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The 2018 impact meter for every Cincinnati Bengals draft pick

Russell Heltman

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That’s all she wrote.

The 2018 NFL Draft is complete, as the Cincinnati Bengals used all 11 of their draft picks to bolster a roster that has playoff aspirations after missing out on the party over the past two seasons.

It would be folly to think every pick handed into the league office will see the field for the Bengals this season but they all have a chance to make an impact one way or another.

Time to assess what kind of influence each pick could have on the gridiron this Fall.

Billy Price – C, Ohio State
Impact Meter: MASSIVE
This guy represents one of the biggest keys to Bengals success this fall. After “losing” longtime-starter Russell Bodine to the Buffalo Bills in free agency, center became the biggest area of need for this Bengals team. The only one on the roster before Thursday night was T.J. Johnson, who has started just five games since being drafted in 2013. The Bengals didn’t wait to address the hole up front, drafting Billy Price with the 21st pick in the draft.

The 2017 Rimington Award winner, Price is arguably the best center in the draft and figures to be a day-one starter once camp opens on July 26th. Price notched 55 starts between guard and center for the Buckeyes and anchored one of the best run-blocking units in college football last season.

The Ohio native figures to be a stalwart for Cincinnati similar to what Rich Braham was in the first few years of the Marvin Lewis-era. Frank Ragnow would’ve likely been the selection had he not been taken a pick earlier by Detroit, but Price is a nasty road grader who will command the huddle and play with passion each and every snap.

Jessie Bates III – S, Wake Forest
Impact Meter: MODERATE
I noted in my debut article for Locked On Bengals that Cincinnati was in need of playmakers in the back end of the defense and they added one with their lone pick in the second round.

Bates is very similar to the guy they brought in for a visit earlier in the month, Eric Reid, but with even better ball skills. He is hard-nosed and likes to play a little closer to the line of scrimmage in anticipation of closing out quicker on ball carriers. The Wake Forest product should be a welcome addition to a Teryl Austin-unit that wants to implement more three safety looks. Bates can play close to the line or drop back in coverage where he had six interceptions and 10 passes defensed during his time as a Demon Deacon. He represents a welcome addition to a defense that ranked 31st in turnovers forced last season.

Expect Bates to be in some limited packages during his first year with the Bengals but don’t be surprised if he lights a few guys up on kick returns, he will be an immediate special teams contributor.

Sam Hubbard – DE, Ohio State
Impact Meter: MODERATE
Part of a rookie trio headed from the Buckeyes to the Bengals, Hubbard was a fantastic value pick at #77 overall. The former Buckeye tore up Big Ten offensive tackles. Across three seasons at Ohio State, Hubbard totaled 17 sacks, and 30 tackles for loss.

Hubbard provides depth to a strong but uninsured defensive end group. Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson should be the week one starters but they are entering the final year of their contracts and we’ve all seen how underwhelming Johnson has been during his second stint in Cincinnati. Hubbard is a little undersized to be a full-time defensive end in Teryl Austin’s 4-3 system but I expect him to bulk up over time and carve out a larger role in the process.

We won’t have to worry about his excitement to play for Cincinnati, Hubbard grew up in the tri-state area and was a diehard Bengals fan growing up and now gets to suit up for his dream franchise. Don’t be shocked if Hubbard, or sophomore Jordan Willis supplants Johnson as the starter at some point this season.

Malik Jefferson – LB, Texas
Impact Meter: MODERATE/MASSIVE
Speed.
That has been the weakest aspect of the Bengals linebacking corps over the past few seasons and they addressed that with Jefferson.

The Texas product ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at the NFL combine (3rd among linebackers) and was unleashed when Texas altered their defense last season.  Jefferson tallied 110 tackles in 2017 including 10 for loss and four sacks.

Checking in at 6’3″ and 235 pounds, Jefferson has the prototypical size and speed to be a dominant linebacker in today’s NFL but he often plays with a recklessness that can cost a defense dearly.

If linebackers coach Jim Haslett can coach him up and reign him in just a bit, Jefferson could end up being a perfect partner for Vontaze Burfict when he returns from his four-game suspension.

Expect him to see substantial playing time while Burfict is on the shelf.

Mark Walton – RB, Miami
Impact Meter: MINIMAL
A lot of Bengals faithful threw up their hands in disgust when this pick came across the ticker but I expect them to eat their words more than once over the next few years.

Walton is one of the shiftiest home run-hitters in this draft and the value was just too good to pass up in the fourth round. Before an ankle injury cut his final season in Miami seven games short, Walton was putting together a monster season for the Hurricanes on the ground, rushing for 428 yards and three touchdowns on a whopping 7.6 yards per carry.

Walton can make just about any human on the planet miss in the open field and he provides depth to a running back committee that saw Jeremy Hill and Cedric Peerman depart this season.

