Another year, another season that Mike Brown has managed to blow my blood pressure through the roof. Overall, I do think the draft turned out pretty good—though with its fair share of questionable calls.
Well, the picks are in, and the Bengals have their new rookies that could work out for better or worse. What that means is that it's time to start figuring out how they're going to do this season. And by "figuring out" I of course mean "speculating."
Cincinnati did a good job of going around their whole roster and making some good additions. With that being said, what kind of impact will each pick be making in the coming season?
I've decided this group of five guys together onto one slide. Since they may or may not make the roster, I figure going into too much depth won't be relevant until later in training camp.
Onterrio McCalebb, RB, Auburn: McCalebb wasn't actually a draft selection, but he was an undrafted free agent, so he is worth mentioning. He wasn't quite the star Michael Dyer was at Auburn, but there's plenty of potential for a running back with speed. If he makes the roster, he could see 20-30 carries.
Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska: Burkhead stood out at Nebraska during the 2011 season, accumulating over 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns. He struggled with injuries in 2012, but should he be on the team come September, I could see him coming out of the backfield to make a few catches on third down.
Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas: Catching passes from Tyler Wilson at Arkansas proved to be a good thing for Hamilton, as he gathered in 90 passes in 2012, but only found the end zone five times. He's a powerful receiver as opposed to a quick one, so there's potential for him to find the fifth or sixth slot on the receiving corps.
Reid Fragel (OT, Ohio State) and T.J. Johnson (C, South Carolina): As offensive linemen, it's hard to peg both of these guys, especially considering they were compensatory selections. Look for them to be backups if they make the squad.
Tanner Hawkinson was the first pick the Bengals used to sure up a very so-so offensive line—granted, the news broke during the draft that Andre Smith had re-signed, so the need was not as necessary.
Still, Hawkinson is a lineman who has been built on his foot movement, not so much his strength. He started 48 consecutive games as a Kansas Jayhawk, so there is no questioning his durability.
If training camp can help improve Hawkinson's strength and balance, there's no reason to believe he couldn't transform into a decent lineman. He's on a team that features two solid tackles in Smith and Andrew Whitworth, but learning under their teachings would be beneficial for the big man from Kansas.
If he sees the field in 2013, it will be on a limited basis.
While a fast player, Sean Porter is not quite the explosive linebacker we would like to see in Cincinnati. He adds solid depth to what has quickly become a crowded linebacker corps.
Porter is good for open field tackles against the run, and can be an effective pass rusher, but only in few circumstances. He's going to hit hard every step of the way. His issue could be the ability to physically catch a running back, but he is quick enough to drop back into coverage.
He's also a decent reader of the pass. He's undersized, so he'll need work, but Porter could make a viable weak-side linebacker, maybe gathering 15-20 tackles.
A lot of people are saying that Shawn Williams was a reach as a third-round pick. The fact of the matter is that Cincinnati did not address the need for a strong safety when they should have (more on that later), so they were left with Williams.
Now, that being said, I'm a fan of the pick. Williams is not good for many interceptions, as he does not possess the hands to be so. However, he was a top performer in both the 40-yard dash and the bench press at the combine, so he has plenty of strength and speed.
What does that mean? Well, this is a guy that can blitz the quarterback much the way Troy Polamalu did in Pittsburgh. He'll be good for that, and he is a viable guy to stop the run in the open field, like his future teammate, Reggie Nelson.
Williams is explosive and is good to break up quite a few passes. Watch for him to gather 40 tackles and a couple of sacks.
Margus Hunt has been touted as one of the most athletic guys in the draft. He ran a 4.60-second 40-yard dash and had 38 reps on the bench press. Both were top scores.
I've not been on the whole "draft a defensive end" train since there are two quality ends on the team already. However, Hunt, given his incredible athleticism, can be a big time back up for those guys and may eventually take over on the front line.
Hunt is very strong and can bowl through offensive lines, but probably won't be able to catch the more mobile quarterbacks, like Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson. His issue is that he is a new guy to the game of football, so he remains kind of raw.
Hunt will receive a good amount of playing time in 2013, and I expect him to record six to eight sacks.
This has been a popular selection amongst Bengal fans as the draft was approaching. I would have been okay with Bernard, Eddie Lacy, or even Johnathan Franklin, but I love the Bernard pick.
Bernard is built more for speed, which will complement BenJarvus Green-Ellis and his hard-knock style. He compiled an impressive resume at North Carolina, collecting 25 touchdowns and almost 2,500 yards over the past two seasons.
His only downside is that he suffered a torn ACL in 2010, which is always a concern with a running back. However, Bernard has good hands and great speed. He is going to pick up a lot of slack in the running game, which will finally give Andy Dalton some legitimate help in the backfield.
I see Bernard receiving 120 carries and gathering around 600-700 yards, scoring five or six times. He could also see some special teams action, which would be an immediate upgrade from Brandon Tate.
Yet again, I seem to be alone in my opinions. I was dissatisfied with last year's draft, which I'm still considering a debacle. And now, they drafted a tight end in Round 1, a pick I'll never understand. They did not need a tight end—they have Jermaine Gresham, a Pro Bowler by the way, and Orson Charles, who I have been yelled at constantly for criticizing. What of him now?
Cincinnati is not in a position to draft best available—Matt Elam was readily available. Hope it doesn't come back to bite them since they have to play him twice a year.
In any sense, I'll be optimistic about it. Eifert is a great tight end and should add a huge dimension to the Cincinnati offense. Andy Dalton is not a guy who will threaten you deep down the field, so across the middle to a two tight end set will be good for him.
Eifert is one of the best tight ends in the draft in recent memory and could wind up as another Rob Gronkowski. In the new two tight end set, watch for Eifert to catch 50 passes for 750 yards and seven touchdowns.