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Assessing the value Bengals got in Western Michigan CB Darius Phillips

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Darius Phillips could be a future replacement for Darqueze Dennard.

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NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerback will be an interesting position for the Bengals in 2018, especially after taking two players here on Day 3 of the draft, the last being Darius Phillips.

The team made it pretty clear they wanted more cornerback depth after taking Illinois State’s Davontae Harris earlier, though the former is different than the latter. While Harris is considered a height/weight/speed prospect that could guard most receivers, Phillips is considered a ballhawk slot defender who also has the ability to return kicks.

At Western Michigan, Phillips handled kick return duties for four seasons and scored five touchdowns there. He also handled punt return duties his final two seasons. With Adam Jones departing from Cincinnati, the Bengals were wise to add another punt return option in Phillips.

As an actual cornerback, Phillips is considered a slot prospect, so he could also be seen as an insurance policy for Darqueze Dennard being injured or not re-signing with the Bengals in 2019.

Going into the draft, some experts thought Phillips could go in the Round 4-5 range, while others thought he would struggle just to be drafted.

ESPN’s Todd McShay had Phillips ranked 166th overall coming into the draft, while Mel Kiper ranked him 245th. NFL.com ranked Phillips 235th, CBS Sports had him ranked 145th.

The Cold Omaha Consensus Big Board, which factors in every major draft ranking, had Brown ranked as the 172nd-best prospect in this draft.

Looking ahead, Phillips is far from being a lock to make the final roster. Dennard, Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson already have their spots locked up, while Josh Shaw should feel comfortable keeping his spot.

That means Phillips has to battle the likes of Harris, Keivarae Russell, Tony McRae and Sojourn Shelton for the final spots. You have to think Harris and Phillips have a leg up for those spots as draft picks from this year, but as Day 3 picks, that doesn’t mean they’re both locked in.

But while his spot may not be secure, the chance for Phillips to have a role as a rookie is also there, especially on special teams. He’s a better return man than every cornerback on the roster, so even if he’s the fourth or fifth-best guy at his position, he could still be active for most, if not every game if he carves out a role as a returner.