The Cincinnati Bengals will be on the clock soon as the NFL draft begins on Thursday night in Las Vegas.
This draft process is unlike any year director of personnel Duke Tobin and head coach Zac Taylor have experienced before. Since Taylor arrived in Cincinnati, the Bengals have picked at the top of the draft and this year they are the second-to-last pick of the first round.
Drafting late is always the goal when NFL teams begin their season because it means you were successful in the year prior. That’s why although this draft has brought different challenges for Tobin and Taylor, it’s viewed as a good problem to have.
Tyler Linderbaum:Would Iowa center be the line’s final piece?
Kaiir Elam:Florida cornerback could fill a very specific role
Andrew Booth:How Clemson CB could bring explosiveness
“I’ll take championships every time,” Tobin said.
The Bengals won’t make a pick, unless they opt to trade up, until late Thursday night as they own the No. 31 overall pick. Picking this late is unique in that it’s hard to predict who will still be available on their draft board at that time.
Tobin and Taylor have spent the last month working through exercises in which they mock the first three rounds. It helps them create a list of players they think will be available when they get on the clock. Taylor said the pool of players they will select from is bigger at pick No. 31 than no. 5.
“I’d say it’s probably a bigger range than five (players), to be honest with you.” Taylor said on Monday. “Yeah, you can pick a guy that you think’s going later in the second round and have a great shot of getting him at 31. But it’s probably a bigger pool than five, I would say. But we were in this situation a few years ago with Tee Higgins at 33. It was just two picks off. We had the first pick with Joe Burrow. That one was an easy one to talk about. There was no indecision there. And then 33, you’re playing the same game we’re playing now at 31, of trying to predict and do our own exercises to see who could be there at 33. It’s going to be a decent range of players, I would imagine.”
NFL Draft 2022 primer:Where the Bengals are picking and identifying positions of need
2022 NFL Draft:How Cincinnati Bengals fans can watch and live stream
When the Bengals drafted Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in 2020, they made the decision well ahead of time. This allowed Taylor and Tobin to focus solely on who they believed would be available for their second-round pick which kicked off Day 2 of the draft. After the first round was completed and Higgins was still available, it was an easy decision because he was the highest rated player on their draft board.
This is how Taylor and Tobin are preparing for Thursday night as they’ll have a pretty good idea of who will be taken in the first 20 picks. They can then narrow their list down and hone in on the player they believe is the right fit instead of spending more time on prospects who are unlikely to be there at pick No. 31.
Since Taylor started working with Tobin, the Bengals have selected the following players in the first round: Jonah Williams, Ja’Marr Chase and Burrow. All three are starters and impact players at their position.
The Bengals hope their first-round pick from this year’s draft will follow suit and become a starter. That’s always the expectation with first and second round picks in most cases.
“We’re picking them for a reason, because we think they’ll be a productive part of our team,” Taylor said. “That’s why we select them where we select them.”
Because of the players the Bengals added in free agency, it’s hard to guess what they’ll do come Thursday night. Their roster is without several glaring holes giving Tobin the ability to take the best player available on his board. This doesn’t mean the team doesn’t have needs, though.
With their current roster in tow, Cincinnati’s biggest needs are at cornerback, interior defensive line, safety, tight end and guard. Most mock drafts completed by pundits to this point have the Bengals selecting a cornerback, defensive tackle or a center. Expect the Bengals to take a player at one of these positions with pick No. 31.
“We consider it like taking some of the high picks in the second round that we’ve had,” Tobin said. “So, we feel good about our ability to do that. We’re not gonna turn down good players at positions that might not be immediate needs, so we’ll see what’s left for us. We think there’s a good pool of guys, so we think we’ve got a good chance to add somebody that can contribute now and in the future.”