The Bengals impressed Bleacher Report with their classes’ depth of talent. Did they underrate the star potential from last year’s class, though?
Bleacher Report put out a ranking of all 32 teams’ draft classes from last year, now one year later. The Bengals ranked tenth overall, which is pretty solid. The team had 11 picks, although only 8 of them are still on the roster. In order, the Bengals drafted WR John Ross, RB Joe Mixon, DE Jordan Willis, LB Carl Lawson, WR Josh Malone, DT Ryan Glasgow, K Jake Elliot, LB Jordan Evans, C JJ Dielman, S Brandon Wilson, and TE Mason Schreck. Elliot, Dielman, and Schreck are no longer on the team.
What Bleacher Report liked best about this draft class is the depth of talent the Bengals got. One year later, the first round selection of John Ross seems like a flop, even if he does bounce back in year two. Aside from Ross, though, the Bengals hit on just about every pick. In the second round, they snagged Mixon, who’s become a stud running back. They have two dynamic edge players in Willis and Lawson. Malone, Glasgow, and Evans are solid rotation pieces moving forward as well.
While Bleacher Report did a pretty good job grading out this draft class, they made two key mistakes in their rankings. For one, they listed Mixon as the best player from the Bengals’ draft class. That take isn’t obscenely incorrect, but Lawson is definitely the most valuable player from the 2017 class. Mixon is primed to break out, but Lawson has already exploded, posting 8.5 sacks in limited playing time. Lawson also plays a more valuable position as a pass rusher than Mixon. Both players look like they will be great, but Lawson was the best pick of the draft.
Also, Bleacher Report put the Bengals tenth, but the teams directly ahead of them have considerably worse hauls. Green Bay, Seattle, and Tampa Bay are ranked ninth, eighth, and seventh. Green Bay’s best two players from their class were RBs Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones. Williams and Jones played fine last year, but their combined efforts about equal what Mixon did last season. Aside from them, Green Bay can’t match talents like Lawson, Willis, or Glasgow.
Seattle and Tampa Bay have issues with their classes, too. CB Shaquill Griffin and C Ethan Pocic may have starter potential, but neither have the upside of Mixon or Lawson. The Seattle draft class has similar depth to the Bengals’ class, but it lacks the potential. As for Tampa Bay, their class lacks depth. TE OJ Howard was solid in a complementary role, and S Justin Evans and LB Kendall Beckwith started several games for the Buccaneers. Aside from possibly Howard, none of those guys have ridiculous talent, and nobody else from that class has any value to Tampa Bay.
Clearly, the Bengals should be higher in the rankings, then. They have the rare combination of upside and depth in a draft class. Both Mixon and Lawson could be elite at their positions, and there are several more pieces on this team that will contribute in the future. If Ross can have a bounce back season, this draft class will be one of the best ones in recent years for the Bengals.