I was not pleased with what the Bengals had done in the draft on Friday night. There wasn’t a single pick I was happy about at the time. For almost every pick I could name a guy at the same position that was still available that I thought was a better prospect (which will be my next article).
However in the shower, where all great ideas come from, I believe I discovered the unseen factor that pushed the guys they selected up their board.
Remember all the talk about the Bengals being in win now mode?
If you look at this draft through that lens it comes into focus for me. It seems like the Bengals were determined to go center in round 1, the easiest way to upgrade their team. I fully believe the pick was Ragnow but when he went 20 the Bengals had a choice to make, Billy Price or James Daniels. James Daniels is 3 years younger (1/3 of an NFL career and will still develop physically), much more athletic on tape and test results to back it up.
By most measures a better prospect, but Billy Price is the better player right now. That is unless the Bengals try to run a zone heavy run scheme this year, then I just don’t know what they were doing.
The Jesse Bates III pick was surprising, especially with the highly touted Justin Reid still on the board. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very good at scouting safeties but all you had to do was put on a highlight clip of Reid.
Highlight clips can be useful if you know what you’re looking for. Don’t just look at what the result of the play was but *how* the prospect made that play.
There’s a big difference between a ball bouncing off of a DE’s hands into the waiting arms of a safety vs that safety tracking the deep ball and going up over that 6’3” receiver to steal the ball from him. When you roll the clips on Justin Reid my eyebrows go up and I involuntarily say “holy sh*t”.
Jesse Bates the 3rd (don’t you feel like we need 1 more guy that’s a 3rd of his name in the backfield just for symmetry?) is one of the true free safeties in the draft and I believe that’s why he went over Reid. Hell they’re rare even in the NFL.
He can come into that DB room right now and give them something they don’t have. Illoka has FS traits to be sure and can play the deep half really well but I don’t know if you want him in single high. I believe Bates 3 will be the deepest man in a lot of 3 safety looks and while he will likely not start barring injury, he will contribute.
Sam Hubbard is of a similar ilk. While there were some better DE prospects available in my opinion, Hubbard is ready to come in and play a role right now.
He’s already very effective against the run which was a weakness last year. He’s not going to have Carl Lawson like snaps where he just embarrasses the tackle and smashes the QB.
He’s a hustle player that’s going to get cleanup sacks and has the flexibility to play inside and out. He’s basically an upgraded Michael Johnson at this point. But that was the exact need the Bengals have on their D-line right now.
They have their edge guys, they have their lane cloggers. For the next 2 years Hubbard is the perfect fit.
This falls apart a little bit with Malik Jefferson. Hopefully he’s a quick study because he was NOT asked to do much in the pass game at Texas.
He would just delayed blitz pretty much every pass play. Who knows though, maybe he’s a coverage savant and that’s just what the scheme called for.
Day 3 was a more standard draft. They took some big swings and laid down some bunts, nothing really stood out to me there. Though I do love some of the picks.
I fully believe the Bengals are all in on the next 2 years and it really manifested itself last weekend. You have two hall of fame caliber players nearing the end of their prime and they’re just going to give it one last shot.
When I frame the draft that way I feel much better about it.
What do you guys think? Does that make sense? Tell me I’m an idiot or a genius or that my band is awesome in the comments or hit me up on twitter at @joelknowsbungs. I’d love to hear from you!