Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 11

Thread: Roster Assessment

  1. #1

    Roster Assessment

    Bengals draft strategy: Offensive line versatility a critical variable

    By Paul Dehner Jr. 1h ago

    In this 10-part series, Paul Dehner Jr. and Jay Morrison take a deep dive into the Bengals’ draft strategy by taking stock of each position and addressing where need meets fit. We analyze the current roster through the eyes of the team with trends, analytics, sleepers, bold moves and also opinions from our draft gurus Dane Brugler and Joe Goodberry.
    Release schedule

    • 4/6: Offensive line
    • 4/7: Defensive tackle
    • 4/8: Tight end
    • 4/9: Edge rusher
    • 4/13: Quarterback
    • 4/14: Linebacker
    • 4/15: Running back
    • 4/16: Cornerback
    • 4/20: Safety
    • 4/21: Wide receiver

    Positional priority

    Fourth. This priority would rank higher for me, but a groundswell of optimism with the direction of this group emerged at the end of the season and spilled into the offseason. The club extended Trey Hopkins and signed Xavier Su’a-Filo in free agency as their primary moves and will get 2019 No. 11 overall pick Jonah Williams back after missing his rookie year (labrum). They still lack proven depth and have nobody who has consistently performed at a top-10 level of their position on this roster. It’s built on a foundation of hope and development.
    Under contract through …


    • Alex Redmond: Tendered as restricted free agent, will be in a battle to latch on to the roster.
    • Javarius Leamon: The best-case scenario is the practice squad.


    • Bobby Hart: Likely to battle Fred Johnson for the starting gig at right tackle.
    • Billy Price: Former first-round pick has fallen out of favor, lists as a backup center and could still be a trade candidate.
    • Fred Johnson: Impressed in two starts at left tackle to close the year after being picked up midseason from Pittsburgh and will challenge Hart to start at right tackle.
    • O’Shea Dugas: Needs development to land on the practice squad for the second straight season.


    • Trey Hopkins: Given a three-year extension when the season ended so he will be the starting center after his breakout season.
    • Jonah Williams: Much expected as he will start at left tackle for what they hope to be the next 10 years.
    • Xavier Su’a-Filo: Signed to start at right guard as the team released John Miller.
    • Michael Jordan: Coaches were encouraged by his progress after an awful start, and he’s expected to start at left guard.
    • Isaiah Prince: Mentioned multiple times by Duke Tobin as a former sixth-round pick they are optimistic about developing.

    Trey Hopkins was awarded a three-year extension after a strong season and is now cemented as the team’s starting center. (Joe Maiorana / USA Today)

    Rate the class

    Mixed bag. The top of the offensive tackle draft crop is one of the best in recent years and will fill up the first round. The interior offensive linemen aren’t quite as stacked and you might not hear any called on the first day, but future starters will be available starting on the second day. There’s an intriguing group of the guard/tackle hybrid types that would seem to make much more sense for the Bengals if they were looking to go in early.
    NFL trend

    When looking at where the top offensive guards in the NFL are coming from you can take a look back at the past few years through the lens of Pro Football Focus’ top-graded players.
    Here’s a look at every guard (minimum 50 percent snaps) to finish in the top 10 of overall grading over the past four seasons, including their draft round and college.

    • Brandon Brooks, Philadelphia (2019, ’18, ‘17): Third, Miami (Ohio)
    • Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis (2019, ‘18): First, Notre Dame
    • Zack Martin, Dallas (2019, ’18, ’17, ’16, ‘15): First, Notre Dame
    • Marshal Yanda, Baltimore (2019, ’18, ’16, ‘15): Third, Iowa
    • Shaq Mason, New England (2018, ’17, ‘16): Fourth, Georgia Tech
    • David DeCastro, Pittsburgh (2017, ’16, ‘15): First, Stanford
    • Rodger Saffold, LA Rams (2018, ‘17): Second, Indiana
    • Kelechi Osemele, Oakland (2017, ‘16): Second, Iowa State
    • Kevin Zeitler, Cleveland/NY Giants (2019, ‘18, ‘16): First, Wisconsin
    • Brandon Scherff, Washington (2019, ‘17): First, Iowa
    • Joel Bitonio, Cleveland (2019, ‘18, ‘17): Second, Nevada
    • Ali Marpet, Tampa Bay (2018, ‘16): Second, Hobart

    Nine of the 12 were selected in the first two rounds with only Mason of New England landing later than the third. You want the best, you have to invest.
    The third-round examples are notable with Brooks and future Hall of Famer Yanda arguably the best in football over this span.
    Only two of the 12 came from outside the power five. Landing a Brooks and Marpet from small schools is the exception more than the rule, but prove it’s not impossible.
    Bengals’ recent draft history

    2019: Jonah Williams (first, 11 overall); Michael Jordan (fourth, 136 overall)
    2018: Billy Price (first, 21 overall); Rod Taylor (seventh, 252 overall)
    2017: None
    2016: Christian Westerman (fifth, 161 overall)
    Key variable

    How much do the Bengals believe in Fred Johnson? The midseason pickup, thanks to being the top waiver-wire selection, impressed in training camp and preseason for the Steelers. He started the final two games at left tackle in place of Cordy Glenn and looked even more promising. He was drafted as a guard, so he has potential to move inside if necessary. But the idea he could be the right tackle of the future and an upgrade from Hart is what this is all about. If the Bengals are really dedicated to giving him that chance they will stray away from taking an offensive tackle early. If they aren’t sold on that idea, then plucking from this quality tackle class is a possibility. Indications to me are they are willing to give Johnson a runway of opportunity knowing that Hart is as a fallback if he can’t do it.

    Fred Johnson impressed in his two starts for the Bengals after being picked up off waivers last season. (David Kohl / USA Today)

    PFF college research

    Taking a look at pass-block efficiency and accounting for talent disparity by limiting to only Power Five schools you can find some of the best pass-blocking tackles from college football last year.

    1. Penei Sewell, Oregon: 99.3
    2. Blake Brandel, Oregon State: 99.3
    3. Rashawn Slater, Northwestern: 99.2
    4. Calvin Throckmorton, Oregon: 99.1
    5. Treven Jenkins, Oklahoma State: 99.1
    6. Tristan Wirfs, Iowa: 99.0
    7. Landon Young, Kentucky: 98.9
    8. Alex Leatherwood, Alabama: 98.8
    9. Keanu Salepaga, BYU: 98.8
    10. Abraham Lucas, Washington State: 98.7

    Senior Bowl spotlight

    Ben Bartch, St. John’s (Minn.): This game was designed for the rise of small-school prospects and Bartch fit the bill working with Jim Turner’s offensive line group. He held up nicely during the week to back up his impressive pass-protection ability shown against lesser competition. If his personality and retention meshed in the meeting rooms then this could be a snug mid-round fit.
    Sleepers to track

    OT Isaiah Wilson, Georgia. Maybe sleeper would be the wrong word for Wilson, who came to UGA as one of its top offensive line recruits in recent years, which is saying something for a school that churns out great linemen annually. But he doesn’t fall into the top tier of this stacked class, so he’s a bit under the radar due to inconsistent technique. But at 6-7, 339 pounds with special athleticism he would fit the mauling style Turner prefers and could mold.
    OG Damien Lewis, LSU. We know the Bengals have watched plenty of his tape. It almost would feel empty if the team didn’t bring one of Joe Burrow’s offensive linemen with him to Cincinnati. Lewis, as a plus-run blocker with a massive frame and available in the later rounds, makes a lot of sense.
    OT Calvin Throckmorton, Oregon. One of the top pass protectors in the draft with tantalizing versatility. He could be around on Day 3 as teams wonder if his athleticism is enough to translate to the NFL level. Could be a candidate to move inside, but he was on the Bengals’ South squad at the Senior Bowl and reports suggest he’s a highly intelligent tackle prospect, and that might have left a lasting impression.
    Bold move

    Robert Hunt, Louisiana, second round. If the Bengals trade back in the second round to add picks later this could be a landing spot for the powerful tackle who projects to an NFL guard. This fits in the same way that the team was attempting to trade up for Oklahoma’s Cody Ford last year. Similar prospect profile of a tackle, who likely moves inside at this level, just from a smaller school.
    Dane Brugler’s background

    The Athletic’s draft expert on this class of tackles.
    “The overall depth of the offensive tackle class is mediocre, but it is the best collection of young talent in the early rounds that the NFL has seen in recent memory.”
    Goodberry take

    Bengals/draft analyst Joe Goodberry offers his film review of the best Bengals fits and how they could potentially impact the roster.

