With the NFL draft over and in the books, here is a look at which members of the Bengals organization benefited the most from the incoming rookie class.
Practically a no-brainer, quarterback Any Dalton saw an upgrade in talent at key skill positions in the Bengals offense. Dalton will now have two deep threats who can stretch the field in A.J. Green and John Ross which should relieve some pressure from the offensive line and eliminate the number of times opposing defenses crowd the box against the run. Fewer defenders in the box mean fewer hits on Dalton which can only be a positive in his book. Add Joe Mixon to the equation and the Bengals offense looks well-rounded. That should take pressure off Dalton. He won’t shoulder the load of putting up all the points.
With the Bengals opting out of taking a linebacker in the early rounds of the draft, it looks as if the team is placing its trust in young linebacker Nick Vigil. Many experts thought the Bengals would look into selecting a starting linebacker during this year’s NFL draft. But, the team decided to improve other positions of need. With the departure of veteran Karlos Dansby, the starting role of outside linebacker is up for contention between the reserve linebackers of Vincent Rey, Marquis Flowers, and Nick Vigil. Between the three players, Vigil is projected to be the opening day starter for the Bengals.
Whether you love or hate the Bengals draft, we can all agree the team added a few exciting playmakers. Cincinnati added young promising talent to a roster which is trying to turn around their misfortunes from last year’s results. The team now has solid depth at wide receiver and running back which should help the Bengals compete as the season wears on. On the defensive side, Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson are expected to bring an upgrade to the pass rush, an area of concern for the team last year. While the team still has a few questions marks and some players carry red flags, the Bengals organization certainly improved at key positions on the team. As for the fans, we get to sit back and look forward to what the Bengals young threats can do for this franchise.
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One of the biggest winners of the draft is also one of the bigger losers. While the Stripes added some key skill players, the team failed to address the issues on the offensive line. With the departure of the team’s top linemen in free agency, Cincinnati is counting on a pair of young tackles in Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi to help anchor the weakest unit on the team. Both players will have to show vast improvement in pass protection this upcoming season or it could be a long, painful year for Dalton and the Bengals.
Since his return to Cincinnati, Johnson has only registered 8.5 sacks his previous two seasons. Now, with eight seasons in the NFL behind him, Johnson is starting to show signs of regression and age. His strength and power rush ability are starting to become less effective. With the selection of Willis and Lawson in this year’s draft, it looks as though the Bengals have found the eventual replacement for Michael Johnson. While the Bengals are known as a team that slowly brings along its draft picks, Johnson’s inconsistency and lack of production may make him an expendable option for the Bengals. Most likely, Johnson will begin the season as the team’s starter. But, it might not be long before the athletic rookie takes his spot in the starting rotation.
After drafting Joe Mixon in the second round, Cincy’s backfield has suddenly become crowded and much more talented. Due to injury and inconsistencies, Hill has struggled the past two season’s and may soon be the odd man out in the team’s backfield rotation. While Hill has said he feels 100% healthy and is looking forward to showing what type of player he can be, Mixon brings similar talent plus speed and catching ability that Hill will have to compete against. Hill will also become a free agent at the end of the season. With other key Bengals hitting the market, the organization may see Hill as someone the team can’t afford to keep as only a situational back.