Zac Taylor puts his stamp on Bengals Roster with 10 picks in Draft
April 28, 2019 – Brendon D. Miller – Bluegrass Sports Nation
The smoke has cleared and the 2019 NFL Draft is now in the books. This Bengals Draft will be remembered in Bengaldom as the time when new Head man Zac Taylor began to shape the Bengals in his mold. Time for a new system and some personnel to fit that system. The Bengals, as is the norm, failed to sign any impact free agents, so this Draft was crucial for any new play makers to be added and to get guys with skill sets for the new regime. The Bengals ended with a haul of 10 picks, filling needs on the Offensive Line (2); Linebacker (2); Running Back (2); Quarterback; Defensive Line; Defensive Back; and most controversially Tight End. Time will tell whether each is a boom, bust, or just serviceable.
Before we get to the pics, I have to say, the City of Nashville and the NFL put on a great show. This draft was the most interesting I have ever watched due to the pomp and sheer magnitude of the Music City show. It really doesn’t hurt that I cover the SEC Basketball Tournament each year in Nashville and spend each night out on Broadway and know just how much fun it is and was was able to use my imagination as to what Broadway was actually like on the ground from the video scenes. Bravo Nashville!! Should host it every year in my opinion!
Now to the picks:
Round 1 – Pick 11 Jonah Williams, OT – Alabama – Grade A+. Just a good football player who has the potential to be a staple for a decade. You have to get a Day 1 starter in the first 15 pics, and the Bengals did. As Taylor says, “The tape speaks for itself” and he is right. Jonah is a not sexy pick, but having him fall into the Bengals lap at 11, and with both LB Devin’s off the board, the guess work of Taylor’s first ever draft pick was gone. Not an athletic freak, but a technician with high, high reliability. Walked on campus and started every game of his Alabama career – 44 straight (29 at left tackle, 15 at right tackle). Freshman All-American and two time All SEC 1st Team. Unanimous first team All-American (Walter Camp, the FWAA, Associated Press, The Sporting News and the AFCA, The Athletic and Sports Illustrated. I watch each Bengals home game from the field and can vouch the tackles have been absolutely awful since Andrew Whitworth was forced out the door. Also a leader and a solid locker-room addition. Hopefully the new Whitworth. Value: Top Ten Pick. Projection: above-average NFL LT, Day 1 Starter.
Round 2 – Pick 20 (52) Drew Sample, TE – Washington – Grade C. The majority of Bengaldom has been in full Cardiac Arrest on this pick since Friday Night. Have to admit, I was totally floored when the pick came in. Firstly, was in shock as the Bengals traded down from pick 42, has almost never happened in past. I could see this though as my hopefuls, all O line (Jawaan Taylor, Greg Little, Cody Ford, and Dalton Risner) had just came off in front of the Bengals and value was not there for the pick unless they were taking Drew Lock (and they were not). We knew TE had to be addressed, but by trading down to 52, they missed on ‘Bama Tight End Irv Smith, Jr., (pick 50) so Sample must have been next on their lists. My hope was Jace Sternberger (who killed Kentucky with 5 catches for 95 in the only game I saw him play) who ended up to the Packers in the 3rd. In his 2nd round presser, Taylor was pleased with the pick and reiterated Sample was their guy. Offensive Line Coach Jim Turner was likewise. I will say this, the Draftniks didn’t like it, the majority of the fans did not like, it, but guess what, it is done and Sample is a Bengal. The young man may turn into a star, he certainly has the size and ability and did not drop a pass his senior year. This pick shows the Bengals philosophy will be to run the ball. Sample has the potential to be on the field a lot in this offense, so lets see. Will trust the Coaches on this one, but would have really liked to have had Lonnie Johnson at 42 to take over for Dre Kirk. Value: Round 3. Projection: 30-40% of offensive snaps as a blocker/ situational TE3. Be used in play action passes. Eifert and Uzomah will get the passing downs.
Round 3 – Pick 9 (72) Jermaine Pratt, OLB – North Carolina St. – Grade A. A very welcome athletic addition to the Bengals worst unit last year, and will likely fill the Will spot vacated by Burfict. 2018 First Team All-ACC selection. Fills the need for a cover backer as Pratt made the transition from safety to linebacker in 2018. Led the Wolfpack in tackles as a senior with 105, a team-high 10.5 for loss, while tying for the team lead with six sacks despite playing in 11 games (all starts), and led the ACC with 9.5 tackles per game. Solid, solid pick for need. Should compete with Nick Vigil, Malik Jefferson, and Jordan Evans for time at both Sam and Will. Possible Day 1 starter if develops. Value: Round 3. Projection: Starting NFL LB.
Round 4 – Pick 2 (104) Ryan Finley, QB – North Carolina St. – Grade B. Taylor got his man to groom in this pick. The Bengals traded up and gave three picks to get him. Ian Rappoport of NFL Network reported that Taylor and Callahan were blown away with him as he was the only top QB who was brought in for a visit. Apparently they taught him the blocking scheme and asked him to teach it back, and he was stellar. Impressed at Senior Bowl. Finley was a First-Team All ACC selection in 2018, completing 67.4 percent of his throws (326-484) for 3,928 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. As a junior, Finley threw 339 passes without an interception, second in school history only to Russell Wilson’s FBS record of 379. Will duel with Driskel for backup, but will have a leg up as he is Taylor’s pick. Can sit a year or two to learn and if does not develop, Bengals can go QB in the future. Good character guy and leader. Value: Round 4. Projection: Initial Backup with potential to be Starter with time.
