I feel the need. The need for speed." – Peter "Maverick" Mitchell.
It's almost as if Tom Cruise's character in the movie Top Gun has had a seat in the Bengals draft room this year. After selecting a pair of defensive backs with 4.38 speed with their first- and second-round picks in Dax Hill and Cam Taylor-Britt, respectively, Cincinnati traded up eight spots in fifth round to select Toledo safety Tycen Anderson and his 4.36-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine.
Pro Football Focus projected him to be drafted in the third or fourth round.
"Another measurable guy right?" said defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. "So height, weight, speed, the way he plays the game, he's smart and gives us the flexibility to do a bunch of things. He was very intriguing to me.
"In today's NFL, we're going to play to a bunch of great receivers as we all know. Think about Miami's speed on the perimeter right, with Tyreek (Hill) and (Jaylen) Waddle. And then there are the guys in our division. There's speed everywhere. So especially in the back end, those guys are going to get out of position some just by the nature of their jobs, and if they can't get back into the play then they're going to struggle. These guys do have the make-up and recovery speed and that's what we're looking for."
Anderson knows that there's more to playing safety than running fast.
"It's all about knowing when and where to use your speed," he said. "When and where to be fast and when and where to slow play things. You've got to have a feel for the game, to be honest. Sometimes I might have to use my 4.3 speed to track somebody down, but there are other times when I can run a 4.5 to get a good angle on a dude to get him on the ground."
Anarumo says the Bengals are building one of the fastest defensive units in the NFL.
"I would like to think so," he said. "We've got some guys at every level that can really run and that's where this game has gotten to.
The Athletic's Dane Brugler tabbed Anderson as a fourth- round pick and wrote that he "projects as a four-coverage special teamer who can compete for a nickel role on defense."
Anderson, 22, should boost special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons' units.
"I think in my career at UT I totaled close to 900 snaps on special teams," said Anderson. "I played kickoff, kick return, punt return, and punt – all special teams. So I played everything and I'm willing to do everything."
Anderson spent five seasons at Toledo and was elected by his teammates as a three-time captain. He earned an undergraduate degree in professional sales and is working toward a Master's degree in leadership.
"I just take it seriously, to be honest," he said. "I know I'm a leader and know that my voice needs to be heard and I know when I stand up and say something it's going to be the right thing."
Although he grew up in Ohio, Anderson admits to rooting for one of the Bengals' AFC North rivals.
"I've been a Steelers fan my whole life," he said. "My dad was a Steelers fan so it just trickled down."
Will he find it difficult to face Pittsburgh twice a year going forward?
"What? I'll be trying to beat them every time," he said.