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Cincinnati Bengals Rookie Stock Report: Week 11

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During Week 11 the Bengals' rookie class had unquestionably their best all-around game so far this season.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

From now on, I'm going to do the Rookie Stock Report only when I feel the rookies had a significant impact in a game (for better or for worse) that would significantly impact their stock.

Stock Level (ability/performance): UP, DOWN, or LEVEL

0-2: Has played very poorly, or it's hard to tell so far

3-4: Has shown decent special teams play, and/or below-average to average offensive or defensive play

5: Has shown decent offensive or defensive play (in addition to ST play, if applicable)

6-9: Has shown good to great offensive or defensive play

10: Has shown Pro-Bowl-level performance or above

Degree of Shares Bought (playing time given by coaches): BUY, SELL, or HOLD

0-2: Not on the roster, or inactive, or active but not seeing the field at all

3: Special teams snaps only

4: Sporadic offensive or defensive backup contributor (in addition to ST)

5-9: Fairly regular backup contributor, ranging to temporary or fringe first-stringer (in addition to ST)

10: Full-time starter

Darqueze Dennard

Dennard hadn't played a single defensive snap in the previous three games combined before last Sunday. Against the Saints, he had (what I believe to be) a season-high 15 snaps,  21 percent of the snaps the defense was on the field. This was mainly at nickel CB in relief of the injured Leon Hall. Dennard did well, and also continued to play his gunner position on special teams coverage. His stock goes up with his good play, and his shares will go up for now with Hall's injury.

Stock: UP to 7

(previous weeks, in order: 2, 3, 5, 5, 5, 4, 3, 3, 3)

Shares: BUY up to 5

(previous weeks, in order: 2, 4, 4, 3, 3, 5, 3, 3, 3)

Jeremy Hill

According to Football Outsiders, Hill is one of the top-5 running backs in the entire NFL, in terms of his DVOA ranking (his per-play value vs. a league-average running back adjusted to the same game-situations). Even as a rookie, he is arguably already one of the elites at his position. Assuming he maintains this level of play, in my opinion, Hill deserves to make the Pro Bowl. He also ought to be in the conversation for a lower-tier All-Pro recognition, though he probably won't get it.

His stock is unquestionably a 10. As for his shares, I can't put it at 10 because Gio Bernard is coming back soon, and Hue Jackson has shown a propensity for heavily using Bernard in any situation, while benching Hill in the meantime. Perhaps it won't happen this time after Hill's performance in recent weeks, and Gio can be used as an all-around weapon while still playing Hill, in order to maximize the production from the both of them. For now, I'll leave it at level.

Stock: UP to 10

(previous: 7, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 7, 10, 6)

Shares: HOLD at 7

(previous: 4, 7, 5, 4, 6, 4, 6, 8, 7)

Will Clarke

Clarke had a nice debut. With Devon Still a healthy inactive and Margus Hunt getting injured, Clarke was pressed into action and had a tackle for no gain as well as a fumble recovery. Other than Hunt's garbage-time sack against the Jags, what Clarke showed is more than what Still and Hunt have shown all season combined. Think about how many times those two have been pushed way back from the line of scrimmage, and then look at the above play! I'm giving Clarke's stock a good bump because he played well during all of his opportunities, and remember that stock does not take playing time into account.

With Hunt's injury and the coaches realizing that Still has not been playing well, I think the coaches will allow Clarke to eat into their playing time or perhaps even take over their role. So both his stock and shares go up.

Stock: UP to 5

(previous: 0 the entire season up to this point)

Shares: BUY up to 4

(previous: 1 in Week 3 when he was active, but 0 for the rest of the season up to this point)

Russell Bodine

Joe Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) isn't too impressed with Russell Bodine. I get that perspective - Bodine wasn't perfect and had a few negative blocks, particularly in the run game. But he continued his solid pass-blocking, and run-blocking well enough at times for the Bengals to have a monster day in the ground game. This was the first time this season that Bodine registered both a positive pass-blocking and positive run-blocking PFF score in the same game.

Another game in which the Bengals had a great offensive game was Week 2, but that was totally different for Bodine. He was poor all-around and was lucky that Gio Bernard repeatedly bailed out his blocking with busted-play screens and wild runs. I'm not criticizing Bodine for that now; I'm simply contrasting how he is behind that and is now on a different level. The Bengals had a great offensive game Sunday, and Bodine was a reason for that. For a fourth-round rookie playing a full-time starting position that requires physicality and intelligence, the returns have been more than good enough.

Stock: UP to 8

(previous: 4, 4, 7, 7, 8, 6, 7, 8, 6)

Shares: all bought, 10

(previous: has been 10 all season)

AJ McCarron

There's nothing new here for McCarron yet. He continues to look good throwing in pregame warmups, and is awaiting a decision on whether to place him on IR or on the 53-man roster. The front office will not be daft enough to release him or place him on the practice squad, because there is no legitimate reason for doing so.

