With the 2014 NFL draft on the horizon, now seems like a good time to go back and regard the Cincinnati Bengals 2013 NFL draft.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper was the first to do so (behind a pay wall, of course), and his grade after the season is actually lower than his first reaction after draft day:
I really liked the Bengals’ draft, and gave it one of my top grades. I wrote: “The Bengals seem to be a groove with the draft, the only downside being the picks that came via the Carson Palmer deal are now spent. It was fun while it lasted.”
It sure was fun, especially when you consider that extra second-round pick turned into Giovani Bernard, who was easily one of the top rookies this season, and not only ran the ball well but was second among all rookies in catches. Eifert wasn’t a star, but he could become a major player here, and he had a catch in every game, which isn’t easy to do when there are good weapons all over this offense.
Hunt saw some time, but we don’t know if he’ll ever become a player. There really isn’t much after that, but the first two picks look fine, and this wasn’t a team with major holes going in. I think the grade holds up OK.
It is certainly an interesting view by Kiper, who seems to be taking a “what have you done for me lately?” approach to his analysis.
Giovani Bernard on his own should warrant the grade Kiper dishes out, but the draft class simply does not fit well with how he is grading each group of players.
We knew going in that the Bengals, thanks to a loaded roster, would be merely drafting for the future — likely the strategy the team will employ in the 2014 draft. So to knock the grade down a bit because Margus Hunt was only a rotational piece and the rest of the class below him acted as role players makes sense, but perhaps a different scale is necessary when one critiques a team not looking for immediate contributions.
For what it is worth, a look back at the 2013 class in the next few years could produce a wildly different grade. Tyler Eifert may be the only starter on the team with Jermaine Gresham gone, Bernard may be the lead back, Hunt may start in place of Michael Johnson and both Sean Porter and Shawn Williams may work their ways into starting roles.
Like any good draft class, the 2013 group the Bengals brought in will get better with time. There is simply no reason to change any positive grades that were dished out right after the draft concluded.
Ask again in a few years, and it is an entirely different story.