After selecting the fastest player in the NFL Draft on Thursday and the fastest defensive lineman Friday, the Cincinnati Bengals kept their sights set on speed with their final eight picks Saturday.
“That’s part of it with today’s NFL; we measure speed every day on the field,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “We have to make sure we feel good about it.”
After drafting Washington wide receiver John Ross in the first round and Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis in the third, not to mention Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon in the second, the Bengals continued to accrue elite speed with the addition of Oklahoma linebacker Jordan Evans and Houston cornerback Brandon Wilson.
Evans did not receive an invitation to the Combine, but the 4.5-second 40-yard dash he ran at his pro day was faster than any linebacker there. Wilson, another Combine snub, ran a 4.34 40 at his pro day, which would have been the second-fastest among cornerbacks who ran in Indianapolis.
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Tennessee wide receiver Josh Malone, whom the Bengals selected with their second of three fourth-round picks, clocked 4.40 40 at the Combine, which only trailed Ross and Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel among wide receivers. And the team’s first pick on Saturday, fourth-round Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson, had the sixth-fastest 40 at the Combine.
But while the Bengals placed a priority on speed, production weighed heavily with the coaches and scouts.
“I think that’s most important for us,” Lewis said. “The production has to match up with the timed speed. That’s the hardest part. We don’t play football in shorts. We’ve elevated the Combine to such a big, huge deal, and that’s just one part of the puzzle and a confirmation of things. The tape matters so much.
“When coaches ask you to talk to their underclassmen, you try to encourage (them and tell them) if they would prepare as hard for their final college season as they do for the things that come postseason, they’d have a better (regular) season,” Lewis added. “They really prepare hard for the Combine. Now we have to get them ready for football.”
The Bengals went into the day with nine picks but only ended up making eight after trading up 10 spots in the sixth round to nab Wilson, a converted running back who scored eight touchdowns six different ways while at Houston.
It was only the fourth time in franchise history the Bengals have traded up in the draft (center Russell Bodine in 2014, tight end Matt Schobel in 2002 and running back Ki-Jana Carter in 1995).
“Any time you trade forward, you’re targeting a player,” Lewis said. ” We felt like, in that case, Brandon fit us in a good spot. We hadn’t taken a player at that position, and he’d have an opportunity to come in and really make us better.”
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The Bengals also added defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow from Michigan with their third pick in the fourth round before making another rare move in selecting Memphis kicker Jake Elliott in the fifth round. Elliott is the first kicker the Bengals have drafted in the Marvin Lewis era.
The team rounded out its 2017 class with Utah center J.J. Dielman, a converted tackle, with its second pick in the fifth round, and Buffalo tight end Mason Schreck in the seventh.
“I think we really were blessed the way the draft fell for us,” Lewis said. “We were able to take basically the best player available in our minds at that time, and continue to fill some of our needs, so I’m excited about that. These guys — their (physical) traits, and their mental aspects as well — they all fit in line with the physical part of the game they play.
“We’re really excited about that, and we feel like it was a beneficial three days.”