A nasty defense just got that much nastier on Thursday, May 8th. When the Bengals selected cornerback Darqueze Dennard out of Michigan State in the first round and No. 24 overall, their pass defense received a huge upgrade. I was shocked to see Dennard still available that late in the first round, but thank god he was. After drafting Dre Kirkpatrick at No. 17 overall in the 2012 draft, the Bengals had high expectations for him but he has yet to step up and fill those shoes. I think that Dennard will be the guy who can do that, and if Kirkpatrick has some young competition out there for a starting cornerback spot he may just step up his game.
In the second round, the Bengals went with LSU running back Jeremy Hill. Many people are going to ask, “Why Hill over Carlos Hyde?” Well, I think the Bengals went with Hill because he is an overall more physical runner, which will fit just right with new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s plans for revamping this offense. After the running game failed to be in the top ten in the league yet again in 2013, the Bengals are looking for that player to give them the extra pop that they need. They found half the answer in last year’s draft in Giovani Bernard, who has shown he can be the next Ray Rice, running for big gains and catching passes out of the backfield. Hill and Bernard could be an unstoppable duo, but that does not leave much room for Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Green-Ellis could be fighting for his job in 2014 as the odds are starting to look stacked against him.
The Bengals addressed the departure of Michael Johnson in the third round when they drafted defensive end William Clarke out of West Virginia. While I do like this pick and think they needed to add a safety net to their defensive line, I do think that they should have used their third round pick to take an offensive linemen or a safety. Clarke will not have an immediate impact as he will serve as a backup to an already deep Bengals defensive line.
In the fourth round the Bengals traded up to snag center Russell Bodine from North Carolina. Drafting a center was absolutely necessary for the Bengals for two reasons. One, starting center Kyle Cook was released earlier this offseason and no one on the Bengal’s roster right now could step up and play as a true center. Two, if Hue Jackson is looking to elevate the running game, they needed to grab someone who could block for their running backs. Bodine is a very strong, physical center, and I really like this pick this late in the draft. The Bengals clearly had their sights set on Bodine as they traded up to get him, only the third time in team history they have traded up in the draft.
AJ McCarron became a Cincinnati Bengal in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft. Other than the safety position, the Bengals addressed all their other needs in the earlier rounds of the draft so taking McCarron here was not a bad move. They need someone who can be a solid back up to Andy Dalton other than Josh Johnson. With Dalton entering his final year of his contract, McCarron could be the guy to give Dalton a run for his money. The Bengals need solid proof that Dalton can be the guy to take their team to the promised land and now with McCarron nipping at his heels, Dalton will take his game to the next level.
After five round of the draft, the Bengals are sitting pretty. They have addressed the majority of their needs and have found some players who could have immediate impacts in the 2014 season. So far, the Bengals receive a grade of a solid “B”.