After coming into the the 2017 NFL Draft with 11 picks, taking part in a few trades and still shaking out with a total of 11 selections, the Cincinnati Bengals came away with a great haul of young talent.
On offense, the Bengals drafted five impressive players and for the special teams unit, they added a new kicker. These six players should help round out the offensive attack by finishing stalled drives with points. Each of these picks has their own particular role to play in the offense, so let’s go through and highlight what John Ross, Joe Mixon, Josh Malone, Jake Elliott, J.J Dielman and Mason Schreck bring to the Bengals’ roster.
Round 1, Pick 9: John Ross, WR, Washington
What he brings to the team: Speed, ball-tracking, homerun gear
How he can help in 2017: In addition to being an extra ultra-talented weapon for Andy Dalton to throw the ball to, Ross will open the field up for superstar wide receiver A.J. Green. There were times in 2016 where teams focused on shutting Green down because they knew there was less to worry about from the Bengals’ other pass catching options, especially when Tyler Eifert was out (eight games). With opposing teams having to worry about Ross’ impact, there will be less room for to double and triple cover Green. At some point, something is going to break in the opposing secondary, and Dalton will be ready to take full advantage.
Round 2, Pick 48: Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
What he brings to the team: Explosion, agility, power
How he can help in 2017: There were few more complete football players in the 2017 NFL Draft than Mixon. Unfortunately, his violent past seriously damaged his perceived value to NFL teams. But, the Bengals thought his talent was too great to pass over entirely. The Bengals happened to be the first team willing to pull the trigger in the draft and received a running back who is an adept runner both in terms of elusiveness and power. He is also well known as a great pass-catching option in the backfield, a rare trifecta of talent that doesn’t come along in every draft class.
Round 4, Pick 128: Josh Malone, WR, Tennessee
What he brings to the team: Size, speed, ability to adjust to the ball
How he can help in 2017: The Bengals were clearly looking to infuse the offense with speed in 2017 and did a great job of that, especially at wide receiver. In addition to Ross, who ran the fastest 40-yard dash ever recorded in NFL Combine history, the Bengals picked up Malone, whose 4.4-second 40-yard dash is absolutely astounding for a 6’3”, 208 pound receiver. He is expected to primarily be a developmental player in 2017 as he still needs to work on refining his particular set of talents to find success. But, he is likely to be a great long-term option for the Bengals at receiver.
Round 5, Pick 153: Jake Elliott, K, Memphis
What he brings to the team: Accuracy, confidence, kickoff expertise
How he can help in 2017: The Bengals may have finally found their kicker of the future after parting ways with Mike Nugent in December. The Bengals were growing increasingly frustrated with Nugent’s deteriorating accuracy on short kicks and his tendency to let his shortcomings drain his confidence and affect his performance. In those two particular aspects, Elliott is Nugent’s polar opposite. He doesn’t often miss kicks. But, when he does, he doesn’t let it become a trend. He puts the miss in the rear view mirror and does better next time. His quick release on kicks makes it very difficult for opposing teams to block them, and his astounding kickoff hangtime is very difficult for opposing kick returners to adjust to. He never allowed a kick return for a touchdown in college.
Round 5, Pick 176: J.J. Dielman, C, Utah
What he brings to the team: Athleticism, flexibility, determination
How he can help in 2017: The Bengals needed some offensive line help in the 2017 NFL Draft and finally got it in the fifth round with J. J. Dielman. He is listed as a center, but has more experience at right tackle. Furthermore, his primary strengths (athleticism, second-level pursuit, combo blocks, footwork, etc) fit more along the lines with the tackle position. He was likely brought on to offer depth and flexibility to the Bengals’ roster, but he has the potential to become an interior starter if he can improve his technique and play strength at the NFL level.
Round 7, Pick 251: Mason Schreck, TE, Buffalo
What he brings to the team: Vision, blocking, consistency
How he can help in 2017: It isn’t difficult to see what the Bengals liked about Schreck when they scouted him and decided to make him their seventh round draft pick. He sees everything that happens on the field, was fairly productive as a pass catcher in college, displays a solid blocking technique, and rarely misses a beat when he is on the field. However, it is difficult to see what value he brings to the Bengals’ roster as he is extremely unlikely to beat out Tyler Kroft or C.J. Uzomah for a spot on the team and surely won’t have any chance of beating out Eifert. He might be a solid addition to the practice squad in 2017, but probably has a ceiling as the Bengals’ No. 3 tight end, and that’s only if something unexpected happens to one of the others.