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What We Learned: Draft Style

With arguably the most successful NFL draft in history in the books - in terms of fan experience and interaction - it is time to take a look at how the Bengals did. Here is what we learned from last weekend's NFL draft.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

All the fancy tents have been taken down. The stages dismantled. The beverage containers collected. The bright lights of the national spotlight have been turned off and somewhere, Roger Goodell is practicing butchering the names of next year’s top picks… in his defense, he only had about three months to get the pronunciations correct.  But, the draft coverage is not over. Now is the time we evaluate the draft and try to determine how each team fared during the NFL’s Christmas.

The Bengals received solid grades for their weekend efforts

Grading a draft is a futile exercise – the true success or failure of a draft class cannot be accurately determined until at least two years down the road – however, everyone grades the draft, and if you believe the graders, the Bengals had another solid class. SB Nation (B-); Sports Illustrated (B+); Mel Kiper (B+); CBS (B+); (A+).  The Bengals didn’t get any flashier, but they did get better – both for the short term and the long term. Don’t look now, but the Bengals have quietly become one of the best drafting teams in the NFL.

No team sticks to the Best Player Available (BPA) mantra like the Bengals do

Successful NFL teams are built through the draft and successful franchises "stick to their board." Picking the BPA is not always a fan favorite method for drafting, but it is the best way to build a long-term successful franchise. Teams who implement this strategy the best are the Ravens, Patriots, Steelers, Packers, Seahawks and yes, your Cincinnati Bengals. What else do those teams have in common? A lot of recent playoff appearances.

The Bengals are confident with what they have in Pat Sims and Denarius Moore

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the signings of both Sims and Moore. However, my concern was that the Bengals would be content with those signings and as a result, would look past top defensive tackles and wide receivers in the draft. Now that the draft has come and gone, I believe my fear came to fruition. In the Bengals’ defense, they did not have the luxury of hindsight to knowJake Fisher would be around in round two. However, I felt like the Bengals could have picked up a more impactful player in either of the first two rounds, rather than selecting two players at the same position. Cedric Ogbuehi may turn into a great tackle in the NFL, but he is coming off an ACL tear and likely will not have much, if any impact on the 2015 Bengals. Given the way the draft unfolded, I would have liked to see the Bengals take a player at No. 21 who could have made more of an immediate impact. Players who I had in mind when the Bengals were on the clock were: Shane Ray, Malcolm Brown, Eddie Goldman, Phillip Dorsett and even Dorial Green-Beckham – all of whom, in my opinion, could have made a bigger contribution to the 2015 Bengals than Ogbuehi.

Fans did not like the draft

Peruse Twitter and the interwebs for a few minutes and it won’t take long to realize that although the draft "experts" and NFL personnel folk liked the Bengals 2015 draft, the "Who Dey" fan base was not as enamored by the NFL Christmas gifts that Uncle Mike left under their 2015 trees.  On Saturday, you could have considered me among those frustrated fans. However, I am starting to come around on this one. There is no doubt the 2015 draft will not go down as a sexy draft. But, in two or three years, I believe we’ll look back at this draft as an enormous success and a draft that set the Bengals franchise up for years of success.

This was a "meat and potatoes" type draft where the Bengals didn’t get stars, but picked up a lot of solid contributors and core players. Barring injury, Ogbuehi and Fisher likely will not start in 2015, but it is very possible that in the first two rounds of the 2015 draft, the Bengals managed to land their starting offensive tackles for the next seven-10 years. That type of drafting sets a team up for long term success. In Paul Dawson, they may have landed the best linebacker in the draft and their potential weak side linebacker of the future. If Burfict cannot play in 2015 because of injury, Dawson may start. If Burfict comes back healthy, in 2016 you may see Burfict move to the middle and Dawson slide into Burfict’s spot. Josh Shaw was a second round talent who likely makes the team as the last corner, fifth safety and a top special teams player. Tyler Kroft may be the Bengals blocking tight end of the future, a perfect complement to Tyler Eifert and the reason why the Bengals finally cut the cord with Jermaine Gresham. And Mario Alford brings sub 4.3 speed to an offense that sorely needs speed. Call me crazy, but I think Bengals fans should like this draft.