Bengals rookie wideout Auden Tate was given an outside chance of making the roster when he was drafted in the final round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
The former Seminole was a fantastic target when he played in Tallahassee for Florida State, but he was one of the slowest receivers in the draft. There are some who don’t think he can overcome his lack of speed.
During minicamp, he continually drew praise from his teammates and coaches. He is proving that he can be a dangerous red zone weapon, and he even makes contested catches when he’s up against the best cornerback on the team in William Jackson III.
Tate has kept that up with a good showing in training camp thus far. If he makes the final 53-man roster, he could become a scoring machine for the Bengals, if given a chance, which isn’t something the Bengals often do right away with late-round picks.
Not only was Tate a Day 3 draft pick, but as the 253rd overall pick, he was only three picks away from being Mr. Irrelevant. The Bengals would love to see Tate make the roster, both from an initial investment standpoint and an economic one.
In reality, the Bengals would love for all of their late-round draft picks to be overwhelmingly successful. The third day of the draft is a great time to find deals on fresh talent. Thanks to some offseason trading, the Bengals had seven picks on Day 3 this year after having four on the first two days combined.
The Bengals drafted Mark Walton in the fourth round, Davontae Harris, Darius Phillips and Andrew Brown in the fifth round, and Logan Woodside, Rod Taylor and Tate in the seventh round.
These players will be joining a legacy of current and former Bengals from the later rounds who have clawed their way to success. Below are some of the best Bengals players to come out of the third day of the draft and members of the 2018 draft class who could soon join them as being top Day 3 picks.
Successful Bengals Day 3 draft picks
Carl Lawson, 4th round 2017
It might be too early to tell how Lawson will fare during the course of his career, but he had a great rookie season despite minimal playing time. All of the players on this list took at least one season before they hit their strides, but Lawson produced right away.
Lawson suffered a hip injury in his final year at Auburn, which caused his draft stock to drop. But he seemed back to his former self in 2017 with 8.5 sacks, which was the most among a rookie class that included a pass rusher as the first overall pick and several other first round defensive ends.
Clayton Fejedelem, 7th round 2016
As a safety, Clayton Fejedelem doesn’t have that many defensive snaps logged, but he was named as a special teams alternate for the Pro Bowl in 2017. That is quite the achievement for a seventh round pick in his second season.
George Iloka, 5th round 2012
Iloka rose up in the ranks pretty quickly in Cincinnati, becoming the starting free safety after only one year. Now a five year starter, he’s under contract until 2021, and is a perfect example of success for a Day 3 draft pick. He only made $2 million in his first four years in the league. In 2016, the Bengals signed him to a five year extension worth $30 million. Even a non-mathematician can tell that is a nice raise for a deserving player.
Clint Boling, 4th round 2011
As part of an offensive line that was full of holes last season, Boling was the one ray of sunshine at left guard. His Pro Football Focus rating was only at 75.5 last season, but it took a hit when he switched over to tackle for the last few games. With his college teammate Cordy Glenn at left tackle, Boling will be able to find his rhythm again and keep Andy Dalton’s blind side locked down. It’ll help that he won’t be sandwiched between two lackluster players.
Geno Atkins, 4th round 2010
Another one of Boling’s college teammates, Atkins is one of the best defensive tackles in the league. The former Georgia Bulldog has pretty much done it all in eight seasons. He has 62 career sacks, eight Pro Bowl appearances, three straight NFL Top 100 appearances, and two first-team All-Pro selections. The only thing he doesn’t have is a ring, but he’s working on that.
Rudi Johnson, 4th round 2001
We have to go back quite a few more years for the last two players on this list. Johnson’s career got off to a slow start, but once he became the workhorse back in 2003, he was one of the best in the NFL. From 2004 to 2006, he recorded three straight seasons of 1,300+ rushing yards (including two of 1,400+) and 12 touchdowns, yet strangely only went to one Pro Bowl in that stretch. He ended his Cincinnati career with almost 71 rushing yards per game and 48 touchdowns, but injuries cut his career in Cincinnati short. His last season was in Detroit for the Lions’ tragic 0-16 campaign in 2008.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, 7th round 2001
Houshmandzadeh is leaps and bounds the Bengals’ best seventh round pick since the draft was shortened in 1994. In his eight years with Cincinnati, he posted five 900-yard seasons, breaking the millennium mark twice. In those five seasons, he averaged six catches a game as well as hauling in 43 touchdowns. Will Tate can reach those marks? We can only hope!
This is what the class of 2018 has to look up to, so which of them will be added to this list?
Best chances for success among 2018 class
Obviously, we should all be rooting for everyone to have great NFL careers. But in reality that isn’t going to happen; the Bengals might not even have enough spots available to keep all of their draft picks on the 53-man roster. But there are a few players who not only have a chance at making the roster, but have a shot at being every down players—or even Pro Bowlers in the long-run.
Its too soon to say for sure, but you never know. In a re-draft of the 2010 class, Atkins would definitely be a first-rounder; in a 2001 do-over Houshmandzadeh would not fall to the seventh round. There are some players who have a higher ceiling than we can realize, even with all the scouting and analysis that goes on today.
With that said, here are the Bengals who have the best chance of success in Cincinnati.
Mark Walton, 4th round
If draft position is any indication, Walton should, in theory, have the best chance of making it big out of all the Day 3 picks. A short, stocky back, he will start off as the third-string running back, but will have opportunities to make some plays.
He will have to make an impact on special teams, which is part of the reason the Bengals drafted him. But, he should get a few carries out of the backfield in his rookie year, too. If there is an injury to Joe Mixon or Giovani Bernard, Walton will have the chance to showcase his skills. If all goes well for him, his path to stardom could be similar to that of Rudi Johnson.
Darius Phillips, 5th round
Typically, late-round steals come from small schools, even though Iloka is the only one on the previous list not from an FBS program. Phillips could live up to that billing.
The Western Michigan product scored 14 times in his collegiate career, and has plenty of special teams experience, which is how many late-round picks make a name for themselves early in their careers. Phillips will probably take over return duty from Alex Erickson right away. If he proves himself on special teams, he could become the slot cornerback by next year if the Bengals don’t re-sign Darqueze Dennard. With some good coaching, his athleticism and ball handling skills could become a huge asset and he could develop into a mainstay for the Bengals for years to come.
Auden Tate, 7th round
Bringing this discussion full-circle, we land back on Tate. With Tyler Eifert’s spotty injury history, the Bengals want some good red zone weapons, which they lacked in 2017. Tate is an excellent jump ball receiver and a matchup nightmare in the end zone. Almost a quarter of his catches in college were touchdowns, which is a trend he will look to continue in the NFL.
Which Bengals rookie do you think has the best chance at succeeding in Cincinnati?