It came when Cincinnati took Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis, who was regarded as a top-tier pass-rusher in this class, but managed to fall to Day 2 of the draft before the Bengals took him off the board.
Willis was a force for the Wildcats last season, racking up 11.5 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and 52 total tackles. That kind of production made Willis an ideal target for a Bengals team that needed to upgrade its defensive line and take pressure off of Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, two Pro Bowl players who get heavily focused on by opposing offenses.
No other lineman has been able to keep that from happening and make an impact himself, whether it’s been Wallace Gilberry, Will Clarke or Margus Hunt. Willis is the kind of guy who can make some noise himself while freeing up Dunlap and Atkins more.
However, Willis is a bit undersized for a 4-3 end at 6’4” and 255 pounds, which is a big reason why he fell this far. Even so, most of the draft experts had a high grade on him.
- ESPN’s Todd McShay had Willis ranked 56th overall coming into the draft
- Mel Kiper ranked him 53rd.
- Coming into Day 2 of the draft, Willis was Pro Football Focus’ third-best player available, and he was their 15th-best prospect coming into the draft.
- CBS Sports had him ranked 57th.
- The Cold Omaha Consensus Big Board, which factors in every major draft ranking, had Willis ranked as the 51st-best prospect in this draft.
It’s pretty clear the Bengals got a big steal by getting Willis with the 73rd pick. Willis won’t solve all of the Bengals’ pass-rushing woes, but he’ll be a major help there as a rookie, and could become a starter down the line.