Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta (4.23.20)

Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta:

Opening statement:

“Tonight, best player available on our board happened to be a position of a real need on our team. That does not happen every year, but we were fortunate that was the case. We are thrilled to get (T) Jedrick (Wills) on our team.”


On having several of the top-rated Ts available at No. 10 and if that was a surprise for the team:

“We went through a lot of different scenarios over the course of the past week and really tried to prepare for the worst. We didn’t necessarily anticipate that we were going to have any of them to chose from. We had a lot of different scenarios in mind where they might not be there, but we also thought there was a real chance that at least one or two of them could be there. I think we were pleasantly surprised that three were there, but we had run through so many scenarios that we definitely thought this was at least a reasonable likelihood that we would have a shot at one of the guys we really like. We did not necessarily know we would have a shot at the top one on our board so that was a pleasant surprise.”


On the front office’s collaboration and Head Coach Kevin Stefanski saying the night had been seamless:

“It went really well. I think I said this last week, my biggest regret to date is that we are not all in the building together today. tomorrow and Saturday in order to enjoy this together because it really has been a collaborative effort to this point. Even with this pick, it was highly collaborative when we were on the phone with everybody even at 6:30 p.m. tonight with the entire football operation – coaches, scouts, front office people and everybody. Hopefully, everyone is at home and is excited as we are collectively. It really has been seamless. We would have liked to have been there to celebrate together, but I think we made the most of it.”


On how much data is available related to college Ts switching sides in the NFL:

“I think probably the most prominent one and probably the most important one for us is (Cowboys T) Tyron Smith from the Cowboys. It happened to be that the coach who oversaw that was (offensive line coach) Bill Callahan. He was a dominate right tackle in college. He has been a dominate left tackle in the NFL. Fortunately for us, we have his coach. A sample of one there is not a great sample, but we know it is possible. I think Bill is excited to have him. In the case of Jedrick, too, it is a little different. He was protecting too his blindside in college with a left-handed quarterback. That is primarily why he was playing right. Obviously, they had (Bengals T) Jonah Williams up until this year, too, playing on the other side. We are confident that athletically he can do it. Bill obviously feels comfortable that he can do it. Not that it will be seamless because I think with every player, as we talked about last week,  they all have their growing pains when they get to this level. I am sure he will experience some of those and also because he has to make the transition to the other side, but we are very confident he will be able to do it.”


On if T was a priority in the first round:

“If things fell the right way. As I said before, we have been really focused on best player available. Now, as it turns out, we thought there were a handful of very good tackles on the board this year and that was a real need for us. I think it meshed together nicely, but it was not something we thought, ‘We have to do this.’ In terms of remaining flexible, we were in contact with teams in front of us, we were in contact with teams behind us and we were prepared for a lot of different eventualities. Earlier today, AB and I were talking and we said, ‘Well, we know when we go to bed tonight we are going to be a lot better off than we were when we woke up. We just do not know exactly how.’ We knew there were going to be some really good players available to us at No. 10. We just did not know who they were going to be. As it turns out, we got one we are incredibly excited about.”


On if Wills was the top choice of the four top-graded Ts in the draft:

“He was actually the top tackle on our board from the beginning. We were really excited. It is a really, really good group of tackles so that is certainly not to slight those other guys because I think they would have all been worthy of being taken with our pick. We were certainly excited about Jedrick.”


On if the Browns trading for Redskins T Trent Williams was a viable option this weekend, depending on what happened at No. 10:

“Because he still plays for another team, I do not want to really comment too much about the player. I will say this: throughout the spring, we have tried to understand all of the available options to us, especially at a position of such importance at left tackle. I think we have kept abreast of the different possibilities. We knew there were some real possibilities in this draft, but I think that is really where our focus was ultimately. We did think we had a decent shot at one of these guys falling to us at No. 10. I think we were going to wait to see what happened there before we really pursued any other avenue.”


