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NFL Draft

General Manager Speak: Assessing Bengals’ 2020 NFL Draft Class

  • The Draft Network
  • May 6, 2020
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Now that we’ve had a chance to pick apart the 2020 NFL Draft classes for each team, I wanted to dive deeper into the point of view of the 32 clubs. 

In this new series, I will analyze quotes that stuck out the most from executives’ pre- and post-draft press conferences starting with the team that had the No. 1 pick: the Bengals. 

Below are quotes from Cincinnati general manager Duke Tobin and coach Zac Taylor.

Question: What stuck out the most on tape about Joe Burrow?

Tobin: "The thing that Joe does really well just going over his strengths, he can play within the system and execute the system, and he can play outside the system if he has to. In today's game, that's pretty important. He's shown the ability on third down when he has to play outside of the system when he has to and get those big first downs. The mark of any good quarterback is how they do on third down, and he's very good there. There's a lot to like about Joe on tape from what we've seen."

Analysis: Today’s NFL has forced young quarterbacks to play inside and outside of structure; passers are now required to survive outside of the design of original concepts. There wasn't a quarterback better than last season than Burrow. His improvisational skills and ability to win outside conceptual designs are what helped propel LSU to a perfect 15-0 record and a national championship.

This was desperately needed in the Bengals’ offense. Their offensive line is among one of the league’s worst, and it's important to have a signal-caller that can avoid the noise within the pocket and come out clean to deliver to perimeter targets. 

Question: With Burrow and Tee Higgins, you have two former college national champions. Did that factor into the evaluation process on these first two picks?

Taylor: "Yeah. That's been the standard for [Higgins], is that he plays for championships, and that's why he went to Clemson. When I went down to Clemson's pro day with a couple of our coaches — it was really the last day before everything got shut down — I got a chance to meet with [Clemson coach Dabo] Swinney for about an hour. We really talked specifically about Tee. He just raved about him [and] the energy he's going to bring to the receiver room. He's the same guy every single day, so again, we're just going to keep adding weapons as best we can, and he's certainly a weapon we get to add to our arsenal."

Analysis: When evaluating certain positions, the win/loss factor is hardly brought up outside of quarterback. Instead, the caliber, or strength of the tradition, at certain positions is discussed. We often see it with schools like Iowa, Wisconsin and Notre Dame when addressing offensive lineman; a similar phenomenon has now occurred with Clemson wide receivers. The program has helped produce NFL stars like DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams.

It's understandable why the Bengals would be so high on Higgins. Prior to the 2019 season, there were whispers of an A.J. Green comparison. Higgins isn’t in the same stratosphere as Green, but learning under his now-teammate will only strengthen his game as he aims to grow with Burrow.

Question: You had a lot of good first impressions at the Senior Bowl. When you're going through the process, how do you make sure you don't fall in love with the guys you saw there early, and that they really were one of the top guys throughout the whole process?

Taylor: "I think what went into it was that we'd come out of that [Senior Bowl] week, and we did a good job of sitting down and [voicing] the opinions we formed over the course of the week. Then you spend the next two months verifying that opinion or finding information that says we were duped one way or the other.

“We just felt really good about the research we did on all those players — that what we felt was verified. There were some guys we probably liked during the Senior Bowl that, as we went through the process, we maybe didn't like as much or the other way around. We didn't write anyone off from going there that week, and we tried not to overly fall in love with being around a guy for a week. We wanted to make sure that the tape matched that, that what people said in their college programs matched that. And in these three cases, it all held up."

Analysis: It's always interesting to discover and dissect the quotes from the Senior Bowl coaching staff. It's not surprising to see many of the Bengals’ draft picks participating in the event with Taylor at the helm of one of the teams.

In an attempt to remake its second level, Cincinnati selected Logan Wilson as well as Akeem Davis-Gaither. It shouldn't be surprising that it’s a major tool for future development and seen as a head start when evaluating an upcoming draft class.

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