In a season that was destined for a full fledged tanking mode; the Cincinnati Bengals somehow managed to win their final two games of the season, knock two teams out of playoff contention, and then manage to salvage the season to a 7-9 record, and Marvin Lewis’ job.
While Lewis’ tenure now seems to be long overstayed, the anticipation of him staying for 2018 is that he typically (whenever he decides not to slander them in press conferences) has a scout’s eye for young talent that is NFL ready. Suspecting that owner Mike Brown will be seeking residence back into the postseason in 2018, it will be expected as well that the Bengals will target prospects with big upside, but also players who can make an immediate impact.
I put on Marvin Lewis’ glasses (does he even wear glasses?), and simulated who I believe the Bengals could potentially select in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Round 1, 12th overall: Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame
While it would be nearly a godsent situation for Nelson falling out of the top 10, it’s certainly not an unrealistic situation to dwell on. In the simulated mock; the Colts (Barkley), Broncos (Darnold), Jets (Chubb), and the 49ers (Edmunds) all decided that this draft is too deep with interior lineman to select one in the top 10. Since the Bengals drafted 12th overall, there is genuinely no downside with this pick. First, the fact of Nelson being a consensus top 5 rated prospect in the draft, Cincinnati would be receiving ridiculous value in return. Quenton Nelson would be that “immediate impact starter” the front office will be searching for with their top few picks.
No number needed for you to identify Quenton Nelson… pic.twitter.com/6ZcljWenU4
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 19, 2018
What Nelson brings to be table for the Bengals: Nelson would instantly plug in at left guard, and then move either Christian Westerman or Alex Redmond to the right side. Nelson would add instant force back into the run game, and athleticism to run any rush scheme to put Joe Mixon in a situation to succeed every carry. The intrigue behind this selection is that Bengals have never valued interior lineman in the first round of the draft. Since 1983, only Dave Rimington and Kevin Zeitler have been anointed that rare honor, and they were drafted 25th and 27th, respectively. As aforementioned, this scenario isn’t the most likely to occur; but if the opportunity presents itself, the Bengals would be foolish not to pounce.
Round 2, 46th Overall: Arden Key, EDGE, LSU
By now we know that Marvin Lewis’ two favorite things are taking chances with prospects who have character questions, and superbly athletic SEC pass rushers. Key is perfect mold of a Marvin Lewis pass pusher, at 6’6” and about 260 pounds, Key has the speed and length to blend into this Teryl Austin defense that will play into his strengths. With “Mr. Old Reliable” Carlos Dunlap entering a contract year, it might be time for the Bengals’ to take a chance on Key’s attitude and medical issues and make an attempt to reload for life after Dunlap on the edge.
Arden Key with some nice reaction here, hugs down the line and then pounces on Johnson. Key is elite when he's rolling. pic.twitter.com/uHoqMn228J
— Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) January 4, 2018
Round 3, 77th Overall: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
This prospect at this draft slot seems more than ideal for the Bengals. Of the “Big Four” at the tight end position this draft class, Gesicki is clearly the most athletic and receiving dependable amongst the group. Those are two traits the Bengals will need to be searching for in a young tight end if Eifert happens to move on during free agency. The feeling from Mike Brown is that they plan on giving Eifert a performance-incentive based contract to re-sign with. However, even if Eifert is somehow re-signed, his health history is too checkered at this point to not have a proper backup plan for him. While Tyler Kroft has been an acceptable replacement over the past three seasons, Gesicki adds the receiving and big play ability that the offense has lacked with Eifert away from the lineup.
Doing late night film of a couple Penn State games and TE Mike Gesicki is intriguing.
After eating the cushion, Gesicki with his foot fire at the top of route sells his release to the outside. He's then able to snag the ball at its high point and make a great concentration catch pic.twitter.com/24s8aXRP9t
— Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) January 30, 2018
Round 3, 99th Overall: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
This compensatory pick has been granted to Cincinnati due to the divining of Kevin Zeitler to the Browns last offseason. With this extra pick on day 2, the Bengals should gear their thought process towards a splash pick with a ton of upside. Not many wide receivers scream “potential” more than St. Brown in this draft. The 6’5”, 200 pound standout from the Fighting Irish flashes similarly to another receiver on Bengals’ roster, A.J. Green. Not saying that St Brown will become Green, but sharpening his craft under him could send his upside in a positive direction. Along with the length, St. Brown runs routes intermediate and breaking routes almost identically to Green. Assuming Brandon LaFell isn’t brought back in 2018, Cincinnati finally can bring a promising #2 receiver, and then have John Ross and sometimes Tyler Boyd work their magic in the slot.
