ESPN’s Mel Kiper re-graded the 2018 draft, and the Bengals scored quite poorly.
Kiper initially gave the Bengals a B immediately afterwards, but now that he has seen a season of productivity from that class, he changed his mind.
The Bengals new grade has fallen all the way to a C+.
According to Kiper’s grading system, the Browns and the Colts (who drafted two All-Pros) were the only teams to get an A, whereas the Titans, Buccaneers, Saints, and Jaguars all graded the lowest with C’s.
Other teams to get C+’s were the Steelers, Cardinals, Dolphins, and Raiders. The Bengals’ draft, according to Kiper, was in the bottom nine this past year.
Why did the Bengals slip?
The two gems of this class came on Day 2, but the jury is still out on the rest of the group, including top pick Billy Price. The center had a rough rookie season, starting 10 games around an ankle injury, and could even move to guard in 2019. Price was my third-ranked center -- he had a second-round grade on my board -- and needs a bounce-back year.
Safety Jessie Bates (111 tackles and three interceptions) looks like a second-round steal, while defensive end Sam Hubbard (six sacks) made an impact as a rotational pass-rusher. Hubbard might not be an every-down player, but he’s a steady guy to have as the No. 3 DE. Will Malik Jefferson make an impact in Year 2? I was surprised he played so little on a team that needed help at linebacker. The Day 3 picks didn’t do much of anything in Cincy.
Bates is the best player in this class, a potential Pro Bowl player, but there are a lot of questions about how the rest fit in, especially with a regime change under new coach Zac Taylor.
Most people would agree that Jessie Bates is the best player in the class of 2018, with Sam Hubbard also having a great rookie campaign.
Hubbard’s Ohio State teammate, Billy Price, definitely struggled in his rookie season. Price probably weighed heavily on the Bengals’ grade, being the first round pick.
In the end, Kiper’s grade might actually be a little generous. If you remove Bates from the class, this isn’t that strong of a class at all. Kiper pointed out third rounder Malik Jefferson, who couldn’t find any playing time despite the Bengals fielding one of the worst linebacking unit in the NFL. He was definitely drafted as a project, but could have benefited from more playing time.
Fourth rounder RB Mark Walton had 19 total touches for 75 yards, and he even barely saw playing time despite injuries to both Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard throughout the course of the season.
In the fifth round, the Bengals took two cornerbacks. Darius Phillips was pressed into service late in the season, but had his fair of struggles. Davontae Harris hit IR out of training camp, so he was basically a non-factor. Fellow fifth round pick DL Andrew Brown joined him on IR, along with seventh round pick G Rod Taylor.
The Bengals’ first of three seventh rounders was QB Logan Woodside, who is currently with the AAF’s San Antonio Commanders, is second in the league in passing. The Kentucky native barely got any practice time during training camp, and was subsequently cut at the end of camp.
The best player taken in Round 7 was WR Auden Tate, who only suited up for seven games. He was one of the more exciting rookies from training camp and preseason, but he only had 4 catches on 12 targets for 35 yards in the regular season.
Part of the reason the Bengals’ rookie class did so poorly is because of the sheer number of Day 3 picks compared to the rest of the draft. The Bengals have this tendency to trade back for more picks in later rounds. As a result, the Bengals had three fifth-round picks and three seventh-round picks. Perhaps if the Bengals keep their higher picks, they might find some better talent.
Regardless, Bates and Hubbard highlighted the Bengals’ rookie class, while the rest of the picks either didn’t the impact of they should have based on where they were drafted or any impact at all.
If Kiper had decided to give the Bengals a worse grade, that could probably be justified. But he decided on a C+, which is not ideal, but is pretty good considering how this group actually performed.
Hopefully Zac Taylor will find a way to make strides with this class in Year 2.