    Goodberry – OL Preview from The Athletic on Vimeo.
    They said it

    Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan when asked at the combine on the state of the offensive line:
    “Do I think we are in terrible shape? Not at all. I think we have good, young talent that we are excited about. Mike Jordan, the jump he and Fred Johnson could make in Year 2 for them we are counting on it. They have to make it. There is really no choice. But you put a year’s worth of offseason training, the strength factor, the playing factor, being comfortable in the system for an entire offseason and training camp we are really counting on those guys to step up. We re-signed Trey because Trey did a hell of a job. He’s a very good NFL center. We get Jonah back, which we are all excited for. I think he makes a difference.”
    Where they’ll take one

    I think a tackle/guard hybrid comes off the board to them with the first pick of the fourth round. History suggests if they truly wanted to make an impact in the interior and find a player who could develop into a top starter in a year or two, they need to go for it on Day 2, but other needs push me to believe that won’t be the case.

    Throckmorton at No. 107 overall. Remember when they were moving John Jerry to tackle and seeing if Alex Redmond could play out there? The need for a versatile piece who can develop into a starter at either spot is imperative. You could see Throckmorton winning over the staff in Mobile, Ala. He can play anywhere on the line and potentially develop into a starter at guard or tackle over the next few years. All of those elements connect to the Bengals with the first pick in the fourth.

  2. #2
    Bengals draft strategy: DT not a pressing need, but tick, tick, tick

    By Jay Morrison Apr 7, 2020 5

    In this 10-part series, Paul Dehner Jr. and Jay Morrison take a deep dive into the Bengals’ draft strategy by taking stock of each position and addressing where need meets fit. We analyze the current roster, trends, analytics, sleepers, bold moves and also opinions from our draft gurus Dane Brugler and Joe Goodberry.
    The lineup

    • 4/6: Offensive line
    • 4/7: Defensive tackle
    • 4/8: Tight end
    • 4/9: Edge rusher
    • 4/13: Quarterback
    • 4/14: Linebacker
    • 4/15: Running back
    • 4/16: Cornerback
    • 4/20: Safety
    • 4/21: Wide receiver

    Positional priority

    Seventh. An aging Geno Atkins is expected to decline over the next few seasons and Ryan Glasgow has an injury history, so there were enough questions to make defensive tackle much more of a priority than as recently as a month ago. But things changed when the team kicked off its free-agency spending spree by throwing $53 million at D.J. Reader. Reader and Josh Tupou are solid against the run, but the Bengals still are looking for an interior lineman with pass-rush skills to put on the line with Atkins on third down – and in line to replace him eventually.

    Geno Atkins turned 32 in March and his snap counts have ranked in the top eight of defensive tackles every season since his ACL surgery in 2013, including a career-high 815 last year. (Abbie Parr / Getty Images)

    Under contract through …

    Ryan Glasgow: He’s played well and has been a key piece in the rotation, but season-ending knee injuries in 2018 and 2019 have limited Glasgow to eight games.
    Josh Tupou: No one benefitted more from the switch to more of a 5-2 look than Tupou, who made seven starts, played a career-high 467 snaps and earned a 230-percent raise with a one-year, restricted free-agent deal.
    Freedom Akinmoladun: A tackle/end tweener who saw limited action in the final two games of his rookie year, Akinmoladun is a candidate to return to the practice squad.
    Geno Atkins: Eight Pro Bowl seasons are in the books, but the big question is how many remain?
    Renell Wren: He played 22 percent of the snaps (mostly first and second downs) through 11 games as a rookie before a season-ending hip injury, but the addition of Reader and emergence of Tupou figure to limit Wren’s role in 2020.
    D.J. Reader: The shiniest piece in this year’s free-agent class, he’s expected to start the next four seasons.
    Rate the class

    Auburn’s Derrick Brown and South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw have a chance to duplicate the rare feat we saw last year when two defensive tackles (Quinnen Williams and Ed Oliver) went in the Top 10 for the first time since 2010. Four more defensive tackles came off the board in the first round for a total of six. The dropoff in talent after Brown and Kinlaw — the star of Senior Bowl practices for Zac Taylor’s South squad before sitting out with game with tendinitis in his knee – is steeper than last year, but this still is a deep position group that’s better than any other except for wide receiver, and maybe offensive tackle.
    NFL trend

    There were five qualifying defensive tackles last year who ranked in the Top 25 in both pass-rush grades and run-stop grades. One of them is a member of the Bengals, and his name isn’t Geno Atkins. Newly signed D.J. Reader graded fifth as a run stopper and 15th in pass rush while playing for the Texans.
    The league is full of defensive tackles who can specialize in one area, but everyone is looking for the rare guy who can do both well.
    2019 TEAM
    Aaron Donald Rams 1st 92.8 2nd 90.5
    Grady Jarrett Falcons 4th 86.5 6th 82.6
    Cameron Heyward Steelers 8th 84 3rd 90.3
    Javon Hargrave Steelers 13th 76.8 19th 77.2
    D.J. Reader Texans 15th 75.4 5th 83.3

    Bengals recent draft history

    2019: Renell Wren (fourth round, 125 overall)
    2017: Ryan Glasgow (fourth round, 138 overall)
    2016: Andrew Billings (fourth round, 122 overall)
    Key variable

    Atkins’ age: The Bengals on paper have three more seasons of lining up Atkins and Reader next to each other, but realistically how much longer can Atkins hold on as one of the top defensive tackles in the league? He turned 32 in March and his snap counts have ranked in the top eight of defensive tackles every season since the ACL surgery in 2013, including a career-high 815 last year, third-most in the league. The Bengals need to find Atkins’ replacement before they need to find his replacement.
    PFF college research

    Any time you’re dealing with collegiate grades, you have to factor in the possibility of inflated numbers for those who played against lesser competition, but nine of the top 10 pass-rushing grades for interior defenders in 2019 belonged to guys from Power 5 conferences.
    Jordan Elliott, Missouri: 91.1
    Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina: 90.7
    Garrett Marino, Alabama-Birmingham: 90.6
    Derrick Brown, Auburn: 90.4
    Bravvion Roy, Baylor: 83.7
    Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma: 82.4
    McTelvin Agim, Arkansas: 81.5
    Robert Windsor, Penn State: 80.5
    Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M: 78.8
    Raequan Williams, Michigan State: 76.9
    Senior Bowl spotlight

    Josiah Coatney, Mississippi: He was close to declaring for the draft after his junior season but returned to Ole Miss and showed continued improvement against the run and pass to earn an invitation to play for Taylor and the Bengals staff in Mobile. Projected to go early on Day 3, Coatney spends a lot of time in the offensive backfield and has the length (6-3, 32 7/8 arms) to disrupt passing lanes even when he doesn’t get through. The Bengals staff got a good look at him in the Senior Bowl, where he played more snaps than any other defensive tackle on the South squad.
    Sleepers to track

    Bravvion Roy, Baylor: There are some interesting similarities between Roy and Atkins in that the Baylor product has questionable measurables – just 6-foot-1, like Atkins, with short arms (30 1/8 inches). But he uses impressive strength and what PFF calls a “filthy, fat-boy spin move” to get to the quarterback and projects as a fourth- and fifth-rounder, which falls right where the Bengals tend to target defensive tackles.
    Robert Windsor, Penn State: Windsor, who played for Zac Taylor and the Bengals staff at the Senior Bowl, is another guy projected for the middle rounds. He's never going to be a guy who plays much on run downs, but his tall frame (6-4), long arms (33 1/8) and a technically sound knack for getting pressure could make him a valuable third-down sub who would help manage Atkins’ workload.
    Bold move

    With just seven picks and so many other pressing needs and the free-agency addition of Reader, it’s hard to envision the Bengals doing anything bold with an interior defender. But if they work a deal to trade back from 33 for some extra picks, Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore might be a best-player-available type of target on Day 2.
    Brugler background

    On Baylor end/tackle tweener James Lynch:
    “Lynch is experienced inside and outside and offers the physicality, power and body control to work off contact and quickly find the ballcarrier. Although he has decent get-off and doesn’t move stiff, NFL offensive tackles will be better equipped to answer his active motor. Overall, Lynch doesn’t have ideal length, which might limit his ideal scheme fit, but he competes with balance and power to hold up inside with the dependable football character that will endear himself to coaches, projecting best as a three-technique.”
    Goodberry take

    They said it draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah on Gallimore during his pre-combine conference call:
    “I think there's some interesting names in that (DT) mix. I think Gallimore from Oklahoma – wait until you see this guy test. I talked to him at the Senior Bowl. He's a fascinating story, growing up in Canada. The kid was dunking at the age of 13. He'll put on a show at the combine. He's going to run really fast (He did – 4.79). He's going to jump out the gym. Somebody that can get in a gap and get upfield.”
    Where they’ll take one

    At some point on Day 3. Anything before the fourth round doesn’t feel plausible, based on the team’s history and current needs.

