The Bengals had a very productive draft, in which they picked up players at every positional need. Before I analyze further, here are their selections:
Round 1: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Round 2: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
Round 3: Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming
Round 4: Akeem Davis-Gaither, OLB, Appalachian State
Round 5: Khalid Kareem, DE, Notre Dame
Round 6: Hakeem Adeniji, OT, Kansas
Round 7: Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue
Picks 1 and 2 added two surefire starters for Cincinnati. Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins should be the next prolific QB-WR duo for the Bengals, succeeding Palmer-Johnson and Dalton-Green. These two bring immense star power and will drive this offense for years to come.
After addressing the offense early, the Bengals placed an emphasis on improving their dreadful defense from previous seasons. Logan Wilson and Akeem Davis-Gaither should be immediate starters at the linebacker position. They both fill the need of rangy, solid linebackers who can do a little bit of everything.
The most questionable pick at first came in round 5 when the Bengals selected Khalid Kareem. My immediate reaction was disbelief, as the Bengals still hadn’t picked an offensive lineman and have no desperate need for a defensive end. But, after further thinking, this pick makes sense. Carlos Dunlap is getting older, and the Bengals have little depth on the edge. Kareem shores up the depth and in the best-case scenario, he could be an average starter in the future.
Cincinnati finally addressed the offensive line in round 6. Hakeem Adeniji should bring competition to the line and be a solid backup, and while the coaches said he has a chance to start, I don’t buy that. I think he is a good backup at best. With the final pick, the Bengals picked up a quality talent in Markus Bailey. The reason he was available so late is due to his injury history, suffering two ACL tears in college. A risky pick, but as it’s in Round 7, it grades out much better.
Overall Draft Grade: A-
The Bengals picked up some offensive star power and were able to address the front seven on defense. They picked up three, maybe four starters in this draft and some quality backups. The only downside is that they did not pick and offensive lineman until Round 6. Apparently, the Bengals have said they are comfortable with the current players on the offensive line, but I still would have liked to see the position addressed earlier, or more than once.
Cincinnati undoubtedly improved and should be a much more competitive team next season. Keep in mind, many of their losses last season were by one possession. With more experience between the coaches and an improved roster, I expect to see a resurgence in the coming seasons.