Although the Bengals had a pair of rookie starters by the end of 2014 in Jeremy Hill and Russell Bodine, we all know that Marvin Lewis often prefers his first year players to sit on the bench and learn before taking the field. Aside from Bodine (1,061 offensive snaps) and Hill (501), no rookie had more than 200 snaps outside of special teams.
While it was obvious that the Bengals' first two picks were picks for the future, we could still potentially see some of the 2015 draftees suit up and play this season. Which of these players should we expect to see on the field sooner rather than later?
Paul Dawson (3rd Round, 99th Overall)
After an injury-riddled season for the Bengals 2014 linebacking corps, the team signed veteran A.J. Hawk and wisely drafted Paul Dawson out of Texas Christian University. Although Dawson's measurables and attitude have drawn concern, his instincts and tough demeanor helped him get second-round projections and an eventual third round selection.. Dawson is already drawing comparisons to fellow linebacker Vontaze Burfict. The Bengals were able to scoop him up with the last pick in the third round, which may end up being the team's biggest draft steal. If Burfict isn't healthy, Dawson will likely start. Even if Burfict is healthy, there is a good chance that Dawson could start at WLB if Burfict plays inside and Rey Maualuga plays at SLB.
Projected 2015 Snap Count: 875
Tyler Kroft (3rd Round, 85th Overall)
After the departure of Jermaine Gresham and with Tyler Eifert coming off a season-ending injury, the Bengals opted to draft another Tyler tight end to add depth to the position. Although his production at Rutgers was limited (24 catches for 269 yards in 2014), Kroft is an athletic player with the ability to block well in the run game and in pass protection. He should start the season as the second tight end on the depth chart, which will allow him to get a solid amount of playing time for a rookie.
Projected 2015 Snap Count: 450
Josh Shaw (4th Round, 120th Overall)
Although defensive back Josh Shaw may be most known for his elaborate nephew-saving lie during his time at USC, the Bengals took a flier on him in the fourth round. Shaw played cornerback and safety in college and generally projects best as a free safety or Cover 2-cornerback. The Bengals seem set at both of these positions for 2015, so it's doubtful Shaw will get much playing time on defense. That being said, he was one of the best gunners in college football last year during his limited playing time after his lie led to a 10-game suspension, and he could make a splash on special teams.
Projected 2015 Snap Count: 30 (defense); 350 (special teams)
Jake Fisher (2nd Round, 53rd Overall)
When the Bengals nabbed a second offensive lineman with their second consecutive pick, it left many fans unhappy with more pressing needs on the board. Though considering Oregon tackle Jake Fisher was a candidate for the first round, it was hard for the team to pass on him 32 picks later. One thing he needs to work on is getting his number of penalties down, but he is talented enough (and healthy enough) to be the first offensive lineman off the bench in 2015. He can play guard or tackle, so expect him to get some significant playing time if any of the starters miss time due to injury.
Projected 2015 Snap Count: 370
Mario Alford (7th Round, 238th Overall)
One of the Bengals primary needs entering the 2015 draft was at wide receiver, yet they waited until the final round to grab speedy Mario Alford out of West Virginia. He will likely be battling Brandon Tate for a spot on the team as a wide receiver and kick returner. I wouldn't be surprised to see him not make the team, as the Bengals usually prefer veterans in this type of situation. If he does, though, he should see a handful of snaps at kick return and on offense.
Projected 2015 Snap Count: 130 (offense); 90 (special teams)
Derron Smith (6th Round, 197th Overall)
If it wasn't for Dawson, Fresno State safety Derron Smith would easily have been the steal of the draft. He was projected as a Day 2 prospect, but even in a weak safety class, his size dropped him all the way to the sixth round. Smith was a four-year starter in college and has the ability to play either safety position. While 2015 may be a tough year for him to log substantial playing time, Shaw could very well set himself up for a starting position in 2016 if either George Iloka or Reggie Nelson is not resigned.
Projected 2015 Snap Count: 90
Marcus Hardison (4th Round, 135th Overall)
Marcus Hardison was a nice add on the defensive line in the fourth round, but with Grady Jarrett still on the board, it was a little disheartening. Hardison is a defensive end turned three-technique and should be able to see a small amount of snaps this season, but it is likely completely dependent on the health of others ahead of him on the depth chart.
Projected 2015 Snap Count: 85
Cedric Ogbuehi (1st Round, 21st Overall)
It was said over and over again by Marvin Lewis that he didn't expect whoever the Bengals' first round pick was to play much in 2015. When the Bengals drafted (and possibly reached for) Texas A&M tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, it was obvious that Lewis was right. Ogbuehi is coming off a torn ACL in the Liberty Bowl. Even if Ogbuehi recovers from his injury by the start of the season, I wouldn't expect to see much of him on the field. If healthy and multiple injuries are sustained across the line, he could play a role similar to Eric Winston’s last season.
Projected 2015 Snap Count: 60
C.J. Uzomah (5th Round, 157th Overall)
In what many consider the Bengals' worst draft selection, tight end C.J. Uzomah was drafted in the fifth round when most expected him to land on a team as a free agent. Uzomah is more of a receiver than a tight end, and he seems to be a project the Bengals will look to groom for the future. I would be very surprised if he wasn't on the practice squad when the Bengals kick off in September.
Projected 2015 Snap Count: 0
Which of these Bengals draft picks would you like to see on the field in 2015?