Initial comments ...
“Just to wrap it all up, we felt like we had a very productive draft. Hats off to (Bengals director of player personnel) Duke Tobin and his staff. For the first time going through this, they made the process very easy for this coaching staff. I really thought that the communication throughout the draft and throughout the draft process was top-notch. Everybody was on the same page. Everybody in our draft walked away feeling really good about the positions we were able to pick and what we’re getting from all those guys.
“We talked about Jonah Williams, the first round pick. In the second round, we took Drew Sample, the tight end from Washington. I mentioned a little bit earlier that Drew is a tough-nosed, physical player that we really thought highly of, obviously, to go get him in the second round. We didn’t feel like he’d be there much longer after that. I feel very justified in saying that, after some things I’ve been told. He’s a guy we’re really excited about that will be added to that group. We took Germaine Pratt, the linebacker from North Carolina State, in the third round. He’s a physical player and a leader on that defense. He really brings some intangibles to that room and provides some great competition. He can play at all three spots there at linebacker, so we’re really encouraged to have Germaine Pratt in the mix there.
“In the fourth round, we traded up to get Ryan Finley. Ryan was a guy who we had in here for a visit, and who I thought very highly of. I’ve really investigated him throughout the process and researched him. I enjoyed our meeting with him, and just felt like he’ll provide some competition there behind Andy (Dalton). Then in the fourth round, we got Renell Wren, the defensive tackle from Arizona State. Renell provides some length inside there, so that’s encouraging to add that competition to the interior of that defensive line group. He has great length and a great motor, so we’re really excited to add him to the mix. Then we got Michael Jordan, the guard/center from Ohio State. He’s still a young guy, but man, he started as a true freshman at Ohio State. He’s played a lot of football for a great team and in a great conference. Just the type of character we’re trying to add to that room. I’m really a big fan of Michael Jordan.
“Then in the sixth round, we got the running back, Trayveon Williams. I’ll just go ahead and hit on both running backs. We got Trayveon Williams from Texas A&M. He was an incredibly productive back who will really help us in that room and provide us depth. Then we got Rodney Anderson from Oklahoma, who’s coming off of an injury. During the times he’s played, he’s really been a difference-maker for Oklahoma. He’s a really talented back. He’ll be coming in off of an injury, so he might not be ready right away. We felt like it was important to add depth at that running back position. We lost one a couple weeks ago, so we needed some competition in that room.
“The last pick we took was Jordan Brown, the cornerback from South Dakota State. Again, adding some depth to that defensive backs room was important for us. We really feel like we got what we wanted out of this draft. We’re really encouraged by the guys we’re bringing into this building. There are a lot of leaders on the teams they played on. It was important to bring in guys who were ready to lead. We’re going to have the right mindset as they come in here and compete. We’re really excited about how it turned out for us. I’ll open it up for questions.”
You get through the first five rounds, and outside of Ryan Finley you didn’t take anyone around the outside — receivers, defensive backs. Was that something you targeted coming into this draft? Is that something you specifically targeted, that this needed to be a trench draft for this team and how you viewed the roster?
“As the rounds unfolded, if guys you value are there, you take them. There were some moments that could’ve gone a different way at each position. So I don’t think that was the main focus, to pack it inside like you described. It’s just the way it shook out this year. For the value that was there for these guys, we couldn’t pass it up, so it’ll provide some competition at positions in need.”
In order to set up play action, you need to have the threat of the run and be dominant in the run game. You guys seemed to draft that way to a T. Was that part of the point with some of those guys you took?
“That’s the starting point for us. We’re going to place a strong focus on the run game, and it all plays off of that. If you can’t get the run game going, then the rest your offense struggles. I think that provides some competition at offensive line, running back and tight end, which was important. Not only for competition, but to build that depth. Not only that, but we wanted to get players we really felt highly of and targeted. If those players weren’t (like that), then maybe you take a different position. We felt very strongly that the guys at those positions would come in and help us.”
One common thread seemed to be size. Nobody is going to say that anybody is undersized after what you guys got in this draft ...
“They all look the part, that’s for sure. That doesn’t always have to be the focus. But you’re right. These are guys who when they walk in the building, they’re NFL players, that’s for certain. They all fit the size criteria for the positions we drafted them at. Again, you’re looking for good football players, and they come in all shapes and sizes. This particular group we took fit the bill.”
