Zac Taylor has an uphill climb ahead of him if he wants to compete in the division, but after draft day, everything got a little easier.
The new Bengals head coach collected an awesome draft class, trading up twice in the fourth round for specific targets. The Bengals were taking steal after steal during the draft, then got another steal when they signed Stanley Morgan as an undrafted free agent.
Fans aren’t the ones that are excited about the draft. NFL’s Dan Parr wrote that the Bengals had the best draft class in the AFC North.
Parr gave the Bengals an A-, which is the best grade in the division. The Ravens were second with a B+, the Browns were third with a B, and the Steelers were dead last with a B-.
Here’s what Parr said about the Bengals:
Watching the Steelers trade in front of them to land Devin Bush -- who would have been a good fit at a position of need -- wasn’t an ideal start, but these Bengals were resilient. They rebounded and put together a really nice haul, starting with Williams. The decision to re-sign Bobby Hart seems a lot less offensive now that he can move into a backup role and Williams can start at right tackle. Williams might be even better at guard than he is at tackle, but they got a plug-and-play guy who’ll be a starter on the O-line for the next decade. That’s solid work. Tyler Eifert is back on another one-year deal, but you can’t count on him to stay healthy, so the Sample pick makes sense, although it was probably a little early to take him. He’s likely to be much more effective as a blocker than receiver off the bat, but don’t sleep on his potential as a pass catcher. They finally turned their attention to the biggest area of need with the selection of Pratt, a former safety who’ll bring some thump to a division where you can never have enough of it at LB. It’s hard not to like what they did to start Day 3, adding Finley, Wren and Jordan in Round 4. If all three guys are starting within a couple years, I won’t be surprised, although Finley’s odds are a little longer than the other two (he’s a solid backup at worst, which would still make him a fine value). Williams and Anderson (if he can stay healthy) provide depth at a position where Cincinnati needed it following the release of Mark Walton.
Parr also said that Renell Wren is the biggest sleeper picked in the division:
If the Bengals can unlock Wren’s potential, look out. Measuring 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds, he posted some of the best times among DTs at the NFL Scouting Combine in the 3-cone drill (7.65 seconds) and short shuttle (4.53). Yeah, this is a freakish athlete. Now, his production didn’t match his traits at ASU and consistency wasn’t his strength, which helps explain why he was still available with the 23rd pick in Round 4. It’s up to defensive line coach Nick Eason, who spent 10 seasons in the league as a D-lineman, to work on Wren’s footwork and read-and-react skills. The former Sun Devil has the ability to push the pocket and become a nice complement inside for Geno Atkins. I won’t be surprised at all if he becomes one of the better players at his position in time.
What makes this draft class so great is that the Bengals found a way to draft for need and for potential. Jonah Williams and Pratt will start right away while other picks like Wren, Finley, Anderson or Trayveon Williams could possibly start in the future.
Hopefully, this is the first instance in a long list of Taylor besting the Steelers.