The 2017 NFL Draft is behind us and mock drafts are done. Well... except for 2018 mock drafts, which are surely already popping up today, less than 48 hours after the completion of the NFL Draft.
The Bengals drafted 11 new players to join the team in Cincinnati and grades for the draft class are very wide ranging from national NFL writers and analysts. NJ.com gave the Bengals an A+ grade while SportingNews gave the class an absurd D- grade.
Many grades fall in between those two marks, with most leaning toward the A- to B+ range. So, let’s take a look at how 10 draft analysts are assessing the Bengals’ haul of 11 prospects turned NFL players. Keep in mind, some of these grades are influenced by the Bengals’ selection of controversial running back Joe Mixon.
Everyone expected the Bengals to come out of this draft with speed at receiver, and boy did they ever. Their draft started with Washington speed demon wide receiver John Ross, the No. 9 overall pick. If he can stay healthy, he adds a new dimension to the offense. The Bengals got another speed receiver in the fourth round in Tennessee’s Josh Malone. Cincinnati should be fine if A.J. Green gets hurt again.
The Bengals dropped a bombshell in the second round by picking Joe Mixon. On the field, he’s one of the draft’s three best running backs. If he stays out of trouble, he could be one of the steals of the draft. The Bengals waited until the 73rd overall pick to get the pass rusher they needed in Jordan Willis of Kansas State. Then they doubled up on edge rushers by taking Auburn’s Carl Lawson in the fourth round. If even just one of the two becomes a viable starter, I like the strategy.
Cincinnati took the first specialist of the draft with Memphis kicker Jake Elliott. This was a pick the Bengals had to make. Whether or not they should have gone with Zane Gonzalez of Arizona State, we’ll see.
Between durability concerns with Ross and character concerns for Mixon, it's risky for the Bengals. Some tremendous late-round value ups the grade, though.
It’s boom or bust for the Bengals at the top of this class, as they added a pair of explosive playmakers on offense, but they both come with big question marks. Washington wide receiver John Ross has size and injury concerns, while the off-field issues of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon have been well-documented.
After that, Cincy landed a pair of huge bargains at defensive end, grabbing talented pass-rushers in Auburn’s Carl Lawson and Kansas State’s Jordan Willis. Tennessee’s Josh Malone gives them depth at receiver, while Ryan Glasgow immediately improves their porous run defense. Throw in an upgrade at kicker in Memphis’ Jake Elliott and a versatile lineman in Utah’s J.J. Dielman, and the Bengals filled all of their biggest needs in this class.
I love the picks. John Ross is a stud, Joe Mixon — as a football player — is absurd value at a position of need. Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson were both first-round talents at a massive position of need in rounds 3 and 4. But no offensive linemen? Did you just forget to draft them?
Ross is a talented, extremely fast receiver (4.22 40), but given Ross' injury history, it's tough not to consider that when making him a top-10 pick. Nonetheless, adding Ross to play alongside A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert makes quarterback Andy Dalton smile. It wasn't a surprise to see Joe Mixon land in Cincinnati, given that they've taken on players with character concerns before. Jordan Willis fell to the middle of the third round, and the Bengals took full advantage. He's a damn fine player who should have went earlier.
The Bengals again selected a talented player with question marks in linebacker Carl Lawson; his injuries and inconsistency made him fall, but as a designated pass rusher he'll be just fine. Adding speedy receiver Josh Malone to Mixon and Ross makes the team dangerous; Andy Dalton is a happy man. They went with a solid football player in Glasgow in the late fourth; he could play offensive (like his brother, Graham) or defensive line. Getting a reliable kicker was a good move in the fifth round, and J.J. Dielman will be a long-time pro who can play anywhere on the offensive line.
You can hate Joe Mixon all you want and I might not want him on my team. But from a football standpoint he may be the second-best back in the draft. Add him to John Ross and two good pass rushers in Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson. Wow.
Mel Kiper: B-
Risk seemed to define the early portion of this class. It's not at all a surprise that the Bengals -- who have drafted exceptionally well in recent years -- would want to grab another wide receiver for Andy Dalton. After losing both Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency last year, they drafted Tyler Boyd in Round 2, but the distance between A.J. Green and the rest of the receivers here is still notable. I was just a bit surprised they went with John Ross at No. 9 overall. Maybe they wanted Corey Davis(No. 5 overall) or Mike Williams (No. 7) and just decided they better get Ross. Still, Ross has a smaller frame, is coming off shoulder surgery and has missed a chunk of time with an ACL tear. That's a lot of risk for a top-10 pick.
Then there is Joe Mixon. The guy is a major talent, but again, to take him in Round 2 is to say you're quite comfortable with his decision-making -- on and off the field -- going forward. Two picks, two talented players, but plenty of risk. After that, the Bengals added some interesting potential.
Jordan Willis had 26.0 sacks and 40.5 tackles for loss, and the workout numbers to match those totals, so to get him at No. 73 overall looks like a great value. Carl Lawson is also a really talented player but brings an injury history of his own. The Ryan Glasgow selection goes along pretty well with my ranks; my No. 150 overall player taken at No. 138. He has a chance to be a useful contributor along the D-line.
Another interesting selection was Jordan Hall, as the Bengals have a need at inside linebacker. Josh Malone offers length and depth at wide receiver. Ultimately, the talent here could win out over the risk, but this draft hinges on whether Ross stays healthy and Mixon lives up to his promise to stay out of the kind of situations that made him such a controversial selection.