Round 4 – Pick 23 (125) Renell Wren, DT – Arizona St. – Grade B+. If you watch his tape, Wren’s biggest strength is crushing his blocker and exploding into the backfield on run plays. Not much of a pass rusher tough A huge man at 6-5, 315 who will probably play a 1 Technique. Wren disrupted plays regularly as a 13-game starter in 2018, posting 43 tackles, 4.5 for loss, one sack, and two pass breakups to earn honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors. Will provide badly needed help in run defense and can be a rotational player with Andrew Billings. Value: Round 3. Projection: rotational player who will compete for reps with Billings.
Round 4 Pick 34 (136) Michael Jordan, OG/C – Ohio State – Grade B-. Bengals traded back into the bottom of the 4th for this pick. Plenty of size at 6-6, 312. Three year starter at OG and then kicked inside to Center to replace Billy Price his senior year. Jordan was the first freshman to start on the offensive line at Ohio State since Pro Football Hall of Famer Orlando Pace in 1994. Jordan was named 2nd Team All Big Ten for his play in 14 starts. The run-blocking OG tape looks his best, particularly when he can engage his defender quickly. Will compete in log jam at interior OL for a roster spot and minutes. Value: Round 5. Projection: backup G/C with potential to start in pinch.
Round 6 Pick 9 (182) Trayveon Williams, RB – Texas A&M – Grade A. Solid, solid pick. Bengals filled the hole left by Mark Walton’s demise and the potential free agent departure of Gio Bernard. A balanced player whose run blocking and receiving hands will get him onto the field. A difference-maker for the Aggies, becoming the first true freshman in program history to run for over 1,000 yards. Williams broke out in a major way in 2018 as a junior, earning 1st Team All-SEC and 2nd Team Associated Press All-American honors by finishing in the top five nationally with 1,524 rushing yards and scoring 15 times on 252 carries (6.1 average). Had a great night in College Station in my time to watch him against Kentucky with 138 yards on the ground and caught six passes for 72 yards in the overtime defeat of the CATS. Value: Round 4. Projection: Bernard backup and will replace Bernard in 2020.
Round 6 Pick 38 (210) Deshaun Davis, ILB – Auburn – Grade B-. More LB depth and backup for Preston Brown. Three year starter beginning in 2016, and he responded with 63 tackles, seven for loss, and three pass breakups as a sophomore. Davis had 10 tackles, four for loss, in the Iron Bowl that year. Davis led the Tigers in tackles with 82 (10 in the SEC Championship Game vs. Georgia) in his junior campaign, racking up 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Davis was voted 1st Team All-SEC as a senior, leading the Tigers with 116 tackles and 15 tackles for loss. Also posted 3.5 sacks and two pass breakups. If Bengals do not sign another Backer in free agency, will compete with Hardy Nickerson and Brandon Bell to backup Brown. Value: 7th/UDFA. Projection: competition for backup Mike/practice squad.
Round 6 Pick 39 (211) Rodney Anderson, RB – Oklahoma – Grade A. Anderson can be dynamic. He is not a Mixon clone despite being a Sooner, but could fill the role of a productive Jeremy Hill role on the Bengals. Anderson is 6-0, 224 and can pound. Anderson has an extensive injury history, but is worth the risk at 211. During his healthy redshirt sophomore campaign, Anderson led the FBS in yards from scrimmage over the final seven weeks (all starts). He ran for 1,161 yards and 13 touchdowns on 188 carries (6.2 average) and caught 17 passes for 281 yards (16.5 average) and five more scores in 14 games, garnering second-team All-Big 12 honors. His 26 carries for 201 yards and two touchdowns against Clemson in the national semi-finals placed great expectations on the 2018 season, but the injury bug struck again with a right knee injury costing him the season. Huge value here if he can stay healthy. Value: Round 3. Without injuries, possibly a top 50 prospect. Projection: Backup to Mixon who will get some game action to keep Mixon healthy.
Round 7 Pick 9 (223) Jordan Brown, CB – South Dakota St. – Grade B+. Small School corner that tested well and has good size at 6-0, 201. Three year starter. Took off in 2016 (13 starts, 40 tackles, two interceptions, three pass breakups). Missouri Valley Football Conference coaches named him first-team all-league in 2017 after he led the Jackrabbits with nine pass breakups and three forced fumbles, in addition to 72 tackles, three for loss, and three interceptions. Brown was a first-team all-conference pick again in 2018 while also garnering third-team All-American honors from the Associated Press. In 13 starts, he was credited with 29 tackles, three interceptions and a team-high 12 pass breakups. Good Depth with high potential. Value: Round 5. Projection: Depth at CB and Special Teamer.
Overall: Clearly there is a plan by the Bengals to emphasize ball control and strengthen the run game and play action passing. Andy Dalton has been hung out the last couple of years by terrible offensive line play and hopefully he can be protected and given a chance to succeed. By not taking any receivers, the staff appears to be satisfied with that room for this season and hopefully Malone, Core, and Tate can provide some production in addition to Green, Ross, Boyd and Erickson.
Surprisingly the Bengals paid little attention to the defensive side of the ball. Hopefully the return of many injured players from last year will help, but some upgrades and depth could have been had.
Overall grade: B+. The Bengals added a number of quality players, but really what only looks like two starters in Williams and Pratt. Solid for now, but when this draft is re-graded at the end of the season, that grade will mostly be subject to how much production comes from Sample and any contributions from Wren and Williams/Anderson. That will be a waiting game.
Now on to Rookie Mini-Camp and OTA’s. Its almost Football Time in the Jungle Folks!!!!