The Cincinnati Bengals selected 11 players in the 2017 NFL draft and finished with nine after two (Jake Elliott and J.J. Dielman) were signed off the practice squad. Tight end Mason Schreck spent the year on injured reserve, and Brandon Wilson and John Ross played sparingly. While Joe Mixon, Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, Josh Malone, Ryan Glasgow and Jordan Evans all saw significant snaps, Lawson was clearly the star of the show.
Best rookie: Carl Lawson. Lawson was a star in training camp, and he was able to translate that to the field despite getting limited snaps to begin the season. Lawson finished the season second on the team in sacks (8.5), and it's clear that he has the makings of a future star. Lawson said in his exit meetings that the coaches talked about getting him on the field more next season. That should be one of the biggest goals of 2018.
Most improved rookie: Joe Mixon. Mixon has come a long way from backing up Jeremy Hill and slipping during a critical moment in a loss to Green Bay. Although he missed two games with a concussion, he finished with 178 carries for 626 yards and four touchdowns. He also caught 30 passes for 287 yards. With Hill off to free agency, Mixon will enter his second season as the presumed starter next to Giovani Bernard.
Most disappointing rookie: John Ross. Ross played the fewest snaps of any rookie drafted in the first round, and his season was defined by injuries, lack of time on the field and rookie mistakes. Although he could rebound next season and become a star, it was a definite blow for the Bengals to get no use out of their first-round pick when there are others who could have helped them immediately at receiver.
Jury is still out on: DB Brandon Wilson. The Bengals traded up to get Wilson in the sixth round of the draft, but he wasn't heard from much afterward. He was hurt most of the summer and was then placed on the practice squad. Although he played in eight games, he saw little action on defense. Wilson never got to show off what he could do as a returner. Wilson seemed like an exciting player when he was drafted but is still a mystery.
Undrafted rookie evaluation: Linebacker Hardy Nickerson saw significant playing time down the stretch due to injuries but could have promise for next season. Although Cethan Carter impressed enough in camp to earn a roster spot, his main role in 2017 was on special teams.