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How the Bengals go beyond the NFL Scouting Combine to find quality players

The Bengals have managed to find a number of players who weren’t invited to the NFL Combine. Here is a look at that process.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have really kept their team afloat based on nailing some late-round picks over the years.

The less known aspect to their team building is how they pride themselves on bringing in players who weren’t invited to the ever popular Scouting Combine. It makes sense though that the Bengals would keep their eyes out for players who didn’t make the list.

The number of players varies by year, but they have the ability to have up to 335 total players at the Combine. There may be less draft picks than that in the draft, but it is hard to believe the Bengals could find interest in all those players.

Plus, there are so many more players who are draft eligible that won’t get that coveted invite to show off their talents to all 32 teams. One of those players was linebacker Jordan Evans.

The Bengals selected him in the sixth round of last year’s draft, and he recently spoke with Geoff Hobson of the Bengals official website about the process he went through with the Bengals.

“There was a big group of us. It was in and out. I think the time I spent traveling was longer than the time I was there,” Evans told Hobson.

Evans set the scene of meeting with the Bengals linebacker coach Jimmy Haslett and special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons before being addressed by Marvin Lewis as a group. He was then on his way.

There was one thing that really stuck out to him though, according to Hobson.

But before he left, he was impressed with how much the Bengals knew about him. Talk about testing a scouting department. Evans not only didn’t get a combine invite, he didn’t get a spot in any of the post-season all-star games. When he met with Haslett, he had already been vetted by the scouts and coaches and his tape was already qued up.

It is clear the Bengals scouting department knows how to do their homework, and the entire organization knows how to work through this process very efficiently. It makes sense that this is the avenue that the Bengals bring in most of their talent. It also appears that the scouting department and coaches work hand and hand very well.

“Duke [Tobin] does a good turning over rocks,” Haslett tells Hobson. “Yeah, I think he works well with the coaches and he does a good job not tipping his hand.”

Cincinnati is slightly unique in that aspect where they really streamline communication from scouts and coaches. While Lewis doesn’t get the final say on who is drafted, he and his coaches get more of a say than the average NFL team. It also seems that they are largely involved in the process, which helps the team bring in players they feel will fit what they are trying to do.

It seems the real key here is Tobin as Haslett alluded to. He has developed a style of scouting where all players are really on the table. It doesn’t matter what route they take to the NFL.

“We don’t rely on the combine to define the universe we’re looking at,” Tobin tells Hobson. “We define it based on our scouting through the course of the year. The moral of the story is the combine isn’t a qualifier.”

The Bengals have also been good about keeping their cards close to their chest when it comes to players they are interested. Like in Evans’ case, Haslett didn’t travel to Oklahoma’s pro day to see the linebacker in fear it would tip off the opposition.

“We had enough people at Oklahoma,” Haslett tells Hobson. “If you go to enough of them, that can tip off another team. ‘Maybe there are guys I should be looking at that I’m not.’ I had already looked at the tape.”

That is something we like to keep an eye on with the pro day circuit underway. It isn’t always just that the team is at the pro day. It says more about who they send to certain pro days. Like if the Bengals send their quarterbacks coach to a pro day with plenty of prospects, it would be a pretty clear indicator of who they are looking at.

When it is all said and done, though, the process is simple for Tobin.

“It’s a matter of information,” Tobin says. “You bring them in, get a physical, take a look. If you have enough information, you can make the best decision possible.”