5 Bold Predictions for Cincinnati Bengals' 2014 NFL Draft Class
So now, let's make some bold predictions.
Why not? Some of the picks, such as quarterback AJ McCarron, downright confused many. How a rookie fits a roster—if at all by the time final cuts roll around—and the intent behind each pick is not always easy to discern.
Remember last offseason when many thought James Harrison was going to be a major contributor?
Right. Remember, nothing is too outlandish at this point of the offseason. Let's take a look.
Jeremy Hill Steals BenJarvus Green-Ellis' Job
There is a popular thought among Bengals fans that running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be cut this offseason after the Bengals drafted Jeremy Hill in the second round.
Don't count on it.
Hill will steal the job away from Green-Ellis, sure, but this is a franchise that loves veterans. Green-Ellis has just one year left on his deal, and it's not as if the Bengals are hurting for cap space, so they'll certainly keep him around for the final year as an insurance policy.
In regards to Hill, his power and violent style mesh well the Cincinnati offense and complement starter Giovani Bernard quite well. Running backs coach Kyle Caskey summed it up nicely, via Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer:
The way he played in his offense at LSU, and the pro-style offense they had and what they asked him to do. He stepped up and was going against a tough SEC, downhill, the stuff that we like to do. And when it came to pass protection, he actually stepped in there. He was coached to do that and he looked really tough, not that the others guys didn't. He really just stepped above that when it came to being a complete player and the type of runner we're looking for as well, and playing against the competition he played.
There is a sound amount of bust potential that comes with Hill, which is why The Law Firm will stick around for another year. But the kid on fresh legs, hungry to prove himself in a committee approach, will undoubtedly see more snaps than Green-Ellis.
Marquis Flowers Costs Taylor Mays His Job
When pick No. 212 was announced, not many Cincinnati Bengals fans were likely familiar with Marquis Flowers and how he would earn his way into a roster spot at a very deep linebacker position in the Queen City.
Versatility, of course.
Notice a theme with Cincinnati's selections? A majority of the picks are almost carbon copies of current or past players.
Flowers is Taylor Mays, who was a complete bust with the team before moving into a hybrid linebacker-safety role. Now, Mays is on the sideline recovering with a labrum that was torn in two places and was gifted just a one-year deal this offseason by the front office.
At 6'2" and 231 pounds, Flowers can play either spot (although he's light for a linebacker), but the hybrid role is best. He's a nice wrinkle to the Cincinnati defense and can make the roster if he proves to be a great special teams asset and smart decision-maker in the regular defense, something Mays has had issues with in the past.
With Mays' health and play an issue, watch for Flowers to nab his job this offseason.
Will Clarke Rarely Sees the Field as a Rookie
Will Clarke is one of those clones.
Standing at 6'6" and 271 pounds, the West Virginia product will remind many of Michael Johnson, who went to Tampa Bay to play under Lovie Smith this past offseason.
The problem for Clarke is simple: There are only so many snaps to go around, especially for a project player.
Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry, Margus Hunt and Robert Geathers aren't going anywhere and will see the majority of the snaps next season. The last name in particular is one many view as a cap casualty, but Geathers is a reliable veteran against the rush and a great locker room presence.
Please, please don't forget about Sam Montgomery, either (Or Dontay Moch, to a lesser extent). At just 23 years old, after being a third-round pick by Houston in 2013, Montgomery has the upside to be a major contributor in the Cincinnati rotation if he can keep his head on straight.
All of the above equates to a redshirt season for Clarke. That's not a bad thing; he needs it.
Russell Bodine Will Win Starting Gig at Center
Russell Bodine will have to prove he can translate weight room strength to the field (42 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at the combine), but he has a legit shot to win the starting job at center with the Bengals right away.
Cincinnati dumped veteran Kyle Cook this offseason after years of inadequate play and still have Trevor Robinson and T.J. Johnson bouncing around the depth chart. Guard Mike Pollak was brought back and can play center, but odds are he'll move to left guard as he can surely outplay Clint Boling.
That leaves Bodine as the starter. The front office traded up 12 spots in the fourth round for a reason, as offensive line coach Paul Alexander had to have the North Carolina product.
Considering Alexander is one of the best in the business, it's wise to pay attention when he endorses a player and the front office acts aggressively to fulfill his wishes. That says a lot about Bodine and how the rest of the line will look in 2014.
James Wright Will Make Final 53-Man Roster...and Excel
James Wright was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 239 overall in the seventh round for good reason.
How can a kid with 25 career catches for 304 yards at LSU make a name for himself and stick on the roster? Special teams.
Yes, Brandon Tate is still around to return kicks, but there may be something bigger at play here by the coaching staff.
With Hill on board, the Bengals have some tough decisions to make at running back. Who happens to be one of the prime candidates to be cut? Special teams ace Cedric Peerman. Another ace is the aforementioned Mays, who is currently on the shelf with an injury.
Wright again and again made a name for himself on special teams in college. For example, this past January in the Outback Bowl, he covered a muffed punt and then swatted a ball out of the end zone to force a touchback on a punt. His comments afterward showed character the Bengals surely loved, via The Times-Picayune:
It's more embracing the role of 'team,' and doing whatever you can for 'team,' said Wright, who is listed as a wide receiver but rarely saw action on offense this season. I'm happy and glad that in my last game I was able to impact the game and help us win. It means the world to me.
There is a place on the roster for a person and a player like Wright, and he'll make that point loud and clear this offseason.