When the Bengals traded down from Nos. 42 to 52 in exchange for an extra fourth-round (125) and sixth-round (182) picks from Denver, tight ends coach James Casey grew concerned that Washington's Drew Sample would no longer be available.
"I was very nervous about it knowing that we had him rated high," said Casey. "As you travel around and go to all the pro days and talk to the other tight ends coaches around the league, you get a sense of how they feel about certain guys. I have no doubt that a lot of teams around the NFL had this guy rated really high. I know that media guys might not have had him rated as one of the top tight ends, but guys that watch ball and watch the film know that this guy is a really good player."
Cincinnati's second round selection is a 6-5, 250 pound throwback tight end, known more for his blocking than his pass catching. He had a total of 21 receptions in his first three seasons at Washington before hauling in 25 catches for 252 yards and three touchdowns as a senior.
"He didn't catch a ton of passes in college but some of that was just scheme and what they were doing offensively," said Casey. "But he's a very good blocker and I think he's going to come in and contribute right away."
"I feel like I'm a complete player," Sample said via conference call. "I had one year of good production and I think my best football is ahead of me in that regard. I'm definitely excited to be able to showcase my ability as a complete tight end."
After Tyler Kroft signed as a free agent with Buffalo in the offseason, the Bengals only tight ends on the roster with more than five career receptions are C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Eifert.
"He gives us something different than C.J. and Tyler," said offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. "I think they'll all complement each other very well. He does a lot of things well. He's eligible in the pass game, he runs well, he catches well, he blocks well, he's tough, he's smart – he's exactly the type of character guy that we want in our locker room and on our team. He checks all the boxes in that regard. He has a skill set that is going to bolster our tight end room and make that position more valuable and versatile in our system."
Casey said that Sample jumped out on tape for his sound technique and versatility.
"As a former player, I was in a similar system to this and you want tight ends that can kind of do everything," he said. "It's great to have the pass catcher guy, but then you're pigeonholed where you kind of have to split him out a lot and let him run routes because he's a vulnerability in the run game. And you don't want that big, stiff, solid blocker guy because he can't get out and run routes and you can't create any mismatches. You want that guy that can do it all and I think he is a guy that can do a lot of different things."
Eifert's injury history made the tight end position a logical spot for the Bengals to add depth in the draft, but Callahan bristled at the notion that Sample is an insurance policy.
"I wouldn't call it an insurance policy," he said. "I think Drew Sample is a really good player. I wouldn't view him at all as insurance; I'd view him as an addition that will certainly help us. And a young player that we feel really good about."
After drafting the top-rated offensive lineman in the draft in the first round in Jonah Williams, the second round selection of a tight end with the ability to be a dominant, in-line blocker was not a coincidence.
"I think we want to be a dominant run offense and all the pieces we can gather to do that we're all for," said Callahan. "This division is notorious for being hard and tough. And playing late in the season in tough weather – I love everything about it – but it's reputation is a physical one. So the more physical we can be the better. I think the players we have added speak to that."
"The M.O. of our team (at Washington) was to pound the rock and then play-action off of that," said Sample. "I definitely took pride in being able to be the focal point in that regard because we used our tight ends in a lot of different ways. I definitely took pride in opening holes for Myles (Gaskin) and our other running backs and I will definitely do whatever I can to help the team. That's what I was able to do at Washington for sure."
Sample was a four-year starter for the Huskies and caught a touchdown pass against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl last year. Like Jonah Williams, he exhibits the personality traits that the Bengals new coaching staff is seeking.
"There is certainly a character profile that we look for and both of these young men have that," said Callahan. "They're guys that love football. They're smart, they're tough, they're dependable, and they're the type of players that you want in your locker room and the type of players you want on your team."
"One of the most impressive guys that I've been around as far as his intelligence," said Casey. "I don't know if he wants to do this in the future but even as young as he is I could see him wanting to be a coach one day. Any question you asked him about the offense they ran at Washington he knew everything about it. He knew what everybody was doing and knew how to articulate it.
"I think the guys in our locker room are going to love him and he's going to fit into our group."
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View the best photos of Drew Sample, the Bengals second round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.