    Arkansas’ McTelvin Agim has a suitcase full of pass-rush moves and the versatility and size (6-3, 309 pounds) to play tackle or end. He was a late addition to the Senior Bowl after playing in the East-West Shrine Game, where he was dominant in practices but didn’t register any stats in the game. That inconsistency is the rub on him, which is why he’s projected to still be sitting there when Day 3 – the Bengals wheelhouse for defensive tackles – begins.

  3. #3
    Bengals draft strategy: Tight-end digging for a future Tyler Eifert

    By Paul Dehner Jr. 1h ago

    In this 10-part series, Paul Dehner Jr. and Jay Morrison take a deep dive into the Bengals’ draft strategy by taking stock of each position and addressing where need meets fit. We analyze the current roster, trends, analytics, sleepers, bold moves and also opinions from our draft gurus Dane Brugler and Joe Goodberry.

    Positional priority

    Eight of 10. Tyler Eifert moved on to Jacksonville after seven seasons in Cincinnati, but the Bengals really like what they have in C.J. Uzomah and see the arrow pointing upward for maligned 2019 second-round pick Drew Sample. Sample’s season was cut short by injury but coaches saw him starting to turn to the corner before he went on IR. Cethan Carter is still in place as the special teams ace and fourth tight end, so a spot remains for a pass-catching tight end if former seventh-round pick Mason Schreck can’t take a step and assume the role.
    Contract signed through …


    • Cethan Carter: Caught his first pass and touchdown last year against New England, but he’s mainly a favorite of special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons.
    • Mason Schreck: Seventh-round pick looks to be entering a now-or-never training camp after spending most of last year on the practice squad.
    • Jordan Franks: Former undrafted free agent showed some juice during limited snaps in 2018 but is reaching the end of his rope here if nothing changes.


    • C.J. Uzomah: There’s a lot of love for the production and leadership of Uzomah among the coaching staff and they look to use him more in the passing game this year.


    • Drew Sample: Expectations are high to see a significant jump from last year’s second-rounder.

    Rate the class

    Weak. You probably won’t see a tight end come off the board in the first round. That’s no mind to the Bengals who won’t be looking for one early, anyway. They’ll be picking from among the developmental prospects in the back of the draft.
    NFL trend

    Much was made about Zac Taylor and Brian Callahan’s loyalty to 11 personnel last year (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR). They led the NFL in that category, which limited the effect of the team’s depth at tight end, one of their few offensive strengths.
    You can see as the year went along, however, they opened up the playbook slightly more and veered away from strictly 11.
    Bengals’ personnel usage
    1ST HALF % (RANK)
    2ND HALF % (RANK)
    1 RB, 1 TE 75% (1st) 82% (1st) 69% (3rd)
    1 RB, 2 TE 17% (19th) 13% (24th) 20% (11th)
    1 RB, 3 TE 1.4% (22nd) 0.3% (27th) 2.4% (15th)
    2 RB 2% (26th) 1.2% (27th) 2.5% (23rd)

    Even in decreasing their 11 personnel usage by 13 percent over the course of the season, they still were a top-five team in that personnel group. So when you have Uzomah and Sample as the top two, the need for yet another tight end is minimal. That was part of the equation in letting Eifert walk and why they are unlikely to prioritize the position in this year’s draft.
    Bengals' recent draft history

    • 2019: Drew Sample (second, 52 overall)
    • 2018: None
    • 2017: Mason Schreck (seventh, 251 overall)
    • 2016: None
    • 2015: Tyler Kroft (third, 85 overall); C.J. Uzomah (fifth, 157 overall)

    Key variable

    The need to replace Eifert. You can debate how important it will be to bring in a receiving tight end. On one hand, Eifert ranked second on the team in third-down targets, catches, catch percentage and first downs. Uzomah and Sample combined for two receptions on five targets and two conversions on third downs last year. Was that just from lack of usage or can they be as effective as Eifert in the same situation? They will give Uzomah much more run in those spots, but taking a run at a tight end who could make an impact in the receiving game wouldn’t be a terrible idea.

    PFF college research

    When looking for the most productive college tight ends in the passing game you can use the Pro Football Focus signature stat of yards per route run. When looking at tight ends with at least 30 targets, here are the most efficient, productive.

    • Hunter Long, Boston College: 3.15
    • Harrison Bryant, FAU: 3.04
    • Jacob Breeland, Oregon: 2.79
    • Brant Kuthie, Utah: 2.72
    • Adam Trautman, Dayton: 2.71
    • Hunter Bryant, Washington: 2.71
    • Noah Bean, UNLV: 2.33
    • Trae Barry, Jacksonville State: 2.26
    • Josh Pederson, La. Monroe: 2.17
    • Charlie Kolar, Iowa State: 2.12

    Senior Bowl spotlight

    Harrison Bryant, FAU. Played on the South squad and performed well. He’s one of the most productive pass-catching tight ends in college football, but the question will be whether he can offer much as a blocker. He didn’t look awful in that respect in Mobile. The Bengals won’t be looking for much of that with this pick, but need some. He almost certainly comes off the board before the Bengals are ready to pick his position.
    Sleepers to track

    Thaddeus Moss, LSU. Hard to argue Joe Burrow’s comfort level with him. He caught 47 of 57 targets without a single drop. His bloodlines (Randy Moss’ son) suggest he’d be better down the field, but he wasn’t much of a separator, vertical threat or dynamic presence outside of the scheme running him open. Still, the Burrow connection and sure hands make sense late.
    Josiah Deguara, Cincinnati. The natural connection to this staff makes him worth tracking. The team probably isn’t looking for his skill set specifically since it has the H-back type already on the roster and doesn't plan on using a fullback at all. Still, Taylor coached him and knows his tenacity and personality well.
    Bold move

    Cole Kmet, Notre Dame. One Irish tight end for another? It would be bold, to be sure. Sidenote: Duke Tobin won an Illinois state championship at Hersey High School quarterbacking on the same team as Cole’s father, Frank, who was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1992. Cole Kmet can ball, but it would take an early pick to add him to the mix.
    Brugler background

    Brugler talked to an AFC East Scout as part of his NFL fathers-sons story and this was the analysis of Moss.
    AFC East scout on Thaddeus Moss: “He’s not his dad, let’s get that out of the way right now. The only one-year-of-production thing bothers me, but he really started coming alive down the stretch. But it also took the best college quarterback in years and plenty of talent around him to make it happen. I don’t know. He’s OK.”
    Goodberry glance

    Bengals/draft analyst Joe Goodberry offers his film review of the best Bengals fits and how they could potentially impact the roster.

    Goodberry – TE Draft Preview from The Athletic on Vimeo.
    They said it

    NFL Network’s lead draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah on the top of the tight-end class:
    “When I look at this tight end position, I think there's really kind of, I have it with 1, 2, 3 guys right there at the top, where I have the same grades on Adam Trautman from Dayton, Harrison Bryant, who you mentioned at FAU, and Cole Kmet from Notre Dame. I think all those guys are in position to potentially be the first tight end picked. I don't think any of them are first-round guys.”
    Where they’ll take one

    This comes somewhere in the middle of Day 3. If they add a pick with a trade back out of 33 or another scenario, that increases the likelihood it comes earlier. It’s just hard to see them going in early when they already invested so heavily in the two players at the top of the position.

