The Cincinnati Bengals moved back to the defensive side of the ball with their third round pick, the 88th overall selection, and picked West Virginia defensive end Will Clarke.
The first thing about Clarke that matters is that he fits exactly what the Bengals look for in a defensive end. He’s tall, 6’6″, and has a huge wingspan. He’s athletic, quick, and strong, and though he’s raw, he has great potential. His explosiveness off the snap is as good as any pass rusher in this year’s draft, and he has a good set of moves with which to get pressure. He’s also adept at using those long arms to get into throwing lanes and knock down passes, something else Cincinnati coaches love. In the run game, he’s not a liability. He works hard to be a well-rounded player.
The downside is that he is largely drafted on potential. His frame isn’t huge, so he could struggle against big, strong tackles in the NFL. He also doesn’t have the type of bend around the edge that the great rushers tend to have. However, the Bengals defensive coaches have had success with those types of guys before, and could do it again with Clarke.
The bottom line is that the Bengals lost Michael Johnson and with Margus Hunt still an unknown, it’s no surprise that they targeted a replacement. Clarke isn’t ready to start right away, but the coaching staff has plenty to work with in their new third round draft pick.