On Wednesday, Marvin Lewis spoke to Cincinnati's media (bloggers aren't media, so we're not included... CincyJungle sad) and discussed the rookie class at some lengths. I think most of what he said is something that we all believed with this rookie class.
Lewis said of Anthony Collins that "He's got a chance to be a great pro and one of those tough guys you can build around for a long time." Collins started the final six games of the season, which included a starting debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers' James Harrison. Collins shut down the Defensive Player of the Year impressively; which we talked about during the game. In his second game of the year, Collins went against Trevor Pryce and Terrell Suggs; even though both recorded 12.5 quarterback sacks this year, only Terrell Suggs recorded a shared sack. Dwight Freeney caused some problems with 1.5 recorded sacks. Considering his relative youth, having played during a season in which would have been his senior year at Kansas, we think that Collins played better than we had expected. Some of us, me included, think that even if Levi Jones comes back, and a competition was conducted to determine the starting left tackle that Collins would emerge as the victor.
Geoff Hobson quotes Marvin Lewis about the quality of work with Pat Sims. "We got more out of Pat Sims than I think we knew we could get. I thought he would be coming into his own this year. He played through some injuries, he showed some toughness. He had to deal with some family issues and I think he came out of this year understanding what pro football is about, and he kind of got a taste he can be lot better player. I think he can be as good a player as he thinks he can and sometimes guys don't understand that." In Pat Sims first NFL game, he recorded seven tackles, one for loss against the New York Jets. He recorded his first NFL sack during the Bengals first win in 2008 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sims started six games this season and figures to be the starting defensive tackle opposite Domata Peko in 2009; unless something greater comes along, but that's just the nature of the NFL.
Keith Rivers and Andre Caldwell, while they played, were contributors; Caldwell late in the season and Rivers before Hines Ward broke his jaw. Lewis praised Corey Lynch saying "Being a guy that understands football and has the feel for the game like Corey Lynch, I think next year he'll play lights out and really compete hard at being a starting player and we'll be able to give him some roles." Uh-oh, says Marvin White. Jason Shirley, Jerome Simpson, Matt Sherry and Mario Urrutia were limited with playing time, if at all. Sherry was hurt in training camp and Urrutia was on the team's practice squad. Angelo Craig eventually signed with the Carolina Panthers practice squad.
Judging a draft class after one NFL season is folly, I know this. However, this is a strong class with good foundation players within all three units on defense, and potential still at wide receiver with possible a "great pro" at offensive tackle. I know that potential is meaningless, but if I were to grade it today, I would grade it high with a strong emphasis of potential. Next year will be huge for these players. No one knows this more than Jerome Simpson.