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NFL Draft 2015: Bengals Grades

We review the Cincinnati Bengals 2015 draft class and use arbitrary letter grades that have absolutely no meaning. If you were grading the draft, how you rate this class overall and by position?

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Generally speaking, grading a team's draft class takes time. How would the 2012 draft class been viewed immediately after the draft, compared to the three-year benchmark that most people apply. Marvin Jones, George Iloka, both fifth-round draft picks, are significant contributors to their respective units.

So we broke down the grades into two segments. Immediate grade looks into a player's likelihood to helping this year as a rookie whereas the long-term grade is more of a projected outlook over the next three years. Most of this is clearly guesswork and most of my projections are based on the team's outlook, as opposed to predicting that player's career.

CEDRIC OGBUEHI (1st round, 21 overall), OT, Texas A&M

Cedric Ogbuehi suffered an ACL tear during the Liberty Bowl last December and has been in a state of rehabilitation since; before the injury he was viewed as a top-15, if not a top-10 prospect for this year's draft. Ogbuehi and the coaching staff believe that he'll ready for training camp but the question really is, how effective will he be?

Spending the entire offseason repairing a serious knee injury compromises a player's training regiment that would normally be applied to become stronger/better. It's the same argument that we've used with Geno Atkins, who returned from an ACL, over the past year. Ogbuehi could be ready by training camp and might play in jumbo-package and goalline situations. Other than that, I'm not expecting much in terms of contributions in 2015. Next year is another story entirely.


JAKE FISHER (2nd round, 53 overall), OT, Oregon

With Ogbuehi's immediate contribution facing serious doubts, Fisher could be the team's second backup tackle while being versatile enough to slide inside to offensive guard (in case of injury). We're not going to pretend to know Cincinnati's long-term plans, but eventually Fisher will become a starter somewhere on the offensive line.


TYLER KROFT (3rd round, 85 overall), TE, Rutgers

Son becomes father, and now father becomes son... or something ridiculously cliche-like. When the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Tyler Eifert in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, he was designated as the second tight end behind Jermaine Gresham. Now that Gresham is gone, Eifert slides into the veteran tight end role while Tyler Kroft becomes the younger brother who provides multiple tools as a blocker and as a pass-catcher. Kroft is an early candidate to receive the most snaps as a rookie from this class.


PAUL DAWSON (3rd round, 99 overall), LB, TCU

Perhaps Dawson is a pick that's based on the Vontaze Burfict contingency; the more you read about his career at TCU and listen to him speak, the more you dissolve that opinion fairly quickly. A Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, first-team all-Big 12 player, Dawson is a wrecking machine that suffered from poor workout numbers during the predraft process.

This is a guy that could immediately contribute -- he'll be stuck on the back-half of the roster early but it wouldn't be surprising if he found a way to start (without the benefit of another's injury) before the end of the season.


JOSH SHAW (4th round, 120 overall), CB, USC

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis views Shaw as a nickel cornerback; at least earlier in his career. A talented player that lost draft position due to a well-publicized fib, Shaw figures to open his career on special teams before slowly navigating into the team's secondary rotation. It'll be difficult for him to break into the lineup for quality playing time but if Vance Joseph and Mark Carrier develop him over time, he could be a significant contributor.

IMMEDIATE GRADE: B- (special teams)

MARCUS HARDISON (4th round, 135 overall), DT, Arizona State

During his final season in college, Hardison generated 10 quarterback sacks, 15 tackles for loss, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and 53 total tackles. Combined with Geno Atkins, this duo could become a lethal combination that gives Cincinnati four legitimate pass rushers with Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap -- at least it ceases the need to slide a defensive end inside. We're getting ahead of ourselves; and projecting a little too much. I don't imagine we'll see much of Hardison in 2015 with several players to jump over on the team's depth chart.


C.J. UZOMAH (5th round, 157 overall), TE, Auburn

Clearly selected to becoming a priority blocker, we suspect that Uzomah would be more of a big-package (jumbo formation or goalline situations), if he makes the team. Cincinnati likes Uzomah's athleticism for his size and believe that his upside could surpass what was observed at Auburn. Regardless, the biggest question is whether they moved too quickly on Uzomah, who was viewed with undrafted free agent projections by some.


DERRON SMITH (6th round, 197 overall), S, Fresno State

Perhaps the steal of the draft for Cincinnati, Smith generated day two projections (second and third rounds) and a few bold first round projections. A sports hernia set him back, but the safety (who recorded 13 interceptions in the last two years) believes that he's at 100 percent. With Reggie Nelson and George Iloka entering free agency next year, Smith could be a starting safety this time next year. We'll expect him to start his NFL career on special teams.


MARIO ALFORD (7th round, 238 overall), WR, West Virginia

Cincinnati needed a receiver. And 238 picks into the 2015 NFL draft (their ninth selection), they finally found their guy. Alford is a player that Cincinnati likes who can make an immediate contribution as a special teams player. Alford returned 37 kickoffs for 972 yards (26.3 yard/return) for two touchdowns in college. In addition to that, Alford posted 65 receptions during his final collegiate season and generated 945 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns.