Cincinnati Bengals Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell
May 29, 2013

Solid Starter

Tyler Eifert, TE, Norte Dame – Round 1
The Bengals have starting tight end Jermaine Gresham signed for two more seasons at a reasonable price, so Eifert shouldn’t replace Gresham as a starter unless the veteran gets injured. However, Cincinnati plans on doing a ton of two-tight end formations. While also taking some snaps to keep Gresham fresh, Eifert could play as much as any other skill-position starter.

The Bengals may decide in a couple of seasons not to re-sign Gresham. Eifert has the skill set to be a three-down tight end in the NFL. He made big improvements in his blocking as a senior for the Fighting Irish and should continue to get better as a blocker. He could provide a nice impact as a receiver for offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

Eifert is big, fast and athletic. He is very dangerous working the middle seam and capable of making big plays downfield. Now that the Bengals have young starters at receiver and running back, Cincinnati could have a dangerous offense around quarterback Andy Dalton.

It might take some time, but Eifert looks safe to develop into a solid starter.

Most Likely To Bust

Shawn Williams, S, Georgia – Round 3
The Bengals have done well in the draft in recent years, so I’m not making this selection with confidence. That being said, of the team’s early-round picks, I could see Williams’ game not translating as well to the NFL. He is a tough safety who is a good run0defender who filled an important role for Georgia in the running-centered SEC. However, the NFL is a quarterback-driven league with the passing game taking precedent over the ground game. Williams could have coverage problems.

Bacarri Rambo was the better safety in pass coverage for the Bulldogs and had a big presence in the back end. Williams is strong and physical, but he isn’t a fluid athlete to cover NFL-level slot receivers or tight ends. The Bengals have one of the league’s best defensive coordinators in Mike Zimmer, so he could disguise this weakness.

Williams also lacks ball skills. The senior had zero interceptions and only four passes broken up last year. It will be interesting to see how Williams is used with veteran Reggie Nelson. I don’t think it is likely that Williams is a bust, but if he doesn’t pan out, I think it will be because of his weakness in pass coverage.

Potential Boom Pick

Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina – Round 2
The Bengals landed a perfect fit for their offense in Giovani Bernard. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden runs a West Coast offense that uses the running back in a variety of ways and Bernard can do everything the offense needs him to. Bernard is very quick and shifty. He is also a threat to break off a long run on any carry, but still tougher and more physical than one would think.

Bernard ran for 1,228 yards and 10 touchdowns last year while averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He also hauled in 47 passes for 490 yards and five touchdowns. Bernard averaged 16 yards per punt return as well, and even scored on two of them.

Scouts from rival teams told they loved Bernard and thought he was the best back in the 2013 NFL Draft. They say that he looks like a future LeSean McCoy or Ray Rice. That type of back is exactly what Cincinnati has been missing the past few seasons.

Gruden will be able to attack defenses with Bernard as a runner and receiver. He also has shown nice blocking ability in blitz protection. Every year there are running backs taken on the second day of the draft who prove to be great values, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Bernard becomes the workhorse of the Bengals’ offense.

Future Depth Player

Margus Hunt, DE, SMU – Round 2
The Bengals didn’t have a need at defensive end when they selected Hunt. They have two young, talented defensive ends with Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson, so Hunt looks like he will be a rotational player used to keep Dunlap and Johnson fresh. The big Estonian is still raw as a football player and will need some development, so he isn’t a threat to beat out Dunlap or Johnson for a starting spot in 2013.

The 6-foot-8, 280-pound Hunt is an athletic freak who can rush the passer. He had eight sacks last year after notching just three in 2011. Hunt also will be a weapon on special teams. He blocked 17 kicks in college.

Hunt does offer Cincinnati some insurance in case the organization is unable to sign Johnson or Dunlap to contract extensions. Sources have said they believe the Bengals will re-sign both, so it looks like Hunt is going to be a nice backup for Cincinnati.

2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

21. Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame: B+ Grade
This is the ultimate “BPA vs. need” argument. The Bengals didn’t have a hole at tight end with Jermaine Gresham there, but Tyler Eifert was definitely the top prospect available. Besides, teams like to use two-tight end sets, and it’s not like Gresham is setting the world on fire with his receiving ability. Andy Dalton has limited arm strength, so he’ll lean on Eifert quite frequently.

37. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina: B- Grade
We heard that the Bengals were going “all in” on Eddie Lacy, but Giovani Bernard makes more sense as a complement for BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Bernard is a speed back with return ability, which is exactly what Cincinnati needed. This is a slight reach – Bernard probably would have been around for Cincinnati’s second-rounder – but he’s a very good fit.

53. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU: C Grade
The Bengals are definitely in favor of drafting the best player available regardless of need because Margus Hunt doesn’t fill a need at all. The Bengals are pretty set at defensive end with Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. Hunt is very raw and will have to spend a couple of years developing. I’m not a fan of drafting such a project in the second round.

84. Shawn Williams, S, Georgia: C+ Grade
This is a slight reach, but Shawn Williams is a good fit in Mike Zimmer’s defense. The Bengals had to find help at safety, but had to wait this long because they missed out on Kenny Vaccaro and Eric Reid at No. 21.

118. Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M: A- Grade
I thought Sean Porter would go a round earlier than this, so I like the value. Porter makes sense as a need as well, as he can play learn from James Harrison for a couple of years and then eventually take over the starter if he develops accordingly.

156. Tanner Hawkinson, OT, Kansas: C- Grade
Tanner Hawkinson was a borderline draftable prospect, so this is a reach. I also don’t see how Tanner Hawkinson contributes anytime soon. I’m not a fan of this selection.

190. Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska: B- Grade
Rex Burkhead fits the range in the middle of the sixth round, but he wasn’t needed with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard on the depth chart. He’s not bad injury insurance though.

197. Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas: A- Grade
I like this pick a lot. Cobi Hamilton probably should have gone in the fourth-round range, so he slipped a bit. The Bengals wanted to add another wideout, though I thought they’d take Da’Rick Rogers.

240. Reid Fragel, OT, Ohio State: A Grade
Reid Fragel was considered a mid-round prospect; I’ve had him in the fourth or fifth. This is great value for the Bengals, as Fragel could eventually be Andrew Whitworth’s successor at left tackle.

251. T.J. Johnson, C, South Carolina: A- Grade
The Bengals needed someone to challenge Kyle Cook at center. Despite being a seventh-rounder, T.J. Johnson could do it.

2013 NFL Draft Team Grade: B . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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