Revisiting the Bengals 2014 draft class

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 07: Knile Davis #34 of the Kansas City Chiefs is tackled by Darqueze Dennard #21 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium on August 7, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 07: Knile Davis #34 of the Kansas City Chiefs is tackled by Darqueze Dennard #21 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium on August 7, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images) /

Four years removed, we can now look at the Cincinnati Bengals 2014 draft class. What does Sports Illustrated give the Bengals for their draft?

The Cincinnati Bengals can now look back and gauge how they did in the 2014 NFL Draft being four years removed. Every year following the draft, analysts and fans grade the draft for their favorite teams, but the grades are flawed considering we don’t know how these players will turn out. There’s no telling whether a draft class was a success or not until the players start coming up on their first real contracts four years later.

Even four years down the road it’s hard to grade draft classes because there are so many variables that can change the grade. There are things like injuries, surrounding cast, and coaching that all factor in on whether a player is a bust or not. If a quarterback goes to a team with a weak offensive line and zero talent around him he is likely not to have much success and could be labeled as a bust. There are also quarterbacks that go through multiple coaches in their first couple seasons making it hard to have success.

The same argument can go for just about any position on the team. If a defensive lineman is the only playmaker along the line and consistently is double teamed making it hard for him to make big plays, he could get a lower grade. With all of the things that you can factor in with a grade even four years down the road, it’s hard to make an accurate one.

When going back over the 2014 draft class for the Bengals, Sports Illustrated gave the team a C. Like every draft class, some players had success and played better roles than expected and players that turned out to not help the team in the way coaches were hoping. Let’s take a look at the class from 2014.

1 (24 overall). Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
2 (55). Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
3 (88). Will Clarke, DE, West Virginia
4 (111). Russell Bodine, G, North Carolina
5 (164). AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
6 (212). Marquis Flowers, LB, Arizona
7 (239). James Wright, WR, LSU
7 (252). Lavelle Westbrooks, DB, Georgia Southern

The only remaining player left on the team is cornerback Darqueze Dennard. Center Russell Bodine went for the Buffalo Bills during free agency and running back Jeremy Hill signed with the New England Patriots this offseason. Quarterback A.J. McCarron was another player that left Cincinnati this offseason to join his fellow teammate Bodine in Buffalo.

Dennard had a breakout season in 2017 making the grade of this class a little better. Dennard came away with two interceptions, six pass deflections, and two sacks in his 2017 campaign. Proving to be a solid slot corner for the Bengals was enough for Cincinnati to pick up his fifth-year option this season. The Bengals will hopefully be able to sign Dennard to a longterm deal next year if he has another season like 2017 this year.

Jeremy Hill looked like a great selection during his rookie season running for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns with a 5.1 average per carry. Unfortunately, Hill wouldn’t reach the 1,000-yard mark again for the Bengals in his next three seasons. His next three seasons he would fail to get above 3.8 yards per carry.

Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals /

Cincinnati Bengals

Defensive end Will Clarke never made it through his full rookie contract and landed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season. Totaling only seven sacks and 26 tackles over his four-year career, he is considered a miss for the Bengals. With Cincinnati’s talented depth at the edge rushing position, it wasn’t a giant surprise he was unable to make the team but the Buccaneers have had minimal talent along their defensive line, and he was unable to start there as well.

Russell Bodine has been the starting center for the Bengals the last four seasons but only because they have failed to bring in anyone better. While Bodine was consistent being on the field, his play on the field was anything but consistent. Cincinnati was rumored to be interested in signing Bodine this offseason, but he was not happy with the offer and left for the Bills.

A.J. McCarron is another player the Bengals lost to the Bills. Only seeing three regular-season starts when Dalton went down with a hand injury at the end of the 2015 season, some fans wanted McCarron to start for Cincinnati. At the very least, be able to compete for the starting job. He decided to leave the Bengals after saying he was never given a shot to start for the team.

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I would have to agree with Sports Illustrated on their grading of the 2014 draft. Dennard had a breakout season which makes him look solid at this point and there was some potential for Hill and McCarron but possibly left untapped. Bodine and Clarke were likely busts, even if Bodine started for the Bengals for four seasons. Regardless, only one remaining player from the class still on the team makes for a lower grade.