The Cincinnati Bengals have really done a nice job the last few years in the NFL Draft, adding a plethora of home grown stars that have made this team a consistent threat to win the rugged AFC North year in and year out. Once again, the Bengals enjoyed a strong class in the 2014 NFL Draft, adding a few guys who should make an impact this fall.
Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State), the teams first round pick, joins a loaded defensive backfield featuring four other former first round cornerbacks. Despite that fact, Terence Newman and Adam Jones will be 36 and 31 this fall and both have clearly lost a step, Leon Hall is constantly battling injuries and Dre Kirkpatrick is taking longer than expected developing. Dennard is as polished and pro ready of a defensive back as there was in this draft class, and his strong press cover skills should push him into a big role sooner rather than later.
Second rounder Jeremy Hill (RB, LSU) could replace BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the power back next to starter Gio Bernard this fall. Hill is surprisingly shifty for a 233-pounder and could eventually turn into a three down back down the road. Freshly promoted OC Hue Jackson is looking to implement more of a power run game and Hill could be the guy to provide that punch.
Russell Bodine (C, UNC), the teams fourth round pick will have every opportunity in camp to beat out out both Trevor Robinson and Mike Pollack for the starting center spot. Bodine is an absolute mauler with unbelievable strength who plays with the kind of nastiness and grit you want in interior linemen. Plus, with his versatility, even if he doesn’t win the starting center spot, I’d expect him to get rotational minutes backing up at both center and guard.
And no, it’s not just drafted guys who could make an impact this fall, but potentially an undrafted guy as well. FB Nikita Whitlock (Wake Forest) packs a load at 5-foot 10, 255-pounds, and is surprisingly nimble as evidenced by his 4.34 20-yard shuttle at his pro day. Fullback may be an endangered species in the modern football world, but Whitlock has the athleticism and competitive drive to carve out a lead blocking role for the Bengals tailbacks this fall.
Overall, the Bengals don’t have any glaring holes requiring a rookie to come in and produce right away, but considering the talent they’ve once again accrued this offseason, it’d be a surprise if the guys mentioned above don’t make some kind of impact toward the teams success in 2014.