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Roundtable: Analyzing and grading the Bengals’ 2017 draft class

The Cincy Jungle crew sifts through the Bengals’ 2017 draft class to give their thoughts, favorite picks of the weekend and overall grade.

NFL Draft Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals made it through the weekend and actually used all 11 of their picks they had coming into the NFL Draft, even though they moved around a couple of times, so two of the picks were made at different points than originally planned. While there are some risks associated with a few of the players they chose, they also added immense speed and athleticism to a team that desperately needed it.

We at Cincy Jungle had a busy weekend with coverage of the festivities, and as we recap all the madness of draft weekend, the CJ contributors got together to supply their thoughts on the newest crop of Bengals, as well as grade the class.

Anthony Cosenza:

Favorite Pick: Josh Malone

There are so many to like in this class, it’s hard to pick out one, but if forced, I’ll go a little off-the-wall because I’m really interested in Josh Malone. It’s probably because I didn’t think they would take another wide out that high, but his skill set and size remind me of, dare I say, Chris Henry?

Yes, they grabbed John Ross as the speed guy to complement A.J. Green, but the Bengals not only struggled with the big plays on offense last year, but also in the red zone. Malone’s 6’3” frame should also help in both of those aspects. I guess I liked that the Bengals saw major deficiencies in their offense and addressed issues at the skill positions in the first four rounds, including Malone, a guy with high upside. In fact, there was talk that the war room thought Malone would be gone in the second round.

Least favorite Pick: Ryan Glasgow

Deciding on this is equally difficult, but I’ll go with Ryan Glasgow. He could very well come in and be a solid rotational guy up front, but this could have been a different position of need. There were some offensive linemen available in the area, and tight end Jake Butt was also still on the board, as a high-ceiling guy for the years ahead.

I like Glasgow, but I just wonder how many opportunities he’ll have with other talented backups on the roster. He’ll be fighting with Marcus Hardison, Brandon Thompson, DeShawn Williams and Pat Sims for time. Still, he has a good motor and should put up quite the fight for playing time early.

Draft Grade: B++

Is that actually a legitimate grade, outside of elementary school? Whatever—I’m hesitant to give the Bengals an “A” grade because of so many “boom or bust” selections in this year’s class, but if half of this group pans out in one way or another, Cincinnati should have a quick rebound from 2016. I’m hesitant to believe Marvin Lewis will play a lot of these guys early, but if he does and they prove to produce, this could become one of the team’s best draft classes in recent memory.

Alberto Luque (aka muertedeatenas):

Favorite Pick: Joe Mixon

Mixon was the best running back in his class, and even if I didn't like the selection because of his well-documented issues, I have to say the Bengals had the right to pick him. Jeremy Hill has struggled mightily since his outstanding rookie year, and with Giovani Bernard coming off injury and Rex Burkhead landing in a place where he will be appreciated (New England), it made sense to grab a running back. Off-the-field issues aside though, Mixon is a great fit for this offense.

Adding two pass-rushers with a second-round grades in the third and the fourth rounds was also awesome. Jordan Willis is the guy I am really rooting hard for to succeed, and in a smaller role than he had in Kansas State can be great for his early NFL development. The Bengals weren't benching Michael Johnson completely anyway. Carl Lawson has injury concerns, but with Willis already on board the Bengals can afford the luxury of taking him as plan B and part of a revamped defensive line rotation.

Least favorite pick(s): Jake Elliott and Josh Malone

What makes this class, in my opinion, slide to the B range (spoiler alert) is the selection of Josh Malone and kicker Jake Elliott. With so much talent available in the fourth round and six receivers already on the roster, it would have made sense to add a different position. Other kickers were picked in the seventh round, why would you spend a fifth-round pick on one then?

Draft grade: B+

On paper, the class is really strong and there are immediate contributors - if not starters that can help get the Bengals back to the playoffs after the disappointing 2017 season. I love John Ross; as he said he isn't only a burner and he is exactly what this offense needed. I wrote about this just before the draft, arguing that wide receiver was a need and Corey Davis or himself should be added if still available.

