Bengals confident in plans for ‘virtual’ draft

Cincinnati Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Cincinnati Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Cincinnati Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin is a self-proclaimed worrier, so the idea of conducting a draft remotely and without other decision-makers in the same room has him a little more on edge than usual.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the NFL Draft to a virtual platform, and team executives and coaches cannot even gather together to make their picks. The Bengals normally would be camped out in the offices at Paul Brown Stadium for the duration of the three-day event, but this time, they will all be working remotely from their homes and connecting via Zoom video conferencing as the draft gets underway Thursday.

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Security concerns have arisen since the league issued the memo April 7 informing teams of the virtual-only format, and Tobin can’t help but wonder whether others could hack in on the Bengals’ staff Zoom meeting during the draft.

“Let’s be clear — I worry about everything,” Tobin said. “Has that crossed my mind? Sure. I read the papers and I’m a natural worry-wart. It is a concern. When you are in a room with people and you have debugged it, it’s easier to believe nobody is listening in. We feel great about the place we are. Our IT guy and our video guy and their teams have really done a great job getting us set up. We are comfortable with the way we are operating. We feel like it’s a good way to operate under the circumstances and we’ve been really productive doing it.”

Tobin’s residence will serve as the Bengals’ draft headquarters, as he will be the one pushing the button to submit their picks. He has one computer for that purpose, another computer for the Zoom video conference call with staff and a raised monitor in the corner of the room that will serve as Cincinnati’s big board. In that same corner is a video camera so the league can look in on Tobin.

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Each team is allowed to have IT personnel at one location throughout the draft, so Tobin will have help on site if any connectivity problems arise. The NFL also will conduct a dry run before the draft to make sure everything is operating smoothly and to give teams an idea how the event will look remotely, so hopefully that helps ease some minds about the process as well.

During the dry run, Tobin will have Bengals’ personnel on one conference call, and then he will be connected with the league office on an all-32 team call at the same time. Teams will practice turning in pretend picks over a Microsoft app, which will be used on draft days as well.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said he is confident in the organization’s plans. He will be situated in his home office, on a separate floor from his kids so there are no disruptions.

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“I feel like I’ve got a good setup here,” Taylor said. “We’ve had meetings with everybody in the building using all this technology over the last three weeks. We all feel really comfortable with it. You also have FaceTime on your phone. You can make phone calls. … So again, we feel very comfortable for the process that’s going to unfold for us. We’ve had great communication throughout.”

If there is one thing that gives Tobin and Taylor some added peace of mind, it’s Cincinnati’s spot in the draft order. The Bengals will be picking first, so that means each day they will go in knowing what they want to do right away with their selections in the first, second and fourth rounds to start things off.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Heisman Trophy winner expected to be top pick in NFL Draft

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

That should help avoid some miscommunications, although there could be trades that change that.

“It does benefit us that we pick at the top of the round in a lot of those rounds,” Taylor said. “You’re coming off of an open day, really. We have some communication that can take place over an 18-hour period for a couple of our rounds.”

Tobin said he expects there to be the same amount of trade activity as any other year because those always happen via phone calls anyway and the new setup doesn’t change that.

There could be some timing concerns, however, with the added challenge of not being in the same room with the other decision-makers.

“I think overall throughout the league, that will be a general challenge for everybody,” Taylor said. “I really have a lot of confidence in how we operate with Duke (Tobin), that we’re going to be very flexible and have a lot of ways at our disposal to make sure that our communication is top notch through multiple systems if we need to. So again, we’ll be very flexible and be able to make sure that we’re not at any disadvantage.

“I think if you’re going to predict that there’s some glitch amongst 32 teams, you know, it’s likely that something may happen, that someone’s got to be prepared for, but I feel very comfortable.”