    Dalton Keane, Virginia Tech, sixth round, 180 overall. An underused player in the Hokies offense, but he has special athletic traits for the position. He showed nice ability after the catch in his limited opportunities and he’ll need the right coaching and scheme to bring his strengths out. He’s a lottery ticket worth taking a shot on in the sixth round.

  4. #4
    Bengals draft strategy: Defensive end group long on talent, short on depth

    By Jay Morrison 1h ago 1

    In this 10-part series, Paul Dehner Jr. and Jay Morrison take a deep dive into the Bengals’ draft strategy by taking stock of each position and addressing where need meets fit. We analyze the current roster, trends, analytics, sleepers, bold moves and also opinions from our draft gurus Dane Brugler and Joe Goodberry.
    The lineup

    Positional priority

    Sixth of 10. The production of Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson keep it on the lower half of the scale, but the Bengals are extremely thin at the position after not drafting an edge rusher last year, marking the first time that had happened since 2012. There is no way they can afford to skip the spot two years in a row, not with Andrew Brown being the only defensive end on the roster behind the big three.
    Under contract through …

    Carl Lawson: He already earned a huge raise for 2020 via the league’s Proven Performance Escalator (going from $750,000 to $2.1 million), but Lawson could secure life-changing money with another strong season in the final year of his rookie deal.
    Andrew Brown: The 2018 fifth-rounder likely will be fighting for one of the final roster spots after seeing his playing time decline over the second half of last season.
    Carlos Dunlap: Just imagine what Dunlap can do if he translates last year’s second-half surge (eight sacks in the final seven games) into a full season of production this year.
    Sam Hubbard: He’s established himself as one of the core pieces the team intends to build around, so don’t rule out the idea of an extension prior to the start of the season to ensure that happens.
    Rate the class

    Below average. It’s Chase Young and everybody else in what is a somewhat of a down year for the position. But even slightly flawed edge rushers have incredible value in today’s game, so look for two or three more to be first-round picks – such as Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa, LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson and possibly Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos – and a handful more to go on Day 2 before the options really start to wither.
    NFL trend

    Teams are aggressively targeting depth and utilizing more rotation and third-down specialists at defensive end. It keeps the guys fresher and more explosive for the critical snaps late in games while also keeping the opponent’s tackles from getting comfortable with one player’s cache of moves. Here’s a look at how the list of defensive ends playing at least 800 snaps in a season has dwindled in recent years:
    Defensive ends with at least 800 snaps by year:
    2012: 22
    2013: 21
    2014: 14
    2015: 20
    2016: 8
    2017: 7
    2018: 8
    2019: 5
    Recent draft history

    2019: None
    2018: Sam Hubbard (third round, 77 overall), Andrew Brown (fifth round, 158 overall)
    2017: Jordan Willis (third round, 73 overall)
    2017: Carl Lawson (fourth round, 116 overall)
    2014: Will Clarke (third round, 88 overall)
    Key variable

    That history. It’s been 15 years since the Bengals drafted a defensive end in the first round, and they converted David Pollack to a linebacker. The last true defensive end they drafted in the first round was Justin Smith in 2001. That might seem irrelevant given that Joe Burrow will be the first-round pick this year, but there’s another side to the history angle. Not only do the Bengals not take edge rushers early, they avoid them at all costs late. They’ve selected eight edge rushers in the last 10 drafts and only one of them (Brown) came in the fifth round or later. The breakdown of the others has been three seconds, two thirds and two fourths.
    PFF college research

    PFF’s pass-rush productivity stat has equal value in both quantifying how effective a player was in college and predicting how well he will transition to the NFL. The lower levels of competition can artificially inflate an edge rusher’s PRP, so we’ll focus only on Power 5 prospects. Two of the top five in PRP last year, Clelin Ferrell and Josh Allen, went in the top seven picks, and Montez Sweat went 26th.
    Chris Rumph II, Duke: 14.8
    Jamar Watson, Kentucky: 13.4
    Josh Uche, Michigan: 13.2
    Chase Young, Ohio State: 12.2
    Wyatt Hubert, Kansas State: 11.3
    Senior Bowl spotlight

    Trevis Gipson, Tulsa: A two-year starter at Tulsa, Gipson had the lone sack for the South squad in Mobile. That he sat out all of the combine drills except the bench press due to a hamstring injury only increases the value the Bengals staff gained by working with him for a week at the Senior Bowl. He played against lesser competition and is still raw, but he showed a big leap in production from his junior to senior year and his solid showing in Mobile should boost confidence in his upside.
    Sleepers to track

    Bradlee Anae, Utah: A classic late bloomer, Anae had just four offers coming out of high school. But his PFF pass-rushing grade improved from 76.6 as a sophomore to 79.1 as a junior to 88.1 last year, which ranked 15th among all edge defenders with at least 100 pass-rush snaps. His arm length measures at 32 1/8 inches, which goes against the Bengals’ preferred template of longer guys, but they saw first-hand at the Senior Bowl the damage he can do as he logged a handful of pressures with two sacks. If the Bengals trade back in the third round, Anae could hit them perfectly.
    Alex Highsmith, Charlotte: Highsmith walked on at Charlotte and has been ascending ever since. Last year was his first season as an every-down edge rusher and he exploded with 16 sacks. It’s important to note the lower competition level, but Highsmith is an intriguing project with some high upside who could be a fit for a Bengals team that doesn’t need him to contribute much right away.

    Bold move

    Julian Okwara, Notre Dame, second round. Passing on a chance to address their weakest position group, linebacker, to bolster their deepest certainly would be a bold move, especially if No. 33 is the only pick the Bengals have in the second round. Okwara has an intriguing mix of speed and power, despite his listed 248 pounds. And his long arms (34 3/8 inches) fit the Bengals’ template.
    Brugler background

    “This draft class has a clear stud at the top, followed by a number of rushers who have their flaws but also a set of strengths that help them get after the quarterback. Undersized but quick. Powerful but not sudden. Pass rushers come in all different shapes and sizes.”
    Goodberry take

    They said it

    LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson, a projected first-round pick:
    “I’m going to be honest. I’m actually the most valuable player in the draft, when it comes to it. We all know that. When you hire someone do you want to hire someone who speaks one language or do you want to hire someone that speaks three languages? I speak three languages. I do pass rush. I can drop in coverage and cover anybody you want me to cover. I can play the run. And no offensive lineman has ever just moved me off the ball or bullied me. So I feel like that’s what makes me more dimensional. And a more valuable player than anybody else in the draft.”
    Where they’ll take one

    Fourth round. The Bengals have made a habit of trading back to acquire extra mid-round picks, and this season more than others feels ripe for such a move as they head into the draft with only seven picks. Acquiring a second pick in the fourth round and using it on an edge rusher feels like a likely play here, especially given their reluctance to target the position any later than that.

    Alton Robinson, Syracuse: One of the knocks on the JUCO transfer was his splits against non-Power 5 teams versus Power 5 teams, but Robinson recorded two sacks for the North squad in the Senior Bowl, and he showed explosiveness at the combine to complement his power. He would hit the Bengals in their sweet spot if they can obtain an extra fourth-round pick.

  5. #5
    Bengals draft strategy: Joe Burrow, Andy Dalton and passing the QB torch

    By Paul Dehner Jr. 1h ago 1

    In this 10-part series, Paul Dehner Jr. and Jay Morrison take a deep dive into the Bengals’ draft strategy by taking stock of each position and addressing where need meets fit. We analyze the current roster, trends, analytics, sleepers, bold moves and also opinions from our draft gurus Dane Brugler and Joe Goodberry.

