At the top of the round, the Bengals stayed put and selected linebacker Jordan Evans out of Oklahoma with the 193rd pick, bolstering the athleticism of their second level defense. Fourteen picks later, the Bengals moved up from the 217th spot to the 207th spot in a trade with the Tennessee Titans and added the versatile Brandon Wilson out of Houston. Both players provide their own sparks and can contribute even from the bottom of the depth chart in 2017.
What Evans brings to the Bengals
Much needed athleticism: Evans did not get invited to this year’s scouting combine, but he showed what kind of athlete he is at Oklahoma’s pro day. While all eyes were on Joe Mixon, Evans turned in a 4.51 40 yard-dash, a vertical and broad jump or 38 1/2” and 121” respectively, and a 7.01 3-cone. These numbers would’ve been some of the best at the combine for linebackers, and blow away the numbers of current Bengals linebackers.
Ball production: Playing one of the inside linebacker spots in Oklahoma’s 3-4 defensive front, Evans got his hands on a lot of passes. In 45 career games (36 starts), Evans recorded 21 pass deflections and five interceptions, with 12 and four of them coming from his fourth and last season alone. The Bengals have had trouble defending the middle of the field and their lackluster play at linebacker in coverage has been a big part of that, Evans injects hope in this regard.
What Wilson brings to the Bengals
Scoring ability...from wherever: Wilson was a defensive back that occasionally played running back for the Houston Cougars, but he projects better as a running back because he finds ways to score whenever he gets his hands on the ball. In his 40 career games, Wilson recorded two rushing touchdowns, returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, ran back his first interception of his career for a touchdown, and ran back his only forced fumble for a touchdown. His kick-six against Evans’ Sooners was the momentum shifter that changed the course of that game:
Jabrill Peppers got all the hype as a swiss army knife scoring machine, but Wilson is just as, if not more dangerous with the ball in his hands.
Crazy explosion on both offense and defense: At Houston’s pro day, Wilson nearly jumped out of the building with his leaping ability. Along with his 4.40 40 yard-dash, he recorded a 41” vertical and a 133” broad jump, both would’ve been upper tier jumps at the combine this year. As a cornerback, this bodes well for him thriving in an off-coverage scheme like the Bengals deploy, and as a running back and returner, he can use that explosion to break off big plays with the ball in his hands.
Why the Evans pick makes sense
In a linebacker room with Vontaze Burfict, Kevin Minter, Vincent Rey and Nick Vigil, the Bengals didn’t need a player who can start, but they did need a player who can move. Evans has the production and athleticism to be a quality contributor on passing downs and on special teams as well. His presence boasts depth at the position, and his upper tier movement ability fills yet another need on this defense.
Evans was also a teammate of Mixon at Oklahoma, and can presumably aid in keeping Mixon out of trouble and adjust to Cincinnati well.
Why the Wilson pick makes sense
For starters, it was smart for the Bengals to trade up for a player like Wilson. Not only does he give the Bengals more diversity and athleticism at running back, defensive back and returner, but after trading back on day two for Mixon, the Bengals added a 12th pick in this year’s draft, which was used on wide receiver Josh Malone. But the trade really made the sixth and seventh round picks more expendable, considering 12 players in all likelihood won’t make the roster. The trade put the Bengals back at 11 picks, and increased the chance that every pick can make the final roster.
Wilson brings special teams ability that can spare John Ross from taking too many hits, and can possibly push a more limited Cedric Peerman off the roster as well, giving the Bengals a more versatile offensive attack if they decide to list Wilson as a running back.
Wilson was also a former teammate and friend of last year’s first-round pick William Jackson, and hopes to be with him on the roster when Jackson makes his highly anticipated debut.