Bengals have more flexibility in draft

IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR SIRIUSXM -  Zac Taylor on SiriusXM NFL Radio at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, March 1, 2022 in Indianapolis. (Steve Luciano/AP Images for SiriusXM)

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IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR SIRIUSXM - Zac Taylor on SiriusXM NFL Radio at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, March 1, 2022 in Indianapolis. (Steve Luciano/AP Images for SiriusXM)

CINCINNATI --- The Cincinnati Bengals were in a rebuild mode the first three years coach Zac Taylor sat in their draft room, but coming off a Super Bowl and more flexible with their picks will be a little different.

Cincinnati has the 31st pick Thursday when the NFL Draft begins with the first round, and the organization could end up trading down to add more Day 2 selections. If the Bengals do take someone in the first round, they have options on which position to target or to go with the best player available at a position of lesser need.

Either way, Taylor expects the first player the Bengals take to be someone that can improve the team.

“We are just looking for the best players that help us win now and in the future,” Taylor said in his pre-draft press conference Monday at Paul Brown Stadium. “There is a balance there that you decide all over the draft. (Director of player personnel) Duke (Tobin) has done a great job managing that upstairs with all the scouts, Mike (Brown) and everybody. It has been fun to be a part of and we will see how it shakes out this weekend.”

Tobin said last week the Bengals don’t necessarily need their first pick to be a player that can make an immediate impact, but Taylor said that is still always the hope. The main thing is finding players that will be a good fit short term and long term.

“Then, you see how they fit in immediately in training camp, see how they pick things up, and if we think they can play a prominent role or more of a backup role,” Taylor said. “It’s hard to make those predictions. You hate to put that on 31 or 63 or whatever it is that we expect this player to come in and be a starter. We’re picking them for a reason, because we think they’ll be a productive part of our team. That’s why we select them where we select them.”

The Bengals will go into the draft feeling prepared, Taylor said, because of the work the scouts have been doing the last six months and the involvement of the coaching staff the past two months.

Because of where the Bengals are picking, this draft is less predictable than the past two years when they had the No. 1 selection in 2020 and No. 5 selection in 2021. Taylor said it doesn’t do much good to spend time analyzing what other teams might do because information that gets out can be misleading.

This draft is also a little unique in that there aren’t as many clear-cut stars making the top of the order predictable, so predicting the middle and late parts of the first round is even harder.

“It’s part of following your process, making sure you feel good about the order you’ve got your guys in, whether they’re gonna fall to you,” Taylor said. “You try to anticipate all the discussions that can happen on the clock and can happen now, and not worry too much about what we think other teams will do because they may have a player fall that they didn’t anticipate falling and they take them and that changes everything that you thought you heard. So we don’t get too involved in that.”

Taylor joked he is glad it’s not his job to compile mock drafts for public consumption, but his son, Brooks, enjoys reading them and trying to figure out who his dad wants to take. Taylor lets him watch some highlights of players on YouTube with him, though the Bengals have different resources for watching film.

Brooks “has a lot of questions and a lot of opinions,” Taylor said with a laugh.

“It’s 20 a night for two months,” Taylor said. “He was really mad at me that immediately after the Super Bowl I didn’t have all the information on all the players because the year before that I did. Mid-February we’d gone to the Senior Bowl and talked to guys. Every single day, ‘Who’d you watch?’ That’s the cool thing about being a coach’s kid, they enjoy what I do. It’s good.”

Most mock drafts have the Bengals taking an offensive lineman or a cornerback first, and others are all over the board with the position they would go with, but the organization still could get a player it wants by trading down.

Taylor said it just depends on the compensation offered by a team looking to trade up and whether the team likes the options of guys left on the draft board if the Bengals move down. He wouldn’t necessarily be disappointed to go home Thursday without a draft pick, noting “it just depends on how it plays out.”

“Ultimately, we’ve gotta expect to pick whatever number we’re picking at,” Taylor said. “Again, I think that’s where the experience upstairs really comes into play, of the number of drafts Mike Brown, Duke Tobin, everyone’s been involved in and the experience they have of trading of when for what value, why, way more so than what I bring to the table. So that’s a fun process to be involved in for me, to watch them work with the patience and just the calmness. Similar to what we have to deal with in games. This is their game and it’s fun to watch them work there. Again, I think the experience really pays off in those moments.”

NFL DRAFT

Thursday: Round 1, 8 p.m., ABC, ESPN, NFL Network

Friday: Rounds 2-3, 7 p.m., ABC, ESPN, NFL Network

Saturday: Rounds 4-7, Noon, ABC, ESPN, NFL Network

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