Pete Prisco (CBSSports.com): A
I thought the Bengals had as good draft as any team in the league. Taking receiver John Ross with the ninth pick is a bit of a risk, but you can't coach speed. They took a different type of risk with Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon in the second round, but the kid is the best runner in the draft. They clearly looked past the assault video to take him. They then landed two good pass rushers in Kansas State Jordan Willis and Auburn's Carl Lawson, two players who will compete to start at right end. Fourth-round receiver Josh Malone from Tennessee can fly. There are some risks here, but I think they will pay off big.
Rob Rang (CBSSports.com/The Sports Xchange): B
The Bengals' draft is boom or bust personified with speedy (but injury prone) wideout and returner John Ross in the first round and talented but troubled running back Joe Mixon in the second. The two potentially dynamic weapons will dominate the reviews of Cincinnati's draft (and for good reason), but the Bengals covered their bases with quality linemen throughout the rest of the draft, nabbing Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jordan Willis in the third, explosive (but short-armed) bull rusher Carl Lawson in the fourth, as well as one of the more underrated defensive linemen in this draft in Michigan's Ryan Glasgow later in the round. Speaking of underrated, had J.J. Dielman been healthy in 2016, he likely would have been off the board at least a round earlier. Josh Malone is a nice vertical threat to complement A.J. Green and Ross, as well. The durability concerns for Ross (and character red flags on Mixon) are very real, but this is a class that could finally push Cincinnati into legitimate Super Bowl contention with a little luck.
If this draft class is to be believed, the Bengals’ offense will look very, very different in 2017. They spent picks No. 9 (WR John Ross), 41 (RB Joe Mixon) and 128 (WR Josh Malone) on players who should help them open things up—Ross, in particular, will handle that duty opposite A.J. Green. Cincinnati might spread the field and throw a lot—that is, when Andy Dalton is not handing off to Mixon. The Oklahoma product comes with troubling baggage, so we’ll see if he can walk the straight and narrow enough to show off his brilliant talent. Help for the D-line came in the form of edge guys Jordan Willis (No. 73) and Carl Lawson (No. 116), as well as interior space-eater Ryan Glasgow (No. 138).
The best thing to say about the rebuilding Bengals is that Glasgow is a good value ... out of 11 picks. Ross was a reach, and Lawson was a free-faller. Both come in with durability issues. Willis is better suited to be a 3-4 edge rusher. They didn’t need a second wideout in Malone, either, and Elliott was taken too early.
About Mixon: For a non-glaring need because of Jeremy Hill and a recovering Giovani Bernard, he’s not worth that kind of backfield risk in the second round. The backlash is bound to make that pick backfire. Between Mixon, Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals are unrelenting in ignoring controversy.
USA Today: B
Their risk-laden draft will ultimately be defined by the chance they’ve taken on second-round RB Joe Mixon. Setting his well-known issues aside, Cincy might have hit the lottery in terms of football merit. A multi-dimensional talent, Mixon could emerge as this draft's best back and may not take long to overtake Jeremy Hill, a free agent in 2018. First-round WR John Ross can affect every play, with or without the ball, courtesy of his field-stretching 4.22-second 40 speed – assuming, of course, he can outrun concerns about his injury history and diminutive stature (5-11, 188). Mid-round selections Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson and Ryan Glasgow upgrade defensive depth at minimum, and Willis has a chance to make a bigger splash. Even Round 5 K Jake Elliott will be welcomed a year after Mike Nugent's misadventures.
WalterFootball.com: B+ (A+ for effort)
If Cincinnati's goal was to cause lots of controversy during the draft, the team deserves an A+ for its effort. Joe Mixon was the biggest story on Day 2, as the Bengals selected the troubled running back after moving down seven spots in the second round. Mixon was filmed punching a woman and knocking her out, which was horrible to watch. However, this occurred several years ago, and there haven't been repeat incidents. If a team wanted to give Mixon a second chance, I can understand it, but the Bengals better make sure they cut him if he gets into similar trouble again. If Mixon remains clean, he'll offer a huge upgrade over Jeremy Hill, who has disappointed since his rookie campaign. He's a big risk, but the payoff is enormous.
There was also some controversy in the opening frame, as the Bengals picked John Ross No. 9 overall. Ross was reportedly off some teams' boards because of his durability issues, though he certainly has the physical skill set to be the ninth-overall selection in the draft. Cincinnati wanted Will Fuller or Corey Coleman last year, and Ross is a better version of them. He and Josh Malone will provide some much-needed juice in the receiving corps, so if either A.J. Green or Tyler Eifert gets hurt again, the offense won't collapse.
The Bengals also had to upgrade their pass rush, and they focused on that in the third and fourth rounds, acquiring Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson. I loved both picks, as the two players were steals. I had Willis going at the end of the first round, while Lawson would've had a chance at the opening frame had he not endured so many injuries in college.
There was nothing wrong with anything else Cincinnati did. It was a solid draft overall. I thought Ross was a bit of a reach, considering his injury, and Mixon is a big risk, but the Bengals did a very good job of addressing needs and selecting talented players while doing so.
Washington Post: C-
A number of NFL teams had RB Joe Mixon off their draft boards because of the 2014 incident in which he punched a woman and broke several bones in her face. The Bengals used a second-round pick on him. Putting aside the debate of whether you’d want him representing your franchise or whether you instead believe unequivocally in second chances, the draft-related issue is whether it was prudent to use a second-rounder on a player so devalued by a significant number of other teams. First-round WR John Ross is a potential game-breaker. But some observers have concerns about his durability and it’s questionable whether the Bengals needed to use the ninth overall selection to get him. It’s possible that the Bengals transformed their offense. But, given the risks, did they maximize the value of their picks?
On average, the class received between an A- and B+ grade among these 10 grading services.
Cincinnati Bengals 2017 NFL Draft Grades