There is a familiar narrative that the Bengals do not draft well. Despite the fact that they are coming off a bad season, the Bengals have played at a consistently high level in recent years. This coupled with the fact that they have more originally drafted players on their roster than any other NFL team seems to tell a different story. This article will take a detailed look at how the Bengals have fared in each round of the draft over the past five seasons.
This year the Bengals have a top ten pick, which has not happened since they drafted A.J. Green with the fourth overall selection in 2011. The Bengals picks over the last five years have ranged from the seventeenth pick to the twenty-fourth overall selection. With picks in this range, the expectation is generally to get a day one starter who could develop into a pro bowl player.
The Bengals have had six first-round selections in the past five seasons. The best of the group was Tyler Eifert in 2013. Eifert has struggled at times with injuries, but he is one of the best tight ends in the NFL. In 2012 the Bengals had two first-round selections the first was starting corner Dre Kirkpatrick and the second was Kevin Zeitler who recently departed in free agency. Kirkpatrick got a bit of a slow start but is a solid player who is continuing to improve. Zeitler was a starter from day one and himself a huge contract with the Cleveland Browns.
The Bengals’ first-round selections from the past three years are still a work in progress. 2014 first round corner Darqueze Dennard has seen only limited time, while last year’s first round corner William Jackson III missed his entire rookie season with an injury. Cedric Ogbuehi, who the Bengals drafted with their first pick in 2015, played a lot of right tackle early and is moving into the starting left tackle role permanently with the departure of Andrew Whitworth.
The Bengals get an “A” grade for 2012-2013 but an incomplete for 2014-2016. To hold the “B” grade, Ogbuehi needs to show that he can anchor the offensive line as the left tackle. If that happens and Jackson looks good coming off an injury, the only real miss here is Dennard.
In the second round, teams expect to get solid starters. Of the Bengal’s six second round selections over the past five years, four remain on the roster. Running backs Giovanni Bernard (2013) and Jeremy Hill (2014) were both second round picks. At one time that would have been seen as a positive, but the two struggled last season. Defensive linemen Devon Still (2012) and Margus Hunt (2013) are both no longer with the team. Right tackle Jake Fisher was second round pick in 2015 and though he is slated as the starter, the jury is still out on him. Tyler Boyd was last year’s second round pick and looks to be a solid addition at receiver.
This grade could easily be a “B” if the running backs bounce back and Jake Fisher establishes his presence at right tackle.
Teams should expect to get starters in the third round as well. Mohammed Sanu (2012) was a third round pick who played very well for the Bengals before leaving in free agency. Tight end Tyler Kroft (2015) has played well in a limited role. Defensively the Bengals have drafted end Will Clarke (2014) and linebacker Phil Dawson (2015) who have not played a significant role. 2013 pick Shaun Williams has developed into the team’s starter at safety and 2016 pick Nick Vigil looks to be moving into a starting spot at linebacker this season.
In this case, “B” is for “benefit of the doubt” which is what I am giving Nick Vigil. If he is a good starter for the team next year then this is a B performance, if he falls flat, it is a C.
Teams should be able to find some eventual starters in the fourth round as well. The Bengals have had six-fourth round picks in five years. The only two selections worth mentioning are Russell Bodine and Andrew Billings. Bodine has had struggles, but has been a starter ever since he arrived in 2014. Billings was injured during his rookie season last year but will get his chance to take the nose tackle spot this year.
If Bodine can improve and earn an extension and Billings can win the starting job, this grade jumps up to a B.
Expectations decrease at this point in the draft. Teams are hoping to get someone who can contribute and play a role. The Bengals have had seven-fifth round picks in five years. The best in the bunch were starting safety George Iloka and wide receiver Marvin Jones who started for the team before leaving in free agency. Both of who were selected in 2012. This is also where the Bengals also acquired backup quarterback A.J. McCarron, potential 2017 starting guard Christian Westerman, and tight end C.J. Uzomah who played well last year.
The Bengals have pulled a few rabbits out of their hats in the fifth round.
6th Round and 7th Round
Sixth and seventh round picks are long shots. There is a known flaw with a player, and these players won’t even necessarily make the active roster. The sixth round is where the Bengals drafted running back Rex Burkhead who was an excellent role player for them and receiver Cody Core who the team is very optimistic about.
The Bengals come in roughly at expectation here if not a bit below.
Overall Grade: B
We have yet to see what the Bengals’ last three first-round picks will become, and the underperformance of their running backs calls their second round picks into question. In the meaty part of the draft, rounds three through five, the Bengals have done pretty well in recent years.