make the right decision on the quarterback going forward or whatever position it is."
Farmer has shaped his scouting and personnel beliefs after spending a number of years as a player, scout and front office executive. One area he feels strongly about is organizational cohesion, something that Haslam is searching for with the restructuring of the front office. Farmer made it a point to mention constant communication with his staff and the coaches to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to player evaluation.
"Running the draft is as simple as being in the process that answers all the questions in advance," Farmer said. "I'm definitely solidified in that process, and we'll be prepared to select players who fit what Coach Pettine wants to do. I helped establish that process, so I'm comfortable with where we're at."
Farmer also said the team's draft board "will change" as he discusses prospects with the coaching staff. That cohesion, making sure he is selecting players who fit what the coaches want to do on the field, is what Haslam is striving for with the front office shake up.
The feel from fans and those around the league is that Tuesday's change is a step in the right direction for a Browns franchise that has one playoff appearance since re-entering the league in 1999. President Alec Scheiner will continue to head the organization's business operations and is one of the "most intelligent and innovative young executives" in the league, according to Haslam.
Brent Stehlik will continue as executive vice president and chief revenue officer, and is also considered one of the young shining stars in the league.
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