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The Cincinnati Bengals. Just writing that name invokes feelings of sheer perplexity and aggravation. Just their questionable retainment of head coach Marvin Lewis is enough to befuddle and frustrate even the most even-tempered sports fans. As a result of lingering in the realm of inexplicable mediocrity, the Bengals have rarely been in a position to draft elite playmakers and have not impressed pundits and fans alike since they drafted A.J. Green in 2011.
This year, the Bengals had a few obvious needs at various positions, most notably of which was a dreadful offensive line that rarely gave quarterback Andy Dalton ample time to make plays from the pocket. As a result, the Bengals quickly regressed to becoming one of the most predictable and inept offenses in football. Did the Bengals finally put together a solid draft class and address the blatant needs on their team to become a competitive force in the AFC?
Unsurprisingly, the Bengals first selection of the draft was acquiring a reliable anchor in center Billy Price. Intelligent and physically gifted, Price has all of the tools and intangibles to be the Bengals starting center for years to come assuming he can remain healthy long enough to reach his impressive potential.
While addressing the safety position was not a top need for the Bengals going into the draft, they should be given some credit for acknowledging that they were relatively incapable when it came to forcing turnovers last season. By drafting Jessie Bates III out of Wake Forest, the Bengals acquired an intriguing ball hawk safety that is just as fast as he is hyper vigilant. A self proclaimed film junkie, Bates could very well supersede George Iloka or Shawn Williams for a starting safety spot if he can maintain this type of work ethic.
Although there are a plethora of tenacious players currently vying for starting spots on the Bengals defensive line, Sam Hubbard has the flexibility and skill set to get after the quarterback as he can rush the passer effectively from either outside or inside. A sacking machine, Hubbard's impressive motor should elevate his appeal to become an eventual starter as an outside pass rusher for the Bengals
Ravaged by injuries at the linebacker position last season, the Bengals wisely decided to add some depth at the position, which was especially prudent when you consider that the continued antics of Vontaze Burfict have hindered his teams chances of being successful. By drafting Malik Jefferson, the Bengals got a fluid and natural talent at the outside linebacker position. Although he prefers to line up on the outside, Jefferson has the skill set to play all three linebacker positions, which should give him an inside track to being a competitive starter for the Bengals sooner rather than later.
While this is a bit of an odd selection when you consider that the Bengals obtained their supposed running back of the future in Joe Mixon in last years draft, Mark Walton is an incredibly dynamic playmaker that can both run and catch the football with ease. With Mixon and Giovani Bernard on the roster, Walton will be mainly utilized on special teams and in situations when starting back Mixon may need a breather between snaps.
An intriguing raw talent that has a tremendous amount of upside as he can play either cornerback or free safety exceptionally well, Davontae Harris could be a late-round steal given his versatility. Incredibly fast and physical, Harris should not have much of a problem proving himself on special teams to ultimately make the Bengals final 53-man roster.
Recoding nine sacks during his last two seasons at Virginia, Andrew Brown is a capable albeit wildly inconsistent defensive player that will have to prove himself when subbing in for his defensive line teammates this season. Intelligent and ferocious when getting off of the line of scrimmage, Brown has the potential to be a consistent part of the Bengals defensive corps if continues to grind and work hard.
Setting an FBS career record with 12 runbacks for touchdowns during his time at Western Michigan, with five of those touchdowns coming off of interceptions, Darius Phillips is a game changing player. Clearly, his skill set caters itself to him being a prominent contributor on special teams rather than as a pure defensive back. However, his ball hawking capabilities could allow him to eventually be featured as a nickel back sometime in the future.
By waiting until the seventh round to draft a quarterback in Logan Woodside, the Bengals sent a message to current stater Any Dalton that his job is safe…for now. At best, Woodside could be the Bengals backup as he is efficient and smart when it comes to making safe plays in the open field.
Although it's relatively shocking that the Bengals waited this long to take another offensive linemen after selecting Billy Brice in the first round, Rod Taylor is an intriguing depth add that will be developed diligently on the Bengals practice squad. The fact that he can play more than one position should bode well for this late round pick.
What Auden Tate lacks in explosive speed, he usually makes up for with his size and strength as he is a constant threat when making plays on 50-50 balls. Although he'll have a tough hill to climb to make the 53-man roster as there are several much more notable receivers in front of him, Tate could very well make the Bengals practice squad if he can flash his impressive physicality that made him a relatively reliable pass catcher at Florida State.
Outside of Billy Price, Jessie Bates III and possibly Sam Hubbard, the Bengals appeared focused on adding depth to their defensive line and secondary rather than using their abundance of picks to trade up to take an elite playmaker. While having immense depth is important to surviving and succeeding the rigors of an NFL season, it is equally as essential to have exceptional athletes that can take over games in big moments. Although they addressed some of their needs, the fact that they only took two offensive linemen throughout the draft was a bit surprising.
Overall, the Bengals played it fairly safe as they were inactive in making thought provoking trades and opted instead to take developmental prospects that may or may not pan out for them in the future.