It’s a dawn of a new era for the Cincinnati Bengals, but can they stick the landing with Zac Taylor’s first draft class?
State Of The Team
“In transition” is the best way to describe the Bengals right now. Three straight losing seasons were enough to finally end the Marvin Lewis era.
And now, Zac Taylor steps in. Taylor is a first-time head coach so there are significant unknowns about what the 2019 Bengals will look like and how well they can turn things around. The talent at the offensive skill positions prevents this from being a total rebuild, but everything else needs work, so this draft is crucial.
The last Bengals draftee to reach a Pro Bowl was 2013 first-rounder Tyler Eifert. That plays a significant role in the recent trend of losing.
Total Draft Picks
Cincinnati has 10 total picks in the 2019 draft.
- Round 1, pick 11
- Round 2, pick 10 (No. 42 overall)
- Round 3, pick 9 (No. 72 overall)
- Round 4, pick 8 (No. 110 overall)
- Round 5, pick 11 (No. 149 overall)
- Round 6, pick 26 (No. 198 overall)
- Round 6, pick 38 (No. 210 overall)
- Round 6, pick 39 (No. 211 overall)
- Round 6, pick 41 (No. 213 overall)
- Round 7, pick 9 (No. 223 overall)
Top 3 Draft Needs
Linebacker: Linebacker is the Bengals’ top need. Last year’s group had two players in the top five in missed tackle percentage according to Sports Info Solutions. Vontaze Burfict is now in Oakland and Hardy Nickerson is still young. Players like Nick Vigil are solid, but can’t be the face of an entire defense. Fresh talent is absolutely a must at this position.
Offensive Line: Cincinnati’s offensive line has struggled for a long time. Whether it’s players like last year’s top draft pick Billy Price not staying healthy or now-former Bengals like Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher not playing well, the struggles have continued. The draft has not been kind to the Bengals at this position group in recent years, but they have to keep swinging until they get it right.
Tight End: No other receivers have emerged to take the heat off A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd. This offense desperately needs a third legitimate pass-catching option. Even with Tyler Eifert back on yet another one-year deal, the team almost has to plan on him not staying healthy.
Top 3 Draft Targets
Either Devin — White or Bush — would instantly bring the Bengals defense the sideline-to-sideline linebacking presence it desperately needs, but Bush is more likely to be available at 11. He is undersized but creates leverage well with his frame and knows how to shed blocks.
OT, West Virginia
The former Mountaineer just had quad surgery and will be out three months. Assuming the Bengals are not scared off by that, Yondy Cajuste is a good athlete who would be an asset in the screen game, but also can move defenders in the run game. He is a little raw, but the Bengals’ contract situation on the offensive line means he may not play right away.
Irv Smith has been overshadowed by the highly-touted pair of Iowa tight ends and only started for one season at Alabama, but his production and measurables are eye-opening. It would be good for him to learn from the veteran tight ends already on the Bengals roster.
Decision Maker (Or Who To Blame If Things Go Wrong)
This is always a hot topic in Cincinnati. Final say always lies with embattled owner Mike Brown and his family. Marvin Lewis eventually earned the Brown’s trust to some degree. New head coach Zac Taylor does not have that equity built up.
So, while a few other executives may have a small say, the Brown family has absolute power for better or worse.
Best/Worst Pick In Current Draft Slot
Historically, who was the best pick and/or the worst pick based on where the team is currently picking.
Best Pick: Billy Brooks, wide receiver, No. 11 overall in 1976 NFL Draft
The Bengals have only held the 11th overall pick one other time. They drafted Oklahoma wide receiver Billy Brooks in 1976. Brooks was only a Bengal for three seasons and had 96 career catches. However, two of the best players in franchise history were drafted one spot away from spots the Bengals hold this year. Tackle Willie Anderson was drafted 10th-overall in 1996 and running back Corey Dillon was drafted 43rd-overall in 1997.
Worst Pick: Levi Jones, tackle, No. 10 overall in 2002 NFL Draft
The Bengals have surprisingly few top-15 draft busts over the years, which unfortunately puts tackle Levi Jones in the “worst” category for the purposes of this exercise. Jones played seven of his eight seasons for the Bengals, serving as left tackle and starting 89 games.