news conference transcripts
AND DRAFT WRAP-UP
Initial comments ...
"It's been a great, productive three days. I'm excited about it. I'm very indebted to the scouts and personnel staff for all of their work, and everybody in this building who helps with the draft and the process of putting it together and making it a success as we move forward. I look forward now to having an opportunity to work with these players.
"Cody Core, the wide receiver from Ole Miss, really has been productive there. He played opposite of the other wideout (Laquon Treadwell) and made a lot of catches. He has physical tools and goes up and catches the football. He's tenacious as a blocker. There are a lot of great things — he's big and strong. Those things show on tape. So it was very attractive to us. We were fortunate to get him there in the sixth round.
"The last player, Clayton Fejedelem, from Illinois. He has a great story with the transfer from the smaller school, and then getting to Illinois and having the opportunity to start and be productive. He really has great athletic skills and measurable, and he led the team in tackles. He has an opportunity now to transfer into playing football in the National Football League. Obviously a guy coming into the league like that — just like with Derron Smith last year — can earn his opportunity and stay here, not only on defense but also on special teams. I feel really good about him.
"As I said, from Will Jackson all the way to Clayton Fejedelem at the end, this is a good class of seven players that really has an opportunity to go out and help compete not only for jobs, but also to have an opportunity to make us better on Sundays as we move forward. So I'm excited about that."
Between free agency and the draft, do you feel like this offseason has been about doubling down on defense, to carry this team like we've seen in previous Super Bowl runs?
"The NFL is such a cycle. You've got to improve, and as you improve it's about staying young — the evolution of young players and bringing on young players all the time. That's the evolution that we have to go through all the time. In doing that, we've been able to bring in players, with the linebacker, the cornerback, the defensive tackles. Those are some guys that particularly will help moving forward in the future.
"The two wide receivers have great opportunity on offense. And then the offensive guard, (Christian) Westerman, just has tremendous upside as an interior player and development guy for our future. And Fejedelem, the last pick, is just a productive football player. And those kind of guys play big in the National Football League. You need those kinds of players in your core and to earn their way to the 46 on Sundays."
The linebacker and safety could be dressed on Sundays too, just considering special teams ...
It seems like now you are to the point you're able to just plug in your kind of guy in the drafting process ...
"I think we've done a really good job — as I said earlier today — of trying to stay true to the grades and not go off on a tangent."
Earlier in the draft, there was a need at wide receiver, and it seemed like you attempted to make a move but you stuck with your draft board ...
Was there a temptation to make a move when you saw many of the wide receivers considered to be the top of this class being taken by other teams?
"You can't give in to that. We have to take the best players. I think today we did a particularly good job of that. We filled some needs. We filled some needs with really good guys — good players that we had good grades on collectively.
"The one good thing about it (is looking back) after we finish with the board. Duke (Tobin) puts together the board on one sheet, with Rounds 1-4 on one side and 5-7 on the other. We were through four rounds, and I think eight guys had come off the back of the board. Collectively, that's a good thing that our grades were pretty much in consensus (across the league). It makes you feel good about the process that we're doing — that we're staying true to what we believe is the value and it's fitting the value (assigned) by the rest of the National Football League."
Do you enjoy picking behind former Bengals defensive coordinator turned Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer?
"(laughs) We had some text conversations today. That was good. (laughs)"
Do you notice him picking guys right in front of you that are similar to ones you wanted?
"No, I don't pay much attention to that. I can't get into that. I don't know how they're making (their) decisions. But it is good — the draft is such a long day — it's good to have communication with people across the league during the draft. It kind of passes the time a little bit."
The fifth round pick was interesting because everyone knew you wanted a receiver, but you went with an offensive lineman in Christian Westerman. Was that based purely on player grades?
"He was a guy we really felt can come in and help us from day one. He provides depth up front. We think he has great upside and ability. He's got strength, he's got long arms. He's got the ability to sink his hips and play with the separation I think it takes to be a productive offensive lineman."
It seemed like there were a few guys you drafted who said they didn't have much interaction with the Bengals organization before the draft ...
"It's difficult to talk to 300-plus prospects. There are some that we want to do a little bit more work on, physically or mentally. Those are generally people we spend a little more time with, whether it be on their campus or bringing them to Cincinnati for me to have an opportunity to lay eyes on.
"But others are clean prospects, and you don't need to fool with them that way. Being a fly on the wall on campus a lot of times is just as important as anything else to watch how they handle themselves and carry themselves throughout what they do. That's just an important.
"With Nick Vigil, I know Jim (Haslett) was there in Logan, Utah. We don't have to have much, other than that. He was a pretty clean prospect with everything else that way. We didn't have to do any other work on him, where in the case of Clayton (Fejedelem), he didn't go to the Combine. He was here 10 days ago, or whatever, to take a physical and for us to get to know him and try to spend some time with him. And we were researching him through his coaches at Illinois, to get to know him better. After the area scouts recommend him, 'Here's a guy who didn't get invited to the Combine who we think can be draftable.' And if not draftable, they are part of the process that's going on right now (college free agency)."
Did having just seven picks this year make it hard to consider trading up?
"We wish we had had more, and more flexibility in that. We just felt like it was important to get six or seven players; young players to infuse into the roster for the future."
Cody Core is a big guy who is fast and raw ...
"I don't know about raw. They're pretty set in what they do offensively there. Those schools are big-time football programs. But he has great athletic skills and an opportunity to take off and go. We drafted a guy a few years ago very similar to that in Marvin Jones, who got an opportunity here and was able to take true advantage of it. He saw his athletic skills continue to blossom, and we're hopeful that Cody's skills continue to do the same thing."
I guess I meant raw in the sense that he started as a defensive back and was a part-time receiver. Do you see that there is room to grow for him?
"I think that he's got a lot of room to grow, yes, no doubt. He's got a lot of growth ahead. The good thing is that's what all these guys do. That's what we want; we want guys that are ascending as they come here to the NFL level, as opposed to already capped out. That's sometimes why I think teams grade guys a little differently. We want to find players on the upswing, that have an opportunity to move up and forward.
"As I said earlier, I think Andrew Billings just had a birthday, 21 years old, or he just turned 22, I can't remember now. But he's a young man, who played just three years of football. So that's important."