One of the things that buying a first home teaches you is compromise -- you ususally aren't in the financial situation that you'll be in in 5 or 10 years -- and it's unlikely you got everything you wanted. Either the yard is too small, the neighborhood isn't right, the commute is too far, you don't have enough bathrooms, the kitchen is outdated, you didn't get a garage, etc. But, there's nothing like living in a home that teaches you, "Ok, when I do this again, this is what I'm goiing to do differently." You also have to make a choice on what you're going to spend on in Home #2. You'll probably be better off financially -- but you're still making trade-offs on what you get.
This is this coaching staff's 2nd home; Prior to this, their drafts were dictated by need, need, need. The end of the Marvin Lewis era had left the team woefully devoid of talent -- and what talent was on the team seemed like a poor match (or got injured) for what the coaching staff wanted to do. Even with obvious holes on the offensive line, this is a team that came out of a loaded AFC, and came just a play or two from winning the franchise's first Super Bowl. It's a talented roster, and free agency helped to shore up the Offensive Line (which hopefully, will be average or better this year!)
So, Coach Taylor and Duke Tobin went into a draft together for the first time without a critical need to address...and we really learned some things:
1) They value their board more than the "experts." While the first two picks are probably good values on most boards, the fact that they grabbed Zach Carter and Cordell Volson with their next two picks (when 'consensus' better players were available) tells you that they're confident in what they're seeing...and that they're looking for specific attributes. The two trade-ups (Taylor-Britt, Anderson) are also clear indications that they were looking for specific players
2) Character and production matters. I know that they're likely to get dinged right now for Jackson Carman -- and everyone was disappointed in how he developed (or didn't) last year -- this year they seemed to go for high character, high motor guys who acheived in college. Almost all of them were 1st team All Conference at one point in their careers (Taylor-Britt was 2nd Team, Carter did not factor), Taylor-Britt was a team captain. That's not to say that guys like Volson aren't going to take time to develop -- but it seems like they're betting that this group of players has upside because of their work ethic, and that this won't be a factor that limits them (ahem, Jackson Carman).
3) This isn't news, but the Bengls continue to value special teams. DBs and LBs are often key special teams contributors, and I'd expect Taylor-Britt, Carter, Anderson, and Gunter to compete for special teams playing time.
4) They feel better about their pass rush than we do. That could be good news from what they're seeing from Ossai in his rehab, and maybe some surprising news on Wyatt Hubert. Clearly edge rusher wasn't as big a priority for the Bengals as we thought it would be.
5) They also feel better about their OL than us outsiders.. Given a chance to take one of the better tackles in the draft (who could move to guard), the Bengals passed on Bernhard Raiman in the 2nd round. He seemed like a good fit at LG, which still appears to be a position of need. This may indicate stronger confidence in Carman / Smith / Hill than we'd think. Or, it could be that they just felt like they'd done enough in FA, but I have to feel like watching the Rams and Titans destroy the old o-line would have made shoring up 4 positions a priority (basically everyone but Jonah).
6) They're very worried about keeping both Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell. We all know about Bates' contract situation. I also know the Bengals would love to keep Bell-- but he'll be 28 at the end of the year. For a safety, he's not a ball hawk (2 total INTs / 27 passes defensed -- in his career! Bates, for reference, has 10 INTs in 2 fewer years.), and I realize Bell is more traditional in-the-box, strong safety type. Net: in a passing league, you'd ideally love to have more turnover production, and it may be they're hoping Hill or Anderson are going to be more of a ball hawk than Bell. (Hill, I realize, is more like-for-like for Jessie Bates in a Free Safety / Single High roll.)
7) They also would like to run more 3-safety stuff. While losing Ricardo Allen to retirement wouldn't seem to be a big deal, he often graded very well in 3-safety packages. It's clear that having a backfield with Bates / Hill / Bell would give them a ton of flexibility in sub packages. I could honestly see them running a lot of a 4-2-3 in anything other than short yardage downs. Note that the DBs that they drafted also appear to be fairly decent blitzers, giving them options with 3 down linemen, and nosy DBs like Taylor-Britt and Hilton near the line of scrimmage.
8) They either didn't like the TEs in this draft, or they don't plan to use them as much as they did this year. That or they think Hayden Hurst solves this issue. Net, wondering if we'll see more use of 4 receiver sets this year - especially with a better O-Line.
9) They like their WR room. While I expect some FA wide receivers to be brought in, it wouldn't shock me if the depth chart (Chase, Higgins, Boyd, Thomas, Morgan, Irwin, Taylor) is the same as it is now. This also seems to indicate that they may like their chances of keeping Tee Higgins better than keeping Jessie Bates. While depth might seem to be an issue behind the starters, I'm betting the coaching staff believes that with a decent offensive line, Burrow could make any of these pieces work for a few weeks with his smarts and accuracy.
10) I think there's a chance that they at least kick the tires on bringing Ogunjobi back or another veteran DL if the price is right. They can't be in love with the depth at these positions behind Reader and Hill (personally, I'm a big Tupou fan, but you need more depth at this position for sure.) While Carter might sub into interior DL on passing downs, he's too small (for now) to play there as an every down player. I think the plan with him is to have him add 10-20 pounds and develop as a 3T.
11) They value versatility. Almost every one of these players could play multiple positions (Gunter appears to be the exception -- he's a DE without a whole lot of ability to slot in elsewhere.) There's some talk that Hill could even be a starting-level CB in the NFL. Britt played saftey and CB in college. Carter could be a DE or 3T. Volson played LT and RT, but projects to guard, etc...
12) They like Drue Chrisman enough not to draft a competitor. They'll likely bring in a FA punter, but for now, it appears that they kept bringing back Chrisman for a reason. (Assuming that Kevin Huber doesn't come back).
Also, ESPN has already updated our depth chart. They have Daxton Hill starting at LCB over Eli Apple, who's now 3rd (!) on the depth chart behind Hill and Taylor-Britt. Anderson slots in as Bell's backup. They threw Carter at LDE (3rd, behind Hubbard / Sample). Volson is at RT (3rd behind Collins / Prince).
What say you? Did you learn anything about the Bengals in this draft?