Walton likely won’t see many carries in 2018 but Gio Bernard only has two years left on his deal and Walton can be a day-one contributor on special teams.

Davontae Harris – CB, Illinois State
Impact Meter: MINIMAL
The only FCS player drafted by the Bengals, Davontae Harris was brought in to offer depth on the outside of the defense. Harris has some issues with ball tracking and coverage technique but he had impressive measurables at the combine including a 4.43 40-yard dash and 22 reps on the bench press.

Adam Jones remains unsigned, while Josh Shaw and Darqueze Dennard are both entering contract years so the Bengals needed to add another promising player to the cornerback room.

Expect the FCS All-American to see limited snaps in relief of Dennard in the slot but he will likely notch the most looks on the special teams unit.

Andrew Brown – DT, Virginia
Impact Meter: MODERATE/MASSIVE
In my eyes Andrew Brown is the only late-round pick that has a chance to be a consistent starter for the Bengals this season. Cincinnati really needed to address this position with All-Pro talent Geno Atkins set to hit free agency next year, and lets be honest, Andrew Billings has not impressed alongside him.

Billings ranked 119th among defensive tackles last season according to Pro Football Focus and Ryan Glasgow outperformed him throughout his rookie campaign.

Brown played defensive end at Virginia and has the long arms that often cause headaches for opposing guards. After accumulating 26.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks over 34 games, Brown brings an aggressive nature to the interior line that mirrors his All-Pro partner.

I don’t expect Brown to be the week one starter alongside Geno Atkins, but he has a great chance to take control of that role if he can bring the same mentality he showed at Virginia into Paul Brown Stadium.

Darius Phillips – CB, Western Michigan
Impact Meter: MODERATE/MASSIVE
I hope Adam Jones wasn’t anticipating a return to Cincinnati this Fall because the Bengals crushed that storyline with their final pick of the fifth round.

Darius Phillips represents another chance to bolster the cornerback depth but the biggest reason a massive impact is possible lies in his game-breaking return skills.

Phillips holds the FBS-record for return touchdowns and has shown the ability to ring up big plays every time he gets ahold of the football.

The Detroit native had a return touchdown in all four years at WMU and 12 interceptions in three full seasons at corner.

I noted earlier how desperate the Bengals are for playmakers in the secondary and Phillips should be able to contribute day one as a slot corner.

Dennard will still see the majority of the snaps inside but Phillips can immediately step in as the Bengals #1 return man. A fifth-straight season with a return touchdown will make Phillips a household name among Bengals fans.

Logan Woodside – QB, Toledo
Impact Meter: MINIMAL/MODERATE
This is one of my favorite value picks of the entire draft.
Woodside is a savvy, pinpoint passer who I had a chance to see first hand when he went up against the Ohio Bobcats last season.

His production dropped off a bit in his senior campaign but Woodside has always taken pretty good care of the football (93 career TD, 25 INT) and he completed 65.1 percent of his passes during his career on an astounding 9.1 yards per attempt.

Woodside can make almost every throw in the book and despite having an average arm he was still one of the most prolific deep ball throwers in the nation last season.

The Bengals were not looking to start the season with Matt Barkley as their only insurance behind Andy Dalton. I expect Woodside to win the backup role and be ready fill in for Dalton should anything happen to the Red Rifle.

Rod Taylor – OG, Ole Miss
Impact Meter: MINIMAL
Rod Taylor was the second and final offensive lineman taken by the Bengals, much to the surprise of people outside the franchise. It makes sense though, offensive line was clearly not the strength of this draft and there is no need to reach for something that isn’t there.

With that being said, I think Taylor has a solid shot to make the final roster cut because he can play tackle or guard and represents a nice little project for Frank Pollack and the rest of his staff.

Don’t expect Taylor to become the next Anthony Muñoz, but a solid back up role doesn’t seem to be out of the realm of possibility.

Auden Tate – WR, Florida State
Impact Meter: MINIMAL
The Bengals last selection in the 2018 NFL Draft brings some serious upside to a crowded wide receivers room and represents another great value pick in the final-ten selections.

Auden Tate notched 40 catches for 548 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Seminoles last season and checked into the combine at 6’5″ and 228 pounds.

If Tate can stand out amongst the other three wide receviers fighting for a roster spot he will be a huge red-zone target for Andy Dalton and represent another weapon for a Bengals offense that is shaping up to be loaded when the 2018 season kicks off.

A Cincinnati sports fan since before he could walk, Russ grew up in Anderson Township and currently attends Ohio University where he is pursuing a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Aside from cheering on all of the lovable losers in Cincinnati, Russ is an avid golfer and diehard Charlotte Hornets fan. When he's not breaking down the Bengals on 97 WATH you can find his analysis and thoughts on everything Orange and Black right here.

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