Way back in February, the Browns reportedly had no interest in using their fourth-overall pick on Johnny Manziel and instead preferred Derek Carr, thought to be a late first-rounder my most mock-draft pundits.
Who knows where the Browns actually stand on Manziel, Carr or any other draft-eligible quarterback, but the organization maintained the appearance that they weren't interested in Johnny Football by not sending a single representative to his pro day last week.
(We talked about this on the latest Eye on Football Podcast, and even made the case that they're like Ronald Miller in "Can't Buy Me Love" wanting Cindy Mancini to pretend to be his girlfriend, but forgetting about the part where he needs to fork over the $1,000 for it to happen. Because without that, all you have is the most popular girl in school still having no idea you exist.)
But new Browns coach Mike Pettine can explain the conspicuous absence.
"We've always felt -- I felt this way coming in and (GM) Ray (Farmer) has to -- that you get a lot more out of a private workout when it's a little less scripted or it's scripted the way you want it scripted, where you can kind of throw some curveballs at a player and see how they react to it. It's like the difference between a guy hitting home runs at batting practice vs. live pitching,'' Pettine said, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I think it's important you get that concentrated view of a player instead of something that's borderline artificial. We certainly get the video of the pro days and see them, so you kind of get the best of both worlds.''
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Browns will hold a private workout Monday for Carr, according to the Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot.
"I think he's the best natural thrower as far as arm strength and when you're just looking at the guy, natural thrower, in the draft,'' Pettine said at the annual NFL owners meetings last week. (He's) very physically gifted. And a lot of times it's hard to bet against the family history as well. You're talking about like a Jake Matthews that it's the old 'don't bet against the genetics.' I think he certainly falls into that category as well.''
In February, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah called Carr the Browns' "guy," adding that the team would "...take a different player with the fourth pick and they want to take Derek Carr with their second one. ... I heard that from several different places."
The Browns' second first-round pick is 26th overall, but a lot can happen in six weeks, particularly when talking about draft prospects. So now the question could be if the team would seriously consider pulling the trigger on Carr with the No. 4 selection.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians thinks that Carr deserves to be in the same conversation as Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater. "Yeah, he's got those measurables and he's won a lot of ballgames,'' the coach said last week. "I'll have to study him more, but I wouldn't be surprised (if he goes in the top five).''
Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net reported in late February that "at least 17 quarterback coaches polled at the combine rank Derek Carr over Johnny Manziel," but again, a lot can change in the weeks and months leading up to the draft.
As far as Carr's concerned, he's every bit the quarterback as the Big 3.
"From the evaluations I've got and from the meetings I've had, I don't care what those rankings are,'' Carr said. "I know what I've heard and what they've said to me. They're not going to sugarcoat anything for me. I love what people say outside of those circles. It's fun for me to hear because I know what the teams are saying and what they're telling me. It's been really good so far.”
The CBSSports.com mock draft experts have the Browns taking OT Jake Matthews, WR Sammy Watkins, Manziel or Bridgewater at No. 4, and going with Bridgewater, CB Kyle Fuller, DE Demarcus Lawrence, WR Kelvin Benjamin or WR Marqise Lee at No. 26.