    Positional priority

    One out of 10. You can argue the priority should be at the bottom if you understood any potential complications were all put to rest at the combine and selecting Joe Burrow has long been a foregone conclusion. Disregarding the inevitability, this ranks as the top priority. There is no more prized possession in roster construction than the quality quarterback on a rookie contract. The Bengals have lived in quarterback purgatory for a decade and now take their swing at the franchise-changing home run.
    Contract signed through …

    Andy Dalton: Still, technically, under contract with the Bengals but will be traded or cut since there’s basically no way to financially keep him on board once the season starts.
    Jake Dolegala: Intriguing enough last offseason and preseason to keep on the 53-man roster so he’ll compete to back up Burrow.
    Ryan Finley: Complete dumpster fire of a three-game debut last year means he’ll fight to preserve a backup spot in preseason.
    Rate the class

    Exceptional. Really, judging the class means very little to the Bengals. Burrow is the class of college football after completing arguably the greatest season the game has ever seen at the position and leading LSU to a national championship. Arguments can be made whether he’s the best quarterback to come out of the draft since Andrew Luck or whoever, take your pick, but Burrow has to this point mostly been talked about through historical context and not even in the same discussion with the rest of this class (primarily due to Tua Tagovailoa’s injuries).
    NFL trend

    What do realistic expectations look like for Burrow next season? The best way to evaluate is to look at the subset of those picked at the top of the draft over the last dozen years. History shows to not expect some transformative performance by both the quarterback and team. It hasn’t happened. Quarterbacks have played well. Teams have occasionally won a bunch of games. But for the most part, rookie quarterbacks go through growing pains and teams that picked at the top of the draft at best rise to the middle of the pack.
    Here are quarterbacks picked in the top three of the draft who played at least 10 games as a rookie and how they and their team performed in key stats over the last 12 seasons.
    We look at adjusted yards/attempt for the number most indicative of individual success (for reference, Andy Dalton’s career AY/A is 6.8), wins and losses for a view of team success and touchdown-interception ratio for a gauge of growing pains.
    Rookie QB seasons
    Robert Griffin Redskins 8.59 9 6 20 5
    Matt Ryan Falcons 7.52 11 5 16 11
    Baker Mayfield Browns 7.48 6 7 27 14
    Marcus Mariota Titans 7.43 3 9 19 10
    Cam Newton Panthers 7.17 6 10 21 17
    Jameis Winston Buccaneers 7.12 6 10 22 15
    Kyler Murray Cardinals 6.61 5 10 20 12
    Andrew Luck Colts 6.42 11 5 23 18
    Mitchell Trubisky Bears 6.12 4 8 7 7
    Sam Darnold Jets 6.11 4 9 17 15
    Carson Wentz Eagles 5.72 7 9 16 14
    Sam Bradford Rams 5.42 7 9 18 15
    Blake Bortles Jaguars 4.97 3 10 11 17
    Matthew Stafford Lions 4.32 2 8 13 20
    AVERAGE 6.5 6 8.2 17.9 13.6

    Five takeaways from this subset stand out:

    1. Only three of the 14 quarterbacks won more games than they lost.
    2. Only two of the 14 have appeared in the Super Bowl in their careers and none have a championship (not counting Wentz's injured season)
    3. Only two of the 14 threw more interceptions than touchdowns as rookies.
    4. Mayfield and Murray, as the last two No. 1 overall picks, being in the top half of the list and enjoying two of the better seasons is a nice trend as the college game translates to the NFL game now more than ever before.
    5. If you were ranking the top five quarterbacks in the league, only Luck (maybe Newton for a sliver of time) would have been on the list for a range of multiple seasons. Far from any guarantees here.

    Bengals' recent draft history

    • 2019: Ryan Finley (fourth round, 104 overall)
    • 2018: Logan Woodside (seventh round, 249 overall)
    • 2014: AJ McCarron (fifth round, 164 overall)
    • 2011: Andy Dalton (second round, 35 overall)

    Bengals first-round QB history

    • 2003: Carson Palmer (1 overall)
    • 1999: Akili Smith (3 overall)
    • 1992: David Klingler (6 overall)
    • 1979: Jack Thompson (3 overall)
    • 1969: Greg Cook (3 overall)

    Key variable

    Andy Dalton trade value and cap hit. The question of Dalton’s future looks to be coming to a head during this draft. The only thing that will change trade value between now and whenever training camps begin is teams picking or missing out on their quarterback in the draft. Perhaps a team that misses opts to fall back to Dalton. The Bengals would likely accept almost any compensation that includes taking the majority of his contract off their hands.
    More than likely, no team will be willing to take on his $17.7 million. Keeping Dalton as insurance in case of a shortened training camp with a rookie quarterback and a shortened season does make some sense. The problem for the Bengals is they are up against the cap and won’t be able to pay their draft picks with Dalton’s money on the books. For reference, any contract signed that sets a team up to be over the salary cap is disallowed by the NFL. The Bengals might be able to sneak Dalton in during training camp and preseason but once the rosters hit 55 players during the regular season they would have to make other cost-cutting moves for that to even be a possibility.
    In reality, they can’t logistically afford to keep Dalton on the roster without significant salary-cap gymnastics and will likely have to resort to cutting him once they have Burrow in tow and it becomes time to start signing draft picks.

    It's not really feasible for the Bengals to keep Dalton's contract on the books. (Bobby Ellis / Getty Images)

    PFF college research

    There are almost too many incredible Pro Football Focus stats to mention them all.
    Some would like to question Burrow’s arm strength, but you can only look at the production throwing the ball down the field. He led the country in passing grade on all throws over 20-plus yards last season completing 47 of 83 (56.6 percent) for 26 touchdowns and two interceptions. He also led the country in grade passing between 11-20 yards. There he was 81 of 118 (68.6 percent) with 17 touchdowns against four interceptions.
    Burrow recorded the best single-season PFF passing grade (94.1) of any FBS quarterback in the PFF College era (since 2014). He also recorded the highest percentage of on-target passes in PFF’s advanced ball location charting of any quarterback since they started the process in 2016.
    If you give credence to PFF grading and advanced analytics – without even considering Burrow’s reputation as a legendary leader – he’s the best player to come out since they started tracking college football six years ago.
    Addressing the trade discussion

    I wrote about what it would take for the Bengals to actually trade out of the top pick in February. Let’s start here: This isn’t happening. Even Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin called it "doubtful" all the way back at the combine. They want Burrow. It’s always been Burrow. He can cover up all that ails this franchise on and off the field. They know it. If you make the decision the quarterback can be great you pull the trigger. Remember, this is the franchise that believed in Akili Smith and passed on the Saints' entire draft plus two more future first-rounders and another future second back in 1999.
    If the Dolphins were willing to part with seven top-70 picks between this year and next, including four first-rounders as I discussed in the original piece, perhaps they could bend the Bengals’ ear. Mike Brown isn’t just going to want to win a trade for Burrow, he would want to demolish the Dolphins to actually give up somebody who could awake this sleeping franchise. That’s how they value this player, this position and this pick.
    You never say never and everybody has their price, but if the Dolphins actually were willing to give up that kind of draft capital, well, that should serve more as confirmation than anything of the evaluation of Burrow and that the Bengals should be turning off the phones and taking him.
    Which is why that’s exactly what they will do.
    Bold move

    An LSU sweep. The bold move wouldn’t be in selecting Burrow at the top. That’s obvious. What would be bold is tracking down LSU’s finest to come with him. If wide receiver Justin Jefferson (33 overall) and guard Damien Lewis (65 overall) and tight end Thaddeus Moss (108 overall) all come to Cincinnati with their first four picks you bring that Tigers magic from last year on the offensive side of the ball with them.

    Goodberry take

    Bengals/draft analyst Joe Goodberry offers his film review of the best Bengals fits and how they could potentially impact the roster with Burrow. This marks the latest in a series of quarterback reviews from Goodberry, as he took a first look at Burrow early in the season and then again coming out of his championship game coronation.
    He's also looked back at the drafting of Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton.

    Bengals Draft Position Preview: QB from The Athletic on Vimeo.
    They said it

    Duke Tobin at the Senior Bowl about Burrow’s incredible year:
    “He had a season like very few, if anybody, has ever had. The thing Joe was able to do was put it on tape week after week after week and not have a down week. Every week was impressive. Now that speaks to his entire team. He wasn’t out there by himself. It speaks to the preparation of his coaching staff, it speaks to their schematics, their teaching ability and their recruiting. He had a sensational year. Normally you get a game where you say, 'Gee, why weren’t you too good?' There’s not a lot of that. You almost have to go back to a whole different season to start finding things to at least question.”

  6. #6
    Bengals draft strategy: Filling the crater at linebacker

    By Jay Morrison 1h ago 1

    In this 10-part series, Paul Dehner Jr. and Jay Morrison take a deep dive into the Bengals’ draft strategy by taking stock of each position and addressing where need meets fit. We analyze the current roster, trends, analytics, sleepers, bold moves and also opinions from our draft gurus Dane Brugler and Joe Goodberry.
    The lineup

    Positional priority

    Second out of 10. Technically, it should be ranked first based on the foregone conclusion that the Bengals will take quarterback Joe Burrow with the first overall pick. The Bengals have been lax for years in addressing their biggest need, and as a result, they find themselves walking into the draft in desperation mode. Not only are there questions about the top two starters, but there also aren’t even enough linebackers under contract to fill out a game-day roster.

