Oct 18, 2014; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles offensive lineman Cameron Erving (75) celebrates a touchdown during the second half of the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
April is nearly here, which means NFL teams will be entering the final stage prior to next month’s draft. Most of the free agent moves that would seriously impact a team’s draft plans have already taken place, so teams should have a pretty good idea of how they’ll approach the draft.
The Bengals’ draft plan is starting to come into focus, as they signed largely all the players they do so. The needs they’ll look to solve in the upcoming draft are also become abundantly clear. Offensive line will be one of the significant focuses next month. And after signing Pat Sims today, it seems the Bengals are locked into grabbing the “best player available” in the first round. That concept has left many fans wondering who will be that selection. Although many will argue that offensive lineman Cameron Erving won’t be the “best player available” at 21, it’s not a certainty he isn’t either.
Cameron Erving is an extraordinarily talented lineman. Across his collegiate career he’s proven to be as versatile as a lineman can be. He’s proven himself to be a highly effective offensive tackle who’s capable of blocking some of the best pass rushers in this year’s draft; he dominated Eli Harold in their matchup while dealing very well with Vic Beasley and the Clemson front seven. These types of performances at tackle give hope to Erving’s fit at tackle, and especially in the AFC North where each of the Bengals’ three opponents employ a 3-4 defense featuring talented pass-rushing outside linebackers.
But despite Erving’s burgeoning stock as a left tackle, he moved to center during his senior season to help mitigate the loss of Bryan Stork. Erving performed extremely well in the middle of the line; so well that he’s considered to be the top center in this year’s draft. He dealt well with nose tackles, which is also important in the AFC North, by using his power and athleticism to turn them and open holes for the running game.
According to some draft pundits, Erving does struggle with mechanics especially when pass blocking. Yet, Rob Rang and Derek Stephens of CBS Sports feel his deficiencies are “correctable with NFL coaching.” I tend to agree. If drafted by the Bengals, Erving would enjoy both the time and coaching necessary to help him flourish. Paul Alexander is a great offensive line coach, and because the Bengals aren’t in immediate need of a starter, Erving would be afforded a year to develop.
The Bengals are also in need of help along the interior of the line. After parting ways with G/C Mike Pollak earlier this off-season, the Bengals currently lack a reserve for the middle of the line. Cincinnati has suffered injuries all along the line in the past few years, so not having the proper depth to potentially replace a guard is worrisome. More than this, the Bengals have literally no other center on the roster who’s spent substantial time with the team; yes, there’s T.J. Johnson, but his ability is average at best it seems. Cameron Erving could give the Bengals the option they need at center, and possibly even replace Russell Bodine if he doesn’t develop the way the team hopes. I’m not advocating for a replacement already, as I believe judging a player after one year is both imprudent and unfair, but it’s an added benefit.
The Bengals love versatility in their players, and Cameron Erving has that in spades. There isn’t a spot on the offensive line he can’t play. He has solid power to match his impressive agility. It allows him to deal both with speed rushers on the outside and power within the interior. His agility also gives him the ability to get to the second level and effectively block linebackers, another important aspect of his game the Bengals would enjoy, as Hue Jackson loves to pull linemen in his power system.
Having a player like Cameron Erving in 2015 would be a win-win for both sides. Erving would help solve the Bengals’ depth issues along the line while giving them a capable starter in the years to come. For Erving, he wouldn’t be rushed into a starting role, which would only allow him to learn the nuances of the NFL game and, in the end, become a better lineman because of it. Cameron Erving may not be the “sexiest” selection at 21, but it seems he could offer the Bengals a lot with just one selection.
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