Stock: LEVEL at 1

(previous: basically 1 all season so far, since he has looked good in throwing)

Shares: nothing bought yet, 0

(previous: all 0)

Marquis Flowers

Flowers hasn't received any action at linebacker since getting extended snaps against the Colts and then nearly intercepting a Joe Flacco pass. With Rey Maualuga back in action, Nico Johnson getting snaps too, and Vinny Rey and Emmanuel Lamur settling in, it doesn't seem like Flowers will get any action soon. He's still a full-time special teams coverage player.

Stock: LEVEL at 3

(previous: all 3)

Shares: HOLD at 3

(previous: all 3 up to the Colts game, then 5, 4, 3, 3)

James Wright

Wright was the Bengals third WR last Sunday, with Dane Sanzenbacher active but not getting any snaps, and Greg Little a healthy inactive. Wright didn't do much, but did have a nice eight-yard sideline reception on third down, the Bengals' first first-down of the game, which might have set the tone for the offense. I still have Wright's stock riding fairly high after the Browns game, in which he had a forced fumble on ST, a fairly long run on a jet sweep, and an incredible effort on a deep ball.

I have a hunch the Bengals are taking a performance-based "by-committee" approach to the third WR position. For example, Sanzenbacher received 48 snaps in the Colts game, as the third WR behind Mohamed Sanu and Brandon Tate. However, Sanzenbacher had zero targets, mainly because he was consistently too slow and not shifty enough to create separation from his defender. Since then, he has had virtually no playing time.

The very next game, against the Ravens, Greg Little took over the third WR position with 30 snaps, again behind Sanu and Tate. Little played well, with 3 reception for 42 yards as well as getting open for a TD that Andy Dalton missed. He looked far better than Sanzenbacher in terms of being able to run routes and get open. Thus, the Bengals rewarded Little by allowing him to get 41 snaps the following game against the Jags, as the third WR behind A.J. Green and Sanu. Little didn't have any production that game, but mainly because the Bengals were run-heavy. He got 36 snaps the following game against the Browns, but stunk it up even though the Bengals were passing plenty (yes, Dalton had a bad game, but so did Little). Little's controversial pregame comments probably didn't help, either.

Thus, after Little's poor performance, he got benched and Wright took over. Wright got only 20 snaps, indicative of the Bengals focusing on the run. Next Sunday, we'll see whether Wright's lone catch in his limited snaps was enough to keep his tenuous hold on the third WR position over Little and Sanzenbacher. Also, we'll see whether the Bengals continue to downsize the position in favor of an H-back (Ryan Hewitt) or extra TE (Kevin Brock).

Stock: LEVEL at 6

(previous: 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 4, 4, 4, 6)

Shares: BUY up to 6

(previous: 2, 3, 5, 5, 6, 4, 4, 4, 5)

Ryan Hewitt

Hewitt had an excellent day blocking for Jeremy Hill. This is the second game in three weeks that Hewitt has been outstanding as a lead blocker, the other time against the Jags. Not many would have predicted that the unheralded, undrafted rookie would become a key piece to the success of Hill. Hill certainly appreciates it. The above video shows Hewitt de-cleating a defender, but what has impressed me most is his consistency in sustaining blocks, with sound technique. Hewitt is able to consistently get his hands on his opponents' shoulder pads and drive the opponent forward by churning his own legs.

Cincy Jungle favorite J.C. Copeland could certainly de-cleat when he was at LSU, but had a lot of trouble actually sustaining tough blocks when de-cleating was not possible. Copeland was a raw wrecking ball, not an NFL-caliber blocker. He had the physicality but not the technique. Nikita Whitlock, with the Bengals in preseason, had the same problem. Hewitt can block like a pro, in addition to de-cleating when he is able to (like in the above video).

Other than being a fullback, Hewitt plays TE as well. As a TE, he seems to have the old role of Alex Smith, not being much of a receiving threat but being a solid blocker. Hewitt has also taken over Smith's old roles in special teams packages. The Bengals likely value all of this, because there are probably a multitude of free agent FB's who are effective lead blockers like Hewitt, but who are one-dimensional and can't play TE or ST. His shares obviously go up, because he received a season-high 40 snaps, or 66 percent of the offensive plays. Hewitt's stock increase here is in the context of being a very effective lead blocker, not because of receiving. (I'm saying he's rated "8" for blocking like John Conner, not that he is receiving like Vernon Davis), which is totally fine with me if he keeps up this blocking.

As mentioned above with Wright, the three-WR sets may continue to be downsized in favor of the extra H-back or TE. So if Wright's playing time goes down, that probably means that Hewitt's is going up.

Stock: UP to 8

(previous: 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 6, 8, 4)

Shares: BUY up to 8

(previous: 4, 6, 6, 4, 8, 4, 8, 8, 5)