Overall Draft Grade: B
An average draft focusing on need over BPA, in part due to a lack of activity during free agency.
24- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Not exactly a bad pick to get arguably the top CB in the draft, one who will be a long-term starter. Time will tell whether this was the right selection over arguably the top QB in the draft in Teddy Bridgewater (that depends on Dalton and Teddy more than Darqueze).
55- Jeremy Hill, HB, Louisiana State
WHO DEYYYYY #geauxbengals so blessed to be apart of this organization time to get to work— Jeremy Hill (@JeremyHill33) May 10, 2014
It’s not exactly a bad choice to acquire arguably the top halfback in the draft, one who seems to resemble Corey Dillon. But he will have to split time with feature back Giovani Bernard, and a handful of power backs who are also easy upgrades to BJGE (though Hill is better than them) were able to fall to the mid- and late-rounds. One has to wonder whether it was a better idea at 55 to take an elite player at another position who would start on opening day, say, top-ranked C Marcus Martin or a high-ranked G/T hybrid in Billy Turner, and then get power back Andre Williams in the fourth round, rated as the third-best power back in the draft behind only Carlos Hyde and Hill. Also, time will tell whether Hill or Hyde (or Williams) is the better running back. There are off-field questions about Hill, but those seem to be only a minor concern. Regardless, The Law Firm is probably closing in Cincinnati, with a net savings of $2.5 million against the cap. In the unlikely case we end up keeping BJGE on the final year of his deal and using him like we have the past couple of seasons, leaving only a small number of snaps per game for Hill, then my grade for this pick drops a letter to C.
88- Will Clarke, DE, West Virginia
Clarke is a moderately productive player with freakish physical upside who fills a need. However, Clarke is a project and is a mild (or to some, even major) reach here. He and Margus Hunt, another project, will compete for the long-term RDE starting job, though Wallace Gilberry is the likely starter now. Also, if Dontay Moch and Sam Montgomery step up along with Clarke, Robert Geathers could be out of a job, saving $2.7 million against the cap with no dead money. Personally, I expect Geathers to be kept, because the group of Hunt/Clarke/Moch/Montgomery has not shown anything of significance yet.
111- Russell Bodine, C, North Carolina
Just want to thank everyone who helped me get to this point now it's time to go to work...oh and go Bengals!— Russell Bodine (@Russell_Melk_60) May 10, 2014
Bodine led the entire NFL combine in bench press reps, and his strength should be useful going up against the nose tackles of the AFC North (though it didn't work out that way for Bengals bench-press king Kyle Cook), especially in the run game. Bodine looks to be the only immediate starter from this Bengals draft class. The Bengals traded up for him, giving up the 199th pick, considering Seattle wanted to take him before the Bengals original pick at 123. It seems Bodine may start at C while Mike Pollak may move to LG. Some draftniks would call him a mild steal at this juncture. On the other hand, other draftniks would call this a reach. Regardless, we needed to take an interior lineman, considering that Clint Boling will likely start the year on PUP (and remember Pollak can play either OG or C).
Which one is the better combination (noting that the center would be a full-time starter, the halfback would not, and Pollak would start at LG): Marcus Martin plus Andre Williams, or Russell Bodine plus Jeremy Hill? I would choose the former, but if we are releasing BJGE and have confidence in Bodine then I understand the latter as well.
Another route we could have gone is taking a top-tier DE in Kony Ealy in round 2, taking a high-ranked G/T such as Michael Schofield in round 3 (and having Pollak start at C), and taking Andre Williams in round 4. To some, including me, this might have been the most favorable scenario.
164- Katherine Webb, unofficial Ben-Gal, Auburn
So excited to be apart of the Bengals family!! Thank you for having us. Can't wait to call Cincinnati "home"— Katherine Webb (@_KatherineWebb) May 10, 2014
A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Time to go buy some Bengals gear!!!!!!— Corey McCarron (@CoreyMcCarron47) May 10, 2014
Brent Musburger, sportscaster, Northwestern
The Bengals wanted to take a mid-round QB to potentially serve as a long-term backup, and also serve as contract leverage against Andy Dalton so that he is more likely to accept a relatively team-friendly deal. McCarron is good value here. It’s likely that the Bengals wanted to take Aaron Murray over McCarron, but the Chiefs took Murray with the 163rd pick. McCarron most likely stays on the roster as a third QB, as he would be far more valuable than a seventh wide receiver, especially now that Andrew Hawkins is gone. Time will tell who turns out the best (if any) among Murray, McCarron, and Mettenberger. Also, a possible WAG rivalry between Katherine Webb and Jordan Dalton provides an interesting off-field storyline. Furthermore, it has been reported by the always-reliable news source Twitter that Musburger has started searching for a Cincinnati-area home.
