Over the course of May, both Kyle Crabbs and I will be assessing each team’s specific Draft class. The objective here is to identify value: where it was best and where it was worst. NDT Premium members will soon be able to access the comprehensive breakdowns of draft classes as well, which looks at the pick by pick breakdown of value across our respective 2017 NFL Draft boards. Today I look at the Cincinnati Bengals.
The full list of their 2017 NFL Draft class is below:
|73||EDGE||Jordan Willis||Kansas State|
Best Value: EDGE Carl Lawson, Auburn
Finally healthy, we got a taste of what Carl Lawson could do in his junior season. Lawson projects as an impact pass rusher in the NFL, where he can win with burst, bend, and power to pressure off the edge. He has a good amount of play strength to defend the run and hold the edge. His motor continuously runs hot, as he works his hands throughout the rep and is never content to stay blocked.
As long as Lawson can remain healthy, he can be an impact player. Lawson was my 23rd overall player and a first round grade so his selection in the fourth round is incredible value for me.
Worst Value: EDGE Jordan Willis, Kansas State
Willis has made a high number of splash plays as a pass rusher over the past two seasons in college with power and effort. However, it will be a challenge for Willis to replicate his success in the NFL, given his average burst, tight hips, and inability to bend the corner tight against tackles. His edge rush gets too far up the field and he doesn’t have the flexibility to bend, flatten, and close the passer. His NFL pass rushing productivity will have to be schemed to take advantage of his strength and motor.
As a run defender, Willis is NFL-ready, as he demonstrates a strong ability to stack blocks and disengage. He sets a firm edge and has good functional strength to win reps. Willis may need to transition to 3-4 OLB at the next level, but his lateral movement skills do not contribute positively to that fit. For Willis to be effective as a pass rusher in the NFL, however, the edge will need to be somehow softened. I would love to see the Bengals use him similarly to how the used Manny Lawson.
Could Surprise: OL JJ Dielman, Utah
After 26 consecutive starts at right tackle, JJ Dielman moved to center for his senior season and was coming into his own before he went down for the season with injury. His versatility to play inside or outside on the offensive line is appealing. Dielman is a technically sound blocker who, despite lacking ideal power, is still able to execute blocks with sound timing and technique. Complimenting his technique with adequate movement skills makes Dielman an option for zone schemes, where his positional blocking, foot speed, and timing can be best utilized.
His year one projection will likely come as a reserve, but he has the upside to compete for a starting position on or by year three.