Bengals’ offseason additions give them ‘flexibility’ with first-round pick

Cincinnati Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin speaks to the media the NFL Scouting Combine . FILE PHOTO

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Cincinnati Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin speaks to the media the NFL Scouting Combine . FILE PHOTO

CINCINNATI -- Duke Tobin said the Cincinnati Bengals remain flexible with their draft board, and the organization is open to whatever options might surface with the 31st overall pick next week in the NFL Draft.

The Bengals’ director of player personnel indicated during a pre-draft press conference Friday at Paul Brown Stadium the team feels comfortable enough with its roster build to this point that it won’t be necessary to find an immediate starter with that late first-round pick.

Cincinnati will have plenty of options because of that, but it would be difficult to settle on one type of player considering where the Bengals are drafting. The NFL draft takes place April 28-30 in Las Vegas.

“Unfortunately, we don’t get to turn in the picks that the other teams make, so we have to be flexible down at the bottom of the first round,” Tobin said. “We consider it like taking some of the high picks in the second round that we’ve had. 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.”

The top areas of need going into the draft seem to be at cornerback, to either upgrade Eli Apple’s position or add depth and competition, or safety because of uncertainty for the future with Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell both only being guaranteed through 2022.

Cincinnati addressed the offensive line through free agency and could still go that route, but the Bengals added three new starters already so it isn’t as big of a need.

While there are spots across the board that could be improved, the Bengals will have the ability to go with the best player available instead of hitting on a certain position. Tobin said the Bengals’ decision-makers “are flexible to taking guys for the future if that’s what has to happen.”

That flexibility also means the Bengals would be open to trading back to add more picks. Cincinnati already has a recent history trading back in the second round – doing so in 2021, 2019, 2018 and 2017 – and if the 31st pick is viewed similarly, the organization could keep with that pattern.

“It’s just (about) opportunity,” Tobin said when asked about the trend of trading back in the second round. “It’s not something we go into the draft saying, ‘We are going to trade this second-round pick and move back.’ If the opportunity comes up and the board is the way we want the board to be, then we consider doing those things. It’s serendipity. It’s happened for us and it’s worked out in some cases. You have to be flexible as the draft goes on. We’re flexible to opportunities that come our way. And we’re also cognizant if we move back, we might not get the guy that we’re looking for. So, it depends on who’s left, how strongly we feel about them and how many of them are left that we feel strongly about.”

Tobin said most of those decisions come from “spur of the moment” calls that prompt a trade as the pick is coming up, but most of the time the team looking to move up is the aggressor.

It also helps the Bengals that his draft class seems deeper at the back end than recent years, and they see good talent across multiple positions. Tobin didn’t point out any specific positions that are deeper than others but said there will be peaks and valleys.

“I think there’s guys everywhere,” Tobin said. “Each year is weird insomuch that sometimes, there’s a lot of players in one round that we grade and then maybe two rounds where there’s hardly anybody, and then it picks up again late. This year has those peaks and valleys. So if we don’t go here, then we’re probably going to have to wait until toward the end of the draft to address this position. So we know that going into it. I won’t get into specifics on how we view each position here, but yes, this draft has some of those peaks and valleys and some of those valleys that are important to us, we’ll have to try to navigate around as the draft goes.”

The Bengals’ draft board features some semblance of overall player rankings, but Tobin said they organize them more in “buckets” placing guys of similar ability together across different positions. The decision-makers won’t leave a bucket of guys deemed to be a higher talent level just to hit a position of need in a “lower bucket.”

Cincinnati does try to run its own mock draft through three rounds, but Tobin said it’s treated almost like a “worst-case scenario.” Regardless, the Bengals will enter the draft next week feeling well-prepared even with the uncertainty that comes with picking so late.

“We talk through everything,” Tobin said. “We try to stack the position groups and then we start talking about how to stack them regardless of position. That’s what we’re doing. We did that this morning. We’ll continue doing that this weekend and early next week and try to solidify how we stack these. Player A vs. Player B vs. Player C and regardless of position. Sometimes there is a big drop-off in that stack and you can draw a line and say, ‘OK, here’s where we drop off. We want to get one of these guys above the line rather than below.’ That can factor into whether you’re willing to trade or not.”

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