    Under contract through …


    • Josh Bynes: The veteran will be 31 when the season begins, and he’ll also likely be the Week 1 starter after agreeing to a one-year free-agent deal last month.
    • Jordan Evans: The 2017 sixth-round pick likely sticks around one more year as a depth piece and special-teams contributor.
    • Brady Sheldon: A likely practice squad assignment on any other team in any other year, Sheldon will have a chance to make the 55-man roster given the state of the position.


    • Germaine Pratt: Took over as a starter midway through his rookie season and will be back in that role in 2020.

    NFL trend

    With offenses running 11 personnel more than ever, the downhill thumper linebackers are rapidly becoming extinct as defenses seek out smaller, faster guys who can run sideline to sideline on first, second and third down.
    And as demand increases, so does supply. Twenty linebackers in the five-year period from 2015 to 2019 ran the 40-yard dash at 4.57 seconds or faster at the combine, two of which ended up drafted by the Bengals (Malik Jefferson, 4.52 in 2018, and Germaine Pratt, 4.57 in 2019).
    Nine linebackers this year in Indianapolis clocked in at 4.57 or better.
    Here are the 20 fastest combine times among linebackers since 2015, along with what round the player was drafted (Jabrill Peppers currently plays safety but worked with linebackers at the combine):
    Shaquem Griffin 2018 4.38 5th
    Isaiah Simmons 2020 4.39
    Devin White 2019 4.42 1st
    Devin Bush 2019 4.43 1st
    Gary Johnson 2019 4.43 CFA
    Jabrill Peppers 2017 4.46 1st
    Willie Gay Jr. 2020 4.46
    Darron Lee 2016 4.47 1st
    Davion Taylor 2020 4.49
    Travis Feeney 2016 4.5 6th
    Blake Cashman 2019 4.5 5th
    Patrick Queen 2020 4.5
    Roquan Smith 2018 4.51 1st
    Ty Summers 2019 4.51 7th
    Shaun Bradley 2020 4.51
    Malik Jefferson 2018 4.52 3rd
    Kenneth Murray 2020 4.52
    Jerome Baker 2018 4.53 3rd
    Vic Beasley 2015 4.53 1st
    Tremaine Edmunds 2018 4.54 1st
    Jordan Brooks 2020 4.54

    Bengals' recent draft history

    • 2019: Germaine Pratt (third round, 72nd overall), Deshaun Davis (fifth round, 210th overall)
    • 2018: Malik Jefferson (third round, 78th overall)
    • 2017: Jordan Evans (sixth round, 193th overall)
    • 2016: Nick Vigil (third round, 87th overall) Ryan Glasgow (fourth round, 138th overall)
    • 2015: P.J Dawson (third round, 99th overall)

    Key variable

    Shawn Williams. After the Bengals signed safety Vonn Bell in free agency, defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and his assistants will need to find a role for Williams, one that uses the veteran safety in more of a linebacker role in nickel situations. They’re still going to need to draft a starting-caliber linebacker early in the draft, but how much confidence the coaches have in Williams making the transformation will depend on when — or whether — they double down on the position that is most in need of help.
    PFF college research

    As much as the Bengals will need any linebacker they draft to be able to drop and cover against the increased usage of 11 personnel leaguewide, the ability to fill gaps and tackle is going to be every bit as important for a defense that has ranked 32nd, 29th and 30th against the run the past three seasons.
    Here are PFF’s top 20 run defenders in this year’s class, a list you will notice doesn't jibe with the overall position rankings. The table includes the players' run grades, tackling grades and their projected draft rounds by PFF and The Athletic draft analyst Dane Brugler:
    PFF RD
    Logan Wilson Wyoming 91.6 77.3 4th 3rd
    Jordyn Brooks Texas Tech 91.5 78.6 4th 2nd-3rd
    Clay Johnston Baylor 90.2 61.6 5th 5th-6th
    Sthhaquille Quarterman Miami 88.2 74.6 5th 6th
    Malik Harrison Ohio State 87.1 63.5 5th 2nd-3rd
    Akeem Davis-Gaither Appalachian State 87.0 71.9 2nd 2nd
    Isaiah Simmons Clemson 84.4 85.4 1st 1st
    Dante Olson Montana 83.3 91.0 7th-UFA 7th
    Michael Divinity LSU 81.6 74.6 7th-UFA UFA
    Francis Bernard Utah 79.9 52.5 4th 4th-5th
    Joe Bachie Michigan State 79.1 67.7 7th-UFA 5th
    Cale Garrett Missouri 78.6 82.4 7th-UFA 7th-UFA
    Evan Weaver California 78.5 85.8 6th 6th
    David Woodward Utah State 77.9 84.0 5th 6th-7th
    Cam Brown Penn State 77.3 56.6 4th 6th-7th
    Jacob Phillips LSU 76.0 88.8 5th 5th
    Shaun Bradley Temple 74.8 74.5 5th 7th-UFA
    Troy Dye Oregon 72.4 75.4 2nd 4th-5th
    Kamal Martin Minnesota 72.2 58.9 5th 6th
    Michael Pinckney Miami 72.2 68.6 6th 7th-UFA

    Senior Bowl spotlight

    Akeem Davis-Gaither: Davis-Gaither, playing for the Bengals' staff on the South squad, was the second-leading tackler in the game (6.5) and had PFF’s second-highest pass coverage grade for linebackers and safeties. What he lacks in size at 6-foot-1, 224 pounds, he makes up for with game speed and motor. It would feel like a reach to go after him with pick No. 33, but if the Bengals elect to trade back for extra picks, he could be an intriguing option later in the second round.

    Sleepers to track

    Logan Wilson, Wyoming: He owns PFF’s No. 1 run grade in this year’s linebacker class, and fixing the run defense and improving tackling is the No. 1 mission for the Bengals defense. He was a four-year starter at Wyoming and a three-year captain, and if the Bengals throw all their focus at offense early, Wilson is a guy they still could get in the middle rounds.

    Markus Bailey, Purdue: Another four-year starter, Bailey led the Boilermakers in tackles twice while playing SAM and was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten pick. Scouts knock his lack of explosiveness, but that is mitigated by superior instincts. The biggest concern is that he had season-ending ACL injuries as a freshman (left) and a senior (right) and also underwent hip surgery after his junior year. He’s not going to be the first linebacker the Bengals take, but if they want to double up at the position and Bailey falls to the middle of Day 3, he could be a guy they take a flier on given their track record of not shying away from injury histories.

    Brugler's background

    Dane’s take on Murray in The Beast, his massive annual draft guide, shows why he would be such a great fit for the Bengals:
    “Although he doesn’t consistently anticipate the action and must tweak his tackling approach, Murray’s instant speed is the equalizer, flowing fast and attacking alleys. He is overflowing with adrenaline and displays the competitive spirit that will win over a coaching staff. Overall, Murray can be late to sort and zero in on the ball carrier, but his outstanding play speed and relentless energy are difference-making traits, projecting as a three-down, run-and-hit outside linebacker in the NFL.”
    Goodberry's take

    Bengals/draft analyst Joe Goodberry offers his film review of the best Bengals fits and how they could potentially affect the roster.

    They said it

    Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner on Hear That Podcast Growlin’:
    “If you’re not an athlete at the linebacker position anymore, then you’re not playing in the NFL. It’s just as simple as that. Those days have come and gone. A lot of the data we’ve collected, a lot of our projections seeing how they translate from college to pros — and that’s the biggest thing, is we’re willing to learn and we’re not stuck in our ways or stuck any sort of one methodology — it’s night and day from what I value and what I look at from when I first started doing this.”
    Where they’ll take one

    Day 2. As intriguing as the Bold Move above may sound, the Patriots have not made any overtures about obtaining Dalton, so it’s far more likely the Bengals go to bed after the first round knowing they’ll have the first pick in the second round. If Patrick Queen or Murray is still there, they’ll pounce. Otherwise, it feels as though there will be a third-round linebacker taken for the third year in a row and the fifth year in the past six.