Round 4, 114th Overall: Skai Moore, LB, South Carolina
Many draft analyst have big names such a Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds be drafted in the first round to solidify instant impact at any of the linebacker positions in the 4-3. With being a versatile linebacker in this defense, athleticism and instincts are two things that are going to keep you on the field; Skai Moore can provide those traits despite falling into day 3 of the draft. There are medical concerns with Moore, but he’s a backer who’s always feigning for the football in either run support or in coverage. Moore’s most impressive stat is his 13 career interceptions while playing for the Gamecocks. That dynamic game changing ability is what the Bengals should be looking for in the linebacker group.
Round 5, 153rd Overall: Justin Reid, SS, Stanford
If the Bengals were able to snag a playmaker like Reid in the 5th round, that would be the steal selection of this draft class. Reid is a guy that I continue to be enamored by the more I watch film of him. A near identical version of brother Eric Reid (LSU, 49ers), Justin is rangy in coverage but yet can still fly downhill with bad intentions towards his opponent at hand. All fans might not remember, but in the 2013 NFL Draft, the connection of brother Eric heading to southwest Ohio seemed imminent, before San Francisco was able to snag him 3 picks prior. The Bengals now have their second chance, and hope that Justin could develop into the player they expected his older brother to one day become.
"Aggressive, playmaker, big hitter". All adjectives used to describe Eric Reid coming out of the college. All those things can be applied for Justin as well. pic.twitter.com/DYmQ4dSkZu
— Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) January 29, 2018
Round 5, 172nd Overall: Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky
Not that it’s surprising, but with Marvin Lewis being retained as the Bengals’ head coach, Andy Dalton will be retained as the signal caller. The positive about Dalton returning is that the Bengals don’t have to reach or trade up for a quarterback early in the draft. Actually, there’s a solid possibility the Bengals could actually receive capital in return, with A.J. McCarron still searching for a starting gig in the league. With another compensatory pick (this time for Andrew Witworth signing with the Rams), the Bengals again make a splash pick with Mike White. White is one of most intriguing project QBs in the draft. He looked fairly impressive at the Senior Bowl and showed he has the presence to be at least a backup quarterback. White fits the backup QB mold perfectly under newly re-signed offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Lazor has a history of backups who possess a bulky frame with stellar arm strength. Guys such as Jason Campbell (Washington) and Matt Moore (Miami) are potential projections for White, who can be a serviceable backup for many years and a tolerable starting QB if ever needed.
Mike White drops a dime right in the bread basket in double coverage. Pretty throw. pic.twitter.com/xNWRVFDWwD
— Cagen Cantrell (@CeeingTheDraft) January 5, 2018
Round 6, 190th Overall: Brad Lundblade, OL, Oklahoma State
This could be one of the those day 3 selections where you look back in 3 or 4 years and say “wow, this guy is doing well for himself”. Lundblade is a guy who impressed scouts at the East-West Shrine Game due to his versatility on the line. His ability to be a swing G-C is valuable to be a team like the Bengals, who could use a guy like Lundblade to push either Bodine at center (if re-signed) or compete with Redmond or Westerman for that starting right guard position. Lundblade isn’t flashy, he’s an old school offensive hog, and that should earn him a roster spot in the NFL for many years.
Round 7, 250th Overall (via New England): DJ Calhoun, LB, Arizona State
This seventh round pick was acquired by Cincinnati after they had granted Marquis Flowers; request of redesignation towards the end of the preseason. While Flowers turned out to be a decent role player for the Patriots this season, the Bengals could find a motivated player with this pick to make the return investment worthwhile. Drafting somebody like Calhoun late would not only avoiding dealing with the circus of priority free agency for undrafted players, but give a better opportunity to prove himself. While being a 7th round selection has not always translated to a roster spot over the past few years. Guys such as T.J. Johnson and Clay Fejedelum have overcome the odds and molded to young rotational role players for Marvin Lewis and company. Calhoun is a thumper of a run stopper at MIKE, and could learn under fellow Sun Devil brethren Vontaze Burfict.
*For the final two compensatory picks* Granted from the departures of Margus Hunt and Karlos Dansby, I had the Bengals draft UCF TE Jordan Akins and Murray State DB D’Montre Wade. Both older prospects who carry career experience, leadership in smaller programs, and nice body build at their respected positions could help them sneak a roster or practice squad spot.