Know Your Enemy: Bengals 2017 NFL Draft Review

The day after the draft, I posted my thoughts, my initial reaction, to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft haul based on my understanding of their needs and wants and what was available to them at the time that they were selecting. I am hoping to be able to provide the same sort of insight for the Steelers’ divisional opponents, perhaps from a bit of a Pittsburgh perspective.

Next on the docket will be the Cincinnati Bengals, who missed the playoffs for the first time since drafting A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, suffering their first losing season as a result. They took a few significant blows in free agency, but are hoping that they’ve patched up those gaps.

Two years ago, Cincinnati lost their number two and three wideouts, and tried to replace them with free agent Brandon LaFell and second-round pick Tyler Boyd, who had a decent but certainly not breakout rookie season. Added to that cache now is the fastest-ever officially-timed player in NFL history, John Ross, who is much more than pure speed. If he can stay healthy, he and Green can be a very worrying tag team for the Steelers’ cornerbacks. Also picked up in the fourth was Josh Malone, a size prospect with A+ work ethic on an upward trajectory.

The Bengals, as they are wont to do, took a major gamble on character in the second round with running back Joe Mixon, a very talented ball carrier with receiving ability who likely spells the end of Jeremy Hill, who has plodded along for 3.7 yards per carry the past two seasons.

Over the course of the next two rounds, they took a rather unusual and interesting approach in hoping to address their weakening pass rush, taking a couple of edge defenders who profile better as 3-4 outside linebackers based on their side. Jordan Willis is 6’4”, 255 and Carl Lawson is just 6’2”. The Bengals tend to go for length at their end positions in the 6’6”-6’7” range, so  they’re starting to look outside the pass for pass-rushing help, which has been an issue the past couple of years.

Cincinnati looked to bolster its depth at all skill position players, also adding tight end Mason Schreck in the seventh round as well. Brandon Wilson is listed as a running back but I believe they plan on using this versatile player on defense.

Center J.J. Dielman was added in the fifth round, who will pair with last year’s add, Christian Westerman, as interior reserves, or maybe even compete for a starting spot. Defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow is needed depth after losing Domata Peko. Andrew Billings from last season should also be ready to contribute.

Finally, last but not least, like the Browns, Cincinnati was among the teams whose kicking games struggled the most, so they, too, turned to a kicker, drafting Jake Elliott at the top of the fifth round, who was a first-team all-conference performer for four seasons with a touchback rate of nearly two thirds.

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