Andrew Berry & Kevin Stefanski Draft Wrap Up

Transcript from:

Mike Annarella

Communications Coordinator

EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry (4.25.20)

Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry:

Opening statement:

“With the 2020 NFL Draft in the books, we are pleased that we feel like we were able to add a number of young, talented players to the roster this weekend who fit our offense and defensive schemes. We feel like we were able to address a number of needs across the roster on both sides of the ball, and then perhaps most importantly, we feel good about adding a number of individuals who embody the tough, smart and accountable culture that we are trying to build upon here in Cleveland. I want to point out a couple groups that have gotten us to this point in the weekend. Certainly, our pro and college scouting staffs, our research and strategy group, our coaches who have put in a ton of hours, our IT and video in terms of handling really unprecedented circumstances with this draft and then our contract management team, as well. It really has been a collaborative effort. To execute on our plan and vision for this draft, a lot of people have put in a lot of time to get us to this point. Lastly, before opening up to questions, I want to actually thank you guys all for your patience. I know it is a very long weekend for everybody who is involved in the draft, whether it is the club side or in the media. Certainly, appreciate your patience, particularly tonight, as we try to wrap up the undrafted free agent process.”

On the Browns TEs room and TE David Njoku’s status:

“In terms of the tight end situation, we feel very good about that room. We think it is very talented. We have a number of guys that that we think are and certainly with (TE) Harrison (Bryant) will be good NFL players. We said from the start, that it is a very tight end friendly and a tight end heavy system. Last year in Minnesota, (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski) as the OC in addition to running a lot of 12, one back, two tight end personnel and 21 two backs, one tight end, he also ran a lot of 13 with one back and three tight ends. It is a very tight end friendly system. To David in particular, our perspective remains the same. I have been pretty consistent this offseason in terms of we still have a ton of belief in David. He is very talented. Obviously, he was not on the field much last year, but he is a guy with outstanding physical tools, he has proven NFL production and we still think the future is very bright with him here. David has always been and continues to be in our plans, and we are going to continue to add competition all across the roster.”

On if the Browns will pick up Njoku’s fifth-year option:

“Kind of like at the combine. I would not comment on any of those decisions in this context, but again, we see David as part of our long-term plans.”

On if the Browns plan is to bring back DE Olivier Vernon, given the team did not draft a DE:

“This is probably another one of those questions where we are pretty much in the same place. Olivier is a good football player, and we like having good football players on the roster. He is a talented defensive end. He is here and will continue to be here.”

On his collaboration with Stefanski and how they played off each other in their first draft together:

“I love working with Kevin, just period. His insight, his calmness and his intelligence, it really does not matter the situation that we are dealing with. Certainly, his presence is more than appreciated over the course of the last few days going through the draft. It is not just his insight with how players married a scheme or his own individual evaluations, but he is also such a great thought partner in terms of strategy, not just Xs and Os but things we do on the personnel side or as we are thinking through things on the clock. I really could not ask for a better partner really in any situation. I am really pleased with how our first draft has gone as a group.”

On if the new CBA rules and full guarantees for fifth-year options complicates the decision on Njoku’s fifth-year option:

“Not at all. It doesn’t complicate it at all, probably on one technicality that the full guarantee that applies to the 2018 draft class and not necessarily the 2017 draft class. Even if it was for Njoku’s class, it wouldn’t complicate the decision at all.”

On dealing with the differences of the virtual draft and if members of the Browns still ‘pounded the table’ to advocate for players:

“I think what you are getting at is soliciting input, and that part was very smooth. We try and organize a process where a lot of those more difficult discussions and thoughts are expressed beforehand so when we get to the draft and we get on the clock, it is more about execution. You can’t plan for all those situations because the board may fall differently. I can assure you we have a very strongly opinionated group, which is a good thing because they push me, they push me on my own assumptions and they are not afraid to express when they disagree, and everyone does it at the proper times. We have so many different perspectives, whether it is college scouting, pro scouting, research and strategy or coaching, and that is really, really healthy. We were at no shortage of ideas and had the right perspectives in the room at the right time. That is one of the things I’m probably most proud of from this weekend.”

