The scope of things for the Browns to consider when ranking the left tackles in the draft got even wider with the reported flagged drug test at the scouting combine of Louisville’s Mekhi Becton. He’s widely considered one of the four tackle prospects in consideration for the Browns with the No. 10 pick.
First-time general manager Andrew Berry was asked Monday if he’d spoken to Becton since the reports of the flagged test and if the team’s opinion of him had been affected.
“I am not going to get into the habit of coming out on a specific prospect here, but suffice it to say, we will take all information into consideration when making a player decision,” Berry said on a Zoom conference call.
Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills and Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs round out the top tier of tackles for most analysts. The new collective bargaining agreement removes suspensions as punishment for positive drug tests, but it remains to be seen if the flagged test will cause Becton to slide Thursday night in the first round.
ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported Becton had addressed the situation with multiple NFL teams since the story broke Friday night, and she spoke with Louisville athletic director Vince Tyra.
“I would tell you it would be a surprise if he has a failed test,” Tyra said. “He’s just been a model student-athlete for us. … I’m not worried about him. He is going to have a great career. I don’t think he’s going to be any trouble for any teams.”
The NFL stopped prospects from visiting NFL team facilities or teams visiting players during the coronavirus pandemic. Teams can communicate through video platforms, but it’s different than having the player in the building all day.
“I do not think it really complicates matters that much,” Berry said. “The reason is a lot of the work that we do is with individuals who have spent the last three or four years with these guys on a day-to-day basis.
“In terms of the spring scouting process and not necessarily being able to have guys onsite, we are very fortunate to live in the age of technology where we have Zoom, FaceTime and things along those nature. We were able to sit with most if not all of these guys at the combine. I think there have been enough touchpoints where we get a really good sense of who these guys are as individuals.”
The Browns have been rumored as a potential partner for teams looking to trade up, but Berry said it’s too early to say if a deal will be struck.
“Quite honestly, you never really know until you get a little bit closer to the draft and then certainly on the clock, just because there are a number of different scenarios that can play out,” he said. “I do think we will have options.”
He reiterated the Browns will keep an open mind regarding every scenario in the draft.
“We are not going to be pigeonholed into a certain decision or a certain mode of operation,” Berry said. “We are going to make the best decision that we think is right.”
He took the same position when asked about trading for a veteran, or trading one of his veterans. He added nothing was “imminent.”
Last week chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta called a report the Browns had discussed trading receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Vikings “completely false.” The Browns have been consistent in saying they want and expect Beckham to be on the team in 2020, and Berry was asked if he’d reached out to Beckham to reinforce that message.
“We communicate pretty consistently with all of our players,” Berry said. “Probably the last thing I will say on this Odell piece is just as an organization, we really have addressed this several times at this point. I really don’t think any more needs to be said about it.”
The offseason program began Monday with new coach Kevin Stefanski and his staff conducting virtual meetings with players. It was originally scheduled to start April 6 in Berea.
“I can assure that Kevin and the staff have done really a remarkable job given the circumstances of making sure that our guys have what they need during this kind of unprecedented period this spring,” Berry said. “I have full confidence with Kevin, our coordinators and our position coaches that they have the plan and the resources to make sure that our guys are prepared and can hit the ground running whenever we do get back into the building.”
A BIG HELP
Berry began the call by thanking the college scouts for their role in the 15-month process leading up to the draft.
“These guys make a ton of sacrifices living out of hotel rooms and spending a lot of time away from their families and their loved ones,” he said. “Throw on top of that a general manager change midprocess, as well as the global pandemic, and these guys have responded to every challenge at every turn.
“They did outstanding work over the course of the spring. They really serve as a foundation that allows us to be prepared and ready to go this upcoming week.”