Marvin Lewis Pre-Draft News Conference
April 26, 2016
Paul Brown Stadium
"We have Matthew Weissman in the room, who has been selected as our season ticket holder to go this week to Chicago to the draft and present the Bengals' trophy -- I mean jersey -- to the player, alongside the Commissioner, when our first pick is announced. Hopefully, one day that player will host a trophy, too (laughs.) Matthew has been a season ticket holder for 10 seasons and hasn't missed a game. The tickets have been in his family's possession for 35 years. Congrats Matt, and make a good pick!
"One of the exciting times of the season is about to happen. Most importantly for the coaches, the fact we can begin doing football on Sunday is exciting The speculative part of the year is over, and now it's about getting to work with everyone, and the football team gets put back together. We're anxious and excited about that as we move forward.
"I'm very pleased with the personnel staff and their hard work and everything they've done over the last spring and fall to gather the information, begin the rating and crosschecking of the players. There's all of the work that Duke (Tobin) and his staff have done, and once we get a time at some point in the spring, we try to put the coaches involved in the system a bit, and to have them to go out and visit with some of the players and to watch almost all of the players at their position on tape and do reports and evaluations.
"The coaches and the personnel department then line them up for us; offense and defenses, because that's what as coaches we do more than anything. That's an important cross-check of the process. All the other people in the building that have to input the reports, to do the things that get the whole thing going. We've had good discussion over the past two and a half weeks as we met and tried to order the board up, down, and sideways. We feel good about the process and where we are. We'll be underway here shortly."
You have less picks this year than last, does that have a significant impact on your drafting?
"The impact is after the draft. We're going to have to compete for some college free agents with the other 31 teams, because we don't have those extra picks at this point. Obviously we can gain some picks by moving around, and maybe that's something we do. We'd like to continue to gain some depth on the football team, and those guys that you pick on the third day of the draft have an opportunity to really make an impact, and have future upside. So if we're able to slide around and gain some more, that would be a positive."
Have you given more thought to trading down, given your spot?
"As always, it depends on whether our player is there when it's our turn. In my opinion, we're going to have a hard time backing away from one of the players who we feel good about who can make a contribution early in his career."
How many guys do you specifically study yourself?
"I look at as many as I can. A lot of times, I'll select particular games because I know on one side of the ball or another, there's a player who's a senior. The most important thing for me is the list of prospects by number. Whatever tape I pull out to look at, once I become a little more familiar with the names of the prospects, then it enables me to go down the line and look at players more. A lot of those guys walked around this building (on pre-draft visits), so we feel good about them that way and have an opportunity to draft them late, or encourage them to sign here as a CFA, and then they've made the football team."
Do you agree that there's a lot of defensive depth this year?
"I think there's depth. There's some good players. Sometime depth means there's not much that stands out. There will be players in the second, third, fourth rounds that we'll feel really good about coming in and competing for a job here."
You've had recent success with college free agents. What do you chalk that up to?
"Hopefully, we've provided these guys the opportunity to show what they can do. You have to take your hat off to the coaches for getting them ready to play in an NFL game. You don't want to take away from the rest of the group with somebody who's unprepared. So them being smart enough and having the ability to retain enough to go out and play NFL football is really important. If we're encouraging them to sign here, we're doing it for a reason, and they'll have an opportunity to show what they can do. If they are not able to stay here, then they hopefully they get an opportunity with one of the other 31 clubs."
Is that a selling point for players wanting to come here, the way this has played out in the past?
"It ought to be. We've had enough of them make it and do it in various ways. That's important, for a young man to get that kind of opportunity. Sometimes guys go to teams and they don't get an opportunity to get on preseason tape. Its important to me, and I urge the coaches, 'Let's not go and chase a guy just to fill a number. Let's chase a guy because he has the ability to compete for one of the roster spots."
How much of the key is to 'get to them first?'
"It takes good luck. Sometime we make the phone call when the draft ends, and the kid is already signed. It's amazing how quickly they can agree to a contract. Good agents do a good job of looking at opportunity, and hopefully when I pick up the phone, I'm talking to the guy because he has an opportunity to make the football team, particularly when I've seen him on tape."
Do you put as much time into CFA research as you do for the top three picks?
"The coaches and scouts put a lot of time and research into these guys. Particularly if its a guy we haven't gotten a physical on, we have to make sure they check out medically before we bring them here and waste a plane flight if they're going to fail the physical. It's important that they jump through some of their original hurdles through the process on the way here, so we don't waste time and energy with a guy who's not healthy enough to play NFL football."
You have some new coaches who may not have been as hands-on with the draft with their past teams …
"Not the case with the guys that we brought in here. They've had involvement. In most places, the coaches are involved through their position. We're in good shape that way."
Being in the playoffs consistently, you've been picking in the early 20s in each round. Is there any advantage to picking in the same area each year?
"I don't know if there's an advantage. The goal is to pick 32nd. As for us being at 24 this year, we don't know what players will be there, because we don't know the first 23 yet."
How do you feel about the local guys who are draft-eligible?
"They're good prospects. We had some good local kids who went to high school here who played at places across the country in college who will make NFL teams. That's a good thing."
Do you have one guy in particular that you go into it saying you really want? Or is it more of a handful?
"I think we have a handful of players that we think have an opportunity to be there when we pick. We make sure we have them ranked in the right order for us."
At what point do you think the draft process reached a turning point of success in your tenure?
"I think it has been a constant process. It has to be one where we're taking players who not only have league value, but value for us, and we envision how they're going to fit into our schemes on offense, defense, and special teams. I think that's important; we're not taking the belle of the ball that may be the popular choice, but the guy who fits us and makes us better as a football team. Its not based on someone else's evaluation, but our own evaluations."