INDIANAPOLIS _ If you bump into the Bengals scouts here at the NFL scouting combine, tell them they're having a heck of a decade.
And how the next three drafts may have to be better than the last three as they shift from building to maintaining.
Since their first pick of the 2020s translated into Joe Burrow, the NFL's all-time completion percentage leader, the Bengals have drafted two Pro Bowlers, two 1,000-yard receivers, the decade's leading interceptor among linebackers and a rookie who took more snaps than any guard in the league but one.
Director of player personnel Duke Tobin points to the continuity of his scouting staff dovetailing with the consistency of head coach Zac Taylor's own staff.
"I think our scouting department is hitting on all cylinders right now," Tobin said Tuesday. "I think they are confident in exactly what is going to play and play well for the Cincinnati Bengals currently. I think they know exactly what our coaching staff is looking for. I think they know exactly what Zac's culture is, how to emphasize that and just done a great job evaluating guys correctly and getting us in the right order. And we've had the good fortune of some guys falling to us. Sometimes we had to trade up, which I hate doing, but when you feel the need and know there is a guy there you have high regard for you go ahead and do that."
ZAC WORLD: Taylor should get a lot of credit for winning the culture wars by melding the draft picks into a locker room stacked with veterans who have won on two different teams. A big reason is he's successful with that is he can articulate exactly what he wants and that helps guide the scouts on what to seek on the inside of players.
"Be consistent with what you believe in and your messaging. Don't be afraid to evolve at the same time. There's a lot of things that I came in with and believed because maybe I'd done in LA or other places that we had to evolve to fit with what the Cincinnati Bengals did," Taylor said Tuesday. "And the biggest thing for us was just being transparent and our communication of why we're doing things, what our intent is, why we're changing maybe things that we've done over several weeks or months. And I think our players have believed in that process, and it's helped us get to where we are today."
Another thing that helps Taylor. His love for Cincinnati and the Bengals is genuine. You can't fool players. He expounded on last week's "casket," quote. As in, they'll have to carry him out of Paycor.
"I love being in Cincinnati. I love working for this organization and the people you interact with at the ownership level, at the personnel level. Coaches. Players. Love the city," Taylor said. "I think everyone who has ever lived or been to Cincinnati feels the same way. And so it's hard to beat what we've got and I just enjoy coming to work every single day."
DATABASE: A lot has been said about Taylor being able to keep his staff intact for all five seasons. But what about Tobin's department? It has also been together for the same period. He has always considered years of NFL scouting a must so evaluators can compare prospects.
"I think the most valuable tool you can have when you evaluate players is the comparison tool," Tobin said. "The longer you evaluate players, the deeper your pool of comparatives you can have. It's the most powerful way you can describe a player. He reminds me of this, he reminds me of this version of this guy when he gets to the league because of these things. The analytics play a role. Feel is going play a role. Experience is always going play a role and comparatives is vital in evaluating personnel."
Mike Niziolek of Cleveland.com had a good question. Who do they compare with Joe Burrow? And Tobin had an even better answer: "I would compare Joe Burrow to Joe Burrow. When you get to that level people start using you as the comparative. No longer comparing you to other people."