A lot of times, ESPN’s Mel Kiper will say something about the Cincinnati Bengals and fans will get angered or immediately disagree. But, this week, Kiper had something to say that I think many Bengals fans will enjoy and agree with.
Kiper went through the Day 2 draft picks who he believes will have an early impact with their new teams. By early impact, he means, "having a clear role", potentially as a situational player. But, every guy on his five person list is someone he expects to "play early" on during the 2017 season and make an impact.
Jordan Willis, the Bengals’ Round 3 pick made the list and Kiper’s explanation of how Willis will immediately fit in makes a lot of sense. He’s not going to be a Day 1 starter, but, he has a good chance to play a significant amount of snaps and become a starter in Year 2.
Jordan Willis, DE, Cincinnati Bengals
Pick: No. 73 (Third round)
Willis falling to the Bengals here qualifies as a steal on my board -- I ranked him 53rd. I thought there was a chance he could sneak into the first round for a 4-3 team looking for a pass-rusher. Cincinnati is a good fit. Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins had more than half of Cincy's sacks last season (17 of 33), and Willis should join the rotation immediately. He had 21 sacks at Kansas State the past two seasons and impressed at the combine with a 4.53 40 and the fastest three-cone drill time among D-linemen (6.85).
The 30-year-old Michael Johnson could be a cap casualty after 2017, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Willis replace him in 2018.
I like that Kiper acknowledges this pick as a steal, because it was. And, it would only make sense for Willis to be an immediate contributor in Cincinnati. The team has been lacking pass-rushing backups and if in his first season, Willis can come close to the 11.5 sacks he tallied in his senior season at Kansas State, the Bengals will be a team to fear for the long-run.
Michael Johnson has seriously disappointed since his return to Cincinnati and if he doesn’t significantly improve in 2017, Willis is a threat to steal his starting role in 2018, as Kiper says.
A defensive line featuring Atkins, Dunlap, Willis and Andrew Billings should be mightily impressive if all goes according to plan in Cincinnati.