Bengals’ Dalton to NFL Draft prospects: ‘Make the most of your situation’

Andy Dalton remembers seeing four quarterbacks in his draft class come off the board within the first 12 picks in 2011 and thinking maybe he would be the next to go in the first round.

The former TCU standout was the next quarterback selected but not until the Cincinnati Bengals took him with the third pick of the second round, 35th overall.

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“I had a feel for certain teams that I knew were interested in me, so once it got to Cincinnati, I thought I wouldn’t get past that 35th pick,” Dalton said when asked about his own draft memories. “(The lesson is) don’t worry about how high you go, just worry about the opportunity you are about to get because getting drafted isn’t everything. You may not be the first one taken, or even if you’re not the third one taken, just make the most of your situation.”

With the start of the 2019 NFL Draft on Thursday night in Nashville, Dalton knows the Bengals could be looking to take another quarterback higher than in recent years, but he’s keeping his own advice in mind.

The Bengals have had conversations with him about the future, and he said they’ve even addressed some of the rumors related to the team’s intentions to bring in another quarterback.

“Some people think we’re taking a quarterback in the first round and some don’t, but I’m not worried about that,” Dalton said. “I know they have full confidence in what I can do, and I’ve heard it from the top down so that’s a good thing. I’m just worried about learning and playing football right now.”

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Even with Dalton still in the team’s immediate plans, the Bengals do need a backup. Jeff Driskel remains on the roster, but new coach Zac Taylor will most certainly still want a guy he can develop behind Dalton.

Dalton has two years left on his contract, and owner Mike Brown told reporters at the NFL owners meetings that he wants to see how he does this season before deciding whether or not to try to keep him around longer. In that same interview, Brown indicated the Bengals are interested in extending A.J. Green’s contact, which expires after this season.

The Bengals on Wednesday exercised a team option to extend cornerback William Jackson's contract one year, meaning the 2016 first-round draft pick is now signed through the 2020 season. Jackson started 16 games last year and finished with 41 tackles and a team-leading 13 passes defensed.

Dalton said he hasn’t thought about his contract yet.

“I still have two years on my deal, so I wasn’t expecting anything to happen right now,” Dalton said. “Obviously they want to see me play this year and I expected that going into it. I wasn’t thinking about a contract right now. I’m excited about what we’re doing. I expect us to have a good year and for me to be here a long time. That’s just the expectation I have and that’s the expectation I’m sure they have upstairs.”

Dalton said he still will take an interest in the draft this week, as he always does, and he will try to welcome in the new players, especially the ones playing offense. He took first-round pick Billy Price to dinner last year when he got to town.

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Defensive end/linebacker Carl Lawson remembers how the veterans welcomed him in after he was drafted in 2017, and he hopes to pay that forward to the rookies this year. His own experience in the draft wasn’t all that memorable, but he’s made the most of his opportunities when healthy. Lawson is working back from an ACL tear that sidelined him most of his second season. He is hoping to be ready for the season opener.

“I didn’t like draft day that much because I saw a bunch of people get drafted that weren’t better than me,” he said. “It kind of sucked, but it is what it is and now I’m here.”

Second-year defensive end Sam Hubbard said he is just glad he can go back to enjoying the draft, which he always watched closely as a fan of the league in high school and college. The Bengals took him in the third round last year, and he remembers how anxious he was throughout the process.

Now some of his former teammates and close friends are going through that this week.

“You have no idea what city you’re going to, what team you’ll play for,” Hubbard said. “All you are doing is trying to put your best foot forward and give teams a reason why they should pick you. It’s a tough process. I’m pretty thankful I’m in a locker room right now, not fighting through the process to get picked. It’s a special opportunity and a lot of guys dreams are going to be coming true. That’s the best part of it.”

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