My other concern, outside of what I mentioned above, is that they didn't add another offensive lineman earlier as developmental depth. It’s something to take into account, as Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, despite being high-draft picks, are still question marks at this point. I also would have liked them to trade a few of their late picks to add more quality instead of quantity, considering that it's unlikely all 11 rookies make the roster.

So those concerns aside, I have to give them a solid grade not only from a talent standpoint but also for the process: taking the speedy wide receiver they need instead of a second-tier pass rusher that they eventually got on Friday and Saturday.

Scott Schulze:

Favorite pick: Jake Elliott

I really want to say Joe Mixon, because he's was top-five talent in this draft, and easily the best running back prospect this year, who fell to the end of the second round. But I'm going to go with the kicker Jake Elliott as my favorite pick. It shows the Bengals are perhaps upgrading their strategy of settling for mid-tier journeymen kickers, but are willing to go after an upgrade.

While Zane Gonzalez had a terrific senior season, it was Elliott with the perfect mark on over 200+ kicks in his career of 30 yards or less. He was also 10-for-16 from beyond 50 and is good on kickoffs, with a good percentage of them going for touchbacks, while also never giving up a touchdown return.

Least favorite pick: J.J. Dielman

I thought the team got really good value with Mixon, Willis and Lawson. And I already said how much I liked the selection of the kicker. It's really hard to be too down on a late pick, but if I had to pick somebody, I'd go with J.J. Dielman, the lineman picked at the end of the fifth round. His cousin Kris Dielman was great, so I'm hoping J.J. can match that.

But, in the limited video I've seen of him, it's left a lot to be desired. As a pass blocker, he struggled with rushers around the edge, often caught lunging to make the block and allowing the rushers to take away his leverage. And in run blocking, he more was more in the way than actually pushing opposing linemen to open holes. Hopefully I just saw a bad game and it wasn't indicative of his play.


Overall, I thought the Bengals were able to get great value in rounds two through five, while hitting positions that were a need - especially addressing the oft-neglected pass-rusher position.

Rebecca Toback:

Favorite pick: Jordan Willis

I think the Bengals got a great player in the third round and he could develop into the best member of this draft class.

Least favorite pick: Mason Schreck

It seems like a cop out to say the Bengals' Round 7 pick is my least favorite. But, he has the most minimal chance to make the roster of any draft pick and the team could have looked for the best remaining offensive linemen to add depth to the line. If they wanted a practice squad tight end, they could have signed one after the draft, which they already have.

Grade: A-

I have a really good feeling about this draft class. I don't think I've felt so optimistic about a Bengals' draft class in a while. Some people felt John Ross was a reach in Round 1, but, the Bengals are looking to re-load their offense and Ross figures to be a big part of that.

The team added talent to nearly every position and sent a message to the current players that they will need to fight for their roster spots. It looks like it's going to be a wild summer of competition.

Connor Howe:

Favorite pick: Joe Mixon

I'm a believer in second chances, and I like the Bengals' value here, not only picking him up far below where Mixon would be had he not punched Amelia Molitor, but also adding an additional fourth-round pick. Even if Mixon doesn't start right away, his addition makes the group better and could potentially add a needed spark to Jeremy Hill and/or Giovani Bernard.

Least-favorite pick: Jake Elliott

I like all the picks, but if I'm going to be critical, I guess it's taking a kicker -- not Elliott, specifically -- in the fifth round. Personally, I think Zane Gonzalez was way over-hyped considering his numbers and the venues in which he kicked, so I understand Cincinnati's reasoning in taking Elliott over him. Just not a huge fan of a Round 5 kicker, though if there was a year to take a specialist so high, this was it.

Draft grade: A

The Bengals are making a change without trying to change too much. Guys like Ryan Glasgow (physically comparable to a Domata Peko or Pat Sims) and Josh Malone (physically comparable to an Andre Caldwell, Cody Core or Armon Binns) fit the Bengals' mold at their respective positions, but Cincinnati also deviated from the norm in a few ways.

Thanks to the team's abundance of picks, there will be competition at several positions -- namely running back, wide receiver, defensive tackle and cornerback, which will be a huge wake-up call for those on the back end of the roster. There's also a deviation in a schematic sense, with the additions of guys like Ross, Mixon and the defensive ends who will likely change the way Cincinnati does things on both sides of the ball, even if it's just in a minor way.

Patrick Henke:

Favorite Pick: Carl Lawson

To get Lawson in the fourth round was incredible value. Some had him as a first round prospect. Pro Football Focus had him rated as the 14th-best player in the class. The Bengals got him with the 116th pick.

Least favorite pick: Jake Elliott

I'm kind of nitpicking here. I don't dislike the Elliott pick because Cincinnati definitely needed a kicker. I just felt like the Bengals could have selected him in a later round. If this is the worst pick, I'd consider the 2017 draft class a successful one.

Overall Grade: A

The Bengals executed this draft about as well as they possibly could. They got younger and more athletic on defense with the picks of Lawson and Jordan Willis. They added depth on the inside of the defensive line with the addition of Ryan Glasgow. They got some intriguing prospects in Jordan Evans and Brandon Wilson, who at the very least will project to be solid special teams contributors. Speaking of special teams, they addressed a huge need by drafting Kicker Jake Elliott out of Memphis.

On offense, the Bengals added the fastest receiver in the draft in John Ross, adding a whole new dynamic to the offense. Then for good measure, they picked up another talented receiver in Josh Malone at good value. They also added a controversial, but talented running back in Joe Mixon, who should replace the struggling Jeremy Hill as the team’s bell cow.

Some people are upset that the Bengals didn't draft more offensive lineman. The reality is that this year’s crop was a below-average lineman class. The Bengals did the right thing by sticking to their board instead of reaching for offensive linemen just because it was a need.

The only thing preventing me from going with an A+ is the risk factor involved with some of these picks. However, if everything pans out with this class it could set this team up for long term success.

John Sheeran:

Favorite pick: Carl Lawson

A clear second-round talent at a major position of need that fell to the fourth round due to injuries from two years ago is a risk more than worth taking.

Least Favorite Pick: J.J. Dielman

Center is still a hole on the offensive line, as the knocks on Dielman out of Utah match eerily similar to Russell Bodine's weaknesses out of North Carolina a few years ago.

Grade: B+

Every major need the Bengals had entering the draft involved speed, and every pick they made addressed it some way (sans Jake Elliott of course). They targeted at least above-average athletes with almost every pick and got at least good value, or addressed a dire need, on all three days. Draft grades made right afterwards hold very little weight, but a B+ seems to be in order for a solid job done.

Mason Prophater:

Favorite pick: John Ross

My favorite pick by the Bengals draft would easily have to be John Ross. I really wanted the Bengals to grab Corey Davis with their first round pick, but Ross was not far behind on my wishlist and Davis was already off the board. Wide receiver was a position they absolutely had to address coming into this year.

With Ross, they now have a fast and skilled receiver that will draw attention away from A.J. Green - something he has arguably never had, even when Marvin Jones was here - and allows Tyler Boyd slide into his more natural position at the slot. I would give it an A- in hopes that he can stay healthy through much of his career.

Least favorite pick: Joe Mixon

Originally, I was going to say that I didn't like the Mason Schreck pick in the seventh, mostly because I had never heard of the guy, but it feels silly to say him as my least favorite pick considering he was our last one, so instead I am going to choose Joe Mixon. I know I will get a lot of flack for saying that, but let me first explain before you write the rest of my response off as worthless.

