The first round was exciting, the second round was confusing, and in the third round, the Bengals finally found a player to fill their biggest need ,and it was a good one.
After years of neglect and stop-gap players like Kevin Minter and Karlos Dansby, the house of cards that was the linebacker position finally collapsed in 2018. The position was a huge weakness full of players who struggled in coverage, struggled to tackle, and struggled to stay healthy.
Now, the Bengals have made a move to change that by adding North Carolina State linebacker Germaine Pratt with their third-round pick of the 2019 NFL Draft.
What Pratt brings to the Bengals
Speed: The Bengals needed an athletic upgrade at linebacker, and they got it with Pratt. His testing is okay, but his play speed is much better. He is always flying around and never seems to be out of a play. He has the speed to make plays all from sideline to sideline, whether it be in the run game or the pass game.
Tackling: Getting to the ball carrier does not do much good if you can’t make the tackle. The Bengals’ entire defense struggled to make tackles in 2018. Fortunately, they added a linebacker who does not struggle in that area. Pratt is an excellent tackler. He hits hard and high bringing his hips through the tackle for power. Pratt is equally skilled as a tackler in the open field or in the gap.
Pratt doesn't miss tackles either. One miss every 23 attempts is good for 6th best of all LB prospects.— JG (@JoeGoodberry) April 27, 2019
Coverage: Pratt is very good coverage linebacker, which is something that the Bengals lack. He has the skill to play effectively in zone coverage and the athletic ability to cover tight ends and big slots. This fills a big need for the Bengals who have struggled with underneath coverage.
Upside: In just his first year as a starter and second year playing the position, Pratt had 104 tackles. He is really just learning to play linebacker, which means he has plenty of room to grow. This was already a very good pick, but it could prove even better as he develops in the Bengals defense.
Why the Bengals picked Pratt
Need: Linebacker was the Bengals biggest need coming into the draft. They likely would have drafted a linebacker earlier, but they missed out on the Devin’s in Round 1, and there was not great value at the position in Round 2. Pratt will have a chance to start as a rookie because the team really needs a shot of life on defense and a long-term solution at linebacker.
Skill: On film alone, I actually graded Pratt above Devin Bush, but Bush’s combine obviously makes him stand out. Pratt is a complete linebacker who makes plays in every facet of the game. He has all the tools to step in and contribute from day one in the Queen City.
Versatility: Pratt has played inside and outside linebacker over the last two seasons after starting is collegiate career as a safety. He is also flexible in his role. He had two interceptions as a junior and 6 sacks in his senior year, proving that he can frustrate a quarterback in multiple ways.