The Cincinnati Bengals are in an interesting position as the 2017 NFL Draft approaches. Despite poor results in 2016, the team still has plenty of talent on the roster, albeit significant underdeveloped talent. The Bengals added plenty of young players in Tyler Boyd, Andrew Billings, William Jackson III, Cody Core, KeiVarae Russell, Alex Erickson, Nick Vigil, and Clayton Fejedelem in the draft or free agency last offseason. That group of players has high expectations going forward, but the Bengals have an incredible opportunity this year to add even more talent to their roster.
2016 was a rough year for the Bengals in both the offseason and the regular season, but that could be about to pay off as their poor results netted them the ninth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. In addition, their offseason free agent departures are expected to net them two extra fourth round picks and two extra sixth round picks in the form of compensatory picks. Four is the maximum number of comp picks any team can have and it’s likely the Bengals will have four for the taking. Given the Bengals’ recent ability to navigate and manipulate the draft to their advantage, that is a very exciting prospect for the health of the team’s roster going forward.
The last time the Bengals had at least 10 picks was in the 2012 and 2013 Drafts. In those two drafts, 10 of the 20 players the Bengals picked up saw significant time as starters and eight of those 10 players are still with the team. Additionally Margus Hunt and T.J. Johnson, who haven’t contributed as much, but have stuck around as backups, were part of those draft classes.
10 players amounts to nearly half of a starting squad. This year, the Bengals have a fantastic opportunity to supplement their core group of players with 11 more Draft picks who could develop into starters or contributing backups.
“It will be important that all those guys are guys who come in and compete and have a role,” Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin told Jim Owczarski of Cincinnati.com of the Bengals’ 11 expected picks. “We want to keep those young guys. We want them to find a role, whether it’s on special teams or on the practice squad developing, but we don’t want to miss on any of those guys. We want them around here and contributing here this year or in the future.”
The Bengals also have the luxury of not having to fill starter roles at big impact positions like quarterback, wide receiver and tight end. Essentially, the Bengals are in a position where, for the most part, they can merely select the best player available (BPA) whom they believe will truly boost their roster, rather than focusing on specific decaying positions. Of course, there are positions of need such as an edge rusher, an athletic linebacker, a speedy receiver and a kicker. But, the Bengals have 11 picks and can bring in a great and talented haul of players who have the potential to contribute in Cincinnati for many years to come.
A BPA strategy is one the Bengals would likely employ regardless of how many picks they have anyway, given their history. But this year, there seems to be little downside. It helps to already have a solid roster in-place that only requires minor maintenance for a mini-rebuilt, much like what happened from 2010-2012.
“The more draft picks you have, the better chance you have of having a better 53,” Tobin said. “We’re excited about it.”
As rough as 2016 was, Bengals fans should be getting excited about the opportunity to reinforce the roster for 2017 and beyond. The Bengals have thrived on solid draft strategy for the last few years, offering considerable reason for optimism with an exciting opportunity to draft 11 new players for the roster this spring.