    Troy Dye, Oregon, in the third round. The projections on Dye range wildly from the second round to the fifth, so it will take only one team to see that high-end value and pluck him before the Bengals can at No. 65. Dye has elite speed and was a four-year starter. Some of the knocks on him — bulk and instincts — are things an NFL strength and coaching staff can develop.

  7. #7
    Bengals draft strategy: RB is not focal point, but Joe Mixon’s contract lingers

    By Paul Dehner Jr. 1h ago

    In this 10-part series, Paul Dehner Jr. and Jay Morrison take a deep dive into the Bengals’ draft strategy by taking stock of each position and addressing where need meets fit. We analyze the current roster, trends, analytics, sleepers, bold moves and also opinions from our draft gurus Dane Brugler and Joe Goodberry.
    The lineup

    Positional priority

    Nine of 10. There’s little reason to go crazy at this position with Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard and last year’s sixth-round pick Trayveon Williams all in the stable. More than likely a late pick in Day 3 or going the undrafted free agent route would fit the state of the team.
    Contract signed through …

    Joe Mixon. He enters his contract year with the organization prepared for a holdout if they can’t agree to a long-term deal.
    Giovani Bernard. Signed an extension prior to last season as the team values his leadership, ability as a third-down back and he can take over the load effectively if Mixon misses some time.
    Trayveon Williams. He didn’t see much of the field on offense last year since the running backs stayed relatively healthy, so it’s tough to tell what he could bring if given a chance.
    Rodney Anderson. The 2019 sixth-rounder will try to make yet another return from devastating injury, which has been the theme of his football career.
    Rate the class

    Solid. You won’t see the top of the draft look like some in recent years featuring top-20 running back picks, but the standard smattering of potential impact players who will come off the board on the second and third day is a nice lot. There should be plenty from which to choose if the Bengals opted to go that direction.

    An extension for Joe Mixon becomes more complicated after Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey set a new bar for running back salaries at $16M per year. (David Kohl / USA Today)

    NFL trend

    Mixon topped 275 touches each of the last two seasons. He’s one of only three running backs to do so over the span along with Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott and Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey.
    Consider that company, if you will. After McCaffery inked his $16M per year contract his week, those are now the two highest-paid running backs in NFL history. Mixon is in negotiations now. That’s territory the Bengals aren’t going to go here.
    Plus, Mixon turns 24 in July. The understandable unwillingness of teams to use older backs as workhorses has changed dramatically over the last four years.
    Take a look at the trend which shows the dropoff of 25-or-older backs getting a load of touches as well as the lack of proof that using either plan makes a difference in making the playoffs. Among the total numbers this past decade, 45 of 98 teams featuring one back getting 275-plus touches made the postseason. About a coin flip.
    RBs with 275+ touches by year

    275+ TOUCHES
    >=25 YEARS OLD
    2019 10 4 4
    2018 7 1 3
    2017 10 5 6
    2016 13 6 6
    2015 7 6 1
    2014 9 7 5
    2013 15 12 7
    2012 15 11 8
    2011 12 10 5
    2000s AVG 17.2 12.4
    1990s AVG 12.5 7.3
    1980s AVG 9.8 7.2

    Bengals' recent draft history

    • 2019: Trayveon Williams (sixth, 182 overall); Rodney Anderson (sixth, 211 overall)
    • 2018: Mark Walton (fourth, 112 overall)
    • 2017: Joe Mixon (second, 48 overall)
    • 2016: None
    • 2015: None
    • 2014: Jeremy Hill (second, 55 overall)
    • 2013: Giovani Bernard (second, 37 overall); Rex Burkhead (sixth, 190 overall)

    Key variable

    The future of Mixon. The Bengals would like to do an extension with Mixon. His position might not be the most valuable, but there is value in being a great player on a team that has too few of those. He’s a big part of the energy that drives the team and offense. The McCaffrey extension making him the highest-paid RB in football history is an interesting twist. If Mixon shows up looking for a contract in that vicinity, that will be the end of that discussion and the team will start thinking about who the running back of the future will be. Picking that player would seem like a bridge better off being crossed in the 2021 draft and seeing how negotiations pan out this fall – particularly how aggressive of a stance Mixon takes toward a potential holdout – but it’s the elephant in the room right now.
    PFF college research

    If looking for who were the toughest running backs to tackle, not based on opportunities but efficiency, then utilizing Pro Football Focus’ signature stat of missed tackle forced per attempt is the metric.
    Here at the top performers, when looking at draft-eligible running backs:

    • Zack Moss, Utah: 0.38
    • Malcolm Perry, Navy: 0.37
    • Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU: 0.33
    • Cam Akers, FSU: 0.33
    • Jason Huntley, New Mexico State: 0.33
    • Deejay Dallas, Miami: 0.31
    • Javon Leake, Maryland: 0.31

    Senior Bowl spotlight

    Antonio Gibson, Memphis. He shined for the Bengals in the Senior Bowl. Plenty of explosion and a real missed-tackle machine. He’s transitioning to running back from more of a receiver role and could offer some dynamic versatility if used in a passing attack like the one Burrow dominated with at LSU. The Bengals were able to get a good look at how he would play as a running back when he led the South team with 11 carries for 68 yards, including a 23-yarder.
    Sleeper to track

    Raymond Calais, Louisiana. If looking for a late-round candidate to grow at the next level, but with physical traits you can love, this would be a primary target. Calais brings speed to burn, the question will be about developing the rest of his game. But his 8.3 yards per carry the last two years tell you all you need to know about his home run capability.
    Bold move

    Remember when the Bengals selected Mark Walton? OK, forget the five arrests and two releases since. Think about the concept. The Bengals took a chance at a position they weren’t in much need of because they felt significant talent fell into their lap there at the top of the fourth round. That would be the boldest I could see from this team at running back this year. If you saw Akers from Florida State or Moss from Utah somehow slide to the top of the third day, it might tempt the Bengals. It feels highly unlikely, but since we’ve seen a similar move before I’ll put it here as a bold option.
    Brugler background

    The Athletic’s draft expert in The Beast on University of Cincinnati product Mike Warren and how he projects to the NFL:
    “Warren is a decisive, tough-minded inside runner, bouncing through congestion with his run balance. While gaining yards after contact is a key part of his game, the absence of explosive qualities could put a low ceiling on his pro potential. Overall, Warren isn’t a dynamic make-you-miss back and needs to get better as a blocker, but he runs with the compact power and quick feet to be a banger between the tackles, projecting as a potential backup option.”
    Goodberry take

    Bengals/draft analyst Joe Goodberry offers his film review of the best Bengals fits and how they could potentially affect the roster.

    Bengals Positional Draft Preview from The Athletic on Vimeo.
    They said it

    Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin at the combine on the priority list of extensions and if there is a first domino that needs to fall:
    "I don't know what domino needs to fall, we'll have to see what we can get done in a lot of different areas. It's a zero-sum game. There's a pie and you use the pie up and the next guy gets a little smaller piece. We'll fit it together. We've got our priorities. I can't predict what will get done and what won't. We're going to work to get as much of it done as we can.
    Where they’ll take one

    They won’t. This draft feels more like an undrafted free agent enters the mix rather than even using a late-round selection on the position. Basically kicking the running back can down the road to next year until there is more information. In the meantime, Mixon, Bernard and Williams are more than enough weaponry to get through this year.

    Brian Herrien, Georgia, UDFA. A favorite Bengals move in searching for diamonds in the rough is plucking a backup where a star or two took the majority of the shine or opportunity. Nowhere is that more the case than the UGA running back position where Herrien got stuck behind Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift. That would be a heck of an NFL stable of backs and if Herrien can develop in the NFL there could be hidden potential coming out of the premier college running back factory.

  8. #8
    Per the LB breakdown..I wouldn't complain much, if at all, if ADG was the pick at #33. Trading down would be ideal but if he's the guy they want why cut things that fine?

    Also, I don't think Troy Dye and Jacob Phillips are 5th round guys.

  9. #9
    Yea dye is more likely to be a 2nd than a 5th

  10. #10
    Bengals draft strategy: When do they start lurking around a corner?

