Cincinnati Bengals Draft Picks: Results, Analysis and Grades
The 2014 NFL draft could determine the direction of the Cincinnati Bengals franchise over the coming seasons. Marvin Lewis and the rest of his staff will be hoping that direction points toward a deeper run in the playoffs, but too many missed picks could cause them to slide back into mediocrity.
Entering the draft, the Bengals have nine total draft picks. One in each of the first five rounds, two in the sixth and two in the seventh. Each of the extra picks in the sixth and seventh round are compensatory picks—therefore they cannot be traded.
You can find the exact positions of each draft pick here.
With those picks, the Bengals will be hoping to address a few key areas. A new defensive end is the most pressing need on the roster, because of the departure of former starter Michael Johnson in free agency. After that, the Bengals need to add more youth to the secondary, at the cornerback position specifically. With Rey Maualuga entering a contract year, the Bengals may also be tempted to invest a high pick in a linebacker.
Each of those areas are notable, but none are as notable as the quarterback.
Multiple reports, here and here, have suggested that the Bengals are considering drafting Teddy Bridgewater. The Louisville quarterback prospect was expected to be a top pick in the draft, competing with Jadeveon Clowney for first player taken, but his stock has plummeted throughout the draft process.
Bridgewater has fallen so far that some suggest he won't be a first-round pick.
Of course, if the Bengals select him with their first pick, then not only will that prove to be untrue, but he will also be expected to start over Andy Dalton in 2014. What the Bengals then do with Dalton would be the next most important step, because there would likely be a strong interest from other quarterback-needy teams.
Bridgewater is very talented, but part of the Bengals' interest in him must be their reluctance to give Dalton a long-term contract. Dalton may have taken the team as far as he can. If that is the case, then Bridgewater is the best direction to go in.
However, if the Bengals still believe in Dalton and all of these rumors are just attempts to gain more leverage in contract negotiations, then the franchise will likely look to improve the offense around him.
The Bengals already have a very talented offense, but this is a very deep wide receiver draft so there could be good value to take advantage of in the middle rounds. Their primary concern on offense will be in the trenches.
Losing Kyle Cook and Anthony Collins doesn't dramatically hurt the quality of the Bengals starting offensive line, but it does affect their depth. Moves made in free agency weren't enough to adequately fill out the roster.
Bengals Select Cornerback Darqueze Dennard
The Cincinnati Bengals showed that they are very confident in quarterback Andy Dalton by passing on Teddy Bridgewater with their first pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Instead of taking the Louisville quarterback, they invested in cornerback Darqueze Dennard.
Dennard is a man coverage specialist who relies on his technique early in routes to stick to receivers. He could immediately compete for a starting spot outside over Terence Newman or Adam Jones. Dennard has the flexibility to move around the field and play in the slot also.
The cornerback run in the first round never really happened, so the Bengals were able to choose Dennard over Bradley Roby and Jason Verrett. He is the third cornerback taken in the first round behind Justin Gilbert and Kyle Fuller.
I will be writing a more in-depth piece about Dennard's fit with the Bengals within the next hour, so look out for that. In the meantime, my grade:
Pick Grade: B
Bengals Select Running Back Jeremy Hill
For the second season in a row, the Cincinnati Bengals select a running back in the second round of the draft. Jeremy Hill out of LSU became the second back off the board after Bishop Sankey went to the Tennessee Titans a few picks before.
Hill should prove to be a perfect complement to Bernard, because he is a bigger back who can break tackles and run between the tackles. He compiled 2,156 yards on 345 attempts during his time in college, while also adding 28 total touchdowns over two seasons.
With BenJarvus Green-Ellis currently on the roster, Hill will have some competition for his role early in his rookie season. Green-Ellis will have the advantage because of his experience and comfort with the offense, but Hill is clearly a more talented player.
Hill was likely selected over Carlos Hyde and other running backs because of how he complements Bernard, but it's hard to argue that he was the best option on the board for them. That, combined with his character questions and the positional value of running backs pushes the grade for this pick down.
Pick Grade: C
Bengals Select Defensive End Will Clarke
Everyone knew that the Cincinnati Bengals would be in the market for a defensive end. Michael Johnson was the only major loss from this roster during free agency, so it makes sense that a defensive end was picked in the first three rounds.
Clarke is the 88th overall pick of the draft out of West Virginia.
Just like Jeremy Hill in the second round, Clarke wasn't projected to go this high in the draft. Just like Margus Hunt last year, the Bengals are drafting a very long player who needs to be developed into a viable starter.
The Bengals clearly have a type at the defensive end position and Clarke is just the next player in that line of Michael Johnson-types.
Pick Grade: B-
Cincinnati Bengals Trade Up to Select Center Russell Bodine
A trade with the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth round of the draft allowed the Cincinnati Bengals to select center Russell Bodine with the 111th overall pick.
The UNC product will have a chance to compete for a starting spot in Cincinnati after the departure of Kyle Cook this offseason, but he will need to beat out Trevor Robinson and Mike Pollak for that spot. He is a very strong, versatile offensive lineman who could be a backup at both guard spots.
The Bengals gave up a sixth round pick to move up 12 spots in the fourth round. Having two picks in the sixth and seventh rounds allowed the Bengals to be aggressive at this stage.
Pick Grade: C+ Trade Grade: B
Cincinnati Bengals Select Quarterback A.J. McCarron
By waiting until the fifth round of the draft, the Cincinnati Bengals have avoided any potential quarterback controversy involving Andy Dalton this season. The Bengals will likely make Dalton wait for a year before they decide on giving him a big contract extension.
A.J. McCarron will join the Bengals as the 164th overall selection in the draft.
McCarron was a very good college quarterback at the University of Alabama. He started for three seasons and directed a very talented offense for the most accomplished team in the country. His 66 touchdown to 9 interception ratio during his time at Alabama suggests that he understands how to take care of the football, but it also must take into account the quality of his supporting cast.
He doesn't have huge upside as a physical talent and there were noted question marks over his character that caused him to fall to this point in the draft.
Pick Grade: C
Cincinnati Bengals Select Linebacker Marquis Flowers
The Bengals had a number of opportunities to add an athletic linebacker to their defense during this draft, but they decided to wait until the end of the sixth round. Marquis Flowers out of Arizona became that selection with the 212th overall pick.
Flowers is 6'3" and 231 lbs. He ran a 4.51 forty at the combine and projects as an outside linebacker in Paul Guenther's defense.
The Bengals could have selected Kevin Pierre-Louis or Telvin Smith earlier in the draft, but they instead decided to go with a lesser known prospect. Flowers will likely compete with Emmanuel Lamur for playing time during the 2014 season.
Pick Grade: C+
Cincinnati Bengals Select Wide Receiver James Wright
With the 239th pick of the draft, the Bengals selected James Wright, wide receiver out of LSU. Wright is a 6'1", 201 lb receiver who conceded the spotlight at LSU to Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry. He ran a 4.45 fort at his pro day and wasn't invited to the NFL Combine.
Cincinnati Bengals Select Cornerback Lavelle Westbrooks
The Cincinnati Bengals started out this draft by taking cornerback Darqueze Dennard and now they finish it by taking another cornerback, Lavelle Westbrooks. Westbrooks was the 252nd overall selection of the draft, a seventh round compensatory pick.
Pick Grade: C-