It’s an adage as old as the NFL Draft itself, but it rings true in almost every situation. Draft the best player available.
Every NFL team preaches it, but it’s not always followed. Sometimes need does take priority, especially so early in the first round. The closer you get towards the end of the round, the harder it is to get away with reaching for need.
It’s a situation Duke Tobin and the Cincinnati Bengals don’t plan on getting into in one week’s time.
Looking specifically at tight end, the Bengals have bodies that can play significant snaps when the season begins, but the presence of both Irv Smith Jr. and Drew Sample aren’t eliminating Tobin and his staff from considering a tight end in the first round.
“We’ll assess it as it goes. But having those two tight ends on board is great,” Tobin said in his annual pre-draft press conference. “You want guys with experience. [Drew] Sample, I think we know what we’re gonna get out of them and he’ll provide good reps for us this year. He’s still got some rehab to come and we feel good about him and what he’s going to bring to our team. So if we get an opportunity to add a young guy, we’re not going to turn it down.”
This year’s class of tight ends has been hyped up as one of the best in recent memory, and two stand out at the top in Michael Mayer and Dalton Kincaid. Neither one is expected to be on the board when the Bengals get on the clock around 11pm EST next Thursday night, but if one falls through the cracks, it would surprise no one in Cincinnati if either one were picked.
Running back also runs deep in this year’s crop of rookies, and while Bijan Robinson won’t be available at pick No. 28, Jahmyr Gibbs has a good chance of lasting that long. Tobin had a similar response when it came to the idea of that position with his first pick.
“Just in general, any position group is hard to eliminate,” Tobin said. “You start eliminating it, you can’t get to 28. So if you say we’re not going to take a running back, or we’re not going to take a tight end, or we’re not going to take a receiver…once you eliminate a position group or two, you can’t get to 28 anymore, and you end up with third and fourth round picks in your top 28. So we’re open to to any position that presents itself if they’re the best player available. And if they’re clearly the best player and they will have a role on our team, we’ll certainly consider it.”
It’s been 10 years since the Bengals last drafted a tight end in the first, and 19 years since they went with a running back. The odds of them breaking either streak aren’t great, but they’re never zero.
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