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2011 NFL Draft: Browns GM Tom Heckert is serious about taking the best available player. His father can attest to it

By Nate Ulrich Published: April 22, 2011

During a news conference Thursday, Browns General Manager Tom Heckert succeeded in not revealing much about his plans for the NFL Draft. Heckert, though, did feel comfortable reiterating his draft philosophy.

"We are going to try to the best of our ability to stick with our philosophy of taking the best available player," he said. "I know everybody says that, but we are going to try to do that. I think we are probably in a better position to do that than some teams. Some teams, they may be one or two positions away from being really good, so I think it’s probably a positive for us that we can sit there and take the best available player."

Heckert might have used several smoke screens during his recent question-and-answer session with reporters, but vowing to take the best available player instead of drafting based on positions of need wasn't one of them. You see, Heckert developed his draft philosophy in the early 1990s, when he was a young scout working with his father, Tom Heckert Sr., in the Miami Dolphins' personnel department.

Heckert Sr., pictured far left with Tom Heckert Jr. in a photo provided by the Dolphins, discussed the draft philosophy he shares with his son in a recent phone interview from his home in Weston, Fla.

"You'd be surprised. There's a lot of teams where need plays a big factor, and you've got to be careful doing that," said Heckert Sr., 72, who worked for the Dolphins for 19 years before retiring after the 2007 season. "If you start letting need dictate who you're gonna take, then not only do you pass up good players to get that guy, you may have pushed him a little higher than you should have because you know you need (a player at his position).

"Obviously, the perfect scenario is when it's your turn to draft, the guy you like is also a fit-the-need position. Then you get both. You get a really good player and fill a need. But that doesn't happen — I don't know the percentage of the time. But a lot of times, it doesn't happen.

"So you have to discipline yourself and say, 'If these guys are available, this guy might be the greatest need, but this guy is a lot better player, so we've gotta take this guy who's a better player.' Also, you've gotta be able to draw the line (and ask yourself), 'How close are the two players?' But Tom's got a lot of experience. He's been doing this for a long time, and he's good at it."

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