The Bengals have 11 expected draft picks to play with in the 2017 NFL Draft. That means, the club can fix many of the important holes on their team while also having room for luxury picks. Those picks could take care of positions that may not need attention right now, but could theoretically use an injection of talent to keep the position competitive.
Two positions that could see the Bengals taking a ‘luxury’ pick in 2017 are safety and quarterback. Both positions seem very solid at the moment, although that could always change as things develop. The Bengals have been doing their research at these positions, according to Walter Football, recently meeting with Auburn safety Johnathan ‘Rudy’ Ford and Tiffin quarterback Antonio Pipkin at the 2017 Senior Bowl.
At quarterback, the Bengals are set with Andy Dalton as the starter, under contract through 2020. However, backup AJ McCarron will be a restricted free agent in 2018. During his tenure with the Bengals, he has seemingly impressed the rest of the NFL so much that plenty of teams will be interested in him, and could even be interested in him this offseason via a trade. However, quarterback is not a position the Bengals need to worry about in 2017, unless the club trades McCarron. But, in 2018 and beyond, quarterback could be a good position to have a new insurance policy for.
That is potentially where Pipkin comes in. He was ranked as Mel Kiper’s 10th best quarterback prospect in the upcoming draft, even though many analysts don’t expect him to be drafted at all. Picking up a college free agent quarterback is not, at all, uncommon practice for the Bengals, regardless of the quarterback situation on the roster. The Bengals do currently have third string quarterback Jeff Driskel on the roster, but the club might be looking at Pipkin to push Driskel, and potentially even scout out an option in case the team gets an offer for McCarron it can’t refuse.
Pipkin was known as a productive quarterback in college who can find ways to make plays for his offense whether it be in the air or on the ground. He doesn’t take unnecessary risks, but still makes quick decisions to avoid mistakes on both sides of the snap. Unfortunately, at 6’1”, scouts wonder if he is tall enough to play quarterback. His footwork and pocket poise leave plenty to be desired, so scouts are wary of investing much into his future. Then again, his profile going into the draft sounds a lot like former Bengals quarterback Jeff Blake, minus the big arm. So, the Bengals might be seeing more potential in him than most other teams.
At safety, the Bengals are equally set with both starters, Shawn Williams and George Iloka, under contract through 2020. Backups Clayton Fejedelem and Derron Smith are also under contract for multiple additional years, too. The Bengals seem to be very happy with each member of their safety corps, but it wouldn’t hurt to bring in a player to provide depth on the practice squad or potentially push the safeties who could easily become complacent with how stable the current lineup is.
The Bengals met with Ford, whom could potentially be a developmental player. There was a time when Ford was seen as one of the top free safety prospects heading into the 2017 Draft, but he has slipped significantly since due to an ankle injury that kept him out of the Sugar Bowl. At this point, his starting experience and relatively solid production are only enough to keep him as a fourth round prospect at best. His performance at the combine could make or break that assessment. If he slips as a result, the Bengals could be very tempted to pick him up late in the draft.
The Bengals should have plenty of confidence in their quarterback and safety positions. At least for 2017, there are virtually no holes at either position and it would be silly to suggest otherwise. However, in the long term, every position needs an injection of talent from time-to-time. If either Ford or Pipkin impressed the Bengals in their meeting at the Senior Bowl, the Bengals taking a flier on them on Day 3 or in free agency wouldn’t be a shock.