On if the members of the team pushed him frequently on players:

“They always pushed me frequently, but then I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

On how important it was to select players from winning programs in college that reached the playoffs, particularly given the Browns don’t have many players with NFL postseason experience:

“This may be perhaps a little bit of an unpopular take, but I wasn’t focused on that as much because football really is the consummate team sport. Just because someone was on a winning team doesn’t necessarily automatically mean they have the right make-up for your program, just like someone who may have been in a program that wasn’t as talented or didn’t win as many games doesn’t mean that they are not the right fit for your team. We really tried to look at each of these players individually and how they operated in their college environments with things that they could control. We feel good about the people that we brought into the building, for sure.”

On the Browns’ free agency signings and how that impacted the team’s draft:

“You do try and marry both in terms of building your roster. Free agency I do think allowed us to remain flexible within the draft. It allowed us to add talent to some specific spots on the roster so we do think that it served as a pretty good foundation leading into this weekend. Taking them both together, we do like where we sit here on April 25th, but that being said, we do have four or five months until our first game. The offseason and our personnel cycle, it doesn’t just end tonight. There is still plenty of work to be done on the roster. There are still going to be opportunities over the next several months, and we will continue to explore those.”

On the significance of information Browns personnel gained during the Senior Bowl and all-star games, given the different offseason schedule:

“To be honest, I think it was about equally as vital. The Senior Bowl and the all-star game, circuit that is a big piece of what we will do as a scouting staff. At the same time, even though guys can’t necessarily come onsite, we still were able to have very many touchpoints, whether it was no different than how you and I are talking right now. The workout piece, that was perhaps a little bit more challenging if a guy is hurt, you want to see him at a different position or you want to see something more specific. Fortunately, we did still have the combine, and at the end of the day, there is plenty of film from any individual’s fall over the past few years and that ultimately weighs the most.”

On if Browns draft selections will be able to step in immediately and contribute:

“I have been humbled enough over my NFL career to realize that you really don’t know. There are going to be guys that surprise us likely in both directions because each of these guys are individuals entering the NFL for the first time. That doesn’t just mean acclimating to NFL competition, but a new organization, a new city and a totally new dynamic than where they were in college. That process is challenging for a lot of young players, but we are confident that we have a coaching staff that is going to work with these guys and we are confident that we are going to create the right environment with our support staff and give these guys the best chance to hit the ground running but also being humble enough to realize that each player matures differently in the NFL.”

On C Nick Harris’ role with the team now and long term, given the team extended C JC Tretter’s contract recently:

“We view Nick as another good young player that we had the opportunity to acquire at that point in the draft. We do view his skillset as a little bit more focused at center, and I think he is a perfect scheme fit for what we want to do with our offense because of his movement skills, athleticism and intelligence. Obviously, we love JC. He is our starter. He is a proven player, a proven veteran at the position for a number of years. Nick will learn a lot from him, as well as a number of the veterans that we have in that position group.”

On if the Browns were ever tempted to trade up during the draft:

“There were a few situations where we considered it. I know we moved down the board more often this weekend than up the board. Longer term, that is a little bit more aligned with our philosophy, but it also does not mean that we won’t be up to [trading up in the draft] because there are situations where it does make sense. We were fortunate that the board fell in our favor in a lot of key spots, but that will not be the case every year.”

On trading back and acquiring players the team wanted in S Grant Delpit and DT Jordan Elliott:

“We were fortunate that we had a number of players or targeted guys that we were able to trade down a few spots and still able acquire them while picking up extra draft capital.”

On how to accelerate continuity among the staff to assist players’ development with new personnel and coaching groups:

“I don’t know that we can accelerate continuity. That is going to take time, and I am sure we are going to have our hiccups. One thing before I came on to talk to you guys, I expressed to our coaches, our scouts, research group, contract management and our support staff, I have an immense sense of pride for how this group has come together in call it 90 days amid the circumstances this spring. It has been remarkable. It is a credit to all of the people who have adjusted across different roles because we would not be anywhere close to where we needed to be without those contributions. That group as a whole just doesn’t get enough credit, and they really should.”

On if the league has provided guidance for when the rules in place due to the pandemic may be relaxed or the timeline for a decision on when teams can return to their facilities:

“We have not done anything specific yet. We are hopeful we will get some movement next month, but until we do, we will roll with the punches and we will be as prepared as we can possibly be until circumstances are resolved and return to normal.”

On the potential future of a virtual draft format, particularly given the opportunity for team staff to spend time with their families and share that with NFL fans:

“I think that is an interesting question. I was actually talking about that with my wife last night. She was actually making a similar comment that it was actually pretty cool because it brings perhaps more of a human element to a lot of the key people in this weekend. I do not know that this will be the standard operating protocol. That is really not my decision to make. I think everybody can appreciate that this was certainly a unique draft, but there were some pretty cool things that came out of the weekend, as well.”

On providing an example for player evaluation and selection when considering his fit to the team’s culture and scheme rather than simply best player available from a talent standpoint:

“When we get to the point where we are actually making player selections, it is not about determining ‘OK, does this guy fit now?’ When our staffs come out in the fall, we build our board and massage our board with our team in mind and with fit within our offensive and defensive systems in mind. Really, the draft process to some degree becomes like a 15-month elimination process because you may start with a pool of a couple thousand seniors across college football, and you whittle your board not just on talent but it could be fit within the offensive and defensive systems, character, mental or you name it. You get to a point where, at least in our case, where we would have a board with about 140 players that we thought appropriately fit what we were looking for within the Browns organization – talent, scheme fit, character, mental or you name it. That is really baked in before we get to the weekend when we are selecting players. We are selecting from a menu, so to speak, of players that we think would be good Cleveland Browns.”

On selecting WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, his upside and why he was available in the sixth round despite his talent:

“I do think that Donovan is a talented young player. He has good size. He is athletic, strong and just has a really well-rounded physical skillset. He does have some return ability, and we think he has some flexibility to play outside and inside. I do think that this was a pretty deep receiver class. I do think there are a number of players that probably really from first round down that fell in spots that in a given year they may have gone a little bit higher. In terms of his ceiling and upside and where we expect him to be, I am not going to speculate on that. We do think he is a very talented individual. At the same time, he is going to have to put the work in, just like all these guys. They are going to have to earn their playing time and ultimately prove it on the field. Certainly, what he did in college has gotten him to this point, but all of these guys are going to have to take a step forward to make sure that they are capitalizing on their potential.”

On if he remembers his mindset during the 2018 season when the Browns were playing Baltimore after a late season push:

“I do not want to mislead you, I do not know if that really resonates with me. I do remember anxiety during the game because we were driving down at the last minute hopefully for a go-ahead score, but it did not quite work out and we had a turnover at the end of the game. That is pretty natural for any close game. I do not know that it had any greater significance or meaning to me at the time because you really do try and isolate those moments.”

On referring to the 2018 as the Browns look to restore a similar energy from the second half of that season and how the team’s free agency and draft acquisitions can look to return to that excitement:

“We are excited about what we have done so far this spring. We like the guys that we have added in free agency. We like the guys that we have traded for. We like the guys that we have added in the draft. We are also not naive that we still have work to do and we still have several months until we are playing, which gives us several months to continue to improve the roster. That all being said, we are certainly hopeful and optimistic with the individuals that we have added to the team. We also know it all has to play out in the fall. We think that we have the right guys and the right players where we are optimistic that that will happen, but it does have to play itself out. We have a lot of hard work on the field to do before that comes to fruition.”

On how signing undrafted free agents proceeded in a different environment after the virtual draft:

“It is probably no different than being in the draft. A lot of the undrafted free agent process occurs on the phone, where after the draft we are on the phone with the players’ agents or we are doing a little recruiting with the actual player. Where it is different is if we are in the facilities and everyone is in the same building, everyone is generally in the same hallway with our scouts and coaches. Here, we just did it through Microsoft Teams. That was really the biggest difference. We had a pretty smooth and organized process. It does create some more challenges because you do have a big group that is trying to communicate over a virtual platform, but it really didn’t slow us down that much and we feel really good coming out of the process.”

On drafting C Nick Harris, who also played G at Washington, and the Browns’ overall plans at RG:

“We do have a number of interior players that we will cross-train. Nick’s primary home has been at the center throughout his college career. That doesn’t mean that he is not going to take some guard snaps, but we have a couple of young players – whether it’s Nick, (G) Wyatt Teller, (G) Drew Forbes or we signed (C) Evan Brown recently – and a number of guys who have played both center and guard so it should be good competition in that spot.”

On the Browns restructuring T Chris Hubbard’s contract:

“Chris is another valuable veteran on the offensive line, a guy who has been very versatile over the course of his career. He has played basically every position up and down the line but center. He has done that in games. Obviously, over the past two years here, he has played predominantly right tackle. Versatile, experienced veteran O linemen are valuable. There are 162 starters in the league, and every year, you get to August and teams are calling, ‘Hey, do you know where I can find another tackle? Do you know where I can find another O lineman?’ Chris is going to be a valuable part of the team.”

On areas the Browns still need to address on the roster:

“We still need to target everywhere in terms of talent. I know that is probably not the response you were looking for, but it truly has to be the mindset. The more talent we can add to the roster, the better chance we have to win and the better chance that our coaches have to be able to run their systems and schemes. We are going to focus everywhere. We are going to continue to focus everywhere.”

On if there is a position group of note that the Browns need to add players in order to be ready for training camp and the season:

“It will be continuous improvement everywhere we can find it.”

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(Photo by: 2020 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Transcript By:

Mike Annarella

Communications Coordinator

HC Kevin Stefanski (4.25.20)

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement:

“I know the draft is ongoing. We do not have any picks in the seventh round so it looks like we are done picking. I really was pleased with how these last three days have gone. This is the culmination of a lot of hard work. First, I will point out the work of our scouts. Those road scouts, wish I could have been with them this weekend, but this is definitely the fruits of their labor. We went armed with a ton of information and that is to their credit. The whole personnel group and the coaching staff, it takes a lot of people to put this thing together. I think armed with all that information, I think we have some guys that we are excited to bring into our building. I think we got better on both sides of the ball, and I think we added some guys that we are looking forward to developing. I do not think any of the guys we added are finished products. That is the fun part in getting to work with them. Obviously, that will start virtually and remotely and then eventually that will turn into being hands on with them, God willingly sooner rather than later. Pleased with how it went. You can never predict it, but I thought the plan was sound. Kudos to (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew Berry and his crew.”

On if he received advice from his dad, Detroit Pistons Senior Advisor of Basketball Operations Ed Stefanski this weekend:

“I would say a lot of free advice and a lot of feedback (laughter). He loves athletes. There were players that he was sending me links to their Pro Day or links to their highlight tape. He wants very badly to be on staff with the Browns. Unfortunately, we do not have a spot for him (laughter). I did talk to him a bunch this week. The draft, whether NFL or NBA, that is the fun part. He certainly loves the NBA Draft, and I can tell you he enjoyed watching his Browns this weekend.”

On if the Browns addressed what they desired in the draft and if there were any ‘stones left unturned’ in improving the roster this weekend:

“I think you are always looking to improve the roster. Certainly, you look at some of the spots that we said we wanted to get younger and we wanted to bring in some competition at some of these positions so we did that. At the same time, you never know how the board is going to turn out and you may take a guy that you never thought would be there at that given moment. Really at the end of the day, if you trust the board, you are usually right. There is a reason our scouts and coaches work this hard. There is a reason we put this board together. I think to the group’s credit, we really stuck to that board.”

On drafting TE Harrison Bryant and if the TE room is becoming overpopulated:

“To the second part, I do not think so. I really think there is a way to get all these guys on the field – sometimes at the same time and sometimes not. I just think there is versatility in that position. I think being able to move guys around the formation is a very big deal. I think keeping teams in base defense can be helpful at times. Not every game but sometimes you go into a game and you like to keep them in their base scheme with three linebackers on the field and keep them out of their nickel sub-packages, which can a lot of times bring some exotic pressures. There is some thought to that. Also, just the value of the pick. We think this kid is a pretty good football player. He was available at a spot that we thought it was worth taking him. It is our job – my job and our coaches job – to make it work with the guys we have. The more we have in the room, the merrier.”

On if the Browns’ collaboration and being on the same page reflect in how selections fit the team’s scheme:

“Am I allowed to mention it again (laughter)? I do not know if it is some mystery, but I think Andrew and I see this thing very similarly. When we are talking about this draft, we have some cultural non-negotiables and then we have some schematic non-negotiables. I think the coaches and scouts did a nice job of identifying the guys that fit those two things. Andrew and I had some great discussion throughout the spring and throughout the last couple days, along with our group on our call. It was a collaborative effort, but I would not call it anything surprising. We all knew the work that was put into this. We all knew kind of where we stood on a bunch of issues. I think that has occurred from having conversations the last couple of months.”

On the draft ultimately needing to be a collaborative process but that not necessarily occurring with every organization:

“I do not know. I know how we do it. I will tell you, we do not agree on everything. There are always some good conversations, and they have occurred even in the last couple days. We encourage pushback from each other. We do not want a bunch of ‘yes men.’ I do not want a bunch of ‘yes men’ on our coaching staff. The best offensive staffs I have been part of push back on each other and they challenge each other. That is kind of the spirit in which we are doing this thing.”

On the Browns’ most significant big-picture accomplishment from the draft, Berry during his first draft as GM and what he may have learned about Berry during the process:

“Big picture, probably need a couple of days to think about that. Every game, you go in with a gameplan, and then you get hit with something and you have to adapt – an injury happens and you have to adjust. I think we went into this draft with a similar gameplan and idea. I can tell you, there were times when there were guys on the board and we did not think they would be there or there were times you were thinking of trading up and it did not work or you wanted to trade back and it did not work. I was really impressed with how Andrew was able to navigate these last three days because it can be stressful, as you can all imagine. It is more stressful than gameday, I told him. I think he did a great job. I think he is built for this. He has the right demeanor. He has the right amount of intelligence. He could not get into Penn, but again, not going to hold it against him (laughter). I was very impressed with how he operated. He knew when to have everybody be very quiet, and he knew when to take in input. He looked like a seasoned vet to me.”

On WR Donovan Peoples-Jones’s anticipated role with the Browns:

“With Donovan, we got a player that has played outside and inside. I think there is versatility with this player in terms of where you can play him in the formation. Having return ability and having a history in the return game helps. I do think he has the physical skillset to be a special teamer. There is a lot this kid can do. Then, it is going to be a matter of him showing it to us. That is the exciting part where I can get him with (pass game coordinator/wide receivers coach) Chad O’Shea, who has a lot of history with a bunch of different types of wide receivers. With Donovan, his numbers do jump off the page at you, and we all know that. It is our job and his job to get everything we can out of him if we want to get the best version of Donovan Peoples-Jones. I recognize I do not want to say something too nice about a Michigan Wolverine (laughter).

On how the team’s offense has been transformed with selections this weekend:

“In terms of the offense, I just go back to when we first got together back in January and we talked about the type of person and the type of people we were going to add to this thing. I think we have been consistent in how we have done that. Just because we added players guarantees us really nothing. That is where the work comes in right now with the coaches and the players in this virtual offseason. We have a ways to go. We are definitely not where we want to be, but I am appreciative of the group we have been able to put together to this point.”

On if he talked to offensive line coach Bill Callahan about C Nick Harris and the possibility of Harris playing G:

“Yes, I have talked to coach Callahan about all these guys. We do think there is some position flexibility with Nick. He is a talented player. There is a very obvious schematic fit with his movement skills, He is a tough, tough player and plays through the whistle and his athleticism is on display. I really like the make-up of the person. Once we get our hands on him and teach him this system, we will see exactly where he fits, whether it be center or guard.”

On the marriage of analytics and football during the Browns’ draft process:

“The team I came from, the Vikings, they use analytics. I think all 32, I’m assuming, use it. How they use it varies. Where in the process of the evaluation they use it varies. We have our own way of doing it. I will tell you this: we make sure that it is an integrated approach. It is never one thing. It is a tool just like obviously the evaluations by the scouts, and what you see on tape is still the precedent. Certainly, we use it in the integrated approach to how we do things. I know we have our way, and I will just tell you all 32 are to some degree using all the information you can, which makes sense to me. If you are making decisions like this, you want really to have all the information at your fingertips.”

On if there were intense draft discussions where someone may have been ‘pounding the table’ for a player, even during a virtual draft:

“There were, and I think what happened was you would be 10 picks away and we would talk about the names of the players we were thinking about – ‘Alright, there are four players we are thinking about’ – and open it up for discussion and go to bat for a guy. Those are the fun discussions. You can make a lot of headway there when you do that and you make sure everybody is comfortable sharing their opinions. I can promise you that we have guys that see some players differently. You are never going to pick all consensus picks in a draft. That just doesn’t happen, but I think we were very respectful of everyone’s opinions, and there are definitely times when people disagreed. That is just the nature of this thing. That is where I think when you have a leader like Andrew through these last three days, he is able to take in all the information and then make decisions based on what he thinks is in the best interest of the club.”

On the impact of adding players who fit the team’s scheme, in addition to their talent:

“There is a certain style of offense, a certain style of defense and definitely a certain style of special teams for the Cleveland Browns. When we are going out, we want to see if we can identify the guys that can play to that style. I will say this: we wouldn’t be very good coaches if we eliminated good players just because they couldn’t fit. There are some schematic mis-fits, but I think a lot of times, there are guys that you say, ‘Well, he doesn’t do this perfectly, but he does this so well. We could definitely make it work.’ That is our job to make it work. I think that is where we have those conversations early and often about what their traits are and what their skillset is. Then we recognize that none of these guys are perfect so what trait are we willing to value more than the others is kind of the conversations that have come up over the last couple of months.”

On the Browns not drafting a DE and if that can be viewed as a commitment to DE Olivier Vernon in 2020:

“That is my assumption. Obviously, I think Olivier is a really great player. Unfortunately, he was banged up a little bit, but we look forward to all our guys contributing next year. I wouldn’t say it was a message of any sort in the fact that we didn’t draft defensive ends. We are not in the business of sending messages via the draft. We just kind of – going back previously –trusted the board, and as the players came up, we made sure that we had the right people for the job.”

On the first week of the Browns’ virtual offseason program:

“I thought it went really well. I think the guys are definitely responding to the coaches. We as coaches are figuring out new ways to do this thing, and I have really challenged the coaches to think outside the box and think creatively of how we can reach these players remotely. The feedback I have from the players has been very positive. We are working really hard to teach these systems to the guys and making sure that they are getting the information. Now, at this point that we are able to have interact interaction with them, we can have Zoom calls where they can ask questions and we can test them and see what is making sense. I think it has been really helpful. So far so good. The nice part is we have nine more weeks of this, and God willing, at some point during those weeks we are together in the building with the guys. I do think there is a lot of work to be done in the classroom because as I’m sure you all know, these offensive and defensive systems, as you teach them, we are going to take our time and we are going to be the teachers that coaches are. Our job right now is to find as many ways as we can to get this information across to them. As I told the players, it doesn’t matter what I know and it doesn’t matter what the coaches know; it matters what our players know.

On if the team has hosted Zoom calls with 50-70 players:

“We have done that. A lot of smaller Zoom calls, though. It is a little bit more conducive to teaching and learning, but we have had some bigger calls, yes.”

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