The obvious reason I dislike the pick is his actions in the past, those of which have been well discussed. I know that it has been resolved and both he and the victim have moved forward, but that kind of stuff is heartbreaking to me and hard for people to overcome. However, I am also a man who believes in forgiveness, reconciliation, and redemption.

I know Mixon is an extremely talented player and he seems to be heading in the right direction, so my hope is that he stays on that path, earns the trust back of so many, and absolutely tears it up on the field. Ultimately, this pick is a love/hate for me because I think he is quite possibly the best running back from the draft and for that reason I would give that pick a B.

Grade: A

That grade should tell you how excited I was about the Bengals overall draft. Here's hoping that each guy reaches their max potential both on and off the field.

Braden Whited:

Favorite pick: John Ross

He's the player I've been most keen on since it became clear that Solomon Thomas was going to be a top-five selection. His speed adds a totally new dynamic to the offense and his ball skills and routes are vastly underrated because people tend to assume he's just "a fast guy."

Of course, the question with him is if he can do a better job avoiding the injury bug than he did while at the University of Washington, but I think his upside is worth taking a risk on his potential availability. Being able to draw extra coverage away from A.J. Green and having the ability to blow the top off of a defense on any given play is invaluable to our offense.

Least favorite pick: Jake Elliott

I think the easy pick for my least favorite would be Joe Mixon, but I actually don't feel that way. I think when taking his potential character risk into account, you're getting good value at where the Bengals selected him, especially since he has a chance to start early. My least favorite pick is actually Jake Elliott (two T's so I've been told).

I love that the Bengals took a kicker, but the only kicker worthy of a fifth rounder this year was Zane Gonzalez. You likely could have found Elliott in Round 7 still sitting there waiting to be picked up. This is just a pick where I'm trusting the office's board and if he's their guy, then they might as well get him early.

Grade: A -

Overall, I'd give this draft an A-. They made the team incredibly more athletic and dynamic. The question is just if all of these picks with various flags be it medical or character-wise will pan out. If even two of the first four picks in the draft pan out, I think this draft was a success. Three out of four and it's a home run.

Patrick Judis:

Favorite pick: John Ross

Obviously Ross' potential immediate impact and relevance to this offense has been well-stated, but on top of all of that he is just a very humble and seems to be a high-character guy.

Least favorite pick: Josh Malone

This is nitpicking, if I'm being honest. It was such a good draft class, that it's hard to pick a least favorite from a football perspective. Malone is nice, but there were some pretty interesting offensive linemen prospects still left on the board. Again, not a huge deal though.

I thought it was a great draft. Added plenty of playmakers to the offense that'll give opposing defenses fits for years to come. My only complaint is they never made a move up during the draft. Hard to believe all these players end up on the final roster. Even a move that would've brought in future picks would've been nice.


I thought it was a great draft. Added plenty of playmakers to the offense that'll give opposing defenses fits for years to come. My only complaint is they never made a move up during the draft. Hard to believe all these players end up on the final roster. Even a move that would've brought in future picks would've been nice.

Kyle Phelps:

Favorite Pick: John Ross

Ross' injury history might be a bit disconcerting, but that is the only major red flag I see. He should be a great complement to A.J. Green for as long as he sticks around, freeing up numerous options in the passing game.

Least favorite pick: Brandon Wilson

Wilson wasn't a particularly bad pick, but I don't see how he fits the team. Like Jabrill Peppers, I feel his only particularly great trait is his versatility. I don't see him beating out either Cedric Peerman or KeiVarae Russell for a roster spot, so this could easily turn into a wasted pick.

Grade: B

The Bengals put together another solid draft class with a series of interesting chances taken and trades struck. Most picks seemed to enhance the team in at least some way, even if they didn't do much more than add competition at an underwhelming spot.

I did not see any picks that absolutely 'wowed' me, but I also did not see any picks that were terrible. I expect many of the new players to be long-term contributors, but none that stick out as top-tier value, in relation to where they were drafted.