Breaking down the Cincinnati Bengals' 2018 draft class.
Round 1, No. 21 overall: Billy Price, C, Ohio State
My take: The Bengals have made a serious commitment to revamping their offensive line, and it shows. The addition of Price is the third move they've made this offseason to fix a line that struggled last year. They hired former Cowboys O-line coach Frank Pollack, traded for left tackle Cordy Glenn, and now have their center of the future. This is a good step toward fixing an offense that ranked last in the league in 2017. Price said his goal is to "set the league on fire from day one," and he has an opportunity to be a starter from Week 1.
Pectoral muscle is healing: Price partially tore his pectoral muscle at the NFL scouting combine and elected to have surgery as soon as he could so that he could be on track to be 100 percent by training camp. The Bengals said Price passed all of their medical exams and they clearly feel comfortable with the injury, even if that means Price misses OTAs. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor pointed out that padded practices aren't allowed until training camp anyway, so that won't be a problem. Price said he's two months out from being completely medically cleared.
Price's dream come true: It has been a trying few months for the Ohio native after suffering what he called a "freak accident" at the NFL combine. Price said the injury was "sickening" and was worried that all of his hard work would be for nothing. Clearly things worked out in his favor, as he'll get to stay in his home state and go to a team just a few hours down the road. He was so excited to end up in Cincinnati that he stared at his phone in disbelief when the Bengals called to select him. His agent actually had to remind him to answer the phone. "I looked at my agent and said 'Holy s--- it's Cincinnati!" Price said he was looking to bring "Ohio State football" to Cincinnati.
What's next: The Bengals have three picks in Day 2, and there's a lot of different ways they could go now that a pressing need has been addressed. The Bengals could look to draft a player at linebacker or on the defensive line. Adding another cornerback or even a wide receiver isn't out of the question. Middle linebacker Preston Brown is on a one-year contract and weakside linebacker Vontaze Burfict has repeatedly been out of the lineup because of injuries and suspension. The Bengals added running back Joe Mixon and defensive end Jordan Willis on Day 2 last year. Both rookies impressed in their first year and will be a big part of the lineup in their second seasons.
Round 2, No. 54 overall: Jessie Bates III, S, Wake Forest
My take: The Bengals clearly have been on the hunt for a safety after extending an offer to Kurt Coleman in free agency and also bringing in Eric Reid for a visit. Although it doesn't jump out as a top need, the Bengals have clearly been looking to upgrade for a while, and there's a reason they liked Bates in particular. They've talked extensively about the need for a ball hawk after forcing only 15 turnovers last season. Bates had six interceptions (two returned for touchdowns in 2016), two forced fumbles and nine pass breakups in two seasons at Wake Forest.
How he fits: Although George Iloka and Shawn Williams are the current starting safeties, Bates opens up some defensive possibilities for coordinator Teryl Austin. Bates also doubles as a punt returner and could slide into the open spot vacated by the departure of Adam Jones. Bates returned eight punts for 161 yards and a touchdown. He described himself as a "film junkie" and said his IQ is one of his best attributes as a player, as well as his ability to play in multiple spots on the field.
"I think I can do everything, I think I can set down in the box, play a run fit, set down in the slot and play man-to-man," Bates said. "I think everyone knows I can play in the middle of the field. I look forward to showing all of those and making an impact wherever Coach wants me to."
Round 3, No. 77 overall: Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
My take: Hubbard will likely be put into the rotation as a rookie, although how much playing time he’ll get in Year 1 is questionable with so many young players on the defensive line. However, Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin likes his versatility, and he’s going to be able to find a way to use him, Hubbard has 17 career sacks and 10 career quarterback hits, so he’ll find a way to help the Bengals' pass rush, which now boasts players like Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Carl Lawson.
How he fits: Austin said Hubbard can play outside or rush from the inside, which gives the Bengals some rotational flexibility. The Bengals will likely use Michael Johnson in a limited role rushing from the inside on third down, while Jordan Willis and Hubbard can be outside rushers on the opposite side of Dunlap. Hubbard could also kick inside on certain situations.
Round 3, No. 78 overall: Malik Jefferson, OLB, Texas
My take: The Bengals’ group of linebackers was in serious trouble toward the end of the season due to injuries and it became pretty clear that was a position that could be upgraded. The Bengals need to continue looking to the future at that position, especially with Vontaze Burfict starting another season on suspension. Although the cards didn’t fall right for them to get a linebacker in the first round without trading up, they were still able to trade down on Day 2 and get a player they had targeted.
How he fits: Jefferson said he feels most natural on the outside, but Austin said he feels he can play in both the middle and the outside. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said he thinks that he could play all three linebacker spots. Lewis said he thinks Jefferson is still growing as a player, but his athleticism and speed jumped out at him when he was being scouted.
