Let me start off by saying this is one of the harder case study teams to read into on multiple fronts. First is how will this team do with an almost whole new defensive front after losing Kevin Zeitler, and Andrew Whitworth who both are arguably two of the best at their respective positions. Meanwhile, their replacements in former first rounders Cedric Ogbuehi and Andre Smith who is returning after a brief stint with the Vikings. Neither have me convinced that they will keep Andy Dalton upright. Dalton is another question mark to me coming into this season and I would like to see how he competes with less than stellar blocking upfront, which is something he has not really had to face in his career thus far. I was never a big believer in Dalton being considered one of the better young quarterbacks in the league. He is not terrible by any means, but he needs a lot of help around him to be able to get wins. Adding John Ross who is just a flashy receiver was not the route they should have gone to help out their franchise quarterback in my opinion, but that's a rant for lower in the article. It will be interesting to see how they stabilize the run game between Gio Bernard, Jeremy Hill, and ugh....Joe Mixon. A strong run game is the best way to protect Dalton and his limitations.
On the defensive side of the ball I think they will get more of the same from last year. They have some great pieces on the line with Carlos Dunlap and more so Geno Atkins. However, others on the front like Michael Johnson and others need to step up to take attention away from the two studs. Rookies Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson may be able to do just that for the Bengals. I know Vontaze Burfict is a really good linebacker, but in his contract season it will be interesting to see if he takes his game to another level and find a way to stay clean on the field to not miss a chunk of games. If I were the Bengals I would be extremely hesitant to give a player like him with his baggage a big payday where he can just mail it in after getting the extension. The rest of the backers need work too though with Kevin Minter being on a one year deal and the other potential starters do not really give me much confidence. The secondary should is an odd spot for the Bengals where aging head case Adam Jones is still out playing former first rounders Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard. I would like to see those two play better, but neither has shown much promise yet. Hopefully last year's first rounder Will Jackson can stay healthy and provide some young potential for them. Overall, I always felt like this defense was solid, but not overly athletic which always seems to bite them in the butt against the better teams in the league.
In the end, this will be a interesting season for the Bengals future with Marvin Lewis in his now 14th season and zero playoff wins. In any other city he probably would have been canned a few seasons ago, but for all the chaos with the players the Bengals have been loyal to a fault with their head coach. I am not one to call for a persons job, but after being mediocre for so long it is time to move in a new direction if you are the Bengals. On the season, I think they will end with an 8-8 record in a very difficult division. I can see them getting a lower record also if better teams like the Steelers and Ravens sweep them, I generously predict each will split the series since teams in the AFC North play each other notoriously hard. Games against the Texans, Bills, Colts, Broncos, Titans, Packers, and Lions all look to be difficult games to predict for them as well. Which, is why this team is one of the harder teams to predict the outcome for.
1 (9) - John Ross WR - Here is where I will rant on why I was never sold on Ross and why I hated this pick. First off he was the third wideout taken in the top 10 picks so obviously the Bengals were probably reaching here trying not to miss out on one. Unfortunetly, they got the one who is a whole 5'11" and 188 lbs with an injury history already. I mean like the dude pulled a hammy at the Combine where you are supposed to be in the best shape of your life to me that showed he did not work out enough or he is just that brittle. He reminds me of Tavon Austin who has done nothing since being such a lofty draft pick for the Rams. If anything I think Ross is more limited due to his smaller stature to do the underneath stuff Austin does and be on the return team. Overall, I never like receivers in the first round due to their high bust rate, but I also dislike undersized receivers who are even more limited. The Bengals were better off bolstering their pass rush here in my opinion.
2 (16) - Joe Mixon RB - You already know my view on players who mess up off the field and more so ones who get caught hitting women. They deserve no spot in the NFL in my opinion and should not be drafted. It only perpetuates younger players' view on being able to get away with anything and still being able to get drafted due to their talent. That is not an image you want to project to the youth, but again the NFL pretends to care about the actual integrity of the game and usually chooses talent over everything. I bet he will be a starter for the Bengals in the end and be a very good one to be honest that does not mean I have to like it. I just think the NFL has to step up and start actually putting their foot down on players who mess up this bad. Playing in the NFL is not a right at all and to stamp out others doing this sort of thing they have to start barring players from being allowed to play.
3 (9) - Jordan Willis DE - Even though I hate how the Bengals take in players with criminal records I cannot deny that this was a terrific pick in my opinion. They needed to get a pass rusher to push Michael Johnson and getting Willis here who many thought could have been a late first rounder is an excellent value pick. I was not that high on him as others due to his size limitations and lack of electric speed. However, his high energy and strength makes him a threat on every down. This was a very nice pick and should prove fruitful for a long time.
4 (9) - Carl Lawson DE - After a few ugly first two picks the Bengals hit it in my opinion on Willis and now Lawson here in the later rounds. If not for a few injuries years prior Lawson could have also been a first rounder. He stayed healthy all last year and if he can maintain that clean bill of health and continue to get his feet under him I can see him being a terrific gem here. His style on the edge is more so of a wrecking ball than a speedster, but he does have speed to go along with his ferocity. Even if his injuries have sapped his ability to stay on the field every down I think he will prove to be a nice rotational pass rusher.
4 (22) - Josh Malone WR - Here is where I am more comfortable picking a receiver to be honest. Since many take a bit to get up to speed in the NFL they do not have to be pushed to play early like the first rounders and if they pan out like many due from the later rounds you look like a genius of a GM. I was not particularly keyed in on Malone here, but I do like him more than Ross thanks to his size and more than enough speed. He will turn into the better compliment to A.J. Green than Ross will by the end of the year.
4 (32) - Ryan Glasgow DT - More nice depth on their defensive front which could use it next to Geno Atkins who is often a one man show in the middle. The other tackles beside him like Andrew Billings, and Pat Sims have not been able to stabilize the position. Plus, with Domata Peko leaving who was a solid contributor Glasgow can find a way on the field in the rotation. I am not sure he has the athleticism to be a main stay, but throughout the draft process he showed a lot of energy and effort. He should be a fine rotational piece with some upside for more.
5 (9) - Jake Elliott K - Ugh, I am not particularly fond of using a decent draft pick on a kicker. In my opinion, they are either a 7th round pick or undrafted pick ups. Here is where you can land a player who can provide depth and possible be on the coverage team. Instead, you land a kicker who will have pressure to perform and prove his draft spot. Plus, he got selected over the much more talented Zane Gonzalez who in my opinion was better than Roberto Aguayo who was the Bucs 2nd round pick.
5 (33) - J.J. Dielman C - Like I said above the line may be an issue next season and even the center spot is included now that Kevin Zeitler is gone to protect Russell Bodine he may be in for a long year. Dielman may not break out of camp as a starter, but he also has versatility to play both guard spots as well. Overall, not a bad late round pick who can provide quality depth for their weak front.
6 (9) - Jordan Evans LB - Outside of Burfict I always thought the Bengals had one of the least athletic linebacking cores in the league. Heck, that includes Burfict who is a weak defender against the pass. Evans is an uber athletic prospect with nice upside after lighting it up at his Pro Day. However, his size may limit him on being an every down defender, but in today's NFL smaller linebackers are in vogue. Maybe the Bengals catch up with the times and use Evans as a pass coverage specialist against tight ends and slot receivers. At the very least he will provide quality play on kick coverage.
6 (23) - Brandon Wilson RB - More running back depth for a team that could use it after how poorly Hill and Bernard performed last season. In Wilson's case he is so athletic he can play at running back, or defensive back with quality tape at each position at Houston. To start he should be a return specialist, but if the coaching staff can unlock his potential he can be a great late round gem.
7 (33) - Martin Schreck TE - Some tight end depth behind oft-injured Tyler Eifert is not a bad idea. However, as 7th rounder Schreck's best shot to play is on the coverage team and maybe become a quality blocker on the edge.
2018 Off Season:
This off season could be one of change for the Bengals if Marvin Lewis leads the team to a sub .500 season. If not I can see him returning, I mean if they wanted to replace him after a mediocre season they would have done it five years ago. I would like to see them get better blockers this off season to keep Andy Dalton comfortable in the pocket and possibly finding another weapon if Ross or Mixon do not pan out. Defensively I just do not see them being athletic enough to compete with high powered offenses like the Steelers or even the Lions who can put up points. That's something they need to work on and that includes figuring out what they have in the secondary with so many of their first rounders not playing up to potential. If no one steps up there they should be in the market for an overhaul there. Unfortunately, for the Bengals I think they are in that gray area where they can be stuck in the middle for awhile since they are not so bad to be tanking for quality players, but also not good enough to be a real playoff threat.
My 2018 Mock Selections:
1 (17) - Malik Jefferson LB Texas
2 (16) - Maea Teuhama OG LSU