Bengals trade up in Round 2, draft defensive back

Nebraska cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt (5) breaks up a pass intended for Purdue wide receiver David Bell (3) during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020.  (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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Nebraska cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt (5) breaks up a pass intended for Purdue wide receiver David Bell (3) during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The Cincinnati Bengals saw the pocket of players they really wanted in the second round of the NFL Draft dwindling and didn’t want to take a chance on another team scooping up Nebraska cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt.

The Bengals swapped second-round picks with the Buffalo Bills to move up from No. 63 to No. 60 on Friday and gave up a sixth-round pick (No. 209) to address a need at cornerback with Taylor-Britt. This was the fifth time in the last six drafts the Bengals have made a trade in the second round.

“That was something we identified that we wanted and didn’t want to risk there with maybe a team in front of us that could take him or someone could jump in front of us and get him, so we felt like we needed to do that,” Taylor said.

“The best way to put it is we (knew we) would like to take (a cornerback) early like we did. We weren’t going to pencil ourselves in there and make us do it but obviously the right player was there to where we wanted to do it and feel good about it. …We felt good about this one, and it fit a need for us as well.”

Taylor-Britt was a second team All-Big Ten selection the past two years and recorded 51 tackles, three for loss, one sack, 12 passes defensed and one interception in 2021. He joins former Michigan safety and first-round pick Dax Hill as the team’s new additions to the secondary, where the Bengals returned their top five players but needed depth.

The Bengals liked Taylor-Britt’s energy, speed, length and enthusiasm, and as a former safety, wide receiver, quarterback and punt returner, he brings versatility – just like Hill, a hybrid safety and nickel corner.

With Taylor’s connections at Nebraska, where he played quarterback in 2005 and 2006, the Bengals had plenty of resources to research their new cornerback. In conversations with people, Taylor-Britt drew comparison to former Nebraska wide receiver and current Bengals practice squad player and special teams contributor Stanley Morgan, who quarterback Joe Burrow last season called “everyone’s favorite teammate.” That might have been enough to seal his fate with the organization on top of everything the Bengals liked about him on the field and in the measurables.

“When Stanley walks on the field every day, he’s gonna bring energy and competitiveness, and however many days he’s been here, he has done those two things every single day, and so when you hear that comparison of this is what he’s going to be like in practice, that’s a great thing,” Taylor said. “You know, that’s what we love. We want guys to bring energy because it’s a long season, and that’s a hard thing to do. And so the more guys that can bring that the better the team becomes, the more fun practices (are) … for us to be part of all year, and so that’s a really positive thing.”

Taylor-Britt took a top 30 visit with the Bengals about two weeks ago and said he left with a feeling he might end up in Cincinnati. He didn’t share that with anyone but his agent.

When he got the call from the Bengals on Friday, he said he could hardly speak.

“It was just a dream come true,” Taylor-Britt said. “You could say my visit there was amazing. You know just to even get picked up by a team and especially the Bengals is surreal to me right now, and of course you know that coach Zac (Taylor) played at the great University of Nebraska, that makes it even better.”

Taylor-Britt said the Bengals were professional and organized with his visit, even just in getting him from the airport on time and moving him from place to place on his tour. He said the conversations with the coaches were “genuine” and he felt he made an instant connection.

Coach Taylor made sure the player was aware of his decorated history at Nebraska, too.

From a standpoint of how Taylor-Britt fits into the defense, he could compete with Eli Apple for starting job or add depth at multiple positions. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said the first thing that jumped off the tape to him was Taylor-Britt’s tackling, but he does a lot of things well.

“He’s a good press corner, but he’s also shown some flexibility in playing in deep zones and some safety stuff but also as a corner so he’s done a little bit of everything, which is great,” Anarumo said. “You can see what we’ve been doing with that stuff and the more they can do the better. Some of the techniques that we’ll ask them to do involve playing in a deep zone so that can only help him, and you know, when you look at the guy’s measurables, he can really run, as Zac mentioned, and he’s got good size and he’s tough and so the more of those guys we get the better we’ll be.”

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