The 2018 NFL Draft is just a few weeks away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into this year’s draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. Draftmas continues today with the Cincinnati Bengals 2018 NFL Draft profile.
The Cincinnati Bengals entered the 2017 season hoping to bounce back into the playoff picture after a disappointing 2016 ended their string of five straight postseason appearances. Yes, they were brief appearances, each ending in a disappointing first-round exit. Still, those five seasons marked only the second time the franchise had ever made the postseason in back to back years, which was long before most of y’all were born (’81 and ’82.)
The wheels started coming off after the very first coin flip with an opening Sunday shutout at the hands of the Ravens and a 13-9 loss to the Texans. In a very un-Bengal move, the team canned offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and promoted quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor in his stead. The move paid immediate dividends as the team took Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to overtime at Lambeau in a narrow loss, then a healthy squash match against the Cleveland Browns. Still, the Bengals stumbled through an inconsistent and disappointing 7-9 season, their only consolation being a wild season finale rematch against the Ravens that ended with a stunning 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd on 4th and 12 with a scant 44 seconds left in the game. That miracle bumped the Ravens from the playoffs and sent the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1999! Grateful Bills fans made a whopping $350,000 in donations to the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation, ending the season with a touching story at least.
It was expected to be Marvin Lewis’ final game as Head Coach, but in a move that puzzled some and angered others, the Brown family signed him for another two seasons in orange and black.
He’ll be working with some new faces in the coaches meetings. Lazor retains the title of Offensive Coordinator and Alex Van Pelt takes over at quarterback coach. Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther joined Jon Gruden’s staff in Oakland, to be replaced by Teryl Austin, who had impressed Lewis with his work in Detroit. Finally, longtime offensive line coach Paul Alexander won’t be returning, ending 23 years coaching the Bengals blockers, to be replaced by Frank Pollack, who has coached up some excellent lines in Texas and Dallas.
Keeping Andy Dalton’s uniform clean was one of the biggest challenges in 2017 after veteran stalwart Andre Whitworth took his services to Tinseltown to anchor a rejuvenated Rams offense. Replacements Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher were not ready for their close-ups, leaving Dalton stranded in collapsing pockets and short-circuiting a running game that showed flashes of brilliance from alleged human Joe Mixon and Giovanni Bernard. In a surprisingly aggressive move, the Bengals addressed their line needs by trade, swapping some draft picks around and landing Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn. If Glenn can stay healthy he should be a significant upgrade.
While Marvin Lewis insists that last years first round pick, wide receiver John Ross, was not a “bust,” the flashy rookie barely played in 2017, leaving the search for a sidekick to AJ Green unfinished. A.J. McCarron won his free agency because of sloppy paperwork by the front office and took the starting job in Buffalo, leaving the job of clipboard holder vacant. And talented but troubled linebacker Vontaze Burfict faces a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy, creating doubt about his future as a defensive cornerstone.
Seemingly committed to two more years with Marvin, the Bengals enter this draft with a win now mentality.
Picks and Needs
The Bengals will have eleven picks in the 2018 draft.
First round (1 pick): 21 (from the Bills)
Second round (1): 46
Third round (2): 77 and 100
Fourth round (3): 112
Fifth round (3): 151, 158 (from the Bills) and 170
Sixth round (0):
Seventh round (3): 249, 252, 253
Center- Russell Bodine was allowed to walk at the end of his rookie contract, leaving this position open.
Guard- Kevin Zeitler left for Cleveland before last season, weakening the line even further. Expect some mid-round attention here.
Tight End or Wide Receiver- The perpetually injured Tyler Eifert was signed to a one year “prove it” contract, but it may be time to move on at tight end. And unless Ross turns things around in his second year, a legitimate #2 target across from Green is a must have.
Quarterback– Despite impersonating a pinata for much of his career, Andy Dalton has been remarkably healthy. But McCarron’s departure leaves the team without either a veteran back-up nor long-term replacement in case of injury or sudden decline. And no, Matt Barkley, doesn’t count.
Linebacker- Burfict’s dependability is a constant problem. Finding the next version might be a good place to spend that passel of 5th round picks.
Pick No 21: James Daniels, C, Iowa
Trading down from twelve leaves the Bengals out of the running for most of the really sexy picks. But it’s a great place to pick up a solid workhorse lineman like Ohio native Daniels. Ohio State’s Billy Price is another center under consideration, but might be had with a second round pick.
Pick 46: Orlando Brown, T, Oklahoma
He’s opened holes for Joe Mixon in college. The Brown signing allows the big sooner to move to the right side of the line and concentrate on doing just that in the pros.
Pick 77: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
Basically a Tyler Eifert Replacement Kit!
Pick 100: Josh Sweat, DE/LB, Florida State
If healthy, Sweat could be exactly the kind of coachable linebacker prospect that Marvin has shown some talent at developing. If he can be turned into a Vontaze Burfict with his head screwed on straight it would be a huge win for the Bengals.
I expected this to be a rebuilding season, with a new coaching administration shaking up the roster and the gameplans. Instead, we get two more years for Marvin Lewis to try and keep the window of opportunity open. Since the Bengals are usually quiet in free agency, they will need some immediate impact players out of this draft. There are still enough stars on this team to make a run, especially in an AFC North in flux. Two more years Marvin, even Mike Brown’s patience has a limit, right?
“From our Haus to Yours”