I'm not a big believer in grades soon after the NFL draft. Too many things are unknown. Too little time has passed to accurately project how that player improves the squad. But, since it's fun and since our fast forward button hasn't worked since that night hanging out with Mathis Askew, we'll do our best to analyze the selections. Unfortunately for those letter grade lovers, you'll be disappointed. I hate letter grades. They're meaningless little characters without a baseline to compare it to.
The Bengals sought out from the beginning to build the depth by upgrading their backup players. Did the Bengals draft any starters? Maybe a few. For now, most of the team's draft picks will contribute as role players. This is how the Bengals addressed the draft this year and I believe they did it right. Were the picks sexy? Not really. Were there needs that needed to be addressed? Absolutely. In the end, every team's chances of success is based on the quality of their depth. That quality has improved ten-fold.
FIRST ROUND PICK PRESENTS INTERESTING SCENARIOS
Among many others, I believed before the draft that the Bengals shouldn't draft a Tight End in the first round because I wasn't sure that the team would get the value by utilizing the position. I realize now, while kicking the empty can at the end of the dirt road, that Marvin Lewis doesn't take me all that seriously. That being said, the Bengals addressed the position by drafting the best Tight End in Jermaine Gresham. Consider that Chase Coffman is coming back in 2010 healthy, and hopefully more seasoned, the Bengals will enter 2010 with a literally rebuilt position that was occupied with Daniel Coats and J.P. Foschi last season.
With both Tight Ends working to improve their blocking technique, there stands a good chance that the Bengals won't just enter the regular season with one threatening Tight End in the passing game, but two. Who knows if the Bengals will formulate double Tight End formations with any regularity You have to believe that if Chase doesn't dramatically improve his blocking skill set, he'll only be good for roughly 20-30 receptions.
All that being said, we entered the weekend addressing a position that was decimated by injury and replaced with second-rate talent in 2009. Not a bad weekend, indeed.
WIDE RECEIVER ROSTER BEING COMPLETELY REBUILT
Rather than explaining this, why not show you wide receiver contributions in 2009.
After a season in which the Bengals passing offense triumphed as the league's 26th best, the team knew it had to rebuild the roster. Along with the exciting possibility of a Tight End threat in Jermaine Gresham, the Bengals drafted Texas' Jordan Shipley and Kansas' Dezmon Briscoe. Both talented receivers create a massive logjam at the position. As it stands now, the Bengals will have nine wide receivers battling for four positions on the depth chart. Most interesting of the position battles will be between Jordan Shipley and Andre Caldwell.
Projection. Figure that Chad Ochocinco and Antonio Bryant will be the team's starters, Andre Caldwell and Jordan Shipley fighting for the third and fourth spots at wide receiver, the final two spots will be all that's left for everyone else. Thinking Quan Cosby and Dezmon Briscoe.
Just a damn minute. Matt Jones is a wild card. Knowing what we know right now, there's no reason to believe that Jones will make the roster. However, if he takes training camp by the horns and performs at the high level that was believed he had the potential for, he could make the competition that much more interesting.
Start filling out your resume: Jerome Simpson. The only way that Simpson remains with the Bengals is if Marvin Lewis' ego enters the picture. Would he want to release his second round pick after only two years?
MOST QUESTIONABLE PICK COULD BE ANSWERED IN TWO YEARS
When Otis Hudson's name was announced as the team's fifth round pick, our immediate reaction was, "who?" The Eastern Illinois offensive lineman had no clue that he was even going to be drafted, expecting to become a college free agent at the end of the draft. "I was very surprised," said Hudson after he was selected. "I was thinking that I was going to go as a free agent. Me and my agent were going to go over our options based on which team calls us. When I got the call from Cincinnati, I was like, 'This is crazy.'"
Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander, who says that Hudson will work as a right guard, knew he'd have to explain the pick; likely grooming him as a project for Alexander and, if everything goes great, life after Bobbie Williams.
Q: Where do you see him fitting in on the offensive line?
PA: “I think he will work in at right guard. He played right tackle at Eastern Illinois. He started his career at the University of Minnesota. They played him on both sides of the ball and he became tired of that and transferred to Eastern Illinois. He found a home there and played right tackle.”
Q: Do you see a learning curve in front of him such as Jason Shirley?
PA: “He is ahead of Jason in terms of his experience. Jason had never played offensive line. The parallel is that they are both guys who have more ability than they do polished technique at this time. We felt at this point in the draft, take a guy with ability rather than another lineman who might not be good enough. He visited here and we interviewed him. He is a quiet guy, a good person.”
Hudson is hardly the first player to be deemed a project with the Bengals. Stacy Andrews was groomed from the start as a project player, who would go on to start at left guard and right tackle before signing a big deal with the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2008 season. However, some projects don't end with the same success stories. Eric Henderson was released several seasons after the team tried to groom the defensive end as a linebacker and Jason Shirley's move to offensive guard prematurely ended with a likely season-ending injury suffered in a charity basketball game earlier in the offseason.
I don't have a problem with Alexander working with Hudson to groom him as an eventual starter on the offensive line. If anyone can do it, it's Alexander.
What the heck: Many projected him as an undrafted college free agent, thus making many believe that the Bengals really reached here. With positions like safety and a backup quarterback weighing in the back of fans minds, it wasn't a popular pick.
DOES DUNLAP MEAN THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR ROBERT GEATHERS?
When the Bengals drafted Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap, I didn't explode into a Broadway number. Nor did I embarrass my neighbors going into a Jonathan Davis style rant. I was indifferent. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has expressed a need to redevelop a pass rush. With Dunlap, the Bengals get a good pass rusher who could work as a defensive tackle in passing situations.
Robert Geathers is still considered one of the league's better defensive ends against the run. However, one has to wonder that based on how well Dunlap performs his rookie year -- and Michael Johnson his sophomore year -- is this now the beginning of the end for Robert Geathers.
A SOLID PICKUP TO STRENGTHEN A FOUR-MAN DEFENSIVE TACKLE ROTATION
Tank Johnson and Domata Peko are the team's starting defensive tackles. Surprising, right? Even though he tends to disappear in the trenches, Pat Sims does show signs of brilliance. After that, the Bengals have Orien Harris and Clinton McDonald sharing time in the team's "they're still on the roster?" list. Cincinnati drafting Georgia's Geno Atkins allows the Bengals a greater rotation based on situations with the rookie being more of an inside pass rusher than the rush stopping artery clogger. Even so, size could be an issue with the tackle weighing in 293 pounds.
Will he start? Aside from injury being the cause, unlikely. Atkins is a solid pick that will strengthen the team's defensive tackle rotation.
UNANSWERED QUESTIONS AND HYPOTHETICALS
One position that we expected the Bengals to address but didn't, is safety. With two safeties in the twilight of their careers and a younger safety that's expected to be a free agent next year, the Bengals not only needed to solidify the team's roster, but look towards the future as well. Even though they passed on guys like Taylor Mays, Nate Allen, Morgan Burnett and Major Wright (among others), the Bengals either didn't view the position as a "need", or they didn't like the style of safeties that were available to them when choosing.
Instead the team drafted speedy cornerback Brandon Ghee. Speculation is that Ghee could fill in at safety eventually, but at this moment, we're going to assume that Ghee will position himself as the team's third-string cornerback behind Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph. In a year in which the BEngals will see seriously offensive passing offenses, Ghee combined with David Jones and Morgan Trent will create a solid roster in the secondary. Could one of them move to safety?
Interesting debate. Go!