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Marvin Lewis talks NFL Draft, character issues, health concerns and more

Lewis had his pre-draft press conference and discussed how he hopes to make the Bengals a better team over the draft’s three days.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft begins Thursday, but before then, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis had his pre-draft meeting with the media on Tuesday.

There, Lewis discussed how he hopes to make the Bengals’ roster better through the seven rounds of the draft, which currently includes 11 picks for Cincinnati. With them, Lewis will look to put months of scouting, background work and interviewing prospects to good use as he drafts the newest Bengals.

“It’s a lot of work that goes into it, a lot of hours and time from trainers, doctors, etc., all the way through to the personnel people and (what) we get involved with as coaches,” said Lewis. “It will be good to get this over with this weekend, and then we can move on and begin to do real football.

“Where we are is we are going to choose players that will have an opportunity to impact the football team. Some of the guys will have a chance this year, hopefully this fall. And then, as we move down the draft, (hopefully we will) add depth and competition to the rest of the football team.”

Having 11 picks will certainly add to the competition for one of those precious spots on the 53-man roster, but Lewis doesn’t see it as much of a challenge for him to decide the final roster. He expects the players to decide for him who stays and who goes when figuring out the best 53 players to keep.

“That’s up to the guys,” Lewis said of forming a 53-man roster that includes 11 draft picks. “We have to do a good job. There has to be an attribute that keeps them here. I think that’s important. There has to be that kind of attribute that keeps them here in this building. Now they’re competing with guys, from No. 1 all the way through No. 7b, whatever it is. There isn’t (necessarily) an open spot. They’re going to have to compete and earn a spot and an opportunity to play. We’re blessed to be in that situation.”

One of the biggest stories surrounding the Bengals entering this year’s draft is the team’s interest in controversial running back Joe Mixon. The former Oklahoma star has been linked to the Bengals several times this offseason, but some teams want nothing to do with him after he knocked a woman unconscious in 2014.

On the topic of character concerns and properly vetting players, Lewis admitted it’s a long process that is no exact science.

“If there are certain questions about a particular player, No. 1, we make sure we know everything about it so we know what we’re getting into bringing that young man aboard, and then have a plan for it if you feel like it’s something that’s manageable,” said Lewis. “Those are parts of it. And I think, secondly, however you bring that person here, you’re betting on him being able to stay here and you having everything in place to help him stay here, because, otherwise, you’re passing on another player.”

Another less controversial prospect the Bengals are reportedly interested in is Washington wide receiver John Ross. He’s a good guy by all accounts, but he also has major health concerns entering the NFL, so much that some teams have reportedly taken him off their boards. Taking players who are injury risks is something Lewis has done before, and his staff will do their homework on any player with durability concerns entering the pros.

“There’s probably over a dozen guys that likely will have ability grades in the first three rounds that are recovering from an issue — a surgery or injury that occurred either at the end of their season, or they had postseason surgery because they played through it most of the year” Lewis said. “I don’t know if it is disproportionate this year or not. It seems to be that every year. I do think what is more common now is the fact that players are electing to have these medical procedures either after the combine or after their season to get themselves healthy for their rookie year.”

When Lewis was asked if the Bengals have taken anybody off their board, he simply replied, “I’m not going to talk about who’s on or off our board.”

Lewis didn’t give any hints as to what the Bengals will do with the No. 9 pick, saying that all he wants is a player who helps the team. And if you’re wondering if the Bengals will select the best available player in Round 1, here’s what Lewis had to say...

“If we get some help, it will be.”

Take that as you wish.