The Bengals have a plethora of talent they rotate in the middle of the defensive line. However, outside of Geno Atkins none of these players have showed consistent enough success to warrant the starting spot next to the Pro Bowler.
The likes of Andrew Billings and Ryan Glasgow at defensive tackle and having Michael Johnson and Jordan Willis kick inside during pass rushing situations is a decent set up, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. That’s especially true with the Bengals returning to more of a rotational approach to snaps at the position last season.
Mike Mayock recently put out his top 5 players at each position, and there are some names here who could instantly boost the Bengals interior defensive line. Vita Vea will likely be off-the-board by pick No. 21 when the Bengals are drafting, but Da’Ron Payne and Maurice Hurst are both likely in play for Cincinnati in Round 1 and though Mayock likes Payne out of Alabama over Hurst out of Michigan, the same can’t be said of all draft analysts.
1). Vita Vea, Washington
Vea is a raw prospect who has the potential to be disruptive in the NFL. At 350 pounds Washington even lined him up on the edge a few times, and he was able to hold his own. You simply don’t see 350 pounders move the way he does.
The frustrating part about him, as evaluators have noted, is he hasn’t really corrected simple things he is doing wrong in his technique like reaching too far out. It leads to a lot of inconsistent tape but he still has incredible potential as the top defensive tackle this year.
2). Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
Payne is a plug and play prospect. You can throw him out there and he will use his 300 pound build to halt a lot of rushing attempts. The only real issue is he has a lot to learn as far as pass rushing goes, but he has the tools to learn that over time. For a team like the Bengals, it’d be ideal considering they have pass rushers bursting at the seem, but they need a guy to help hold down the middle.
3). Maurice Hurst, Michigan
Hurst is a great disrupting defensive tackle. He actually uses his acceleration to create most of his penetration against the offensive line, but the doubts still remain whether he is strong enough to be successful against NFL caliber offensive lines.
He’d be a great guy to have come off the bench and take over for Atkins when he needs a breather, but he could be drafted too early to warrant that role for the Bengals. There was a red flag with Hurst at the NFL Combine as a heart condition was discovered, but it’s not thought to be a major deal and he participated in Michigan’s pro day this week.
4). Taven Bryan, Florida
Bryan is a very athletically gifted player and shows great quickness, but he also comes in under 300 pounds. Some analysts feel he has a future on either the inside or outside of defensive lines in the NFL. The major ding against him is his lack of awareness and technique. Too often it looks like he is simply trying either over power guys or just be faster than them. He also gets lost too often during plays. That is something that won’t work at the next level, but it is coachable.
5). Harrison Phillips, Stanford
Phillips is a former wrestling champ, and it shows in the way he is able to work around blocks to get to the quarterback. However, he can show very poor technique and play too high for an inside defender. There is a lot of upside to him as he has great motor. In fact Lance Zierlein compares him to Glasgow. The only question is do the Bengals need another Glasgow? Probably not.