The Cincinnati Bengals didn’t make many moves in free agency this offseason, so they’ll need to add impact players through this year’s draft. With nine selections, and a knack for good drafts in recent years, there’s a chance to hit some homeruns, and add players who will make a difference for the 2014 season. The right picks will help them find their way back to the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
Round 1 (Pick 24): Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback: This one will cause some controversy, but Bridgewater was the best passer in the draft until a Pro Day put him on a downward spiral in the media. There are reports that teams have been worried about his size, and he could experience a fall, but if he falls this far, the Bengals should take him. Andy Dalton has been moderately successful, but is in a contract situation. More importantly, it’s just not wise to pass up on a talent that could be a true franchise quarterback.
Round 2 (Pick 55): Philip Gaines, Cornerback: The Bengals need to add youth in the secondary in this draft, and if they don’t take one of the top guys in the first round, Gaines is a solid option in round two. He’s a physical corner who did an excellent job at keeping passes from being completed his way in 2013. He also brings plenty of experience as a starter, and could find himself getting time early on in his career.
Round 3 (Pick 88): Will Clarke, Defensive End: Clarke has the requisite size for the Bengals coaching staff at 6’6″ and 271 lbs. He also has enough speed and agility to be a dangerous pass rusher at the NFL level. He’s still a bit raw, and isn’t an every down player, but his skillset is such that it’s not hard to picture him as one at some point. He could be a steal at this point.
Round 4 (Pick 123): Yawin Smallwood, Linebacker: A combine injury, and resulting slow times, as well as a general lack of value at the inside linebacker position in this draft, has pushed Smallwood’s stock down of late, but he has been extremely productive in college. He is a good blitzer, as well as solid in coverage, and if he falls all the way to round four, something that would be surprising, he’d be an amazing value.
Round 5 (Pick 164): Seantrel Henderson, Offensive Tackle: Henderson is a mammoth 6’7″ and 331 lbs. He’s also quicker than he looks, and has long arms that enable him to keep pass rushers at bay. His ability in the running game is pretty good as well. There are injury concerns, as well as off-field worries, but as a fifth round pick, the Bengals could give him time to work his way onto the field slowly, and he’d have a great mentor in Andrew Whitworth.
Round 6 (Pick 199): De’Anthony Thomas, Running Back: It’s hard to predict where Thomas will go in this draft. His size prevents him from being a heavy contributor, but his skills are hard to pass on. With Giovani Bernard already on the team, Thomas steps in as more of a toy for new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, and a return threat as well.
Round 6 (Pick 212): Devon Kennard, Linebacker: The Bengals have some young, talented linebackers, but with James Harrison gone, they could be on the lookout for potential starters, or depth, at the strong-side spot. Kennard is a smart player who plays well against the run, but who also excels in rushing the passer, especially as a blitzer. He might not start right away, but he’ll play early.
Round 7 (Pick 239): Colt Lyerla, Tight End: Lyerla could have been a first round draft pick, but a series of off-field incidents has led to him being in danger of not being drafted at all. His talent is off the charts, and if he can get his life together, a seventh round pick is worth the risk.
Round 7 (Pick 252): Bryan Stork, Center: The 2013 season saw Stork blocking for Jameis Winston in his heisman run, as well as helping lead them to a National Championship. He’s an experienced player who has leadership skills, and a desire to get better. He also has some games under his belt at guard.
This draft fills the team’s biggest needs, as well as adds some weapons for the offense. The value could be great with players like Lyerla, who could wind up as one of the steals of the entire draft. If the draft were to fall this way, fans will be happy with what they see on the field.