In the above video, Marvin Lewis talks to the 2015 NFL Combine media about how the Bengals were more willing to draft players with questionable character in 2005 and 2006, but since then, have been less likely to do so. Now, character is something that the Bengals scouting staff does not take lightly. They even make a conscious effort to talk to prospects pre-draft, in order to make them understand that the manner in which they conduct themselves is very important.
However, certain factions of the media still maintain a stereotype that the Bengals consistently take character risks. Before the draft, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora listed the Bengals as a team that goes for character risks in the draft, strangely using undrafted free agent Vontaze Burfict as an example, a player who the Bengals invested just $1,000 on -- meaning virtually nothing. Jake Liscow noted the fallacy:
Bengals still take character risks in the draft! Proof: UNDRAFTED rookie FA signing Vontaze Burfict. http://t.co/i5AOte2ZI6— Jake Liscow (@Jake_NFL) April 29, 2015
When the Cowboys signed La'el Collins from UDFA to a $1.65 million contract, La Canfora praised Cowboys owner Jerry Jones:
La'el Collins skipping sheduled visit to Miami. Agreed to fully guaranteed 3yr deal w/Dallas w/ no offsets. Jerry Jones knows how to close— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) May 7, 2015
To be completely fair to Collins, he has been innocent in the saddening incident involving his ex-girlfriend, and didn't deserve to fall to the undrafted ranks. But if Collins were signed by the Bengals, do you really think La Canfora would be equally as complimentary to Mike Brown? Not a chance.
At the end of the third round, the Bengals drafted Paul Dawson. NFL.com reporter Chase Goodbread had the following to say:
TCU LB Paul Dawson goes to Bengals to close out day two. CIncy rolls the character dice. Again.— Chase Goodbread (@ChaseGoodbread) May 2, 2015
Ah, great. No mention of how Dawson's character questions are fairly overblown, and thus how the Bengals got a steal with one of the best 4-3 linebacker prospects. Just another potshot at the Bengals with the misguided "character risk" stereotype in mind.
Now we get to the king of posturing among football websites, Pro Football Talk. PFT tweeted about the Bucs taking Jameis Winston with the first overall pick:
To no surprise, the Bucs take QB Jameis Winston with the first pick in the draft http://t.co/CzyPo4efCi— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) May 1, 2015
Nothing about character issues in the title or opening lines, which is the way it should be. Mike Florio does include one short paragraph about Winston's character concerns, but writes that the Bucs feel comfortable moving forward.
Fast-forward to the fourth round, when the Bengals have drafted Josh Shaw:
Bengals take USC corner who lied about ankle injury http://t.co/cWa3wzDG2N— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) May 2, 2015
Though what Shaw did is silly, it's not that bad compared to other incidents involving draft prospects. Darin Gantt spoke ominously of Shaw, portraying a tough road ahead because it "may have ruined his reputation." Right...
Gantt also went out of his way in the article to emphasize that it was the Bengals -- not anyone else, but those sleazy Bengals -- who drafted this liar. In comparison to the forward-looking tone of PFT's article on Winston, there seems to be a double standard against the Bengals.
Thankfully, Anthony Cosenza balanced the scales with a dose of reason:
Great pick by the #Bengals with Josh Shaw. And shut up about the team and character guys.— Anthony Cosenza (@CJAnthonyCUI) May 2, 2015