The one guy who might not fit that was LB Deshaun Davis, who is 5-11. But he led the SEC in tackles while at Auburn ...
“Yeah. He’s a talented linebacker. Again we’re encouraged by all of these guys and are happy to get them in the building in the next couple of days.”
With the intangibles, it seemed like every pick checked all of the boxes. Did you guys emphasize that as you were setting your board? What was the process with that part of it?
“We want talented players, No. 1. There’s plenty of guys in this league that are very talented but sometimes bring some issues with them. We’re fortunate that as we drafted the guys we took, they really do fit the bill from a character standpoint. That’s a great side effect. We feel like they’ll walk right into the locker room and enhance the culture we’re emphasizing. We’ve done a lot of research on all of these guys. They’re all the types of Bengals that we want.”
You look at Trayveon Williams who tweeted ‘I’m going to make the league pay.’ Were you surprised he was still available in the sixth round as the SEC’s leading rusher?
“I was happy that he was there. It’s hard to be surprised because there’s a lot of players that you place a high value on that end up falling. So other teams sometimes just have other needs, but we’re very happy he was there, he’s an extremely productive back. Our offensive line coach has come from Texas A&M, so it’s always great when you have some familiarity with a player walking in the building, so there’s not many unknowns there. Him and Rodney (Anderson) both will provide some depth and competition at that running back position. That position is really thin right now, we only have three guys on the roster. Typically, you like to carry six or seven in training camp and, as it stands right now, we’re at five. That was important — to get some depth at that position.”
You traded up in the fourth round to get the quarterback. Was that a decision you made last night, or is that something you decided this morning?
“It’s really good the way the draft is set up because you get a chance to take a step back and reevaluate and see who’s on the board and then make some decisions like that. We were all in agreement that that was worthy of trying to get up there and get him before someone would jump up and grab him. Fortunately, we were able to get up pretty high and grab him, and he’ll provide some good competition there in the quarterback room.”
Duke has done a great job on draft days, now that the seven rounds are done, you get on the phone and start recruiting these college free agents, are you excited about that process?
“I am. That process, they have laid out very cleanly that process leading up to the draft and you never know who is going to be available. I do think Duke (Tobin) and his staff provide the coaching staff with a great plan in place to go get some hidden gems, maybe some guys that were under the radar, but what fit our needs going into free agency.”
When Brian Callahan came down after the Ryan Finley selection, he did a preemptive ‘Andy Dalton is our starting quarterback’ statement. Did you feel as a staff that it was important to get out in front of that and make that statement?
“I know that the questions come any time you draft a quarterback in those top couple rounds. So, like I said, he (Finley) provides competition to both quarterbacks we have in that room. Andy (Dalton) is our starting quarterback and we’re very encouraged by Andy after two days working with him on the field. He’s the type of quarterback that I think will play really well in the system.”
With the Sample pick, how much discussion in the room was there about waiting longer and sitting back? You mentioned people talking to you since that, if you could share some of the details of what you heard.
“There’s not too many details. I don’t think we would have gotten him in the third round. The more you watch the tape on him, he is a physical, does-it-the-way-you-want-it player. You look at his passing stats and say, ‘What’s up with that?’ But he does what you need him to do on first and second down in the passing game. It’s hard to find tight ends that are that physical and hard-nosed in the run game right now. He’s 255 and he doesn’t look it, so that’s usually a good sign when a guy walks in and is 255 and you might think he’s 235. He’s got a lot of power and grit and I’ve always had a lot of respect for Chris Petersen and the players that he develops and identifies. Those are typically guys that would fit the Bengal profile. So, you look at really two college teams, Iowa and Washington, where you really get a chance to evaluate a tight end and say, ‘Can he play at an NFL level?’ A lot of guys get spread out and have a lot of production in the pass game and that’s great, those guys turn out to be good NFL players, but those are two teams in this draft that had guys that you were able to watch those guys and say, ‘He fits what we do,’ or ‘We don’t know if he fits what we do.’ Drew fits what we do. When he’s there and you really like him, you’ve got to go get him. We’re really excited about that pick.”
