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ESPN ranks the Bengals’ 2017 NFL Draft class as average

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The Bengals rookie class had its ups and downs, and it shows in ESPN’s ranking.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the season is over for all but eight teams in the NFL, it seemed like a good chance for ESPN to go back and rank every team’s draft class.

They did this by ranking them on a scale from “near perfect” to “above average.” The Bengals fell one slot above the bottom with an “average ranking:”

The Bengals selected 11 players in the draft. While Joe Mixon, Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, Josh Malone, Ryan Glasgow and Jordan Evans saw significant snaps, Lawson was clearly the star of the show.

It is hard to argue against that ranking when the team didn’t get anything from their first-round pick. Still, the Bengals did receive some serious contributions from some of their rookie class. Although, most of that contribution came too late in the season to really save the Bengals season.

Mixon has shown he can be a feature player for this offense in the next few years. With Jeremy Hill likely moving on to another team, Mixon will be the lead back with Giovani Bernard sharing a portion of his carries. If the Bengals can improve their offensive line, he could also see some easier holes in the near future.

Bill Lazor also started learning toward the end of the season that he could run Mixon out of the shotgun formation instead of switching to the I-formation like he was forced to with Hill. This opened up the offense quite a bit, and it also made them less predictable.

Overall, Mixon finished the season with a little over 800 total yards through 14 games. A few of those games he had a very limited role in because of the crowded backfield, so we shouldn’t be surprised to see more from him in 2018.

The other obvious game-breaker was Lawson who nearly broke Carlos Dunlap’s rookie sack record in a pass rush role with the team. He finished the year with 8.5 sacks, and he really made the NFL look stupid for letting him last to the fourth round of the draft.

Lawson has to work on becoming more of an every down lineman by bulking up a little bit, but until then he should become a double digit sack player in the NFL for years to come.

As for the rest of the draft, many of them were held back until it was completely necessary to play them, and the only one who really made any sort of impact was Ryan Glasgow, who has showed he will be apart of the defensive tackle rotation for years to come.

It isn’t unusual for the Bengals not to get a huge impact from their rookies. They have always liked to bring them along slowly, but this season was sprinkled with extra disappointment, because it was obvious some of these rookies should have had bigger roles sooner. Maybe if they had the Bengals could’ve had a shot at the playoffs instead of playing spoiler.

In the end though a draft class can’t properly be ranked after just one season. Many of these players were drafted to fill in positions left by aging veterans in a few seasons.

You probably can’t accurately judge a class until about the third to fifth year after it has happened. Despite what many fans think, many of these players need a few years to really get into NFL form. Hopefully the Bengals draft class can bounce back next season.