CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 05: Zac Taylor speaks to the media as Cincinnati Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin looks on after being introduced as the new head coach for the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on February 5, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Quarterback, linebacker with No. 11 pick? Bengals ‘just want the best player’

The Bengals have insisted Andy Dalton fits well into Taylor’s system, so it might not be as pressing of a need to select a quarterback with the 11th pick. However, whatever round they do take one, Taylor certainly will have a big say in who they pick and when.

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Taylor has a keen eye for talent at that position as a former quarterback at Nebraska and as someone who has coached the position for most of his time working in the NFL. He coached the Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks last year, helping elevate Jared Goff to new levels in his third season, and previously developed Ryan Tannehill during his best years with the Dolphins.

Thus, he knows exactly what to look for while evaluating this draft class of quarterbacks.

“First off is the leadership qualities they have,” Taylor said in a pre-draft news conference Friday at Paul Brown Stadium. “… From there, different guys play in different systems so to measure their football IQ, sometimes you just want to hear them just talk for a long period of time because sometimes the systems are great for the conference they play in, they help them produce and win games but it doesn’t necessarily translate to our level. … Then, you take into account the game tape, but those things all mesh together to help you figure out if you want to take the guy at quarterback or not.”

Taylor said to find out whether a player has the leadership abilities he seeks in a quarterback, he tries to ask everyone who has been around him. Sometime it’s best, he said, to catch one of his teammates off guard with a question to get a more honest answer.

When talking with the players themselves, quarterbacks especially come into interviews with prepared answers. At the most high-profile position on the team, quarterbacks get used to answering questions from the media and almost become robotic in that regard. Taylor knows how to work around that to get real responses.

“You’ve got your canned answers at the Combine, things that you’ve been programmed to answer: ‘Hey, what’s your favorite third-and-7 play?’” Taylor said. “Trust me, I know a couple tricks I was taught, so I try to weasel my way around those and make sure I get past those answers with these guys because I know a little bit about how they are programmed to go through this process.”

Taylor said he looks forward to seeing how many quarterbacks go in the first two rounds this year, but he will never be surprised by how high those players are taken because it’s such a critical position.

This year’s quarterback class isn’t as elite as past ones, like 2012 and even last year when there were a number of first-rounders. That may or may not affect the Bengals’ decision, but the key is projecting whether a guy will fit into their system.

People thought Goff was going to be a bust after the Rams traded up to take him first overall in the 2016 draft. As a rookie, he replaced veteran Case Keenum midway through the year and completed 112-of-205 passes for 1,089 yards, five passing touchdowns and seven interceptions in seven starts, all games the Rams lost.

“Often times you are evaluating a quarterback and maybe they don’t have all the things around them they need,” Taylor said. “Maybe they are in the wrong system, whatever it is. It’s scary a guy sometimes can almost get buried for that and just never get the opportunity to shine when he’s got great potential. … It’s interesting the things that can happen to quarterbacks in this league sometimes just based on the situation they find themselves in.”

Taylor has been a part of meetings with Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin and his staff the past two weeks, digging into all the prospects they could potentially be looking to draft.

Taylor said as a head coach, “you really do try to manage those first couple rounds,” but ultimately he trusts the people around him.

“We just want the best player,” Taylor said. “I don’t care if it’s my opinion or anybody else’s opinion. We just want to make sure that we find the best ways to improve the team because we’ve got a lot of picks this year and we get one in every round for certain, so I really don’t care at the end of the day who made the decision to do it. Let’s just make sure that we’re getting a player that’s going to help our team become better.”

“We’re looking for players that fit what we do on offense, defense and special teams and we want to identify those players, draft them and make our team better.”

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