Now that the 2014 NFL Draft has come and gone, it is time to sit down and dissect each individual pick. While the grades have been posted for each Cincinnati Bengals selection, I will take a look at what exactly each pick says about the Bengals.
In recent years, the Bengals have been praised the Monday after draft weekend for their superior selections. While the Bengals aren’t being bashed for their picks this year, they aren’t receiving universal praise either. For the first time in a few years, Marvin Lewis seemed to have made his selections based on need instead of taking the best player available — and that isn’t necessarily a knock.
Filling a Void — CB Darqueze Dennard (24), DE Will Clarke (88), C Russell Bodine (111)
Cornerback, defensive end and center were all positions of need for the Bengals when the draft began. Cincinnati took arguably one of the top two cornerbacks available in the draft with their selection of Dennard. Helping an aging secondary get younger, Dennard fits well with the group thanks in large to his superior man to man style coverage and physicality. This pick was of great value and continues to show the importance of having a strong secondary in a passing league.
As I mentioned earlier, the Bengals filled the Michael Johnson void with an exact replica of their former defensive star. While Clarke provides the Bengals with superior size and pass rushing abilities, he also provides depth to the defensive line against the run, a part of the game he excelled in. The choice of Clarke takes some immediate pressure off of Margus Hunt to perform in 2014, and instead allows the Bengals to be patient with their former second-round pick.
Russell Bodine was someone that Lewis specifically targeted, as evident by just the third draft-day trade in franchise history. Bodine was one of the strongest at the NFL Combine and immediately provides depth at a thin position for the team. Some are confused by this pick, but Bodine is a prototypical Paul Alexander offensive lineman — big, strong and versatile. Bodine can comfortably play three of the five line positions, giving the Bengals ample opportunities.
Upgrading — RB Jeremy Hill (55), QB A.J. McCarron (164)
Did the Bengals need a running back? Not necessarily, but in choosing Hill, they instantly became younger at a position that demands youth. Hill gives the Bengals an incredibly talented 1-2 punch with Giovani Bernard for years to come. Most importantly, Hill comes to the Bengals with very little “wear on his tires”, meaning he hasn’t taken much of a beating through his college years.
With everyone clamoring for the Bengals to select a quarterback, they did so in the fifth round. While McCarron won’t push Andy Dalton out of the starter’s role, he does give the Bengals young quarterback to groom as a backup — think Kirk Cousins in the nation’s capitol.
Special Teams — OLB Marquis Flowers (212), WR James Wright (239), CB Lavelle Westbrooks (252)
Of these three picks, Flowers and Westbrooks have the best chance at having an impact on their respective positions. Flowers provides speed to a linebacking corps that isn’t known for its speed or pass coverage. Westbrooks projects as a safety or nickel corner for the Bengals and could provide effective depth behind Reggie Nelson, George Iloka and Daniel Manning.
For Wright, the path to cracking the season-opening roster will lie within his ability on special teams. He couldn’t crack the starting lineup for the Tigers in college, and the same is likely for the Bengals’ wide receiver corps. Look for Wright to spend quality time on the practice squad in 2014.
Overall, the draft for the Bengals was anything but sexy. Yet, isn’t that what we have come to expect from this new-look organization (the post-Carson Palmer and Chad
Ochocino Johnson years)? The Bengals filled positions of need and provided depth to other areas in efforts to improve an already loaded roster.