The Bengals traded up six spots in the fourth round to get Finley at No. 104 overall (the second pick of the round). They gave up two of their six sixth-round spots to the 49ers in exchange and Finley ended up being one of three players the Bengals took in the fourth round.
It was only the fifth time in club history that Cincinnati traded up in a draft and the first time for a quarterback.
Originally selected to compete with Jeff Driskel for the backup role, Finley began the offseason workout program as the No. 3 quarterback and struggled all the way up through the early portion of training camp. Finley quickly turned a corner as preseason games began, and he completed 73.4 percent (47-of-64) of his passes for three touchdowns and one interception in three appearances while surpassing Driskel on the depth chart.
Driskel finished the preseason injured and ultimately was waived with an injury settlement.
2. Older and wiser
Finley is the oldest rookie on the team, as he will turn 25 in December. Many of the third-year players on the team are his age — Joe Mixon is actually 23.
This is because he spent six years in college, first beginning his career at Boise State for three seasons with a redshirt his freshman year after undergoing shoulder surgery in the preseason. He played four games in a reserve role the following season in 2014, and then took over as the starter in 2015 before suffering a season-ending ankle surgery three games in, allowing him to use a gray shirt to preserve a year of eligibility.
After graduating magna cum laude in psychology in the spring of 2016, he transferred to North Carolina State for his final three seasons. He started all 39 possible games there and completed 881-of-1365 passes for 10,505 yards, 60 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. He holds the school record for career completion percentage (.645) and ranks second in passing yards and 300-yard games (18). He also was just the second quarterback in N.C. State history (and fifth in ACC history) to post three seasons of at least 3000 passing yards.
Finley served as team captain in 2018 and finished college with three degrees, including a Master’s in liberal arts. His intelligence showed immediately when the Bengals first brought him in for a pre-draft visit.
“We put him through a process where we taught him one of our protections that had about a half dozen adjustments – maybe more,” quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said on the day the Bengals drafted him. “We took a little break and then came back in and (offense coordinator) Brian (Callahan) got him on the board and (Finley) spit it out pretty much verbatim. We were impressed with his ability to learn and comprehend quickly.”
3. Diverse background
The Arizona native was a four-sport athlete at Paradise Valley High School in Phoenix. In addition to playing football, he was on the basketball, tennis and track and field teams.
Finley led the state of Arizona in passing yards (3,442), while throwing 35 touchdowns, as a senior and was named first-team all-state by the Arizona Republic and named the 2012 Arizona Cardinals Player of the Year across all divisions.
Also a standout on the basketball team, he earned second-team all-state honors and led his team to the 2012-13 state title. In one basketball game, he scored 37 points without missing a single shot. He competed in long jump with the track and field team.
Finley played roller hockey for 10 years growing up and was on Team USA.
4. Athletic genes
Finley comes from an athletic family, which could explain his diverse background in several sports. His mother played tennis at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, while his father, Pat, played football there.
His younger brother, Ben, is headed to N.C. State next year also to play quarterback. He was listed by 247sports.com as the No. 26 overall player out of Arizona and the No. 36 pro-style quarterback recruit in the Class of 2020.
Ryan Finley’s competitiveness extends to the locker room, where Finley often is among those playing ping pong.
5. QB comparisons
During the draft process, Finley drew comparisons to Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff — in part because both quarterbacks are 6-foot-4. Goff played for Taylor when Taylor was the Rams’ quarterbacks coach before leaving in February to become the Bengals’ 10th head coach.
Taylor described him after the draft as also being similar to Dalton in terms of skill set.
Scouting reports describe Finley as having clearly above-average accuracy to all levels of the field and note that he especially works the short to intermediate portions of the field well. His arm strength was a reason some believed he dropped to the fourth round, but at times during his college career he showed he could launch passes downfield with plenty of velocity behind him. He’s not been one to use his legs much, but his accuracy doesn’t dip much when throwing on the run.