5-part series: Which teams won the Draft
#3 Cincinnati Bengals
Round 1 pick 9 (No. 9 overall) John Ross, WR, Washington
Last season the Bengals lost complimentary WR Mohamed Sanu. The selection of John Ross could be more than just a complimentary piece. Ross has the speed (4.2 forty yd. dash) that will open short and deep throwing lanes for Andy Dalton because his speed will demand focus from the defense, especially the safeties. He has the speed to out run any safety deep or he can threaten the safety by running a route across his face while other receivers like AJ Green run routes behind them deep.
Green and Ross could become the perfect one-two combination. John Ross’ slender stature is concerning, especially in the physical conference of the AFC North. However, if he can stay healthy, he’ll be moved around the field as an outside or slot receiver, in motion for jet sweeps, and quickly passed the ball on the edges to create 1 on 1 tackling matchups. He’s a weapon that will automatically demand the attention of the defense.
Round 2 pick 16 (No. 48 overall) Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
The Bengals stole a first round talent by selecting Joe Mixon in the second round. His talent is first-round worthy because he runs with a
great combination of speed, power, and quickness. His 4.43 speed can get him to the edges of the defense, his 6’1” 225 lb. frame is solid enough to handle the load up the middle, and film showed that he has excellent lateral quickness. He is the total package runner.
In addition, he naturally catches the ball no matter the angle from which it approaches. Film showed him catching the deep pass over the shoulder better than a lot of wide receivers. It also showed that his feet can quickly react when juking a defender and immediately change direction again to evade the next oncoming defender. He’ll rapidly jump cut mid-step of his running stride and explode through the trenches. For instance, against Texas last season, he was handed the ball on a sweep run and juked the edge DB by juking in-out-in before blowing past him.
At Oklahoma, he was also used as a punt and kick returner which further solidifies his speed and elusiveness. He looks to score when he gets the ball. He may not become the starter right away because Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are still the capable veterans of the group but look for Mixon to gain more reps as the season moves on. The Bengals stole a bona fide playmaker by selecting Joe Mixon in the second round.
Round 3 pick 9 (No. 73 overall) Jordan Willis, OLB, Kansas St.
Jordan Willis came on strong during the combine and pre-draft evaluation process because of his size and athleticism. He is a physical presence listed at 6’4” 255 lbs. Film review showed that he adequately uses his size when holding the edge and attacking the ball carrier. His pass rushing around the edge is a concern because he has stiff hips and lacks bend ability. However, he plays with above average hustle which compensates for his lack of bend.
I would have preferred him to be chosen later in the draft because his projection as a pass rusher is average. To gain production when pass rushing, he can use the bull rush, extend his locked arm into the blocker’s chest to knock him backwards, and will hustle to take advantage of coverage sacks. He is also athletic enough to be moved to outside linebacker and be used as a pass rusher during obvious passing downs.
Round 4 pick 9 (No. 116) Carl Lawson, OLB, Auburn
The Bengals capitalized on Lawson’s fall in the draft because NFL teams were concerned with his injury history. Lawson’s pass rushing ability easily could’ve had him selected by the second round. He bursts out of his stance like a firecracker and immediately attacks the
blocker with electric fast hands. His stocky body frame helps him powerfully rip through blocks during his pursuit or hold up along the edge of the defense.
Film did confirm that his shorter arms makes it harder for him to gain control of the blocker consistently without giving up his body. I see his pass rushing ability to be on the track of Khalil Mack at its greatest and Dee Ford, who last season recorded 10 sacks, at its worst. He plays with elite quickness and effort. He’ll run down a ball carrier from behind. At times, last season, he was unstoppable when pass rushing and immediately disrupted plays. I project him to be a quality starter by year two who will continue to get better as the years continue.
Round 4 pick 22 (No. 128) Josh Malone, WR, Tennessee
The Bengals drafted another speedy receiver in Josh Malone who ran a 4.4 forty yd. dash. Malone has the potential to become a #2 receiver who can stretch the field vertically. The Bengals are hoping he can reach his max potential but he’s risky because after being a 5-star recruit out of high school, he somewhat underachieved during his time at Tennessee.
After speaking with some of his teammates from Tennessee, they were surprised he ran as fast as he did at the combine which tells me that he doesn’t practice in game speed. Despite his somewhat underwhelming college career, his film shows that he has the speed to separate vertically and has the hand fighting skills to get off press coverage. Those are key recipes for success as an NFL receiver. His future will depend on his development and work ethic. As a fourth round selection, he’s worth the risk.
Round 4 pick 32 (No. 138 overall) Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan
When reviewing film on him, I saw above average ability to get hands on first at the point of attack. From that position, he has the upper body strength to maintain control of the blocker and keep a two-way rushing lane. If the QB holds the ball too long, he’ll snatch the blocker to the side and provide pressure. He showed decent speed to run down running back screens and move laterally down the line of scrimmage against the run. He lacks great hand fighting skills at the point of attack to make him an elite pass rusher but his strength can make him a key depth piece.
Overall Draft analysis
I had the Bengals draft class rated highly because they swung for the fences with their high picks and many of their later selections showcase the ability to become vital contributors. Their first two selections of John Ross and Joe Mixon are both playmakers but each have their own unique risks which could dwindle this class’ effectiveness if things don’t go right.
In rounds 3 & 4 they drafted pass rushers Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson who are basically the opposite of each other; Willis wins with strength & Lawson wins with quickness. Their selection of another speedy receiver in Josh Malone shows that the Bengals are fixated on getting Andy Dalton more weapons. The selection of Ryan Glasgow and later picks have high potential to become depth pieces.