First round: Billy Price, C, Ohio State – The Bengals got a plug-and-play center. Say what you want about who was there and who wasn't, but they think Price is ready to start and play at a high-level in year one. After interviewing him and listening to him talk in other interviews, I think he's going to quickly become a fan favorite. There isn't one person around the Ohio State program who has said anything negative about Price. I know some are worried about his pectoral injury, but I'd bet he plays and starts for the Bengals right away. How long have you asked for this team to draft a player in the first round who can help right away?
Side Note: The Cordy Glenn trade was such a great move. The Bengals moved back from No. 12 to No. 21 and added a left tackle who is a proven commodity in the NFL. The top tackle in the draft (Mike McGlinchey) was selected with the ninth overall pick on Thursday night. If they Bengals had stayed put, they might've been forced to reach on a guy like Kolton Miller out of UCLA. Instead, they have their left tackle and center of the present and the future.
Grade: The Price pick gets a B, but when you consider the Glenn trade and realize they turned the 12th pick into two significant upgrades on the offensive line, the Bengals should get an A+ for what they did in the first round.
Second Round: Jesse Bates III, S, Wake Forest – Some people lost their minds when the Bengals didn't sign free agent safety Eric Reid a few weeks ago. Bates III was one of the reasons why they didn't. He fills a need and should contribute as a rookie. They've wanted a ball hawk, who could play deep safety and they got one. George Iloka and Shawn Williams can play closer to the line of scrimmage. Why does that help? Well, Iloka and Williams are better in coverage than most of their linebackers. It makes them more athletic and having Bates III roaming around should hopefully cause more turnovers. He had six interceptions, returning two for touchdowns and 10 passes defensed in two seasons at Wake Forrest. I don't think they'll use him as a returner, but he did return 27 punts in college for 234 yards and one touchdown.
Grade: B+ – The Bengals wanted a free safety with range and ability to cause more turnovers and they got him after trading down in round two. He's one of the best cover safeties in this draft and he's another 'plug-and-play' pick for the Bengals. They feel like he can contribute on defense from day one.
Third Round: Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State – They went with another Ohio State product with the No. 77 pick. Hubbard continues a common theme for the Bengals in this draft. They added players who can help right away. Hubbard believes he's ready to contribute as a rookie. He has the ability to slide inside and play tackle, while also moving outside and rushing the passer from the edge. Every evaluation I read praised his relentless. He has good size at 6'5" tall and 270 pounds. He is from Cincinnati and went to Moeller high school. Hubbard stays home and should have the opportunity to get after the quarterback as a rookie.
Grade: A- – The Bengals get a high grade here because of the value. I believe Hubbard was in the discussion in round two. They opted to address a different position. Hubbard fell to them and I expect him to have success in Cincinnati. It gives them another pass rusher who can rotate with Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis. It also gives them some insurance if they're not able to re-sign Carlos Dunlap after the 2018 season.
Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas – We've wanted the Bengals to get more athletic at the linebacker position. They did exactly that with Jefferson. He tested well across the board athletically, but didn't have the production in college that most were hoping for. He racked up 110 total tackles in his final year at Texas. He did have 10 tackles for loss and four sacks. He's another pick that may have an impact as a rookie, competing for playing time with Vinny Rey, Nick Vigil and Jordan Evans. The Bengals have to hope Jefferson can be the final piece to a group that's needed a boost for quite some time.
Grade: B – The Bengals added a player who is gifted enough to start in the NFL. He has all of the tools. Now defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and linebackers coach Jim Haslett need to get the most out of him. This isn't like the Paul Dawson pick a few years ago or even the Rey Maualuga pick years ago. Jefferson is more gifted than either player. They filled another need, with a player who should be able to contribute right away.
Fourth Round: Mark Walton, RB, Miami – Most fans were frustrated with the Bengals when they saw this pick. They felt like it was time for another offensive lineman – more on that in a bit. Walton was high on their board and they felt he was too good to pass up. He will contribute instantly on special teams and should also give the Bengals another option in the backfield. Joe Mixon looks the part and will probably have a breakout season in 2018. Giovani Bernard is a stud and a fan favorite, but what if either play gets injured? Now, they have a good answer to that question. Walton can catch out of the backfield and step in for Mixon or Bernard if they need him to. Would you rather have Walton or Cedric Peerman?
Grade: B- – I like the pick and I like the player, but it would've been interesting to see if they could've moved up and got another OL. Maybe package this pick (112) with a couple fifth round picks to move up. Instead, they used all 11 picks. Yes, sometimes it's hard to find a trade partner. After watching Walton, it's clear he has the talent to be useful as a rookie.
Fifth Round: Davontae Harris, CB, Illinois State – The Bengals like drafting versatile players and Harris has the potential to be exactly that. He played outside corner in college, but they may consider moving him to safety.He had 27 passes defensed in his final two seasons at Illinois State. He was first-team all conference and a 2nd-team FCS All-American. He ran a 4.43 40-yard dash. He will have to battle to make the 53-man roster.
Grade: C- – It's hard to sell me and most people on this pick with Oregon guard Tyrell Crosby still on the board. The Bengals love cornerbacks and didn't feel like Crosby was worth the pick. It'll be interesting to see how both do in the NFL.
Andrew Brown, DT, Virginia – Brown is a solid value pick here. An NFC scout told NFL.com that Brown has "great football character and he goes hard all the time. I think he has a chance to be a good pro because he'll play inside full time and he's got some quickness to beat guards." I've seen multiple draft analysts say analysts say Brown was a "steal" at this point in the draft.
Grade: B - The most interesting thing about this pick is what it means for players like Andrew Billings and Ryan Glasgow? Brown is athletic and has ability. If it translates right away, he could get some playing time.
Darius Phillips, CB, Western Michigan – This is my favorite pick of day three. Phillips is electric with the ball in his hands and should make the team because of his return ability. He was a great at it in college, returning 130 kicks for 3,193 yards and five touchdowns (24.6 average per return). He also returned 32 punts for 327 yards and one touchdown. This pick could rule out any chance of Adam Jones getting signed by the club. Phillips had 12 interceptions, returning five for touchdowns during his collegiate career. He isn't a freak athlete or a BIG name, but he has a nose for the ball, makes plays and the numbers back it up.
Grade: A - One way to improve on offense is to get more explosive in the return game. I'd expect Phillips to push for a starting role right away. Phillips versus Alex Erickson in camp would be fun. The Bengals potentially landed a day one starter at the end of the fifth round. It's impossible to hate his pick. Watch some of his highlights here.
Sixth Round: None
Seventh Round: Logan Woodside, QB, Toledo – I knew Woodside was on their radar. This is a solid pick in the seventh round. He doesn't have the strongest arm, he's not the tallest player, but he was productive in college and could end up being a solid backup in the NFL. When the Bengals took Woodside, the announcers brought up J.T. Barrett. He is better than Barrett. Woodside completed over 65 percent of his passes at Toledo and averaged nine yards-per-completion.
Grade: B+ – Woodside was the one day three quarterback I had interest in. He is accurate enough to succeed in the NFL. Does he have a strong enough arm? That remains to be seen. They add a quarterback, but it still leaves the door open to taking one early next season if they don't like what they've seen from Woodside.
Rod Taylor, OL, Mississippi – The Bengals finally add another offensive lineman, but it's likely a player destined for the practice squad. The Bengals believe he could play both guard and tackle, but he's probably nothing more than a camp body.
Grade: C – This isn't Taylor's fault, but I wish the Bengals would've been able to unload a few of these later picks to move up at some point in the draft or add a pick or two next year. You're pretty much adding camp bodies/practice squad hopefuls in round seven.
Auden Tate, WR, Florida State – Tate is tall, long, heavy and slow. I wonder if he will show enough to make the practice squad? The Bengals view him as a wide receiver. Could he hit it out of the park and compete with Cody Core for a roster spot? It's hard for me to imagine, but stranger things have happened. I do like the idea of a BIG wide receiver giving Dalton more of a window to throw the ball to.
Grade: B – When you have three seventh round picks you're going to take a flier on a few players that don't project well. Tate is one of those guys. Can he prove the league wrong? He certainly thinks so:
Final thoughts: I like what the Bengals did. I think their first five picks will contribute right away and they added plenty of NFL-ready talent to a defense that needed it. That being said, I wonder if they'll regret not taking Mason Rudolph in round three? The Bengals reportedly liked him and he almost fell to them, but Pittsburgh traded up and selected him right before the Bengals were on the clock.
This team is putting a lot of faith in new offensive line coach Frank Pollack. I buy into the 'Alex Redmond or Christian Westerman can start at right guard' narrative. I think Trey Hopkins should be in that mix too. Can Pollack take the right tackle position and get it to where it needs to be? Jake Fisher and Bobby Hart will likely battle for the starting job. The Bengals could've drafted Connor Williams from Texas with pick No. 46. Instead, they traded down eight spots to move up in round three. They still got their favorite safety, but they could've solidified the offensive line with another quality player. It's clear the Bengals were drafting players that are ready to contribute in multiple ways in 2018.
Final Grade: B – The Bengals improved in a lot of spots and added depth on defense. This team should get three or four starters from this draft when it's all said and done. I'm bummed they didn't add another quality lineman, but I understand why they didn't reach.
Get to know second round pick Jesse Bates III.
The Bengals added three defensive players in round five.
They Bengals got better, even if they reached in round one.
We talked with Billy Price after the Bengals drafted him.
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