212- Marquis Flowers, OLB/S, Arizona
From a Millennium Tiger....To an Arizona Wildcat.....To a Cincinnati Bengal!!! I'm a Big Cat!!!— Marquis Flowers (@MrHitThat_2) May 10, 2014
An okay pick who is a slight reach, Flowers is a speedy cover linebacker/safety hybrid who resembles the tweeners Emmanuel Lamur and Taylor Mays. He will likely compete with Mays for a roster spot. If Mays is fully recovered from injury, I expect him to beat out Flowers (Mays is faster and more experienced, and while both are good in coverage Mays is probably a more physical run defender), who would then head to the practice squad. We may have been able to acquire Flowers as a priority UDFA. It was also strange that we passed on better players, such as CB Andre Hal.
239- James Wright, WR, Louisiana State
Shows you how deep we were at receiver. James Wright was one the hardest working, dedicated WR we had. Would have started anywhere else.— Dexter Vaughn (@AyYoDex27) May 10, 2014
While I cannot assign an F to a seventh round pick, this pick makes little sense. Wright is an ST-coverage player who doesn't seem to have much value as an actual wide receiver. He had zero receptions in 2013. There were clearly better and more useful WR available, such as Tevin Reese. Also, it is a little strange that the OT position was unaddressed, when a player like Austin Wentworth was still available. Wright will almost certainly not make the roster. He might make the practice squad (though he will have to fight hard just to make it to the PS), as he has decent physical upside and apparently a good work ethic. I will grant that he was stuck on the depth chart behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. We probably could have gotten Wright as a low-priority UDFA.
252- Lavelle Westbrooks, CB, Georgia Southern
Congratulations Lavelle Westbrooks on being selected by the Bengals!! Best of luck in Cincinnati!! #GATA— Coach Willie Fritz (@CoachWEFritz) May 10, 2014
A bland choice, and probably a throwaway pick like the one before. Westbrooks has an unusually slow 40 time and seemingly little upside. His only chance at a roster spot is if we decide to carry six cornerbacks- he’d have to beat out R.J. Stanford, Chris Lewis-Harris, and Onterio McCalebb, all of whom would probably be favored over him to be the sixth corner. None of these four guys would make it if we decide to carry only five CB, in which case Westbrooks might head to the practice squad. And it'd be far from a guarantee for Westbrooks to make the PS, because McCalebb and Lewis-Harris would likely be favored over him. Also, The Bengals may have passed up on better corner prospects here such as Marcus Roberson. We probably could have acquired Westbrooks as a priority UDFA.
UDFA- Ryan Hewitt, FB/H-back, Stanford
Jimmy Bennett, OT, Connecticut
J.C. Copeland, FB, Louisiana State
James Davidson, OLB, Texas-El Paso
Curtis Feigt, OT, West Virginia
Dan France, OG/OT, Michigan State
Trey Hopkins, OG/OT, Texas
Isaiah Lewis, SS, Michigan State (another member of the #NoFlyZone)
Colin Lockett, WR, San Diego State
Tracy Moore, WR, Oklahoma State
Alex Neutz, WR, Buffalo
Jeff Scott, RS, Mississippi
Nikita Whitlock, FB, Wake Forest
James Wilder Jr., HB, Florida State
A handful of solid pickups, notably Hewitt, Hopkins, and Wilder. My grade would have been an A had the Copeland rumors proved to be true.
Pursuing an opportunity with the Cincinnati Bengals!! Excited to compete, earn a spot, and win some ball games!— Ryan Hewitt (@Huey_85) May 11, 2014
Hewitt looks to be a nice combination of size, blocking, and receiving. He's not a terminator like John Conner, but is still a solid blocker. He paved the way for two 1500-yard rushers in Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney, while being a solid receiving option and even a decent short-yardage back, all in Stanford's pro-style offense. If he pans out, Hewitt could be a legitimate weapon, in the mold of John Kuhn.
In the fourth quarter of Stanford's 2014 Rose Bowl loss against Michigan State, Hewitt had two famous moments. He threw a vicious decleating block on a Michigan State defender:
And while he is usually effective, Hewitt also was the short-yardage back stuffed by MSU on 4th down near the end of the game (you can see Tyler Gaffney trying to push him forward, to no avail):
Too-Early Roster and Practice Squad Prediction: Offense 25, Defense 25, Special Teams 3, Practice Squad 8
QB (3): Dalton, Campbell, McCarron
HB (4): Bernard, Hill, Peerman, Burkhead
FB/H-back (1): Hewitt
WR (6): Green, Jones, Sanu, Tate, Sanzenbacher, Hamilton
TE (3): Gresham, Eifert, Charles (moved back to TE)
OT (4): Whitworth, Smith, Hawkinson, Newhouse (the latter two also back up at OG)
G/C (4): Zeitler, Pollak, Bodine, Robinson (Boling to PUP)
DE (5): Dunlap, Gilberry, Geathers, Hunt, Clarke
DT (4): Atkins, Peko, Thompson, Still
LB (7): Burfict, Maualuga, Rey, Lamur, Mays, DiManche, Porter
CB (5): Hall, Newman, Jones, Kirkpatrick, Dennard
S (4): Nelson, Iloka, Williams, Manning (and Mays as a fifth)
ST (3): Harris, Huber, Nugent
PS (8): McCalebb, Lewis-Harris, Flowers, Black, Wright, Wilder, Hopkins, T.J. Johnson