The Bengals had a pretty good draft. It isn’t going to blow away most fans or experts, but they really set themselves up to have serious depth at several positions.
There were plenty of things to like as well as hate from this draft. Since I’m more of a bad news first kind of guy, we’ll start with the five things I hated from the Bengals draft. Then we will talk about the five things I loved.
Four things I hated
Using all 11 picks instead of trading
Now we all know the Bengals already have a pretty solid roster. Last offseason, they had to make several tough cuts as well after selecting 11 players in the draft. This resulted in the Bengals losing two of their rookies in Jake Elliott and J.J. Dielman.
Elliot was signed off the Bengals practice squad after the Eagles’ kicker was hurt, and we all know how that ended. Dielman had a more frantic journey as he was claimed by the Rams after the initial roster cuts only to be cut by them ad end back on the Bengals practice squad. His stay was a brief one as the Broncos signed him off the practice squad as well. The Bengals also lost Derron Smith to the Browns while also trying to work their roster around.
The Bengals have a fairly deep roster, and there is no way they can house 11 rookies. That means guys will either end up cut, on the practice squad or poached. Those picks could have been traded to either move up or try to gather picks for next season by trading it away entirely.
Not a lot of instant impact players
The Bengals ended up with a ton of talent, but outside of Billy Price at center they didn’t pick up a player who is going to come in and play a majority of snaps right away. Sure, Jessie Bates and Sam Hubbard will get rotated in frequently, but you can’t help but feel like the team is still focused more on potential holes down the road than ones staring them in the face. I can’t be too critical though. The idea of drafting good players regardless of need could end up looking better down the road.
Not enough offensive line
Again, Price is a great addition, but the team routinely passed up the opportunity to draft talented guys who slipped, like Connor Williams. They Bengals actually were on the clock with him available, but they traded back and instead drafted Bates. It is clear the Bengals wanted a safety, but Williams could have come in and at the very least been an upgrade at right tackle.
After Price, the Bengals didn’t draft another offensive lineman until their second pick in the seventh round. It seems like Cincinnati is putting a lot of faith in Frank Pollack as the new offensive line coach to only really bring in two new starters after a horrific season.
Passing on tight ends
We are all hoping Tyler Eifert stays healthy next season and that Tyler Kroft keeps his magic going from last season as well. However, if the Bengals were ever going to take an insurance policy this would’ve been the draft to do it. There were several receiving tight ends that were ready to come in and be contributors in the passing game. Mind you that most of them are basically just receivers, but if Eifert goes down then we are back to having the same issues of last season. It is especially tough as the Ravens added two of these guys in Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews.
Five things I loved
Upgrading at center
For too long we have watched poor center play. It has gotten to the point that when I watch other teams play I can’t believe the lack of push the defensive line is getting. Finally though we don’t have to watch our center get pushed backwards for three hours. Price is an instant upgrade, and he not only brings the toughness this offensive line needs but the mentality. He is ferocious in the middles, and it should be something that spreads to the rest of the offensive line.
Three-safety sets on defense
Bates will allow the Bengals to kill a few birds with one stone. First off, the team needed more depth at the position with Shawn Williams going down with injuries fairly frequently. The Bengals would also like to move away from George Iloka as the free safety in the back with the rule changes that are coming as far as the unnecessary roughness. Bates is a more of a making a play on the ball type safety where Iloka looks to make the hit.
Also, Bates will allow the Bengals to move Williams or Iloka closer to the line of scrimmage while having all three on the field. This keeps the Bengals from having to go into nickel defense just to be able to cover tight ends. This would lead to easy runs for the opposing teams.
The Cordy Glenn trade
It didn’t happen during the draft, but it was conducted with draft picks. The Bengals essentially getting both Glenn and Price for the 12th overall pick was probably the best move in the draft. The Bengals filled two starting positions with extremely talented players in round one. I’m not sure what more we could have expected when the season ended.
Drafting an athletic linebacker
Malik Jefferson may not play much his rookie season, but the potential there is something that should excite fans. He has the ability to play man coverage and run sideline-to-sideline. He has to learn how to process the game better, but we should expect him to get some run in nickel packages where the team either has him just play man coverage or rush the passer to get him some game time experience.
Darrius Phillips, the playmaker
Outside of William Jackson, it has been a little while since the team has had anyone to really get excited about as a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. Phillips won’t play much defense his rookie year, but his 14 total touchdowns in college shows his knack for ot only getting turnover, but turning them into points.
The other thing Phillips does well is return kicks. I know we all love Alex Erickson, but he has yet to return a kickoff or punt for a touchdown. Phillips doesn’t have a ton of experience returning punts, but he still took one back for a touchdown. That kind of ability is something the Bengals and their fans can’t ignore.