Grading the Draft: Cincinnati Bengals

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Chris Tripodi

Draft Analyst Writer

Cincinnati lost a lot of offense before last season, and it showed as they barely averaged 20 points per game after topping 26 the season before. They also let two top-notch offensive linemen walk in free agency, creating many holes of that side of the football that they worked to address early.

1(9)

John Ross

WR

Washington

2(16)

Joe Mixon

RB

Oklahoma

3(9)

Jordan Willis

DE

Kansas State

4(9)

Carl Lawson

DE

Auburn

4(22)

Josh Malone

WR

Tennessee

4(32)

Ryan Glasgow

DT

Michigan

5(9)

Jake Elliott

PK

Memphis

5(33)

J.J. Dielman

C

Utah

6(9)

Jordan Evans

ILB

Oklahoma

6(23)

Brandon Wilson

CB

Houston

7(33)

Mason Schreck

TE

Buffalo

UDFA Signings: Demetrious Cox, S, Michigan State; Cethan Carter, TE, Nebraska; Brandon Bell, LB, Penn State; Darrin Lafausa, FB, UTEP; Jarveon Williams, RB, UT-San Antonio; Dustin Stanton, OT, Oregon State; Karel Hamilton, WR, Samford; Josh Tupou, DL, Colorado; Monty Madaris, WR, Michigan State; Kent Perkins, OG, Texas; Hardy Nickerson, LB, Illinois; Landon Lechler, OT, North Dakota State; Boom Williams, RB, Kentucky

In the week leading up to the draft, we noted that the Bengals gave John Ross a clean bill of health and were considering him with the No. 9 pick. Some teams had the speedster off their boards due to his injury history, but he adds a deep threat opposite stud receiver A.J. Green after his record-setting 4.22 40-yard dash at the combine. He's more than just a speedster though, and he has the chance to develop into a complete receiver if his health cooperates.

We also nailed Joe Mixon to Cincinnati in Round 2, and the team's interest in the controversial Oklahoma running back was transparent throughout the process. Another game-breaking player who was off many teams' draft boards, Mixon brings a three-down skill set at 6-1, 226 pounds with 4.43 speed and receiving skills and will be a dynamic starting running back if he keeps his head on straight.

Jordan Willis was great value in Round 3 as a borderline top-50 player on our board. A high-character player who showed great athletic ability at the combine, Willis should have an immediate impact as a sub-package rusher but needs to add bulk to his 6-3, 255-pound frame in order to hold up against the run as a 4-3 defensive end.

Carl Lawson wasn't far behind Willis on our board and was an even bigger steal for the Bengals. Like Willis, he needs to improve his strength to be effective against the run but is an explosive pass rusher with fluid movement skills. His shoulder issues dropped him to the third day, and Cincinnati happily took the steep discount.

With their second fourth-round pick, the Bengals drafted Josh Malone -- a third-rounder on our board. With good size (6-2, 208) and speed (4.4) along with the ability to win contested passes in the air, Malone has good upside for his draft position and adds another potentially dynamic weapon for quarterback Andy Dalton.

Ryan Glasgow was the choice near the end of Round 4, and he's an explosive defensive tackle who plays with good leverage. He lacks agility and lateral movement skills but made a big leap as a senior and could valuable in a backup role despite his straight-line tendencies.

Cincinnati's final five picks all came with free-agent grades from us, which means none of them were ranked among our top 270 players despite three going in the top 200.

Jake Elliott was our third-ranked kicker but went off the board first at the position, and he has enough leg and accuracy to be an NFL starter. J.J. Dielman would have rated higher on our board if a season-ending lower leg injury hadn't limited him to five games after switching from tackle to center. Athletic with good skills in motion and the ability to succeed at the second level, Dielman needs to add strength and improve his run blocking but has nice upside.

An athletic linebacker best in a zone system, Jordan Evans blew up the Oklahoma pro day which undoubtedly helped him land in the sixth round. Brandon Wilson has good size (5-11, 200) and speed (4.36) and is a sure tackler, but his instincts and efficiency leave something to be desired. Mason Schreck is a solid blocker with good hands whose speed (4.75) limits him to being a short-area receiver.

The Bengals didn't do anything crazy in free agency, but grabbing Josh Tupou -- a sixth-rounder on our board -- was a shrewd move. A 353-pound gap occupier, Tupou is an underrated nose tackle who would benefit by shedding weight. Brandon Bell is athletic and physical for his 6-1, 233-pound frame and offers possibilities on both passing downs and special teams.

Analysis: The Bengals did an excellent job finding value in the first four rounds, but three of their top four picks come with either injury or off-field red flags, which is why they were available when they were. As a result this draft also has a ton of upside, and we might look back in a few years and wonder what teams were thinking letting players like Willis and Lawson slip as far as they did. Cincinnati succeeded with sheer volume in the final three rounds and free agency, and even if none of those players amount to starters, they should at least add needed depth to the roster. Grade: B+