The 2018 NFL Draft may be one of the most important drafts in franchise history.
Over the past two offseasons the Bengals have lost talent to free agency faster than they could add it. The Bengals need to use this draft to get back on track with specific emphasis on the offensive line and the defensive front.
The offensive line is clearly the Bengals’ biggest need. They need to find a starter at center and could afford to upgrade the entire right side of the line. The Bengals have addressed the linebacker position in free agency, but will probably continue to address it in the draft.
They had major depth issues at the position as the 2017 season went on. The interior defensive line could also stand to be improved. They may look to add both a pass rusher and a run stopper in that area.
1st Round - Isaiah Wynn - Offensive Guard - Georgia
Wynn played left tackle at Georgia, but at 6’3” he is most likely to find success at guard in the NFL. He is an excellent pass protector and an effective down blocker. Wynn is a surer bet than the offensive tackles who are likely to be on the board at this point and would be an instant upgrade to the offensive line. As he has had success in the past at tackle, they may even look to try him out at right tackle to see if he can do it.
2nd Round - Billy Price - Center - Ohio State
A healthy Price would start immediately for the Bengals. The team would need to weigh the pros of Price’s long term ability to contribute to the team against toe con of his current pectoral injury. If they feel that he will be ready for camp, than this pick is a no-brainer. He is a physical player who instantly changes the demeanor of the Bengals offensive line. He misses at times, but his errors tend to be because he is too aggressive. That is the type of problem offensive line coaches don’t mind dealing with.
3rd Round - Malik Jefferson - Linebacker - Texas
The Bengals may have signed Preston Brown, but only a to a one-year deal. Combine this with the fact that Vontaze Burfict is facing another suspension and it becomes clear that linebacker is still a position of need for the Bengals. Jefferson is an excellent athlete who needs to get better at finishing tackles. He has huge upside and is known as a leader on the Longhorns’ defense. The Bengals’ defense lacked leadership when Burfict was off the field last season. Jefferson may be able to fill that void.
3rd Round - Jalyn Holmes - Defensive Lineman - Ohio State
The Buckeyes have some great defensive players in the draft, Holmes may not be one of the first guys who comes to mind, but he is well coached and has the versatility that the Bengals need to add to their defensive front. Holmes gives the Bengals an interior pass rusher to pair with Geno Atkins. He also has the ability to play on the edge in running situations.
4th Round - Brandon Parker - Offensive Tackle - North Carolina A&T
Parker most likely caught the eye of just about every NFL team as they scouted his former teammate Tarik Cohen prior to last year’s draft. At 6’7” 300 how could they miss him? Parker has been a force at tackle at the FCS level. He has won largely on raw strength, and will need to develop in order to be an NFL starter. The Bengals need to take chances in the mid rounds to find potential future starters.
5th Round - Siran Neal - Defensive Back - Jacksonville State
Neal is athletic, versatile, and a big time hitter. He could add depth at safety and contribute on special teams. Think of him as a FCS version of Minkah Fitzpatrick. He could help the defense in many different ways as a sub package player. He could provide the Bengals with an alternative at nickel corner in Darqueze Dennard does not re-sign in 2019. Neal is a huge sleeper because he comes from a small school, but his film is extremely impressive.
5th Round - Justin Jones - Defensive Tackle - North Carolina State
Jones could play defensive tackle on early downs and has shown some ability to get to the passer. Jones seems to be slipping through the cracks because their is so much talent at the defensive tackle position in this draft. He has the ability of a day two pick, but it is doubtful that he will go that high. With Pat Sims unsigned and Andrew Billings unproven, the Bengals need an early down defensive tackle. A defensive tackle who can occupy blockers will help them get the most out of Preston Brown.
5th Round - Cole Reyes - Safety - North Dakota
Reyes is a great fast-twitch athlete and excellent tackler. He would give the Bengals depth at safety and help on special teams. This is another small school gem who the Bengals could find a major contributor in. The Bengals need to add depth and athletic ability to their secondary. Reyes could also be a major contributor on special teams.
7th Round - Javon Wims - Wide Receiver - Georgia
The Bengals have had success with many Georgia players int he past (a certain wide receiver comes to mind). Wims is no A.J. Green, but he could be an excellent possession receiver. Wims could be an eventual replacement for Brandon LaFell as his skill set is relatively similar.
7th Round - Logan Woodside - Quarterback - Toledo
The Bengals currently have Matt Barkley and Jeff Driskel slotted in as their backup quarterbacks, but with as many draft picks as they have they may look to take a shot on a developmental prospect. Woodside is a talented spread quarterback who could develop into an ideal backup to Andy Dalton. They have a somewhat similar skill set, so if Woodside had to fill in it would not have a major impact on play calling.
7th Round - Skai Moore - Linebacker - South Carolina
The Bengals have a major need for depth at linebacker and Moore helps them in this area. Moore is an instinctive player who had an extremely productive college career. He will slip in the draft due to injury concerns and his lack of the ideal size and speed. Having shown great production and ability on the field validates giving him a chance to show that he can do it at the next level.