How do you react when you come out and you really love a guy and then people are up in arms about something like that, what’s the reaction from inside the room?
“Nothing. We got a guy that we’re excited about and made our team better. That is going to come in all areas of football, we all know that. You can’t get caught up in that. That’s a guy we identified and liked and felt like we needed to go get.”
What’s your philosophy on two tight end packages?
“I think having depth at that position, whether you’re an 11-personnel team (one back, one tight end), a 12-personnel team (one back, two tight ends) or a 21-personnel team (two backs, one tight end), you need depth at that position. You need guys who can step in and play. Those guys tend to get banged up sometimes, so over the course of the season you want depth at that position. It doesn’t change how we’re going to approach the Xs and Os portion of it. We just feel like now we’ve got some really solid depth at that position. Now, you look at the top-three guys we have in that room and they all do something a little different and that’s a good weapon for us to have on offense.”
With no wide receiver drafted, does that mean maybe you’ll feature a mix of two-tight end sets?
“It doesn’t change what our approach will be on game day. It just changed what was available for our needs and what can help us. I’m really encouraged by the receiver group that we have. Two of our guys were injured and didn’t get to participate this week, but I’m really encouraged by the depth of that room. We can go into that season with some good weapons at the receiver position, so we felt like we had to add bodies elsewhere.”
Was that surprising to not take a receiver?
“The value everywhere we were picking mattered more. There were good players at the positions we were selecting that fit us.”
Did you talk to Andy Dalton at all before drafting Finley?
“It’s not a requirement. I would say I’m in constant communication with Andy almost every day, about football and everything else. We talk just about every day. When you take a quarterback, it comes up. But I was planning on talking to Andy whether we took one or not.”
Do you like the list of college free agent wide receivers that are expected to be available?
“I do. When I came down here, there were about 25 picks left, so they may be all gone when I go back up. It’s hard to know at this point. I do think there are some good players at receiver right now on the board that we’ve identified. I go back to that process that started weeks ago with Duke and his staff. (Bengals receivers coach) Bob Bicknell and (assistant quarterbacks coach) Dan Pitcher do a great job and probably watched about 125 guys. They’ve identified some guys that fit what we do, so we’ll try to go get them.”
This was your first draft here in Cincinnati, but you’ve been a part of drafts at a couple other organizations. What stood out about director of player personnel Duke Tobin and the Bengals’ draft room?
“They’re all different. There are positives everywhere I’ve been. I do feel that sitting in there with Duke, the communication was outstanding. Everyone is on the same page. Every coach wants their player at every position. The way that Duke and Mike Brown manage it, it’s an easy process. We got the players we wanted to get.”
What was this moment like for you, being your first draft as a head coach?
“It’s seamless, because we’ve had all these conversations for a month now. There aren’t any big debates in the room. That’s why you talk the weeks prior. That’s when people really get a chance to get their opinion out, so there are no big arguments on draft night. Duke and those guys do a great job of predicting what conversations will be had in the later rounds. We try to have those early so when it comes time, everyone is on the same page. It’s less of a show up there than you think, because we’ve had all this stuff predicted. The draft went pretty smoothly.”
How does it feel to deliver the high of a moment like the ‘phone call’ to a player?
“It’s really cool to share that moment with someone. It’s a life-changing moment. You call, and they don’t know who’s calling. You have to identify yourself and who you’re with. Responses are so varied — some guys are pretty even-keeled, others are screaming and yelling, and for others it’s very emotional. It’s a very cool, life-changing moment for those guys, so a chance to be a part of that is an opportunity you don’t take for granted.”
Overall, did this draft pretty much unfold the way you had anticipated?
“The top 15 was very difficult to predict. Needs for teams and the prospects could have shaken out a lot of different ways. That was the most difficult part to predict. I’m glad it shook out the way it did for us. We feel very happy with that, but it was the thing that was toughest to predict.”
Is there any surprise when you see a player picked by another team compared to where you value them?
“It’s interesting. Different guys fit different systems. You may value a guy in the fifth round and someone takes him in the second. It could be because of the system on offense or defense. You have to factor those things in. It’s exciting to watch. You never know how it’s going to shake out, so it’s fun to be involved and see how it all falls. Again, we’re very excited the way it turned out for us.”