‘Continuity’ in scouting, coaching a boost for Bengals as NFL Draft approaches

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals are fine-tuning their board with the NFL Draft now just a few days away, but coach Zac Taylor said the preparation process has been smooth so far to ensure they go into the three-day event in a position to make good decisions.

Director of player personnel Duke Tobin continues to “lead the charge,” Taylor said Monday after opening a pre-draft press conference by sharing his condolences on the passing Friday of Tobin’s father, former NFL executive Bill Tobin. He had worked for the Bengals’ player personnel department from 2003 through 2022, following general manager and director of player personnel stints with the Bears, Colts and Lions.

Taylor said he hates that Duke Tobin and his family is going through a difficult time. The organization continues to move forward with final draft prep.

“Just continued conversations … making sure everything’s cleaned up, and everyone’s opinions are heard, and then we get ready for Thursday,” Taylor said.

The NFL Draft begins with the first round Thursday, second and third rounds Friday and the fourth through seventh rounds Saturday. Cincinnati has the 18th pick overall and 10 selections to make over the three days.

Taylor shared a distinct memory he has of Bill Tobin and how he played a role in previous drafts, specifically in 2021 when the Bengals were on the clock in the fifth round and trying to decide whether or not to submit a pick for kicker Evan McPherson. The Bengals are known for listening to multiple voices in their draft room, Taylor said, and Bill Tobin’s came through loud and clear on that one.

“We were talking about Evan McPherson, and a voice in the back of the room spoke up and said, ‘You know, in 1985, at the Bears, we took a rookie kicker and we went to the Super Bowl and it worked out well for us,’” Taylor recalled. “And I just kind of remember there being a silence after that comment. And next thing I remember was Duke submitting the pick for Evan McPherson. And so I think we were leaning that way anyway. But that comment always resonated with me, and he was obviously making his voice heard in that moment.”

As the Bengals get ready for the 2024 draft, Taylor plays an important role of sharing the bigger picture of the team’s needs and making sure if there is a need for closure on a player, the decision-makers understand the coaches’ and coordinators’ vision and what is needed for the scheme and fit.

His assistants come into play in discussions for what player traits they are looking for and how they fit by the position group. The continuity of the staff and personnel in the scouting department over Taylor’s time as head coach, since arriving in 2019, also helps the process.

This is the first year Cincinnati has a new coordinator after offensive coordinator Brian Callahan became the Titans’ head coach this offseason. Former quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher is now in that role but it’s still the same vision for the offense.

“I think the scouting department seeing the schemes, it’s been similar schemes over the years, so (they know) how we will utilize guys and what guys succeed, which guys maybe struggle more,” Taylor said. “And so, I think that’s a benefit, just the continuity we’ve had in both departments is really helpful this time of year.”

Taylor said the staff has a little better idea what to expect over the first 17 picks before Cincinnati comes on the board, compared to the last two when the Bengals had much later selections coming off back-to-back AFC Championships (and a Super Bowl in 2021). However, the draft is still unpredictable as trades will be made, runs on different positions occur and maybe teams stray from what others think they might be doing.

Cincinnati has some clear needs at the defensive tackle, offensive tackle, tight end, wide receiver and cornerback positions, but it’s tough to know who will be available by the 18th pick. The Bengals feel like they will be ready regardless what happens before they are on the clock, and the work they did in free agency allows for some flexibility as well.

“Moving up 10 to 12 picks from where we’ve done it in the past is you maybe have a better idea of the top 18 guys than the top 29 or 30, whatever it is, and so it might be slightly more predictable,” Taylor said. “It still feels pretty unpredictable. But again, we’ll get to the point where you feel really good about who we’re taking.”


Thursday: First Round, 8 p.m., ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, NFL Network

Friday: Rounds 2-3, 7 p.m., ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, NFL Network

Saturday: Rounds 4-7, Noon-6 p.m., ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, NFL Network

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