By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
Published on Sunday, Apr 24, 2011
Heckert has used it for most of his adult life, ascending through the ranks of personnel departments since the early 1990s and ultimately earning a swank, second-floor office in the Browns' headquarters in Berea. The system has not steered him wrong — yet.
''Obviously, you have to work at it,'' Heckert said. ''You have to watch tape. It's endless. You're a general manager of a football team. It's the greatest thing in the world, but you also have to know there's a lot of sacrifices you have to make to do that.''
When Heckert was working for the Miami Dolphins, his confidence in the system prompted him to advise coach Jimmy Johnson to take cornerback Sam Madison in the second round because defensive end Jason Taylor, whom Johnson preferred, would still be available a round later. Johnson listened, and the Dolphins drafted Madison and Taylor, both of whom became perennial Pro Bowl selections.
Last year in his first draft as the Browns' general manager, the system guided Heckert to select four of the eight players he had targeted in the first three rounds: cornerback Joe Haden, safety T.J. Ward, running back Montario Hardesty and offensive lineman Shawn Lauvao. The Browns also drafted quarterback Colt McCoy in the third round because Heckert and President Mike Holmgren couldn't resist the urge to pounce when he unexpectedly fell to them.
As Heckert's career has progressed, the presentation of the system has evolved. It now takes form in sets of scenarios separated by columns on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which are printed and piled atop Heckert's desk.
Cleveland Browns GM Tom Heckert answers questions about the upcoming draft at a press conference at the team training complex on Thursday in Berea. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal)