"It [stinks] that it hurt me like that, but at the same time, I feel like God had a plan," McCarron said Wednesday afternoon from Paul Brown Stadium's south end zone. "Everything's going to work itself out. I'm happy, and hopefully at the end of the day I'll get the last laugh."
McCarron was meeting with reporters in Cincinnati for the first time since he was taken 164th overall in last weekend's draft.
Based on his conversations with multiple teams, McCarron had reason to believe he would have been drafted significantly higher. He didn't specify how high, but he didn't think he'd be a fifth-round selection.
McCarron was picked one spot after former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who went to the Kansas City Chiefs. In the days before the draft, both were believed to have third-round grades, according to various draft analysts.
ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter suggested on Saturday morning that McCarron's slide may have stemmed from bad meetings with team executives who felt he rubbed them the wrong way during the pre-draft process. NFL Network reported that some were bugged by how cocky they felt McCarron came off.
"He was critical of other people," Schefter also said.
Bengals veteran defensive end Wallace Gilberry, who has known McCarron since the quarterback was a sophomore in high school, was asked if it bothered him to hear those claims.
"It did, for the simple fact that I know the kid," Gilberry said. "A lot of people will confuse confidence with cockiness. With where he's been, I know where he's from and I know how he grew up. I know him. And it's like I told him, 'Everybody's not going to like you and this world isn't for everybody to like you. The ones that respect you, respect them. And the ones that don't, you show them why they should.'"
Perhaps some of the confusion came from McCarron's success at the college level, Gilberry said.
At Alabama, McCarron was part of three national champions. As a starter, he helped lead the Crimson Tide to titles in 2011 and 2012. He also was a Heisman Trophy runner-up. He believed his resume backed up his ability to speak openly and candidly with team officials he spoke with before the draft.
"I guess when teams met with me, they wanted me to say I'll be a third-round guy and a mediocre quarterback," McCarron said. "Maybe I was too honest or something. I'm an honest person and I say what I feel. That's how I feel about my play. If that turns a team off, then at the end of the day, to me, they didn't really want you. I was myself."
McCarron's addition has already shaken up the Bengals' depth chart at quarterback. Andy Dalton remains the starter, but on Monday the Bengals cut backup Josh Johnson in order to make space for McCarron.
Earlier this offseason, fellow backup Zac Robinson was released, and practice-squad quarterback Greg McElroy -- McCarron's former Alabama teammate -- retired before joining ESPN's SEC Network.
NFL Nation Buzz: Bengals
ESPN Bengals reporter Coley Harvey says it would be good for quarterback Andy Dalton to develop some of the leadership skills that fifth-round draft pick AJ McCarron demonstrated while at Alabama.