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Bengals Draft 2017: 3 biggest winners and losers

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We take a look at which Bengals are looking over their shoulders, and which are thrilled with how the draft played out for Cincinnati.

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By most accounts, the Bengals’ 2017 NFL Draft class was a big success.

That’s great news for several players on the Bengals’ current roster, but it also could spell doom for others. Here’s a look at the biggest winners and losers on the Bengals’ roster, following the addition of 11 players in the draft.

3 Biggest Winners

Cedric Ogbuehi

Offensive tackle was viewed as one of, if not the biggest need heading into the NFL Draft, but somehow, Cincinnati came away with only one tackle drafted, and his most recent college season was spent at center. That was Utah’s J.J. Dielman, whose exact position in the NFL has yet to be determined. But, the Bengals’ lack of attention to the offensive line positions speaks volumes to how much confidence (or blind faith) they have in Ogbuehi as a starting tackle next season, regardless of on which side he’s playing.

The Bengals made it clear Ogbuehi will have a starting spot this season. Let’s just hope that doesn’t backfire on them.

Andy Dalton

No one should be smiling more at the end of this draft than Andy Dalton. He had to spend a good chunk of last season with Cody Core, C.J. Uzomah, Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd as his top targets while handing the ball off to the enigmatic Jeremy Hill.

Now, Dalton has John Ross and Josh Malone in his receiving corps. In addition to Joe Mixon in the backfield. Mixon is probably going to be the best running back Dalton has ever had, while the receiver tandem of Green and Ross should also be the best he’s ever had. Expect Dalton to have another great season that’s in line with his career year of 2015.

Paul Guenther

In 2015, Paul Guenther showed he’s capable of coordinating a top-10 defense, if given enough support. He didn’t have that in 2016 though as his unit took a major step back, especially in regards to the pass rush.

The Bengals did almost nothing to upgrade that in free agency, but they addressed in it in a big way through the draft. They drafted two guys who many had projected as top-50 talents in Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson. That duo combined for 21 sacks and 31.5 tackles for loss last season at the NCAA level.

That’s absurd production from two Power 5 conference players, and you can bet they’ll be a big help this coming season, even if they’re only situational pass-rushers. Even Ryan Glasgow is a great pass-rushing defensive tackle in terms of how often he pressured quarterbacks.

What was a major weakness for Guenther and the Bengals in 2016 could actually become a strength this year. Look for a bounceback year from the Cincinnati defense.

3 Biggest Losers

Alex Erickson

There may have not been a bigger loser as a result of this draft than Alex Erickson. Despite having a breakout season as return specialist in 2016, the Bengals ended up drafting not one, not two, but three players with great returner skills.

It began in Round 1 with receiver John Ross, who has four career kickoffs returned for touchdowns. In Round 2, Cincinnati got Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who returned one kickoff for a score against Ohio State this past season.

Then in Round 6, Cincinnati took Houston defensive back/running back Brandon Wilson, who also has two special teams touchdowns. And did we mention in addition to Ross, the Bengals spent a fourth-round pick on Tennessee wide receiver Josh Malone?

You could argue Cody Core should be the one in danger, but he showed he’s a more capable pass-catcher than Erickson as a rookie, not to mention Core has far more upside after spending a good portion of his college career at defensive back. That actually made him a solid coverage player on special teams, another thing he’s better at than Erickson at.

It’s pretty clear Erickson has become expendable, so he’ll be fighting for his roster life this preseason.

Jeremy Hill

Between getting Jox Mixon in Round 2 and signing Boom Williams as an undrafted free agent, Jeremy Hill’s NFL future is very murky at the moment. Sure, he’ll almost certainly be on the final roster, but how much he touches the ball is very much up in the air, especially once Giovani Bernard comes back from his ACL tear.

Bernard is under contract for three more years, while Hill hits free agency in 2018. That makes him very expendable, whether that means releasing him on cutdown day or even trading him at some point.

It’s more likely he remains on the roster throughout the 2017 season, but he also will probably be elsewhere come the 2018 season, and his role this year will be greatly reduced. That will make it hard for Hill to get even a decent payday next offseason.

Will Clarke

Because the Bengals spent two picks on impact pass-rushers in Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson, that could spell the end for Will Clarke, who was on the roster bubble in 2016 and figures to be again this year.

The Bengals may have spent a third-round pick on Clarke in 2014, but all he’s given them in return is 4.5 sacks in 35 career games. Even when he got a ton of chances last year to prove himself, Clarke came up small more often than not.

I think the Bengals will probably keep Wallace Gilberry over Clarke since the former has shown some semblance of a pass rush compared to the latter, even at 32 years of age.