The 2017 NFL draft is in the books. There was a lot of pressure on the Bengals to return to their glory days of 2009-2012 when they landed 3-4 starters per draft and did especially well in the rounds 3 and on.
Here is a quick breakdown of all their picks.
Round 1 -
John Ross III - WR - The fastest WR in the draft ever. Now pure speed doesn't mean you can play football, but Ross impressed the Bengals' staff with his rare ability to change directions and still keep his world class speed. For the longest time Marvin Lewis has coveted a speed receiver for his offense. IF Ross stays healthy, he can be an incredible compliment to AJ Green and Tyler Eifert (IF he can stay healthy too).
Round 2 -
Joe Mixon - RB - The biggest controversy in the draft. Nixon was convicted for assaulting a female on campus his freshman year and missed the 2014 season as a result. There is no defending this. He made a huge mistake that will haunt him forever. However, the Bengals, whose owner loves reclamation projects, leaped at the chance to draft the big back with blazing speed who was my favorite running back in this draft. If Mixon stays healthy, he will be the starter by the end of the year. The Bengals have great luck drafting runners in the second round: Ickey Woods (scored 15 touch downs in 1988 and led the team to the Super Bowl), Harold Green (had a thousand yards in 1994 and made the Pro Bowl), Corey Dillon (the Bengals' career rushing leader who at one time held the rookie record for most yards rushing and for the total yards rushing in NFL games), Gio Bernard (a gifted multi-dimensional back), and Jeremy Hill (who was a rookie of the year in 2014 but hasn't been the same since the playoff game losing fumble at home vs the Steelers). The Bengals did trade down with old friend Mike Zimmer in MN to nab and extra fifth round pick to drop back and still grab the running back they really wanted anyway.
Round 3 -
Jordan Willis - DE - the much needed DE help the Bengals need to pair with Pro Bowlers Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. Hopefully he will find more success than recent Bengals' defensive end choice Marqus Hunt and Will Clarke.
Round 4 -
Carl Lawson - DE/OLB - again the Bengals sought pass rush help with Lawson, who can also play linebacker.
Josh Malone - WR - The Bengals hit a home run in 2012 when they landed Marvin Jones in the fifth round who was raw with blazing speed. Malone fits that to a T.
Ryan Glasgow - DT - More defensive tackle help. Out of the past fourth round draft picks - Andrew Billings and Marcus Hardison and now Glasgow, hopefully, the Bengals can find one guy who can help replace Domata Peko (himself a fourth round pick way back in 2006).
Round 5 -
Jake Elliott - K - The only kicker Marvin Lewis has ever drafted. If he can make extra points and give the Bengals a reasonable chance of making a few 50 plus yard field goals, he will be worth the investment. Had the Bengals had a solid kicker last year, they might have won 3 or 4 more games!
JJ Dielman - C - The Bengals' fans have been clamoring for a replacement for Russell Bodine for years now. Well, here is a possible option.
Round 6 -
Jordan Evans - ILB - Much needed linebacker help for the Bengals. He doesn't appear to be the most physical linebacker, but he is fast and athletic. There are always places for kids like that.
Brandon Wilson - CB - Only the fourth time the Bengals have ever moved up in the draft was for this ultra-athletic corner. Wilson is the definition of a utility man in that he can play running back, corner, return kicks (he had a 110 field goal return Houston's upset win over Oklahoma), and contribute as a cover man on special teams player.
Round 7 -
Mason Schreck - TE - An athletic tight end in a class loaded with talented tight ends. The odds of Schreck making the final roster are slim, but he could make the practice squad.
Overall, this draft could be their best since 2012 when the Bengals really laid the foundation for four straight playoff seasons and two division titles.
My favorite picks -
I wasn't big on Ross initially. He is a dynamic play maker, make no doubt, but he is a little on the small side and has been injured throughout his time at Washington. If you know the Bengals past first round picks, you know they all have had a history of being injured. Darqueze Dennard has battled injuries every single season and has done next to nothing in four seasons. Cedric Ogbuehi didn't play his rookie year at all due to being injured in their bowl game. He struggled mightily last year after missing most of the preseason. Last year their top pick, Will Jackson III, suffered a torn pectoral muscle that kept him out for his first season.
Hopefully, Ross can stay healthy and contribute. The nice thing is that the Bengals have great depth at WR. Hopefully, Ross won't have to be a full-time start as they have Tyler Boyd (second round pick last year) and Cody Core (sixth round pick last year) and Brandon LaFell (just signed to a 3 year contract) and Alex Erickson (who made the roster last year as a kick and punt returner). So there is no need to force him into the line up early or too often as they are set with LaFell opposite of Green with Boyd in the slot.
I was a huge fan of Mixon. He is big and fast and can catch. He might be the most talented back the Bengals have ever drafted. If he can stay healthy, he can wrestle the starting job from Jeremy Hill.
I love the picks of Wilson and Lawson. I actually called all four of the Bengals top draft picks. Wilson is athletic off the edge and can work slowly into the rotation with Michael Johnson opposite Dunlap. I also loved the Lawson pick. He has a passion for football and made a lot of plays. He has battled injuries too, but I hope he can stay healthy and work as an edge rusher and help back up the outside linebacker spots.