On the amount of conversation from other teams inquiring about the No. 10 pick and if it was a different amount due to the virtual draft:

“It is a good question. I am not sure. It was funny. After the 12th pick – we have a group chat in addition to our WebEx meeting going on right now – I wrote in the group chat, ‘When was the last time that we went through the first 12 picks without a transaction?’ It was about two minutes later that they announced the swap for No. 13 and No. 14 so I think I got my comment in under the wire. I do not know what contributed to it. I think the distance probably has something to do with it, but then again, even in past drafts when we are making deals, you are making them on the phone. That is no different today than it is if we were all in the draft room. The conversations that you have after you make the call or after you have the call, those are a little different. We have to run those a little differently, but I do not think ultimately that really influenced the lack of transactions. I think it was because there were a lot of really interesting players available to teams. We talked to some teams in front of us in preparation for the draft and kind of everyone said the same thing, which is if one or two players are available to us, we are going to sit and pick. I think we kind of felt the same way. If there are certain players available to us, we are going to sit and pick. Otherwise, we are interested in moving around. The way the draft fell early, it just seemed like the teams that were picking had guys on their board that they just wanted to sit and pick.”


On if the Browns not intending to trade down if Wills was available at No. 10:

“No, I think there were probably some opportunities to if we had really pushed it, but no, I think there were a couple players where we thought we were going to sit and pick for sure.”


On what separated Wills from the other Ts in this draft class:

“All of them were attractive for sort of their own reasons. We thought this was a highly unusual tackle class. This is probably as good of an offensive tackle class certainly since 2016, when we had some awfully good ones come out early in the first round. You had guys like (Ravens T) Ronnie Stanley and (Texans T) Laremy Tunsil and now our own Jack Conklin – very very accomplished guys. This class at least as we sit here today, sort of matches up with that. I think when you start separating one from the other, you get a little picky because they are all really, really good. In any normal draft, any one of them could have been the top tackle available. For us with Jedrick, though, I think it was the combination of everything. It is obviously playing at a place like Alabama, the coaching he has already gotten, his athleticism and his smarts. This is a very bright guy. I think he is really advanced from a football knowledge standpoint. We think mentally he is advanced, and he is just a mature person. He is a pro I think already. That doesn’t mean he is not going to have a lot of things to learn and he is not going t have to grow in different ways, but we just really liked his approach to the game. We have talked a lot about finding players that are smart, tough and accountable, and we felt like he really checked all three of those boxes.”


On if any of the top-graded four LTs would have been suitable for the team at No. 10 to not go outside of the draft for a LT:

“I don’t know if I would go quite that far, but there were certainly guys that we liked. We also thought there were some other non-tackles that we liked that we would have been excited to take at No. 10, if in fact there had been a run on tackles early in front of us, and we would have then gone in another direction in terms of finding an answer there. We liked him certainly quite a bit, but I think there were some at least differences in terms of the way we felt about each individual guy. That probably would have changed our strategy a little bit depending on who was there. That ultimately was something we weren’t faced with since the top guy was there.”


On if the Browns may have identified a LT outside of the draft if the team’s two top LT draft prospects were not available:

“I think it’s hard to say. I probably won’t share exactly how our board lined up, but we are certainly happy with the way it ended up.”


On how much of a factor offensive line coach Bill Callahan’s input and his confidence in Wills’ potential to move to LT impacted the decision:

“I don’t want to put too much on Bill because I think that would be unfair, but we certainly weighed his opinion pretty heavily in this group, and he absolutely felt confident that this was something that was possible and that Jedrick could do. That doesn’t mean it is going to be flawless, but I think he has a strong belief that Jedrick is capable of doing this. That definitely weighed heavily. If he had come to us and said, ‘Listen, this is highly unlikely that he could make such a transition,’ then I don’t think he would be the top guy on our board.”


On when Wills became the No. 1 tackle on the Browns’ draft board:

“We had scouting meetings back in February before going to the combine. We set at least at that point and had sort of separated the top guys and maybe had a preliminary ranking, but it was far from being set in stone. In fact, it was probably in light pencil at that point. We had additional meetings in early April and then we also had meetings with our coaching staff in early-to-mid April. It wasn’t really until after all those processes were complete that we had our order. I would have said it is maybe two weeks ago when it was set the way it ended up turning out.”


On if the Browns met with Wills virtually in recent weeks and if they discussed playing LT:

“Our coaches did. I wasn’t on the call so I don’t know exactly what was discussed, but I know that they did address it and I think everybody felt comfortable about his ability to do it.”


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