The dust has settled on the Cincinnati Bengals’ most recent draft class and it’s time to dig in to what the rookies have to offer and where they might fit in the Bengals’ final 53 man roster.
Round 1. Billy Price, C, Ohio State
The most glaring need on the Bengals roster was addressed immediately with the pick of Ohio State’s Billy Price. The Detroit Lions, picking one spot in front, grabbed Frank Ragnow, a player heavily linked with the Bengals on draft day.
Price is a similar type of power center and should face little competition from the current crop of interior linemen. The one concern Bengals fans had was the fact that once again management seemed happy to pick up a player who is injured at the time of drafting. However, Price’s rehab is well on track and he is expected to be fully fit for the start of the year.
The pick was unspectacular and a slight reach but starting the year without a quality center wasn’t an option. Verdict- Day 1 starter
Round 2. Jessie Bates III, S, Wake Forest
It was no surprise that the Bengals took a safety early on. Word out of the organisation was that defensive co-ordinator Teryl Austin had indicated that more 3 safety looks were desired. With Shawn Williams and George Iloka both comfortable closer to the line of scrimmage a center-fielder like Bates should fit nicely.
Bates was perhaps the best coverage safety after Minkah Fitzpatrick and can also work out of the slot. If Bates can steal the deep safety spot then Williams and Clayton Fejedelem are likely to see a reduced role in 2018. Verdict- Sub-package starter/potential n0.1 deep safety.
Round 3. Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
The Bengals returned to neighbouring Ohio State in round 3 and added defensive end Sam Hubbard, who had been touted as a potential first rounder. Hubbard is a solid 4-3 end who should see plenty of action in the defensive front rotation.
Michael Johnson’s age could mean he is a better fit inside allowing Hubbard to backup Carlos Dunlap and last year’s third rounder Jordan Willis. Add in situational rusher Carl Lawson and it looks a strong group.
Hubbard’s development is crucial for the Bengals as Carlos Dunlap hits the free market in 2019 and they would like to feel comfortable with two starters out of Hubbard/Lawson/Willis. Verdict- Rotational piece.
Round 3. Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
Jefferson fell somewhat this year after being touted as a potential first rounder going into the 2017/18 season. His instincts and athleticism are clear to see but it is his football savvy that never truly developed at Texas. On the face of it he looks a steal if the Bengals can develop him in the same way they did with Vontaze Burfict.
The second level defense has long been a weak spot so if Jefferson can help in coverage and as a run stopper, he could crack the starting lineup. Nick Vigil is likely the biggest competition but the athletic upside of Jefferson and Burfict’s four game suspension should see him get early opportunities. Verdict- Early starter.
Round 4. Mark Walton, RB, Miami
Somewhat of a surprise selection but with a host of mid-round selections the Bengals felt they got a steal with Walton. Walton can do it all but with Joe Mixon likely the workhorse back and Gio Bernard the scatback it is tricky to see where he fits in. However, the clear takeaway from this year’s draft was the importance of having a good 3rd running back.
Due to the physical nature of the position injuries at running back are common and with the selection of Walton the Bengals have one of the deeper groups in the league. Verdict- Backup.
Round 5. Davontae Harris, CB, Illinois St.
The Bengals have a penchant for drafting a cornerback but resisted until the fifth round where they took Harris. Somewhat underrated during the process Harris shows good athleticism and fire in the tackle.
Current slot corner Darqueze Dennard is in a contract year and taking Harris gives the Bengals extra protection if Dennard should walk. Verdict- Backup
Round 5. Andrew Brown, DT, Virginia
Brown played across the defensive line at Virginia but projects as a tackle in a 4-3 front. He showed coachability during Senior Bowl week and during the game his get off was impressive.
The pre-season will be important for him, as with everyone on the back end of a roster but the pick puts young DT’s Andrew Billings and Ryan Glasgow on notice. Verdict- Backup
Round 5. Darius Phillips, CB, Western Michigan
The Bengals secondary weren’t aggressive enough last year so they should welcome the addition of a ball-hawk like Phillips. His stature means he is likely a slot corner in the NFL but it is his versatility that will see him stick on the roster.
His experience in punt return could allow the Bengals to move on from WR Alex Ericson who is taking a spot away from a young wide receiver, a position Cincy have plenty of talent at. Verdict- Backup corner but special team piece
Round 7. Logan Woodside, QB, Toledo
Tom Brady is the exception to the rule. Late round QB’s don’t tend to work out like Brady but Woodside could have gone slightly higher than this. He will battle to get on this roster against Matt Barkley and Jeff Driskel, he likely hits the practice squad in his first year. Verdict- Practice Squad.
Round 7. Rod Taylor, G, Ole Miss
A slight surprise that the Bengals didn’t return to the offensive line sooner than this but they clearly didn’t feel the value was right. Taylor has an outside chance of backing up the current offensive linemen but a good show at the end of last year by Christian Westerman and Alex Redmond make it a difficult task. Verdict- Practice Squad
Round 7- Auden Tate, WR, Florida State
Tate was pencilled in to go much sooner than the seventh round but the league isn’t a fan of slow wide receivers. He is big bodied and I expect some splash plays during pre-season to give the Bengals some food for thought but with Green, Ross, LaFell, Boyd, Malone and Core ahead of him it will take something special for Tate to make the 53. Verdict- Practice Squad
A draft that saw the Bengals seemingly grab numerous players at great value as well as re-stocking their roster and adding much needed depth.
Price appears to be the only full time starter but there is plenty of talent to push current starters for their spots. Bates and Jefferson are two that could be established first string by the end of the year.
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Bengals 2018 Draft.