The Cincinnati Bengals just finished off crafting an 11-man draft class and by most accounts, the Bengals got a great group of new players.
John Ross, Joe Mixon and Josh Malone can come in and immediately improve the offense. On defense, back-to-back defensive ends were taken in Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson, who will look to improve the pass rush, which struggled mightily in 2016. The kicking game got a boost from Jake Elliott, who becomes the front runner for the job in 2017, after the Bengals experienced a rough year in the kicking department in 2016. And on top of that, the Bengals added some great depth players like J.J. Dielman who can play center and tackle, Brandon Wilson who can play running back and cornerback (yes, you read that right) and Mason Schreck, who will round out the tight end group on the backend.
CBS Sports' Dane Brugler ranked the five teams that are the most improved after the 2017 NFL Draft and the Bengals rank first on the list.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
1 (9) John Ross, WR, Washington
2 (48) Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
3 (73) Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State
4 (116) Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
4 (128) Josh Malone, WR, Tennessee
4 (138) Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan
5 (153) Jake Elliott, PK, Memphis
5 (176) J.J. Dielman, OC, Utah
6 (193) Jordan Evans, LB, Oklahoma
6 (207) Brandon Wilson, RB/CB, Houston
7 (251) Mason Schreck, TE, Buffalo
Quarterback Andy Dalton was one of the biggest winners of this draft with the additions of Ross and Mixon with the Bengals' first two selections. Ross has the explosive speed to stretch the field, but also the polished routes to create for himself. Mixon hasn't taken a snap in the NFL, but it might not take long for him to be the second-best running back in the AFC North behind Le'Veon Bell, which also happens to be his closest NFL comparison.
Willis in the third round was excellent value and then Lawson was even better in the fourth, which is a round the Bengals have found success before with defensive linemen (Geno Atkins, Andrew Billings, Domata Peko). Dielman missed most of his senior season due to injury, but if he stays healthy, he could be the future starting center in Cincinnati. Evans is a good-sized athlete who can do a little bit of everything on the football field and was one of the most notable Combine snubs.
The other four teams on the list are the Dallas Cowboys (5), Detroit Lions (4), Washington Redskins (3) and Cleveland Browns (2).
After a 6-9-1 season, the Bengals needed to use the draft to get much better in 2017. It’s their only chance to rebound after allowing key players like Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler to walk in free agency.
Hopefully, Brugler is right and these 11 newly drafted players supply the Bengals with what they need to get back into playoff contention in 2017.