Another year added to the longest playoff win drought in NFL history, the Cincinnati Bengals have now gone 26 years with a postseason victory. Yet, Marvin Lewis remains the head coach. While it appears the hotseat is hotter than ever year after year, he always finds a way to keep his job. After reaching the postseason the previous five years in a row, the Bengals stumbled to a 6-9-1 record in 2016. To put salt in the wound, they lost two pivotal members of their offense as both Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler signed massive contracts elsewhere. Looking at the team, they may be in the worst state we’ve seen them in for quite sometime. However, with a strong draft, they can still remain relevant in the AFC North and perhaps compete for a Wildcard spot as the Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to run away with the division this season.
Looking at this year’s draft class, it’s extremely deep. I could see the Bengals putting a heavy emphasis on defense as they will look to take advantage of the strong crop of defensive players. While they have big shoes to fill on the offensive line, it appears as if they’re placing faith in two former high draft picks (Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher) to take a huge leap forward in their 3rd seasons. Plus, this is one of the worst overall offensive line classes you’ll ever see.
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Round 1 (Pick 9): Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
The Bengals decide to overlook that incident at the NFL Combine as Foster presents too much talent to pass on. The Bengals could use a jolt to their defense, specifically in the LB corps, and Foster provides that from day one. An instinctive, downhill missile, Foster is a sure tackler who can clean up the mess before it gets to the 2nd level. He can even make plays back in coverage. Foster will be a tone setter in Cincinnati’s defense from the start.
CIN: 1st RD (#26)
KC: 2nd RD (#41), 3rd RD (#73)
In the off-chance that Taco Charlton does fall into the mid twenties, the Cincinnati Bengals are going to be heavy on the phones. I honestly think he’s even in-play at their #9 selection. A team like the Kansas City Chiefs would be willing to trade down and collect as much draft capital as they can, especially if none of the top QBs fall in their laps at #26. They already have one of the most well-built rosters in the entire league, so they can afford to move down into the 2nd and pick up an extra 3rd rounder.
Round 1 (Pick 26): Taco Charlton, EDGE, Michigan
If there is a prototype that is the Cincinnati Bengals defensive end, Taco Charlton is just that. He falls a bit on draft night and the Bengals can’t resist to pounce back up into the 1st round. The Bengals love those big, tall, long defensive ends with athleticism. Charlton is in that same mold as guys like Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. Charlton showcased game-breaking ability at Michigan, most notably against Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Still raw for the most part, Charlton offers tremendous upside and adds another nice piece to the front 7 along with Foster.
CIN: 3rd RD (#102)
SEA: 4th RD (#116), 5th RD (#153)
After giving up their 2nd and 3rd round picks to move back up into the 1st round, the Bengals package a 4th and a 5th to move back up into the 3rd round this time. They have a lot of day 3 ammo, so they can afford it. Seattle owns three picks late in the 3rd round, so they don’t bat an eye at the chance of adding more capital on day 3.
Round 3 (Pick 102): Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
Perhaps my favorite corner prospect in the draft. If Jourdan Lewis is there at the end of day 2, he’s another guy I can see the Bengals trading up for. Even after drafting William Jackson III in the 1st round last year who would end up missing the entire season due to injury, Cincy is still a bit thin at corner. Adam Jones is getting up there in age, which would allow WJIII to emerge into the starting slot alongside Kirkpatrick. Then lies a hole in the nickel, which Jourdan Lewis will occupy. Lewis is a physical, competitive, scrappy corner who has the skillset to be the best nickel corner in the entire NFL. A misdemeanor domestic violence charge may slide him down some boards, but the Bengals have proven they are willing to give players the benefit of the doubt.
Round 4 (Pick 138): Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU
While they drafted two receivers last year, one as early as the 2nd round, the Bengals are still quite thin behind A.J. Green. Brandon LaFell is a decent stopgap on the outside, but they could really use another impact player alongside Green. Tyler Boyd is more of a gadget player, and not someone you want consistently working on the outside. This leads to the drafting of Malachi Dupre. While the college production is almost non-existent, Dupre is still a young prospect and presents huge upside. If the Bengals can get the most out of him within the next couple of years, they have a premier 1-2 punch between him and Green on the outside with Boyd working out of the slot.
Round 5 (Pick 176): Avery Gennesy, OT, Texas A&M
A need that they would hope to address earlier, it just doesn’t happen in a weak tackle class. The tackle situation for Cincinnati is a bit dreary, although you would think it’s the opposite after drafting two offensive tackles in the first 2 rounds of the 2015 draft. Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi are set to be the bookends for Cincinnati this year as they enter their 3rd season. Both have had rocky starts to their careers and have failed to live up to their potential, although the upside is still there. Losing Andrew Whitworth who served as that veteran glue up front, plus Kevin Zeitler are monumental losses for this team. Avery Gennesy isn’t the ideal guy to bring in, but he adds much needed depth and could even be a spot starter at either tackle slots. He’s an athletic specimen at 6’3”/318 with some potential.
Round 6 (Pick 193): Eric Saubert, TE, Drake
You can’t rely on Tyler Eifert to stay healthy, and while there are decent pieces behind him like C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Kroft, they could use some competition at the position. Saubert fills out the backend of what is an extremely deep tight end class. Saubert has a good blend of size and speed with the upside to match. He is far from a finished product coming from a small school, but the potential is there for coaches to work with. Perhaps he could emerge as a viable weapon in 2-TE sets alongside Eifert which would be devastating for opposing defenses.
Round 6 (Pick 217): Keith Kelsey, LB, Louisville
After selecting Reuben Foster in the top 10, the Bengals add more LB depth. Kelsey is a 2-down linebacker who plays with tremendous effort and won’t stop until the whistle is blown. If anything, he adds a solid depth linebacker who can be a reliable special teams player.
Round 7 (Pick 227): Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin
Like most teams, the Bengals will look to take advantage of this deep running back class – even if they wait to do so all the way until the 7th round. Corey Clement could be a deep sleeper out of this draft class. I actually liked a lot what I saw on film. He has a smooth, clean running style with the burst, patience and vision to match. At the very least he’ll be able to catch on as a back in Cincinnati’s committee and could give them flexibility when it comes time to extend Gio Bernard.
Round 7 (Pick 251): D.J. Jones, DL, Ole Miss
The Bengals could use some defensive line depth and D.J. Jones could fill that nose tackle slot. With Pat Sims nearing the end of the road, the Bengals bring in some competition to be the successor alongside Geno Atkins with last year’s 4th round pick Andrew Billings. Jones doesn’t have that ideal production, but he brings pretty good movement skills for a guy at 6’1”/319. His combination of power and athleticism gives coaches something to work with.