The surprise of the Cincinnati Bengals’ draft was that it ended without them taking a wide receiver, but quarterback Andy Dalton isn’t fretting.
He’s just excited about what the draft picks do for the running game because that’s what ultimately will open things up more for him to throw the ball.
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Cincinnati improved its run-blocking by selecting Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams in the first round, Washington tight end Drew Sample in the second round and Ohio State guard/center Michael Jordan in the fourth round. The Bengals also added two running backs in the sixth round to compete behind Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard.
“Everything starts with the run, so I think there’s an emphasis there,” Dalton said. “I think that’s big (to be able to run and pass). That’s the mind-set we want to have, that’s how we want to play. When you add guys that fit that mold, it’s only going to make you better. I think we did a great job of that in the draft, adding pieces that are going to help us win games.”
Dalton said adding more weapons for him to throw to would have been nice, but the Bengals have confidence in the receiving corps. A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd could be one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league if both can stay on the field, and John Ross showed flashes last year when he caught seven touchdown passes.
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The Bengals also reportedly added Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan as an undrafted free agent.
“I have full confidence in the guys we have here,” Dalton said. “I think the way guys showed in the minicamp we had, I think everybody feels comfortable with just the progress that our guys have shown. You always want to add weapons, but it didn’t shake out that way.”
Dalton already likes what he’s seen or read about the offensive players the Bengals did draft.
As the team’s first-round pick, Williams was the first to arrive in Cincinnati, so Dalton took him to Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse to get to know him a little, like he did center Billy Price last year. Dalton was immediately impressed by his maturity for a 21-year-old.
“He’s got a great head on his shoulders,” Dalton said. “I think everybody knows about the way he works. The biggest thing a lot of people took away was just his preparation going into games and things. To have that as a young kid coming out of college and have the mind-set and preparation down of how he wants to do things, I think that was big. It was good just to meet him, get to know his personality a bit.”
The Katy, Texas, native already was familiar with one of the running backs the Bengals took. Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson is from his hometown, and although Dalton has never seen him play in person, he saw some clips online and knew of Anderson when he was younger.
Draft Wire’s Luke Easterling tabbed Anderson “the steal of the draft” for Cincinnati. A history of injuries, including a broken leg, fractured vertebra and knee injury) likely caused him to slide down the board, but during a healthy sophomore campaign in 2017, Anderson ran for 1,161 yards and 13 touchdowns in 14 games and led the FBS in yards from scrimmage over the final seven weeks.
“He may be the best player to come out of Katy,” Dalton said. “He’s a stud. He’s an absolute stud. And for us to only have two guys in the NFL from Katy High School, to both be here, that’s pretty cool. I don’t really know him. But I knew of him. When he was a freshman, you could tell he was the real deal. … I don’t know how many state championships they won when he was there, but he was the reason they won them.”
While the Bengals emphasized improving the run this draft, they also added some competition in the quarterback room when they traded up to select N.C. State’s Ryan Finley in the fourth round. It was the highest the Bengals have taken a quarterback since Dalton went in the second round in 2011. Finley’s skill set closely resembles Dalton’s, though he more often has drawn comparison to Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
Dalton said he hasn’t yet spoken to Finley and there was no need for Taylor to explain the pick.
“Like they said, they’re trying to create some competition as a backup and that’s why you bring him in,” Dalton said. “They obviously liked him, felt like he fit this system and we had to get our numbers up. I’m excited to see what he’s like and get to meet him.”