Football / Sports

Commentary: Browns rookie GM Ray Farmer earns nickname 'Trader Ray' following active weekend at the draft

BEREA, Ohio -- As the Cleveland Browns negotiated up and down the draft board throughout the weekend, it didn't take Ray Farmer long to earn a reputation around the league. Farmer earned the reputation of "Trader Ray" as the first-year GM executed five trades in three days.

"It was definitely interesting to hear friends and colleagues say, 'Is Trader Ray available?'��" Farmer joked Saturday after the draft's completion. "As the draft went on and there were chances to move back, people just naturally assumed because we had been so active the first couple of days we'd be eager to move around even more as the draft moved on."

All of the negotiating left the Browns with just two picks entering the draft's final day, the fewest of any team in the league. Ultimately, they only used one.

The Browns selected Lindenwood University (Division II) defensive back Pierre Desir in the fourth round (127th overall), then traded their final pick in the seventh round to the Baltimore Ravens for a sixth rounder next season.

That will give the Browns 10 picks in next year's draft, including two in the first round, two in the fourth and two in the sixth. They began this draft with 10 picks, but leave with six players: two cornerbacks, a quarterback, running back, linebacker and offensive lineman. They made five trades over the course of three days and didn't use any picks below the fourth round.

"I didn't think I'd be a wheeler and dealer, that's for certain," Farmer said.

Desir has good size (6-foot-1, 198 pounds) and speed, but his story extends well beyond the football field. Desir and his family emigrated from Haiti at age 4 during a time of political unrest. He became a father at 16 and is now married with two daughters.

Plenty of bigger schools showed interest in him out of high school, but he struggled with college entrance exams and was forced to play Division II instead.

He intercepted 25 passes in four years and won the Cliff Harris Award given to the nation's top small college defensive player.

It was the Browns' second pick from a small college after they selected Towson running back Terrance West in the third round Friday night.

"I think the NFL has shown there are a lot of small-school guys that can go in and make an impact," Desir said. "I think I'm one of those guys that can go in and compete and show everyone what I can do and just go out there and play football."

It's obviously more difficult for NFL personnel men to scout players from smaller schools, where the competition and surrounding talent isn't as great. But Browns scout Bobby Vega said one of the keys is to strip away the numbers and names off the jerseys and still be able to immediately identify the player.

"When you pop on the tape, does he separate himself from the other guys?" Vega asked. "This guy consistently did that."

Desir began at Washburn University in Kansas, then transferred after two seasons. He had nine interceptions in 2012, his first at Lindenwood after sitting out a season under transfer rules, and had four last season when opposing offenses presumably began to shy away from him.

"When you're playing cornerback, you've got to not only stay with the receiver but also locate the ball," Vega said. "His ability to track the ball in the air, and he's a long guy so he can outreach certain receivers. He was able to put it all together."

Desir was the second cornerback the Browns selected this weekend after taking Justin Gilbert ninth overall with their first pick.

Both corners measure above 6 feet tall, perhaps the first hint the Browns are trying to replicate the bigger, more physical secondary of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

Desir acknowledged he spends much of his time studying bigger corners such as the Seahawks' Richard Sherman and the Arizona Cardinals' Antonio Cromartie, both of whom are above 6 feet.

"From watching the Super Bowl, the Seahawks had a lot of tall corners. I think for me going into the draft, it was a great time just because of how successful they were," Desir said. "Now the receivers are getting a lot bigger, so I think teams are trending toward that way (with taller cornerbacks)."

A scouting service the Browns use first alerted them to Desir at the start of the season. By the time the draft began, there was agreement within the organization to pursue him.

"When you pick a guy, you want there to be a synergy in the room between the coaches and scouts and Jimmy (Haslam)," Browns scout Chisom Opara said. "Everybody who has kind of been around the kid and done their homework �� everybody was thumps-up on this guy. It's a good feeling when you can pick a guy and everybody in the room is looking at each other like we got somebody we feel good about."

(c)2014 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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