I was going through my Bengals draft grades since 2010 and realized I never fully wrote my feelings on the Bengals 2014 draft class with grades.
1.24 – Darqueze Dennard – CB – Michigan State
This is who I thought they’d pick with only a couple weeks leading up to the NFL Draft. Cincinnati wanted a CB and Dennard was their third ranked CB on their board and ended up being the third CB drafted out of five in the first round.
Why I like this pick: Dennard is game-ready. He should be able to, at the very least, start in Nickel packages as a rookie. I think he can push for a starting job also. Dennard is a Physical, man-cover CB that is very experienced and was highly productive at MSU.
Why I didn’t like this pick: Dennard graded out as my 4th ranked CB and I liked Jason Verrett and Phillip Gaines more; both were available at 24. Dennard is an average athlete that relies on Physical coverage to stay with receivers. This could make or break him in the NFL if he doesn’t walk the fine line between fair and foul.
Draft Grade: B+
2.55 – Jeremy Hill – RB – LSU
The Bengals draft the second RB of the 2014 Draft to pair with the first back drafted in 2013 in Gio Bernard. The running game is obviously going to be used much more in the coming years.
Why I like this pick: Jeremy Hill was a very productive and physical runner in the SEC. He’s relatively young and hasn’t taken the usual punishment coming out of college. Hill provides an immediate upgrade to Benjarvus Green-Ellis and adds a power/speed combo that isn’t easily found.
Why I didn’t like this pick: Where’s the value? The Bengals have potentially a top-5 NFL running back in Bernard and a player that should be a focal point of their offense and they decide to spend their second-round pick on a running back with character issues? How many carries can Hill get unless Bernard gets injured? I wanted to upgrade from Green-Ellis also, but almost any RB drafted could’ve provided that. There was talent to be had at RB all the way through round-six in UCF runner Storm Johnson. Hill needs work in pass protection and patience/vision. He works better with a FB in front of him. This is all the opposite of Gio Bernard. The interchanging of the two should be interesting.
Draft Grade: C-
3.88 – Will Clarke – DE – West Virginia
The Bengals take their Defensive End prototype to help replace the DE Mold they lost in free agency in Michael Johnson. Clarke seemed like a Bengals target from mid February.
Why I like this pick: Clarke played the majority of his college career as a 5-tech defensive end in a 3-3-5 scheme. I think that’s why his numbers weren’t very impressive and why he could still have some untapped potential. He’s long and athletic; just how the Bengals like them. He was also awarded as the hardest working player on the WVU team.
Why I didn’t like this pick: This year’s 4-3 Defensive End class was WEAK. Probably the poorest group I’ve seen in five-years. In others drafts, Clarke would’ve been a Day-3 pick. On the field, Clarke is stiff, late and doesn’t posses enough strength for a quality power move or run defense. This, coming from a guy that was a gym room standout at WVU. He needs work, but the Bengals need a pass rusher now. This was a need pick.
Draft Grade: D+
4th Round – Russell Bodine – C/G – North Carolina
The Bengals traded up to draft a Center they felt could come in and compete for playing time as a rookie. Marvin Lewis said Bodine was a guy he wanted throughout the draft.
Why I liked this pick: The confidence the coaching staff has expressed in the Bodine pick gets the fan base excited. The Bengals needed interior OL help and Bodine potential provides that. His nasty streak can be seen on film.
Why I didn’t like this pick: We had Bodine graded as a Day-3/UDFA prospect. Yes, he tested very well at the Combine in most areas, but he RARELY shows that ability on the field. Bodine is very poor in space and in the second level, he over-extends in pass protection and gets beat often and often looked overmatched in college. His strengths and weaknesses are very similar to the Bengals last starting center – Kyle Cook. He’s not ready to play in 2014 and would have to evolve drastically for this pick to work out in the long run. Oh and they traded up to get him.
Draft Grade: D
5th Round – AJ McCarron – QB – Alabama
The Bengals finally draft a QB, but it’s one that won’t threaten Andy Dalton at all. Maybe that was the idea?
Why I liked this pick: McCarron is highly experienced coming out of college and should develop into a very solid NFL backup. He’s very similar to Dalton, so you can keep a similar offense for both QBs if you need to actually use the backup in a game.
Why I didn’t like this pick: McCarron is another weak-armed, “winning” QB that makes fans feel warm and fuzzy, but the truth is he’s a limited player that still needs work despite his massive experience. He’s not ready to play and won’t push Andy Dalton in any way. This was a wasted pick if they were looking for a potential upgrade at QB. I would’ve like to see Keith Wenning as the pick here.
Draft Grade: C-
6th Round – Marquise Flowers – OLB – Arizona State
This was a pick that I pegged thanks to some great tips. Flowers is the type of LB they’ve been adding over the last few years.
Why I liked this pick: Flowers is highly athletic and plays naturally in coverage. He reminds me of the type of prospect they saw in Emmanuel Lamur as a rookie. I expect Flowers to enjoy a spot on the bottom of the roster for a year until he can get stronger and develop in the physical game.
Why I didn’t like this pick: When Telvin Smith (FSU – Jags) gets drafted in the fifth round and Flowers goes in the sixth, it leaves a sour taste in your mouth, but as a late-round prospect, Flowers has good upside.
Draft Grade: B+
7th Round – James Wright – WR – LSU
The Bengals double dip from the LSU offense with a player that didn’t have much offensive production in college.
Why I liked this pick: Wright is a big body that can run and he’s a special teams standout. He should be fighting for one of the final roster spots and if he can win a gunner job in camp, Wright will make this team as the final WR and be active on game days.
Why I didn’t like this pick: Core special teams players can be found anywhere, but spending a 7th on one isn’t the worst thing you can do. I do wish Wright had more production on offense. LSU runs a very pro-style system and his experience or lack thereof may have an affect.
Draft Grade: C+
7th Round – Lavelle Westbrooks – CB – Georgia Southern
Why I liked this pick: Westbrooks caught my eye a couple times at the Senior Bowl and I wrote his name down to watch again after.
Why I didn’t like this pick: Because I never went back and watched him after the Senior Bowl.
Draft Grade: C+
OVERALL GRADE: C
I felt like the Bengals knew exactly who they were targeting throughout this draft and made sure they selected each one of them. When I can pick out a few of these guys and the Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham calls out Hill, Clarke and Bodine before day-2, it tells me that they were drafting for needs and fits rather than using the BPA model that has flooded them with praise since 2009. When you draft for need, you better be right, because you’re usually passing on better players. We’ll see how this worked out in a few years.