    By Jay Morrison Apr 16, 2020

    In this 10-part series, Paul Dehner Jr. and Jay Morrison take a deep dive into the Bengals’ draft strategy by taking stock of each position and addressing where need meets fit. We analyze the current roster, trends, analytics, sleepers, bold moves and also opinions from our draft gurus Dane Brugler and Joe Goodberry.

    The lineup

    Positional priority

    Fifth. This really could go either way. It wouldn’t be a shock to see the Bengals target a corner early, nor will there be any sideways glances if they don’t pick one at all. There are already nine on the roster, and the $29.5 million the team has committed to those guys gives cornerback the second-highest positional allotment on the team behind wide receiver ($37.4M).

    Under contract through …

    William Jackson: The 2016 first-round pick will play 2020 on the fifth-year option, and his future with the team beyond that is a question mark.
    Mackensie Alexander: He signed a one-year deal in March and will be the starting slot corner.
    LeShaun Sims: Agreed to a cheap, one-year prove-it deal last month and will have a chance to be the fifth or sixth corner in a suddenly crowded room.
    Torry McTyer: Joined the team when Darius Phillips got hurt in September and stuck around all season, quietly appearing in five games.
    Greg Mabin: Promoted from the practice squad at midseason, Mabin appeared in nine games, mostly on special teams. He figures to be a long shot to make the roster this year.
    Tony Brown: Claimed off waivers the day after the season ended, Brown played 20 games in two seasons with the Packers and is one of the guys fighting for the final two spots.
    Darius Phillips: Three interceptions in 100 snaps last season weren’t enough to stave off the team’s free-agent pursuits at the position, but he’s solidly positioned as the fourth corner heading into 2020.
    Winston Rose: The biggest wild card on the team, Rose bounced around the CFL for several years before winning a Grey Cup championship last season. He hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016, but he’ll be part of the battle for a roster spot.
    Trae Waynes: Signed a three-year, $42 million free-agent deal last month and is penciled in as a starter in 2020 and beyond.

    Rate the class

    Above average. There’s Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah as the big prize and then a noticeable drop into a crowded second tier, which explains why the Bengals were so aggressive in filling the position in March when they signed five free agents who played corner for other teams last year.

    NFL trend

    The retention rate among the top corners continues to dwindle, which is a relevant trend when you consider the Bengals will have a decision on their hands whether to re-sign 2016 first-round pick William Jackson next year.
    Cornerbacks don’t decline as rapidly as running backs. In fact, you can argue some of them are still improving by the time they reach free agency for the first time. But it’s becoming rarer to see teams re-investing in the top-tier corners after their rookie contracts end.
    I compiled a list of the top 25 cornerback salaries in 2020 and then removed Jackson and Jalen Ramsey, who are playing on their fifth-year options and haven’t been able to hit free agency yet. Of the remaining 23 highest-earning corners, only four are still playing for the team that drafted them (Xavien Howard, Patrick Peterson, Kyle Fuller and Tavon Young).

    Bengals recent draft history

    • 2019: Jordan Brown (seventh round, 223 overall)
    • 2018: Davontae Harris (fifth round, 151 overall); Darius Phillips (sixth round, 170 overall)
    • 2016: William Jackson III (first round, 24 overall)
    • 2015: Josh Shaw (fourth round, 120 overall)

    Key variable

    William Jackson. The way he’s performed thus far, it’s unlikely the Bengals re-sign Jackson given how steep the market is for corners, especially first-rounders, and how much they plunked down for Trae Waynes last month. Jackson could always alter that thought process if he puts it all together and has a great 2020, but if the front office already has decided it’s going to let him walk, the team will need to find another top-end corner to pair with Waynes, either in this year’s draft or next year.
    PFF college research

    Using their coverage rating systems, Pro Football Focus has not only compiled its top 10 corners overall, but it has broken them down into specialty categories such as single coverage, vs. clean-pocket throws, vs. passes thrown in three seconds or less, vs. obvious passing situations, in contested-catch situations, vs. accurate passes, vs. deep passes and forced incompletions.
    It’s way too much to get to in this space, but check out the whole list here.
    Let’s look at the top 10 overall (based on passer rating against) and then the top 10 vs. deep balls, considering explosive plays have been a big problem for the Bengals defense the past couple of years.
    Luq Barcoo San Diego St. 502 92 42 578 2 9 34
    Lavert Hill Michigan 258 31 14 214 1 3 39.7
    Trevon Diggs Alabama 388 52 22 309 1 3 44.5
    Jeffrey Okudah Ohio St. 382 58 27 284 1 3 45.5
    Jaylon Johnson Utah 420 65 29 319 1 2 52
    Reggie Robinson II Tulsa 348 60 31 427 1 4 52.6
    Amik Robertson La. Tech 425 77 41 497 2 5 55
    Michael Ojemudia Iowa 428 65 37 315 1 3 55.6
    Lamar Jackson Nebraska 386 49 21 270 3 3 55.7
    Cameron Dantzler Miss. St. 209 29 14 222 1 2 57

    This deep ball table is based on data from the past two seasons, and the players are listed by the PFF coverage grades.
    COMP %
    Travion Banks Miami (OH) 89.9 28 12 42.9
    Kristian Fulton LSU 84.3 44 12 27.3
    Marcus Strong Wash. St. 82.1 45 14 31.1
    Amik Robertson La. Tech 81.8 49 10 20.4
    Cameron Dantzler Miss. St. 80.6 26 7 26.9
    Troy Pride Jr. Notre Dame 79.8 43 13 30.2
    Michael Ojemudia Iowa 75.7 36 8 22.2
    Jeff Gladney TCU 75.6 54 12 22.2
    Javaris Davis Auburn 75.5 25 9 36
    Trevon Diggs Alabama 75.1 40 12 30

    Senior Bowl spotlight

    Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame: He played against the Bengals as a member of the Lions-coached North Squad, but Pride Jr. had the best performance of any corner in the game, picking off a pass and registering a couple of tackles. PFF gave him a 50 percent win rate – second highest in the game – on his 12 snaps in coverage. His ball skills need work, but he’s one of the fastest players in the draft.
    Sleeper to track

    Darnay Holmes, UCLA: Another Senior Bowl participant who played for Taylor and the South squad, Holmes fits that mid-round window where the Bengals are most likely to entertain the idea of adding another corner. He projects as a slot corner, which would make him a succession plan for Mackensie Alexander in 2021 and injury insurance this year.
    Bold move

    Anything before Day 3 would have to count as bold given not only how likely it is that the first three picks come from one of these four positions – quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker – but also how crowded the room has become. However, the front office’s future plans always have factored in more at corner than other positions, and taking someone such as Mississippi State’s Cameron Dantzler – one of only two players who has experienced both intercepting and sacking Joe Burrow – could be in play.
    Brugler background

    The Athletic’s draft expert in The Beast on Fairfield native Josiah Scott of Michigan State and how his skills translate to the NFL:
    “Scott was the starting boundary cornerback in former head coach Dantonio’s scheme, playing both man and zone. He earned a starting cornerback role as a true freshman and finished his MSU career with more passes defended (32) than games played (30). Scott’s teammates call him “The Gnat” because of the way he annoys receivers, hitting the gas to close on plays or easily accelerate with receivers vertically, staying connected to routes. With three older brothers who all played college football, he built up his toughness and glass-eating attitude at a young age. Overall, Scott’s lack of size, length and strength show up on tape, but so does his foot quickness and compete skills to mirror and match, projecting as a subpackage rookie with potential to be more.”
    Goodberry take

    They said it

    Mississippi State cornerback Cameron Dantzler when asked if he trash-talked Joe Burrow after intercepting him:
    "I just flexed a little bit. I didn't really say too much."
    Where they’ll take one

    Early Day 3, if at all. Grabbing one in the first three rounds doesn’t seem likely, and waiting until the end to get a corner in the sixth or seventh round wouldn’t make much sense given the surplus of those types of guys the Bengals currently have. If there is a corner available at the top of the fourth or fifth round whom the Bengals had a higher grade on, that’s when we could see it happen.

    Kindle Vildor, Georgia Southern, UFA. Neither Paul Dehner Jr. nor I had the Bengals drafting a cornerback in our tandem mock drafts, and I’ll stick with that here. When the free-agent frenzy kicks in after the draft ends, look for the Bengals to tap into some of those relationships established at the Senior Bowl as they reach out to guys such as Vildor.


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts