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Bengals draft grade roundup: The final word on Cincinnati’s 2019 class

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Mixed reviews scatter the internet when it comes to the Bengals’ draft class.

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It’s been less than a week since the 2019 NFL Draft wrapped up in Nashville, Tennessee. Has enough time passed for every team’s draft class to be judged? Absolutely.

The purpose of grading drafts right after they happen is pin your personal evaluations against the NFL’s. After enough time has passed, a re-grade is in order based on how the evaluations panned out to be.

Did a player develop properly in the environment he was placed in? Did you misvalue an important aspect of his profile? Did you underestimate team X’s stupidity?

The learning never stops.

It’s tough enough analyzing one team’s decision-making process. Doing it for the 31 other franchises is a task too great for feeble minds. Perhaps that is why the Bengals’ draft class has received a wide array of reviews this week.

Here’s your Bengals draft grades round up for 2019:

ESPN.com (Mel Kiper Jr.): A-

It’s tough to know what to think about the Bengals in 2019. While longtime coach Marvin Lewis is gone and Zac Taylor is now in charge, Mike Brown still runs things. That means the team is going to build through the draft and not worry much about free agency. In fact, Cincinnati didn’t make many notable moves, other than parting ways with Vontaze Burfict and re-signing its own guys. After a 6-10 finish last season, is this team better?

This is not a sexy class, but it’s solid throughout. Jonah Williams (No. 11) is a no-brainer immediate starter, either at guard or tackle. Germaine Pratt (No. 72) is a converted safety who will likely end up at outside linebacker in Cincy’s 4-3. The versatility makes it good value. I didn’t love Ryan Finley’s tape as much as Todd McShay -- he gave Finley a second-round grade -- but Andy Daltonshouldn’t be locked in long term, so this is another option for Taylor if Dalton underwhelms. To get Finley at No. 104 is solid.

Drew Sample (No. 52) is a really good blocking tight end, but even he didn’t expect to go in the second round. That was high with more complete tight ends available. Renell Wren (No. 125) had an up-and-down career for the Sun Devils, but he impressed at the Senior Bowl and has some intriguing athletic traits. I’m intrigued by the Day 3 running backs with Trayveon Williams (No. 182) and Rodney Anderson (No. 211). Anderson is one of the most talented backs in the class, but he simply couldn’t stay on the field. Williams is going to help spell Joe Mixon in the receiving game. Jordan Brown (No. 223) is a good corner for the seventh round.

Williams and Sample are the only surefire early starters, but there’s some upside with Finley and the Day 3 running backs. This group will help Taylor navigate his first year on the job.

NFL.com (Chad Reuter): A-

Draft analysis: Cincinnati desperately needed help at offensive tackle, and Williams proved he can handle playing on the left or right side at Alabama. With both of the top inside linebackers off the board, this pick made a whole lot of sense. Just a solid pick.

Sample was considered one of the better combination tight ends (run blocker/receiver) in the draft, and the new Bengals coaching staff wanted that sort of player on the roster. It was probably two rounds too early, though. Pratt will be a good inside ‘backer for Cincinnati, which needed to replace Vontaze Burfict.

Finley has the chance to be a starter eventually, whether it is in Cincinnati after the Andy Dalton era concludes or with another team via trade. Wren’s athleticism is just waiting to be tapped by the right coach -- don’t be surprised if he becomes a top-notch starter. Jordan is a guard for the Bengals, who could use an upgrade there. Mark Walton’s departure made Williams a must-pick, given his value. Anderson’s injury history caused him to fall into the sixth round, but that pick could pay off if he can get healthy. The addition of Brown’s coverage ability closed a strong draft for the Bengals.

SB Nation (Dan Kadar): B-

After getting jumped by Pittsburgh for linebacker Devin Bush, the Bengals took offensive tackle Jonah Williams at No. 11 overall. Maybe he’ll be the one to fix the team’s ongoing issues at tackle.

The Bengals helped their blocking issues further with Washington tight end Drew Sample at No. 52. That seemed a little early for him.

It was evident coming in that the Bengals needed a starting linebacker. They got one at No. 72 with Germaine Pratt of NC State. He’s a close comparison to Vontaze Burfict.

Cincinnati needed a quarterback and got one in NC State’s Ryan Finley. He’s accurate with otherwise average tools. But can he be anything more than a solid backup?

CBS Sports (Pete Prisco): B-

Best pick: Fourth-round defensive tackle Renell Wren will end up being a steal. He was miscast as a nose tackle at Arizona State, but should flourish in their defense.

Worst pick: I am not a big fan of Ryan Finley, their fourth-round quarterback. He might never be more than a career backup.

The skinny: They smartly addressed offensive line with their first-round pick by taking Jonah Williams, who will be a Pro Bowl player someday. Adding two backs in Trayveon Williams and Rodney Anderson late were also good moves.

Sporting News (Vinnie Iyer): C

Whom they drafted: OT Jonah Williams, TE Drew Sample, OLB Germaine Pratt, QB Ryan Finley, DT Renell Wren, G Michael Jordan, RB Trayveon Williams, LB Deshaun Davis, RB Rodney Anderson, CB Jordan Brown

The Bengals started with a bang with Williams, but after that, their picks to further usher in the Zac Taylor era were mostly unimpressive and uninspiring. Sample was a reach and they missed out on better linebackers.

Pro Football Focus: AVERAGE

Day 1:

Pro Football Focus’ No. 4 overall player in the class, offensive tackle Jonah Williams was a steal for Cincinnati at pick No. 11 in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. While many want to kick him inside to guard, Williams should have his chance to prove himself at tackle in the NFL after earning impressive run-blocking and pass-blocking grades as a three-year starter with ‘Bama split between right and left tackle. Williams’ high-end production should translate to the next level quite easily.

Day 2:

Among draft-eligible FBS tight ends with at least 300 offensive snaps played in 2018, Sample ranked 14th in overall grade (75.5) and first in run-blocking grade (82.3). But Sample’s admirable efforts as a blocker still shouldn’t have warranted such a high selection on Friday. The former Washington tight end entered the draft as the No. 192 overall player in the class on PFF’s final big board.

NC State’s Germaine Pratt doesn’t enter the NFL with great coverage ability, but his pass-rushing ability and run defense were both outstanding last season. Earning an 84.7 pass-rush grade and a 90.3 run-defense grade, Pratt turned in the seventh-best overall grade (90.3) among qualifying off-ball linebackers in this class in 2018. PFF was higher on other off-ball linebackers still available at pick No. 72, but Pratt still wasn’t as big of a reach as Sample given that he landed at No. 115 on our board.

Day 3:

Cincinnati traded up on Day 3 to snag former NC State quarterback Ryan Finley at the top of the fourth round, a great move on all accounts. Largely because the board reflects positional value, Finley was slotted as a top-100 player for PFF in this year’s class and well worth the No. 104 selection. He lacks the type of arm strength most would like to see at the NFL level, but throw for throw he’s one of the most accurate QBs in the class.

Former South Dakota State cornerback Jordan Brown, PFF’s No. 150 overall player, was another great value pick for the Bengals on Day 3. Brown is a big, physical cornerback who dominated lesser FCS competition in his career at South Dakota State.

Bleacher Report (Kristopher Knox): D

Most Notable Pick: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama (No. 11)

The Cincinnati Bengals did the smart, obvious thing and took the top offensive lineman on their board with the 11th overall pick. Alabama’s Jonah Williams is a polished technician and a solid, safe choice. If he doesn’t prove to be one of best tackles in this class, though, Cincinnati’s draft is going to look very, very bad.

Williams’ selection was a safe one. Cincinnati’s pick of run-blocking tight end Drew Sample (No. 52) in Round 2 was a baffling one. Sample is underrated as a pass-catcher and could prove a good player, but the Bengals didn’t need to pull the trigger on him so high.

”You will obviously have a hard time finding somebody with a 2nd round grade on Drew Sample,” Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweeted. Sample was almost universally pegged as a Day 3 talent.

The Bengals also used a fourth-round pick on developmental quarterback Ryan Finley (No. 104). Maybe they see him as a future starter, but the presence of Jeff Driskel negated the need for a backup quarterback.

Cincinnati desperately needed to add players who could start and contribute significantly in Week 1. Williams is the only player likely to do so.