In the NFL, it’s often said you need three years to evaluate a draft class. Well, it’s been three years since the 2014 draft class entered the NFL and it’s time to evaluate the results from the Cincinnati Bengals’ class of players, now entering their fourth NFL season.
2014 Bengals’ draft class
Round 1. Darqueze Dennard
583 snaps, 39 games, 4 starts, 1 interception, 5 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 sack, 56 tackles.
Round 2. Jeremy Hill
1,401 snaps, 47 games, 36 starts, 667 rushing attempts, 2,757 rushing yards, 29 rushing TDs, 63 receptions, 468 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Round 3. Will Clarke
568 snaps, 35 games, 0 starts, 2 passes defended, 4.5 sacks, 15 tackles
Round 4. Russell Bodine
3,178 snaps, 48 games, 48 starts
Round 5. AJ McCarron
259 snaps, 8 games, 3 starts, 79 completions, 66.4% completion rate, 854 yards, 6 TDs, 2 INT, 97.1 QB Rating
Round 6. Marquis Flowers
72 snaps, 32 games, 1 start, 1 pass defended, 1 fumble recovery, 7 tackles
Round 7. James Wright
377 snaps, 24 games, 2 starts, 18 receptions, 197 receiving yards, 5 rushes, 24 rushing yards
Round 7. Lavelle Westbrooks
(Note: Stats do not include the playoffs.)
From the 2014 draft class, all players drafted in Rounds 1-6 remain on the roster, while seventh round pick James Wright was cut this offseason and fellow seventh round pick Lavelle Westbrooks never made it out of training camp during his rookie year. This class has been decently successful with two starters, a backup quarterback and other key backups. Unfortunately, one of the biggest question marks surrounding this draft class is the first round pick, Darqueze Dennard.
Dennard has started just four games, all due to other players getting injured or the Bengals giving him a one-series chance to prove himself. There was a game in 2016, his only start of the season, in which he started on the outside for just one series before Dre Kirkpatrick took back the role. The team believes in Dennard, to the extent they picked up his fifth year option this offseason, which will pay him more than $8 million for the 2018 season. But, Dennard has been injured or on the bench far too often for a first round pick. The Bengals have significant depth at cornerback, but, it’s time to see what Dennard is capable of on defense and if he can be the shutdown cornerback he was at Michigan State.
Though Hill has disappointed during the last two seasons, he’s started 36 games and has among the most rushing touchdowns in the NFL since being drafted. He’s likely to lose his role as the starter to rookie Joe Mixon this season, and hasn’t fully lived up to his second round billing. But, Hill was still a serviceable second round pick and likely the best member of this draft class. The only other starter among the group is Bodine. He’s been among the worst starters at his position since entering the league, but, he hasn’t missed a game since Week 1 of his rookie year. That’s an impressive feat and reliability is a great asset in the NFL. The Bengals have full belief in his ability to continue to improve and entering a contract year, this season will be huge for Bodine.
Sports Illustrated recently re-graded every draft class from 2014 and gave the Bengals an underwhelming C.
Best pick: Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU (Round 2, No. 55)
Worst pick: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State (Round 1, No. 24)
The most impactful picks, to date, have been Hill (2,757 yards rushing, 29 TDs) and C Russell Bodine (No. 111; 48 of a possible 48 starts), but will either be around for the 2018 season? Hill’s declining play coupled with Joe Mixon’s arrival clouds his future, and Bodine has been a weak—if reliable—link up front. The Bengals must still have hope for Dennard, because they picked up his fifth-year option, but they’ve kept him buried on the depth chart thus far. One to watch for the future: QB A.J. McCarron (No. 164)—he guided the Bengals’ ship at the end of the 2015 season when Andy Dalton went down with a broken thumb. Trade rumors swirled around him this off-season.
Nothing written by SI is false, but, I’d give this draft class a B due to producing a number of players who have played significant snaps in Cincinnati. Dennard really is bringing down the class, but, there’s still hope he can make an impact moving forward. He’s been buried on the depth chart and it’s not his fault the Bengals love drafting first round cornerbacks. Free agency in 2018 will tell a lot about this class based on who stays and who goes.
What grade would you give the Bengals’ 2014 draft class, three years later?
How would you re-grade the Bengals’ 2014 draft class?
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