Why aren’t people more excited about the Cincinnati Bengals draft? We’ve heard all about how much of a coup it was for the Ravens to get LaMar Jackson and everyone is impressed by the additions the Browns made. But for a team with a multitude of holes the Bengals had an impressive draft haul. Here I explain who the Bengals picked and how they fit in.
Round 1, Pick 21
The player many picked as the top centre prior to his torn pectoral, Ohio State’s Billy Price, is an instant upgrade to a Bengals O-line. If he can keep Andy Dalton safe then Dalton has a chance to rebound from a poor 2017. He could start at either centre of guard (as he did for the Buckeyes) but I’d expect him to replace Russell Bodine at centre. He processes good feet and power whilst also being a devastating blocker when pulling.
Round 2, Pick 22
Wake Forest’s Jessie Bates III heard his name called in the second round and should rapidly work his way into the starting lineup, despite Marvin Lewis’ mistrust of rookie pass defenders. The tape on Bates it’s impressive and he was talked about as a possible late round pick. He’s more effective in coverage than either George Iloka and Shawn Williams and would allow them to play closer to the line of scrimmage as he uses his range and athleticism in coverage.
Round 3, Pick 13
The Bengals of 2017 couldn’t protect the quarterback and couldn’t get to the opposition’s with any regularity. Price addressed the former so the Bengals turned their attention to the D-line, selecting their second Ohio State player in round three, defensive end Sam Hubbard. This is a pick that I think represents great value. Many draft experts had Hubbard going at the end of round one or early in round two .
Hubbard is an athletic, high motor guy who excels at rushing the passer and will likely be used as an additional pass rusher from tackle on obvious passing downs. For Ohio State last season he collected 13.5 tackles for a loss and seven sacks and has both strength and good hand fighting skills. I’m really excited to see what he can do this year.
Round 3, Pick 14
The Bengals traded up to grab the versatile defender Malik Jefferson, an outside linebacker from Texas. Jefferson will immediately provide great depth and can be used situationally to start with. He’ll likely be developed as the successor to Preston Brown or Vincent Rey, who hit free agency after 2018.
However, if he impresses in the pre season he could see action straight away as Vontaze Burfict will miss two games as result of his suspension. If he plays lights out during this time it’ll be hard to keep him off the field. His impressive reaction time and short burst speed will give him every opportunity to do this.
Round 4, Pick 12
Mark Walton is a running back out of Florida who will begin as a backup back behind Joe Mixon but should fill the space vacated by Jeremy Hill. Walton’s strengths are his quickness and explosiveness in space. He’s a mismatch for less athletic linebackers, particularly when used out of the flat, and produced multiple big plays in Miami.
The Bengals later picks will provide challenge for depth. These included three fifth rounders that allowed the team to draft for depth at cornerback where they grabbed Illinois State Devontae Harris and Western Michigan’s Darius Phillips. Harris will challenge for time as the slot corner but could play some safety if needed and this versatility will likely see him make their roster. This depth is needed after letting Adam Jones leave in free agency. Speaking of versatility, as well as playing corner Phillips shattered was a star in the return game, breaking FBS records with returns for touchdowns. He was also somewhat of a ballhawk in college grabbing 12 interceptions and 35 passes defenced.
These two were broken up by the addition of Virginia defensive end, Andrew Brown. Brown will allow Geno Atkins to keep fresh and provide depth as a three technique tackle. The three technique is any player aligned on the outside shoulder of a guard and they’re usually more able to be disruptive. Think Aaron Donald for the ideal.
With their three seventh round picks (the later two compensatory picks) the Bengals added camp bodies. The selection of a quarterback, Toledo’s Logan Woodside, is unlikely to set the world alight. On the other hand, the competition behind Dalton is Jeff Driskel and Matt Barkley (not exactly stellar) so he has a chance. The final two picks will get their chance to shine in pre-season play. Mississippi offensive lineman Rod Taylor offers versatility and cover across the offensive line and Florida State receiver Auden Tate will make the roster only if he shows great hands and plays well on special teams.
So looking at the draft the Bengals grabbed three players that should play right away (Price, Bates and Hubbard), four players that will see spot duty through the season (Jefferson, Walton, Harris and Phillips) and depth at the lower end of the roster (Woodside, Taylor and Tate). That’s an impressive looking turnaround after just one year. Perhaps the most important is Price (coupled with trade addition Cordy Glenn) but Hubbard should be the most eye catching.
Jessie Bates III AP/Chuck Burton
Malik Jefferson Underdog Sports