The 2014 NFL draft is over.
If we're forced to define the 2014 NFL draft for the Cincinnati Bengals in a single-word, our ideal one-word descriptions would include words like physical and toughness. Jeremy Hill, a tough down-hill runner who will make tacklers miss. Center Russell Bodine, a man that dominated the bench press at The Combine, is a powerful center that Cincinnati has needed for ages in a division with big nose tackles. First-rounder Darqueze Dennard is physical for a cornerback, a capable tackler that doesn't shy away from contact that plays well in man-coverage.
The Rookie of the Year
RB Jeremy Hill (2nd Round, Pick 55): Of the rookies drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals during the 2014 NFL draft, we could easily see Hill dominating this discussion. If, and we're prognosticating Cincinnati's intentions, the Bengals release BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Hill thus becomes the short-yardage back and touchdown producer. Hill is also a better runner, who can break tackles and launch into significant gains. Cincinnati's apparent philosophy this year was more about toughness and physicality than it was explosiveness.
OC Russell Bodine (4th Round, Pick 111): Trevor Robinson, T.J. Johnson, and Mike Pollak. Those are the players standing in Bodine's way to becoming the team's starting center. Truth is that the Bengals not only used a fourth-round pick to acquire Bodine; they used a sixth-round pick to put themselves in position to draft him. They will give Bodine every opportunity to secure the starting gig but it may take some time. According to some predraft reports, Bodine has questionable lower-body strength and tends to rely on his upper body. Additionally he'll need to refine his technique... but he's a fourth-round rookie. You expect these things.
CB Darqueze Dennard (1st Round, Pick 24): This is a case where we keep first-year expectations small, but in reality Dennard is a foundation-level player. Before long he'll be a starter for the Cincinnati Bengals and he will become one of their best defensive backs. However, save for injuries, Dennard will have a hard time surpassing Leon Hall, Adam Jones and Terence Newman. What I really like -- and hope for -- is that Cincinnati has established their future at cornerback with Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick (provided he develops more and more).
DE Will Clarke (3rd Round, Pick 88): He could just as easily become a contributor -- look we're making a predication on a season while only being aware that this player will be with the Bengals for less than a day. Clarke has the long-body that Cincinnati loves, usually a draft template that brought in Michael Jonson, Carlos Dunlap, and Margus Hunt. Johnson and Dunlap needed time to develop into the players that they'd become and Hunt is facing that transition now. Clark has the size that Cincinnati loves but we're not expecting him to hit the ground running.
QB A.J. McCarron (5th Round, Pick 164): McCarron has two paths laid out for him. He'll either fight-to-the-death to supplant Jason Campbell or he'll head to the practice squad. I'm not sure if replacing Campbell will be easy -- the Bengals want a veteran backup quarterback and Hue Jackson has history with Campbell. If they decide to place him on the team's practice squad, then we should expect Cincinnati to protect him somewhat -- not exposing him in preseason games (aka, reducing the amount of information about him so another team doesn't show interest).
The Long Shots
LB Marquis Flowers (6th Round, Pick 212): Flowers doesn't appeal to me as a long-term player; rather a late-round selection that will be used to develop competition at the bottom of Cincinnati's linebacker roster. That's not to say that he couldn't develop and become a contributor. At best, he'll play special teams this year and maybe, he'll develop upward.
WR James Wright (7th Round, Pick 239): Feels like a wasted pick but has enough athleticism that piques Cincinnati's interest... enough so that they'll try to find a role for him (kind of like Onterio McCalebb). However, we see more Bennie Brazell (former LSU wide receiver that the Bengals drafted in the seventh round in '06) than special teams. Camp body.