Pro Football Focus grades the Bengals draft

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 02: Darius Phillips
ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 02: Darius Phillips /

The Cincinnati Bengals had a good draft last weekend bringing in players with versatility and ability to contribute right away.

The Cincinnati Bengals have spent all offseason relaying the message that they are in win-now mode. The front office has extensively told the media that they are looking to contend in 2018 and not just rebuilding for 2019 and 2020. Their offseason moves and participating in free agency and trades made that a little more well known. The 2018 NFL Draft proved their intentions extensively as they brought in versatile players that would be immediate impacts this season.

I personally had a higher grade than some of the networks that have graded each teams draft class. Pro Football Focus ranked the Bengals draft at an 83.8 which was the second highest grade in the AFC North behind the Cleveland Browns. This was an interesting grade for me as I feel the Bengals did an excellent job of not reaching and grabbing players that will be an immediate impact on a team that is looking to compete this year.

Cincinnati took care of their most significant need heading into the draft by drafting Ohio State center Billy Price. While Arkansas center Frank Ragnow was the highest rated center for PFF, he was taken the pick before by the Detroit Lions. Price should bring a significant upgrade over former center Russell Bodine who left for the Buffalo Bills. Add in the addition of new offensive line coach Frank Pollack, and I believe this offensive line makes a huge turnaround this season.

The Bengals also needed playmakers on defense as they were one of the worst in the league with only 14 total forced turnovers in 2017. Drafting Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates was the first action in the draft to contribute and bring a ballhawk to the secondary hopefully. They also brought in Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard and Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson which both fit significant needs against the run and in coverage. Let’s look at how PFF graded each pick.

1 (21) Billy Price, C, Ohio State, 83.8
2 (54) Jessie Bates III, S, Wake Forest, 78.3
3 (77) Sam Hubbard, Edge, Ohio State, 80.8
3 (78) Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas, 87.5
4 (112) Mark Walton, RB, Miami (Fla.), 86.1
5 (151) Davontae Harris, CB, Illinois State, n/a
5 (158) Andrew Brown, DI, Virginia, 77.1
5 (170) Darius Phillips, CB, Western Michigan, 84.2
7 (249) Logan Woodside, QB, Toledo, 84.1
7 (252) Rod Taylor, OT, Ole Miss, 83.1
7 (253) Auden Tate, WR, Florida State, 82.3

There are some very surprising ratings in this list starting with the low grade of Bates. I was one of the many who was shocked when they took him over especially Stanford safety Justin Reid but think that he is the aggressive playmaker they have been wanting. His versatility also opens up what veterans like Shawn Williams and George Iloka can do in the defense as well.

Probably the most interesting grade for me was the last pick by the Bengals, Florida State wide receiver Auden Tate. Outside of maybe landing on the practice squad, I cannot see Tate making the team this season. He’s slow and only a quality target in the red zone from what I have seen. According to PFF, Tate ranked sixth in the nation with a 66.7 percent catch rate in contested situations last season. This will be a player I will have to keep a close eye on during training camp and preseason.

One of the late round players I’m most excited about is Darius Phillips who rated 84.2. This is a kid who went from playing wide receiver and moved to the defensive side of the ball in college and played cornerback. Picking off 12 passes and deflecting 26 in his three seasons, he is the ballhawk that the Bengals have been looking for.

Next: Making sense of Mark Walton

It’s possible that we as fans grade our teams draft classes higher, but when I look at what the Bengals needed and what they got and where they got them, I thought they would rank a bit higher than 83.8. Regardless, this is not a bad grade, and we will see what these rookies look like in 2018. Drafts are hit and miss more than we realize as there are plenty of duds in every round that has high expectations.