As Browns General Manager Andrew Berry prepares to run his first NFL Draft, he insists he’s been oblivious to nervousness or pressure.
He’s only 33 years old, and at 32 was the youngest GM in league history when hired on Jan. 27. He’s not only in charge of the Browns’ seven picks over seven rounds Thursday through Saturday, but has final say on whether the team acquires or deals veterans.
But as the clock ticks down to 8 p.m. Thursday, when the virtual draft opens in historic and perhaps erratic fashion because of the coronavirus pandemic, Berry’s emotions are rooted in anticipation.
“It’s exciting because we’ve spent so much time on these prospects, it’s a little bit like Christmas come early because OK, now we get to see who the newest members of the Browns organization are going to be,” Berry said Monday during a Zoom meeting with beat writers. “That’s a really fulfilling and rewarding time, not just for myself, but for everybody else who has put countless hours into this process.
“I have a ton of confidence in our group and what we’ve done over the course of the spring. I do feel very prepared.”
The Browns hold the 10th overall pick, but Berry said it’s too soon to gauge the interest of teams who might want to move up.
“You never really know until you get a little bit closer to the draft and certainly on the clock just because there are a number of different scenarios that can play out,” Berry said. “I do think that we will have options, you typically do every year almost regardless of where you’re picking. It’s probably too early to say what things will look like on Thursday night.”
There is also the possibility of the Browns trading for a veteran, with speculation centering on Redskins’ left tackle Trent Williams even before Peter King of NBC Sports reported Monday that should happen during the draft. The Browns could also deal a current player, with Olivier Vernon mentioned most often after the Browns signed nine-year veteran defensive end Adrian Clayborn to a two-year, $5.75 million contract.
“Anything that we think can help improve the team we’re going to be actively exploring and we’ll certainly listen, but I can’t say anything’s imminent,” Berry said in regards to dealing a current player.
The Browns’ analytics-driven front office could be open to moving down. Not surprisingly, Berry would not rule out anything even though their most pressing needs are at left tackle and linebacker.
“There are a number of different scenarios that could mean that we would sit and pick, move up, move back, do whatever. We’re not going to be pigeon-holed into a certain decision, certain mode of operation,” he said.
“Our approach with the draft has really been to scout and evaluate as if you have an expansion roster. That’s really the case every year. We don’t go into a fall or a spring and say we’re just going to hone in on these specific positions. The draft is more about maximizing the long-term talent on your team as opposed to filling needs.”
The Browns are also slated to pick 41st, 74th, 97th, 115th, 187th and 244th, with selections in every round but the fifth and two in the third.
With the Browns working the draft remotely, Berry said he will be hooked up with 12 or 13 people, with new coach Kevin Stefanski certainly one of those. There will be a couple live channels for broader groups, Berry said.
Berry said the Browns had a second draft run-through Monday morning and the league’ mock draft was set to begin at 1 p.m. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported via Twitter that he received a text from one participant that read, “Already technical glitch w Cincinnatis 1st pick!!! Brutal.” ESPN’s Dianna Russini tweeted that multiple coaches and GMs texted that band width was a problem.
“We will have multiple simulations on Tuesday. We do feel very comfortable and we will feel even more comfortable as we head into Wednesday morning,” Berry said.
But with team headquarters shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Berry acknowledged there will be something missing during this draft.
“One of the disappointments is not being able to share the experience physically with everybody in the organization,” Berry said. “There’s something special about being in one place together as all the picks roll off. We’re going to make sure we can replicate that as much as possible.”