Grade : A
Round 1 Pick 24 – Darqueze Dennard CB
Round 2 Pick 55 – Jeremy Hill RB
Round 3 Pick 88 – Will Clarke DE
Round 4 Pick 111 – Russell Bodine C/OG
Round 5 Pick 164 – AJ McCarron QB
Round 6 Pick 212 – Marquis Flowers LB
Round 7 Pick 239 – James Wright WR
Round 7 Pick 252 – Lavelle Westbrooks CB
If the golden mantra is to draft the board and take the best player rather than draft for need then the Bengals have done just that. They have continued to build a roster that is one of the deepest in the NFL.
In round one the Bengals drafted Michigan State cornerback Darqueze “No Fly Zone” Dennard. Depending on how you looked at the draft either Dennard, Justin Gilbert or Kyle Fuller was the top cornerback available. Therefore, getting Dennard with the 24th overall pick was quite a steal for the Bengals.
Dennard is a fast strong cornerback who hits hards. Perhaps his best feature is his calmness under pressure. Using his long arms Dennard is able either bat away or intercept throws. Last season he used this calmness under pressure to break up 14 passes and intercept a further 4. Plus, out of 31 attempts only three receptions went for 15 yards or more.
He has all the attributes to be a great NFL cornerbacks. He has some flaws in his technique such as how he extends his arms whilst tracking receivers which could lead to holding penalties. The bonus for the Bengals though is that the return to fitness of Leon Hall and Dre Kirkpatrick's strong later season form means that Dennard can be eased into life in the NFL. Overall, Dennard is a great pick for the Bengals.
With the appointment of Hue Jackson to offensive co-ordinator it was likely that the Bengals were going to add power to the running back position. By drafting Jeremy Hill with the 55th overall pick the Bengals have done just that by picking up a power running back Jeremy Hill. Hill should be the perfect compliment for number one RB Giovanni Bernard. Plus Hill has experience working in a committee.
Playing at LSU last season, Hill averaged 6.9 yards per carry as he accumulated 16 touchdowns and 1,401 yards in total. If he can replicate something close to that form in the NFL then he will be a success.
It is also worth mentioning the acquisition of running back James Wilder Jr in free agency. Wilder Jr is immensely talented but dropped out of the draft due to the overall devaluation of the RB position and some off the field issues. If he can focus on playing though then Wilder Jr could be a valuable weapon for the Bengals. On talent alone he might even be a better player than second-round draftee Hill.
Dovetailing nicely with the acquisition of running back Jeremy Hill and Andy Dalton's ongoing contract situation is the fifth round pick of AJ McCarron. McCarron may have talked loudly and often about being a round one pick but his talent is more realistic of a fifth round pick.
What is interesting though, is what if any effect this has on Andy Dalton's contract situation. If the Bengals are going to be a the run heavy offense moving forward the question is whether Dalton is worth keeping around.
Although, McCarron isn't a great QB he does have experience at leading winning teams at college level. If all the Bengals need off the QB position is someone to act exert calm in the pocket and to hand the ball off to the runner then McCarron could be the player they need. It helps also that McCarron will presumably feel he has a point to prove since he feels he is worth much more than a fifth round pick.
The Bengals continued to add depth to the roster with their other picks. Round 3 selection Will Clarke will slide in behind Margus Hunt in the depth chart and will initially offer some competition as a situational pass rusher. Whilst fourth round pick Russell Bodine should add competition in at center and can also play guard if needed.
Overall, the Bengals played the draft perfectly by adding depth to the roster across the board.
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