Round 4, No. 112 overall: Mark Walton, RB, Miami
My take: This pick was a bit of a surprise because there are still a few holes on the Bengals' offensive line. However, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Walton was one of the best players remaining on their board on Saturday morning. Walton is a Giovani Bernard-type who can both run and catch, but with Joe Mixon and Bernard on the roster, Walton will be a backup.
“This is the NFL, and there are times when your first back or your second back is going to miss a game here and there, so you want the very best next runner to be available to play,” Lazor said. “Just like last year when Brian Hill came in and had to make plays on offense. He did it.”
How he fits: Walton will likely become the third running back behind Mixon and Bernard, and could be someone to give Mixon a breather or fill in if there’s an injury. But his main role is going to be on special teams for the time being, especially with Cedric Peerman remaining unsigned. Walton can play both kickoff and punt coverage, which fills a need considering the special-teams units struggled at times last year.
Round 5, No. 151 overall: Davontae Harris, DB, Illinois State
My take: The Bengals called Harris a "raw talent," indicating they see him as someone with a lot of upside at his position who can also be a special-teams gunner. Harris is a cornerback who can potentially play safety. "I can go in and I can play anything in the secondary, the safety, nickel, or outside corner, where I'm used to playing ... and also look to make an impact on special teams as well," Harris said.
How he fits: The Bengals are looking at Harris as an outside corner, which mean he'll start as a reserve behind William Jackson III and Dre Kirkpatrick, who will man the outside spots while Darqueze Dennard will likely play in the slot. If the team keeps five cornerbacks, there will be a lot of competition for the remaining two spots and being able to play special teams will likely help toward making the roster. Harris said physicality and speed are two of his best traits.
Round 5, No. 158 overall: Andrew Brown, DT, Virginia
Prospect Profile: Andrew Brown
Check out some highlights of defensive tackle Andrew Brown during his time at Virginia.
My take: The Bengals said it gets harder to project who can be a starter on Day 3, and Brown is clearly another rotational player who will sub in depending on the package. Brown will get a chance to play next to Geno Atkins, who he called an "absolute monster." Brown's career has been up and down after coming out of high school as a five-star recruit, but he had a chance to shine as a starter in his final two seasons at Virginia, coming away with nine sacks.
How he fits: The Bengals see Brown as a three technique, or the same position that Atkins plays. The Bengals also feel he has the ability to play the five technique if needed. He'll join the defensive tackle rotation. Brown said he models himself after Aaron Donald.
Round 5, No. 170 overall: Darius Phillips, CB, Western Michigan
My take: Phillips is a dynamic player who set an FBS career record with 12 career runbacks for touchdowns, including a record five interceptions returned for touchdowns, five kickoff return touchdowns, one punt return for a touchdown and one fumble recovery for a touchdown. However, he seems more like a special-teams player than someone who will see the field on defense right away.
How he fits: Phillips is clearly going to get his start playing special teams, and that could add competition at kick returner. One of the punt return spots was vacated by Adam Jones, but there will be competition for Alex Erickson at the kickoff return spot. The Bengals have been looking for ball-hawking playmakers, and clearly they'll try to find a way to get him in the lineup.
Round 7, No. 249 overall: Logan Woodside, QB, Toledo
Prospect Profile: Logan Woodside
Logan Woodside had some great throws in his time playing QB at Toledo.
My take: The Bengals had discussions about taking a quarterback on Day 2 of the draft, but ultimately ended up addressing other positions. Clearly that means they're not set on the idea of looking for a successor to Andy Dalton. With AJ McCarron now on another team, drafting Woodside is a way of potentially addressing the backup position.
How he fits: Woodside is going to have a chance to compete for the backup spot against Matt Barkley and Jeff Driskel, but he's no lock to make the team. The Bengals won't know until late in the summer if they have the numbers to carry two or three quarterbacks, and the veteran Barkley is likely going to have a slight edge at this spot heading into training camp.
Round 7, No. 252 overall: Rod Taylor, G/T, Mississippi
My take: The Bengals didn't address the offensive line for most of the draft after taking center Billy Price in the first round. Taking Taylor in the seventh round is simply a depth add, and he's likely going to be a project who the Bengals hope to get on the practice squad. However, it works in his favor that he can play more than one position.
How he fits: If Taylor makes the team, he'll be a utility player who can swing from both guard to tackle, which is probably a necessary trait for those fighting to make the last spot or two on the offensive line.
Round 7, No. 253 overall: Auden Tate, WR, Florida State
My take: Tate doesn't exactly have blazing speed, as he ran a 4.68 40-yard dash. However, he didn't attribute his fall in the draft to that. Tate said teams knew he wasn't a "burner" but had concerns about a shoulder issue that has been cleared up.
How he fits: It's going to be an uphill battle for Tate to make the team with the huge group of receivers in front of him. The Bengals don't see a move to tight end in the cards for him, so he's likely a potential practice squad player they would hope to develop.