The Bengals had a lot of work to do this offseason.
After having the worst record in franchise history, the Bengals signed seven free agents for over $100 million.
Then, there was the draft.
Bengals’ head writer Geoff Hobson caught up with some of the Bengals’ front office after the draft. Director of player personnel Duke Tobin and director of college scouting Mike Potts shared their experience of the draft weekend.
Here are four takeaways from what Tobin and Potts told Hobson about the draft.
The Bengals were going to keep the first pick and draft Joe Burrow, period.
Even though you never want to earn the first overall pick, the Tobin and Potts were grateful that they were able to land Joe Burrow.
“It was in our opinion a good year to have the pick if you have to have it,” said Tobin.
There was no chance the Bengals were going to trade the first overall pick. Hobson asked what the best offers were, and Tobin just brushed the question aside.
“We don’t talk publicly about offers,” said Tobin. “We really weren’t interested in trading it anyway... We felt good about sitting there and taking [Burrow] and that was the most important thing to us, more so than what any team might want.”
“We weren’t moving off that first pick,” said Potts. “I could have told you that a long time ago.”
“We all felt great about him and the fit for us and for him being here,” said Tobin.
COVID-19 did little to stifle the Bengals’ process
Typically, the offseason is a busy time for coaches and scouts. They are busy going to pro days, hosting workouts, and crunching film. Not only are coaches traveling, but players are visiting team facilities.
All of that had to change with the spread of COVID-19. All visits had to be done virtually, and most teams’ pro days were cancelled. The Combine results were all the coaches had to work with outside of game film.
Potts said normally, he does 20-25 days of traveling between March and April, but this year he barely left his basement. He had to use his time watching tape in lieu of traveling.
“Maybe you get an hour watching tape in an airport, whereas if you’re at home in an office setup maybe you knocked out seven hours of tape,” he said. “But there’s a trade-off. On that day you watch an hour of tape on the road, you might meet five prospects in person and develop a relationship that way. That’s the negative. But since I’m viewing it from a broader approach, getting in extra hours of tape is effective.”
Tobin said that missing players’ workouts was only a minor setback.
“We always focus on how the guys play football, he told Hobson. “That’s what we’re going to employ him to do. That’s always the No. 1 consideration any way. You get a little information on confirmed measurables, but those have always been secondary to us. So not having all of them was not a huge hit to us.”
Then came the night of the draft. Instead of having all of the executives, coaches, and scouts talking together in their war room, everyone was at their own residence. The draft was turned into a giant Zoom meeting.
Tobin would rather be together with his staff, but said that this way didn’t hurt them much at all.
“We were pleased with the mechanics and how people adapted to it. We were able to communicate effectively with everybody involved and kept everybody involved.”
Overall, it was a valuable learning experience.
“It was skewed the opposite way before and now its skewed this way,” said Potts. “The tape was skewed this time and in the past the travel has been skewed. I think a balance between the two would be ideal.”
The Bengals had a high opinion on Hakeem Adeniji
The player Hobson, Tobin, and Potts seemed to talk about the most was sixth round pick Hakeem Adeniji.
“He’s a guy that a played a lot,” said Tobin. “Good experience, character, good physical ability. As the draft goes on you look for guys at value at the time you take him.”
Adeniji was a tackle at Kansas who started all four years. He was the one pick on the offensive line that the Bengals made, even though the line was towards the bottom of the league in 2019. But with Jonah Williams coming back, and Xavier Su’a-Filo entering the fold, the Bengals thought Adeniji would be all they needed.
“I’m sure some people look at our draft and say, ‘You should have addressed the O-line earlier.’ But you have to know where the draft is strong and weak,” said Potts. “We thought there was some depth and we could be patient...By no means did we feel he was sixth-round caliber. We were rushing to turn in the card at the podium at the top of the sixth so to speak. We felt the value of the player and the position was too much to pass up.”
The Bengals coached the South team at the Senior Bowl, where they saw Akeem Davis-Gaither. Adeniji, and third round pick Logan Wilson, played for the opposite team in the Senior Bowl.
“And we did get time with them outside of practice, which was good,” said Tobin. “Our scouts were down there and they would have interviewed everybody, but we got extra time with the North team and that was valuable.”
The Bengals were able to simplify signing free agents after the draft
After the draft happens, there is a scramble to sign the players who weren’t drafted.
“That process is always crazy, but from what that process is, it was less challenging than I thought it would be,” said Potts.
This year, the scouts and coaches were in their own homes on the phone with players. They had a shared document where they would write down whether they had players commit, whether they needed to offer more money to some players, or if they needed to pursue other options.
“In some ways we made the process more efficient...It was actually less chaotic in that regard with everybody being in front of their screen instead of scattered trying to find a quiet office to make phone calls...Ownership and scouts were on a Zoom call the whole time. All the scouts had to do was unmute themselves and say, ‘Hey, we may need a little more money to get this guy committed,’ those types of conversations.”
Their big signings after the draft were defensive tackle Tyler Clark, linebacker Marcel Spears, Jr., and tight end Mitchell Wilcox. Potts said that all three players were perfectly draftable.
“Clark is long and plays violent with heavy hands and can re-shape the line of scrimmage. Wilcox is well-rounded and productive. Tough and willing blocker who catches the ball well. Spears is instinctive, competitive, a good tackler, can run and hit and has been productive in pass coverage. All three can compete for back-up spots with Wilcox and Spears can help their cause on special teams.”
At the end of the day on Saturday, the Bengals were satisfied with how well they drafted.
“I can honestly say we don’t feel we reached in any round,” said Potts. “Regardless of what teams want to say after the draft, I don’t think most teams can say that ever year.”