May 11, 2014

2014 NFL Draft Review: Cincinnati Bengals

#31 Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Cincinnati Bengals
Division: AFC North | Last Season Record: 11-5

What Needed to be addressed in the Draft: In general, the defense. To be more specific, the Bengals needed at least one new starting corner, and it wouldn't have hurt to add another. Maybe a starting linebacker as well. Also, they were expected to add another pass rusher early.

Offensively, only the center position is a major need. Marvin Jones seems to be the favorite to be their #2 receiver, but bringing in another guy from this loaded receiver class could help Andy Dalton take the next step. Speaking of which, they would be wise to add a quarterback who can "push" Dalton.

Individual Draft Picks:

Round 1

24. (24) Darqueze Dennard, CB
Experience: Senior | School: Michigan State
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 195 lbs.

Round 2

23. (55) Jeremy Hill**, RB
Experience: Sophomore (RS) | School: Louisiana State
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 234 lbs.

Round 3

24. (88) Will Clarke, DE
Experience: Senior (RS) | School: West Virginia
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 268 lbs.

Round 4

11. (111) Russell Bodine*, C
Experience: Junior (RS) | School: North Carolina
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 302 lbs.

Round 5

24. (164) A.J. McCarron, QB
Experience: Senior (RS) | School: Alabama
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 222 lbs.

Round 6

36. (212) Marquis Flowers, OLB
Experience: Senior | School: Arizona
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 231 lbs.

Round 7

24. (239) James Wright, WR
Experience: Senior | School: Louisiana State
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 203 lbs.

37. (252) Lavelle Westbrooks, CB
Experience: Senior | School: Georgia Southern
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 196 lbs.

Two Picks of Note:

Best Value Pick:

Darqueze Dennard, CB (Round 1, Pick 24)
Experience: Senior | School: Michigan State
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 195 lbs.

Analysis: Landing arguably the best corner in the draft late in round one is good value, especially when it fills your biggest need. This was about the range I had Dennard, but felt he could have gone in the top 15 picks.

Most Questionable Pick:

Will Clarke, DE (Round 3, Pick 24)
Experience: Senior (RS) | School: West Virginia
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 268 lbs.

Analysis: Not that this was a bad pick, but I just don't think the Bengals got the best value. Clarke is a solid 4th round prospect with some tools to develop into a solid 4-3 defensive end, but this pick would have been better used on a different pass rusher.

Undrafted Free Agent Signings:

Most Notable

James Wilder Jr., RB
Experience: Junior | School: Florida State
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 227 lbs.

Analysis: Wilder's off the field issues caused him to go undrafted, but man is he talented. He didn't run well at the combine, but at times when watching him on tape, he looked like a poor man's Adrian Peterson. Wilder has a nice shot to make the 53 man roster.

Other Free Agent Signings

Nikita Whitlock, FB, Wake Forest
Trey Hopkins, OG, Texas
Ryan Hewitt, FB, Stanford
Colin Lockett, TE, San Diego State
Isaiah Lewis, SS, Michigan State
James Wilder Jr., RB, Florida State
Kevin Palmer, OL, Baylor
James Davidson, DE, UTEP
Jeff Scott, RB, Ole Miss
Alex Neutz, WR, Buffalo

Draft Review:

Analysis: Darqueze Dennard was a very good pick in the first round. He can be a shut down cornerback in the NFL, and the Bengals definitely needed to improve at the cornerback position.

Jeremy Hill does have second round talent. The only thing that kept me from giving him a second round grade was the fact that he's only a 2 down back at this point, but he'll be the perfect compliment to last year's second round pick Gio Bernard.

In rounds 3 and 4, they filled their needs at defensive end and center with Will Clarke and Russell Bodine at center. Both were full round reaches, and have limited upside, but at least both will have a chance to earn playing time early.

A.J. McCarron, like Andy Dalton, should be able to succeed with a lot of talent around him. Make no mistake, he won't overtake Dalton as the starter, but he gives them a very solid backup.

Marquis Flowers and Lavelle Westbrooks are solid depth players at linebacker and corner respectively, but I'm not sure James Wright has as good of a shot to make the 53-man roster.

The Verdict: An average draft for the Bengals. We're used to seeing them nail the draft. They came away with a shut down corner, a very talented running back, and a really good backup quarterback. But, two years from now, we'll probably see just how underachieving this class really was.

Overall Grade: C