Cincinnati Bengals 2014 Draft: The Good, the Bad and the Baffling
The Cincinnati Bengals went into the 2014 NFL draft with a recent history of making few mistakes. However, no team can get every pick right. While we won't be able to know for some time how their eight new players will help or harm the Bengals, we can take a look at this year's picks and make a few snap judgements.
Namely, we can rank them on a what-were-they-thinking scale, with each pick falling into one of three categories: the good, the bad and the baffling. Click ahead to find out where each decision lands.
List of All 2014 Draft Selections
Here are all the players the Bengals selected in the 2014 NFL draft:
- Darqueze Dennard, CB (Round 1, 24th overall)
- Jeremy Hill, RB (Round 2, 55th overall)
- Will Clarke, DE (Round 3, 88th overall)
- Russell Bodine, C (Round 4, 111th overall)
- A.J. McCarron, QB (Round 5, 164th overall)
- Marquis Flowers, LB (Round 6, 212nd overall)
- James Wright, WR (Round 7, 239th overall)
- Lavelle Westbrooks, CB (Round 7, 252nd overall)
Darqueze Dennard, CB (Round 1, Pick 24)
The Bengals were believed to be targeting a cornerback in Round 1 and that's exactly the direction they went, taking Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State, who fell into their laps at 24th overall.
Dennard has 167 career collegiate tackles including 10 for a loss. He has 10 interceptions and 26 passes defensed as well. His talent level is extremely high—he does everything a top-flight cornerback should do and has the right size and speed as well.
He'll immediately challenge the veteran starters in Cincinnati for their jobs this year. This was the perfect merger of the Bengals meeting a need and getting the best possible player still on the board.
Jeremy Hill, RB (Round 2, Pick 55)
The Bengals are thinking about the future, if their second-round selection of LSU running back Jeremy Hill is in any indication. Current running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be a free agent after this season, and it's likely Hill will replace him in the duo that features Giovani Bernard.
Hill had 345 career carries with LSU, for 2,156 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns. He also caught 26 passes for 254 yards. Hill is a powerful, downhill runner like Green-Ellis, but he needs to work on his blocking. He should develop into the type of all-around rusher Green-Ellis has become.
Will Clarke, DE (Round 3, Pick 88)
The Bengals no longer have to wonder who will replace defensive end Michael Johnson, whom the team lost in free agency. They found him in Round 3 with West Virginia's Will Clarke.
Clarke had 110 tackles, 28.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks in his three years with the Mountaineers. He's an explosive pass-rusher and very strong, giving him an edge against the run as well. The Bengals definitely know how to coach up young defensive line talent, and Clarke should be no exception. He has everything it takes to be a Week 1 starter in his rookie season.
Russell Bodine, C (Round 4, Pick 123)
Russell Bodine played center for North Carolina, but he could also move to guard in the NFL. Either way, he'll be a good source of offensive line depth for the Bengals and has the skill set to take him to a starting job in time.
The Bengals don't have an incredible amount of depth on the line, especially at center, so Bodine certainly meets that need. He's a strong player, good in run-blocking and pass protection, and he's athletic. It's hard to complain about any offensive lineman added by any team in the draft; it's perennially an area of need.
Marquis Flowers, LB (Round 6, Pick 212)
Marquis Flowers of Arizona State is an intriguing pick by the Bengals in Round 6, but it is by no means a bad (or baffling) one. Flowers is simply a playmaker, one who could play defensive end, linebacker or safety for Cincinnati.
Flowers spent his first two years at Arizona State as a safety and his final two as a linebacker. Between both positions, he amassed 273 tackles including 27.5 for a loss, as well as 7.5 sacks, five interceptions and 12 passes defensed. He's fast and ferocious and plays defense in the style the Bengals prefer.
If he can play special teams, the Bengals will continue to develop him as either a fast coverage linebacker or a safety. The upside was too much to pass by. It's an unorthodox pick, but it fits the Bengals' draft style.
Lavelle Westbrooks, CB (Round 7, Pick 252)
The Bengals used their final pick of the NFL draft on cornerback Lavelle Westbrooks of Georgia Southern. A former safety-turned-cornerback, Westbrooks is a big player, an aggressive hitter and good tackler. He's quick and plays just well in coverage and against the run.
Westbrooks is extremely raw. His technique will need development and special teams may be his home until that happens. His willingness to hit certainly makes him a good fit in that part of the Bengals' game. Westbrooks might be a long shot to make the roster, but that's the nature of seventh-round picks. He wasn't a bad choice, because his ceiling is unknown. The potential is there for him to return to safety or stay at corner in the NFL.
James Wright, WR (Round 7, Pick 239)
The Bengals had just one poor pick and it won't likely cost them a thing in 2014 or beyond. That would be LSU receiver James Wright, whom they selected with their first of two seventh-round picks.
Wright has caught only 25 passes for 303 yards and no scores in his four years with LSU and didn't have a single catch in 2013. He worked only on special teams. Perhaps the Bengals see in him a receiver who can be coached up, or a special teams-only type of player like running back Cedric Peerman.
Still, using a seventh-round pick on someone as marginal as Wright carries with it zero risk. However, it may have not been the best use of the selection considering the depth of this draft class.
A.J. McCarron, QB (Round 5, Pick 164)
It's not baffling that the Bengals took a young quarterback to add to the trio of starter Andy Dalton and veteran backups Josh Johnson and Jason Campbell. It's not baffling that they did so in Round 5. What is baffling though is the choice—polarizing former Alabama passer A.J. McCarron.
McCarron fell to Round 5 despite believing, very openly, that he'd be taken no later than 35th. His interviews were reportedly off-putting to many teams and thus his character has come under fire.
The Bengals definitely are no strangers to taking chances—and succeeding—with similarly questionable characters. But there were other quarterbacks on the board that could have played McCarron's part on Cincinnati's depth chart without the potential locker room issues.
McCarron is a championship-winning game manager with 9,019 career passing yards at Alabama and 77 touchdowns thrown to 15 interceptions. He's a short-yardage expert who is certainly nothing like Dalton but does have a good scheme fit for Hue Jackson's offense.
As a player, McCarron is an alright use of the Bengals' fifth-round pick. But his attitude and off-field exploits make this the Bengals' lone baffling choice of the 2014 draft.