The Bengals 2020 draft couldn’t have gone too much better. There may have been some picks you felt like there were players on the same tier as another, but overall, there wasn’t a drastic reach or major head scratcher. Also hard to ignore a team getting their franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow.
This brings us to the post draft process where the many outlets that spend months dissecting teams’ needs and the various prospects themselves decide how well each team did. One outlet whose opinion holds plenty of weight is Pro Football Focus. Their analytic focused view was particularly happy with how Cincinnati operated during this years draft. When Steve Palazzolo and Sam Morrison broke down the AFC North’s drafts, they dumped plenty of compliments on the Bengals.
The Pro Football Focus duo gave the Bengals an A for 2020. It was hard to argue with after looking at the overall haul. Rather than touch on each pick let us discuss some of the points they made during the video.
One of the first things they talk about is drafting Tee Higgins to pair with Burrow. Morrison in particular talks about being a fan of drafting a wide receiver to pair with your rookie quarterback to develop alongside each other. This isn’t a new procedure for Cincinnati as the last time they drafted a quarterback, Andy Dalton, he was paired with A.J. Green in the first round. As Even McPhillips of Pro Football Focus has noted, this pairing may be very potent together because they play off each others strengths.
Joe Burrow's @PFF passing grade:— Evan McPhillips (@emcphil) April 28, 2020
On throws of 20+ yards: 99.3
On throws 10-19 yards: 95.1
Tee Higgins' @PFF receiving grade:
On targets of 20+ yards: 94.5
On targets of 10-19 yards: 92.1
There were some questions over whether the Bengals drafted the right wide receiver with Denzel Mims appearing to be the top prospect at the position, but that will just have to be something we watch for the next few seasons. If Higgins and Burrow become a dynamic duo, it is hard to imagine that anyone will complain.
Palazzolo does make the suggestion of Cincinnati moving on from Green because of how setup the Bengals appear to be at the position after adding Higgins to add with Tyler Boyd and John Ross. To his credit, he also suggest holding onto him for at least a season to help Burrow in his rookie season before moving on.
This line of thinking is very analytic, but we have seen receivers play well into their 30’s (Green will be 32). Injuries have obviously been a concern the past two seasons for the Pro Bowl receiver, but when he is healthy, there are few players as dynamic as he can be. Not to mention he finally has a quarterback that he won’t have to potentially bailout on most of the throws his way.
One could easily suggest that the Bengals should treat Green like how the Arizona Cardinals have held onto Larry Fitzgerald. You allow them to transition into the next part of their career while helping develop a stable of young wide receivers. After all, who would be a better mentor to Higgins than Green himself? As long as Green can prove he can stay healthy next season he should be around for what will likely be the rest of his career.
One of the few problems the PFF folks had with the Bengals draft was the lack of offensive line help. One pick in particular was a point of contention. When Cincinnati drafted linebacker Logan Wilson in the third, they would have rather seen the team select offensive tackle Josh Jones. It really doesn’t help in hindsight when the Bengals also ended up adding two more athletic linebackers to go along with Germaine Pratt.
That may end up being the biggest “what if” from this draft. The Bengals had talked all offseason about liking their offensive line, and how they saw linebacker as a huge need going into the offseason. Jones just would’ve been an incredible value at that spot, and he likely gives you a pair of franchise tackles with Jonah Williams returning from injury on the left side.
Palazzolo says it himself that you can’t fill every hole in the draft, and that is true. We could see the Bengals attempt to add a veteran who gets cut, or they could trade for someone if their tackles don’t progress the way they had hoped. It is hard to argue though that they didn’t solve their linebacking issues that have plagued them for roughly a decade when you see how each of them graded out.
Logan Wilson: 93.3 @PFF grade and 90+ grade in coverage, pass-rush and run-defense since 2017— Evan McPhillips (@emcphil) April 27, 2020
Markus Bailey: 91.9 coverage grade since 2016
Akeem Davis-Gaither: 87.0 run-defense grade and 82.2 pass-rush grade in 2019
I'd say the #Bengals have addressed the LB position
For years now we have watched non-athletic linebackers get trotted out against these fast paced offenses that have become the norm in today’s NFL. Now they will have at least four linebackers who can keep up with the speed of the NFL. Teams routinely isolating linebackers in coverage against the Bengals won’t be successful nearly as often as these guys develop.
There are plenty of things to nitpick at, but the overall grade of A says it all. The Bengals clearly got better this offseason, and it will be exciting to see this same philosophy towards the offseason going forward.