The first three rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft have concluded.
By all accounts, the Bengals have one of the best classes thus far of any team. They’ve addressed their most pressing needs while adding explosive playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Let’s take a look at the biggest winners and losers as a result of Day 2 of the NFL Draft in Cincinnati.
The Entire Offense
Joe Mixon is the kind of running back who normally would be drafted high in the first round, possibly at No. 9 overall, but his character issues pushed him all the way to No. 48. Mixon may have major off-field baggage, but if we’re just going off his on-field talent, he’s a true game-changing running back.
Mixon should make life easier for everyone on the offense. He makes the blocking better, takes pressure off the quarterback, and opens up the field more for receivers.
Far too often with Jeremy Hill, opposing defenses were able to leave just six or seven men in the box and still get stops. That won’t happen with Mixon. He’ll make what was a botton-10 scoring offense into one that can score on anyone.
The Pass Rush
The Bengals took a bit of a gamble not addressing the pass rush with either of their first two picks, and boy did that pay off in a big way. Getting a guy like Jordan Willis in Round 3 was an absolute steal, one of the biggest in the entire draft thus far.
Getting Willis will be a major help to what was easily the team’s biggest weakness last season. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap finally could have a capable third pass-rusher alongside them, which is great news for this team’s potential in 2017.
The Bengals have finally had enough of Hill, at least as the team’s starting running back. Hill’s flash-in-the-pan rookie season feels like ages ago after he’d lugged through the past two seasons to just gain 3.8 yards per carry since 2015. That number is majorly boosted by big games against the Browns.
That’s not cutting it in any offense, and that’s why the Bengals made it a point to draft a running back early in this year’s draft. It ended up coming in Round 2 with Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon, who is now likely Cincinnati’s starting running back sooner (no pun intended) rather than later.
This is bad for Hill, not just because he’ll be relegated to a backup, but he’s also set to hit free agency in 2018. He’ll now likely do so after spending 2017 as a backup, or at least splitting carries with Mixon.
The fifth-year back is recovering from a torn ACL suffered late last season, and that’s an injury that can lead to a PUP stint the following season, depending on how well rehab progresses. Bernard is reportedly doing well, but, having Mixon on the roster will ensure the Bengals don’t need to rush Bernard back.
Bernard could open the year on PUP and miss at least the first six games. And once he returns, Bernard will likely have a much smaller role in the offense than he’s ever had.
The Bengals’ Image
The Bengals are the bad boys of the NFL, and they’ve fully embraced that image. Look no further than the team spending a top-50 pick on easily the most controversial player in this draft, not to mention someone most of the NFL didn’t want.
Then you’ve got the team keeping Adam Jones, despite his offseason meltdown that would have had him cut by most, if not every other NFL team. Only the Bengals would be willing to have not one, but both of these guys on the roster next season.
This is becoming a harder team to root for, but the Bengals don’t seem to care about it. The Bengals are embracing second (and third) chances and hoping fans do the same.