At Zac Taylor’s pre-draft news conference Friday, the first question was unusually direct.
“Who are you going to pick?” a reporter asked.
That got a laugh from the Bengals rookie head coach, who replied in kind:
“What are your recommendations?”
Taylor didn’t bite at the question, of course, but he didn't eliminate any position in the first round, either, including bringing in some true competition for quarterback Andy Dalton for the first time.
As most coaches do, Taylor preferred to leave everybody guessing about who the Bengals’ might choose with the 11th pick next Thursday. But he did offer some insights.
“There are a lot of good prospects out there at 11. It’s an intriguing place to be and there are a lot of options on the table … It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out for us,” Taylor said.
The Bengals have stated needs at linebacker, offensive line and defensive line. And there’s intrigue at quarterback where Dalton is entering his ninth season. Dalton can be cut without penalty before June 1.
To listen to Taylor, the Bengals are still piecing together what they'll do in Nashville.
“There's still a lot of work to do this next week just to sort things out,” Taylor said. “It's an intriguing year and we're always looking to bolster our roster, and there's some good positions there that could help us.”
At No. 11, the Bengals have their eyes on a number of prospects. But does that include the prospect of trading up? It's something this franchise hasn't done since picking running back Ki-Jana Carter in 1995.
And with so many holes to fill, would trading down be more prudent? Last year, the Bengals got two starters when they dealt the No. 12 pick to Buffalo.
If it's quarterback, could it be another first-round Buckeye in Dwayne Haskins? If it's offensive line, would Florida tackle Jawanna Taylor fall to them? At linebacker, how about Michigan's Devin Bush?
The Bengals have 11 picks in the seven rounds, which finish on Saturday.
It’s Taylor’s first draft as an NFL head coach, but even though you can’t predict what teams ahead of you will do, he assured everyone he, his staff and the front office, headed by Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin, are well-prepared.
“You really do try to manage those first couple of rounds. We’ve been in draft meetings for the last couple of weeks with Duke and his staff and so you hear about all the prospects,” Taylor said.
“As the head coach, you’re not going to be able to watch … hundreds of prospects. You’ve got guys that you trust in the scouting department. You’ve got positions coaches that you’ve hired that you trust to manage their position and you expect their opinion, and so you rally to get through a good portion of them in these early rounds to be educated on what you want and who’s available.”
Historically, a rap on the Bengals at draft time is that rely too much on coaches fanning out across the country and scouting players instead of having a full-time, fully-staffed scouting department.
But Taylor said that’s not an issue for him.
“I certainly think that the communication here is second to none,” he said. “Coaches get to go to as many pro days as they desire to research the guys that they’re thinking about drafting and they learn more information about them and you’re sitting in there and everyone gives their opinion, so it’s been a great process.
“You’re getting all the information and everyone’s opinion is respected and taken into account,” Taylor said.
WATCH the NFL Draft on 9 On Your Side starting at 8 p.m. Thursday and don't miss our pre-draft special at 7:30 with John Popovich and Keenan Singleton.