While most mock drafts are having the Cincinnati Bengals take an offensive lineman in the first round, a secondary player is not out of the question.
The Cincinnati Bengals have made some aggressive moves this offseason as they try a new route leading into 2018. Several moves have taken care of holes in the roster like trading for left tackle Cordy Glenn from the Buffalo Bills and signing Bills inside linebacker Preston Brown to hold down the middle of the defense. They also retained tight end Tyler Eifert under an incentive based deal and brought in defensive tackle Chris Baker as an upgrade under a one year deal.
The offensive line is clearly the biggest area of need even after the trade for Glenn and the Bengals will likely spend a good deal of their draft picks in that area. Even after moving back nine spots in the first round, the Bengals still might not take an offensive lineman as it’s a deep class, especially on the interior. Could the Bengals spend their first round pick on a defensive player?
According to the first mock draft by Joe Goodberry of The Athletic, Cincinnati will save the offensive line help for day two and select safety Justin Reid of Standford. The Bengals lacked playmakers in 2018 as they were toward the bottom ranking 30th in the league in forced turnovers. This defense needs playmaking abilities in 2018 if they are going to improve and give the offense more chances to score.
Brother of LSU All-Pro and NFL Pro Bowl safety Eric Reid, Justin Reid is very similar in his abilities and athleticism on the field. His versatility is exactly what teams are looking for at the next level and very hard to find. Pro Football Focus ranked him positively in pass coverage, pass rush, and run stoppage and made him one of their top ten most underrated west coast prospects.
Reid improved his draft stock at the NFL combine in March running a 4.4 40-yard dash, 36.5-inch verticle, and 128-inch broad jump. Probably the most impressive drill that Reid excelled at was the 3-cone drill at 6.65. While he was estimated to be drafted in the first or second round, he will most likely be taken in the first after his performance at the combine.
In 2017, Reid hauled in 94 total tackles, 6.5 for a loss, 1 sack, 5 interceptions, and 6 pass deflections. Just the stats alone show how versatile of a player he is but I decided to take a look at the film and see what it showed. There was plenty of games to watch from 2017 and Reid did not fail to impress.
Most of his snaps the last two seasons he was lined up in the slot while still lining up at free safety a third of the snaps. His ability to play both is outstanding and from either position, he has the instincts and aggressiveness to make a play on the ball. While his aggressiveness can get him into trouble at times, the positives far outweigh the negatives. The Bengals need a player that can make plays and take the ball away and line up in different parts of the defense.
He excelled best in man coverage where he was sticky on his man. Reid reacts extremely well to route and formation changes as well making it very difficult for wide receivers to get separation. He possesses the speed to keep up with not only tight ends but slot receivers as well which is rare at the safety position. His five interceptions in 2017 led the Pac-12 and were just outside of top ten in the nation.
Taking into account that Reid spent so much time in the slot in 2017, 465 according to PFF, makes this stat from PFF even more impressive. Most safeties, including college, don’t spend near as much time in the slot as Reid did and he still made top ten in this category.
Not only was Reid good in coverage as a slot corner but he played some single high safety while at Stanford as well. His speed and acceleration allow him to play sideline to sideline and still make a play for the ball or provide help over the top. He also made plays in the run game even when lined up as a free safety as he had the ability to break down a play and diagnose where the runner was going and make a stop.
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Reid has a remarkable football mind and is extremely intelligent at recognizing plays from the film and executing the gameplan. It doesn’t matter where you line him up, he will make a difference. While he was a playmaker all around the secondary, he can also make plays down in the box. There were many times where he was lined up inside the box as a hybrid linebacker or on the edge to rush the passer.
There were multiple games including against San Diego State and Oregon State that I noticed Reid lining up inside the box as an outside linebacker. His ability to drop down to the box and not only be able to plug running lanes and make tackles in the backfield but drop into coverage if needed if extremely valuable. The Bengals still don’t have a linebacker that is great in coverage and if they can bring in Reid who can also play the linebacker role it would really take this defense to the next step.
He can also line up on the edge and blitz the passer. His acceleration is often too much for tackles as he flies right past some and is able to change direction to get off his blockers at other times. He only recorded one sack in 2017 but he was involved in pressuring the quarterback often enough. There were a few times I noticed him lined up over the slot receiver and then rush the passer instead and still get in the quarterbacks face with his top speed.
The Bengals need a versatile safety and with guys like Derwin James and Ronnie Harrison likely to be gone by the 21st pick, a guy like Reid could be a guy they can take to fill that role and still be a Pro Bowl talent down the road. He would be an immediate starter if head coach Marvin Lewis was willing to give his rookies more production in their first season. With the other changes that Lewis has made this offseason, I wouldn’t rule it out.
Reid brings help on every part of the defense. He also brings in a backup plan if the team cannot sign cornerback Darqueze Dennard after his fifth-year option is up. Add the fact that you can move him across the defense and keep offense’s guessing, he would be a huge asset to this defense.