Cincinnati Bengals Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama – Round 1
For a new head coach in Zak Taylor, Williams was a safe pick with the first selection for the new regime in Cincinnati. With excellent development from college, he is a plug-and-play starter to help open holes for Joe Mixon and protect Andy Dalton. With his versatility, Williams should be a quick contributor at tackle, guard, or center to help the Bengals. He was going to be an immediate help before his June shoulder surgery, but may miss the 2019 season.

There are a lot of strengths to Williams as a player, but in speaking with team sources, the two-most mentioned attributes are intelligence and technique. Team evaluators think Williams is a very smart blocker, and he uses his ability to his advantage on how he attacks defenders to keep them away from his quarterback or ball-carrier. Williams has very good technique. His hand placement, knee bend, and leverage area all very good.

As a pass blocker, Williams is very reliable. He sets up well and plays the typewriter with his feet to keep the defenders from getting around the corner. Williams uses his good hand placement and upper body to sustain his blocks while not allowing much give on second efforts. When he does allow a rusher to get upfield, Williams shows a nice ability to recover and tie up his blocker, using any means necessary to keep them from getting to the quarterback. Elite speed or strength can give Williams some problems on the edge, thus many believe he should not be a left tackle in the NFL.

In the ground game, Williams is a steady blocker who ties up his defenders. He is not a road grader who blasts defenders off the ball with overwhelming power. However, he is a smart blocker who beats defenders to the spot and uses his technique to tie them up or torque them away from his ball-carriers. Williams is not a power player, and he would be a good fit in a zone-blocking scheme.

Some teams sources said they were projecting Williams to right tackle or guard and thought he would only be an emergency left tackle who could finish out a game because he’s smart, but teams wouldn’t want him to start at left tackle in the NFL. Other sources thought he could stay at left tackle, and some thought he should be a center. With the Bengals, Williams is slated to start out at right tackle. He quickly should become a solid starter for the Bengals once his NFL career gets started.

2018: Sam Hubbard, DE
2017: John Ross, WR
2016: William Jackson, CB
2015: Paul Dawson, LB
2014: Darqueze Dennard, CB
2013: Tyler Eifert, TE

Most Likely To Bust

Drew Sample, TE, Washington – Round 2
The Bengals needed tight end help due to Tyler Eifert’s problems staying healthy and their lack depth behind him. Thus, it made sense that they would address the position, but they took a mid-round player in the second round, which I think could end up being a regrettable pick.

At Washington, Sample was a solid tight end who was a quality blocker for the Huskies’ rushing attack. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder is strong and stout while being consistent in helping to open holes in the ground game or protect the quarterback. However, Sample is not a dynamic receiving threat, and as a senior, he totaled 25 receptions or 252 yards and three touchdowns.

In the NFL, I think Sample could end up being a blocking tight end who is more of a backup rather than being a true starter who offers mismatch potential as a receiver. Before long, I could see Cincinnati targeting a feature tight end and having Sample relegated to being a role player. As a a 52nd-overall pick, that would be disappointing and nearing bust status for Cincinnati.

2018: Malik Jefferson, LB
2017: Carl Lawson, LB
2016: Nick Vigil, LB
2015: Tyler Kroft, TE
2014: Russell Bodine, C
2013: Shawn Williams, S

Potential Boom Pick

Germaine Pratt, LB, N.C. State – Round 3
The Bengals needed linebacker help entering the offseason, and that position was further weakened by the departure of Vontaze Burfict. Cincinnati has some veterans led by Preston Brown, but the team needs more talent around him, and Pratt could end up being a third-round steal. He was very impressive at N.C. State last year and showed a ton of upside for the NFL.

In 2018, Pratt was all over the field for the Wolfpack, totaling 104 tackles with 10.5 for a loss, six sacks, two forced fumbles and three passes broken up. The senior played really well with some clutch plays for his defense. He is a strong and physical run defender with the ability to run sideline-to-sideline. Pratt also has shown some pass-coverage skills, and that is not particularly surprising considering he arrived at N.C. State as a safety. In the NFL, he could be a Mike or Will linebacker who thrives in a 4-3 scheme.

Pratt has the ability to fly around the field and be a physical defender who is an enforcer in the ground game while having the skill set to contribute in coverage. He could end a three-down starting inside linebacker early in his NFL career, and I think he could be a boom pick for Cincinnati.

2017: Joe Mixon, RB
2016: Tyler Boyd, WR
2015: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT
2014: Jeremy Hill, RB
2013: Giovani Bernard, RB

Future Depth Player

Ryan Finley, QB, N.C. State – Round 4
The Bengals were in the quarterback market and came away with Finley to push Andy Dalton. In the immediate future, Finley will be a backup to Dalton, but in time, Finley could contend to be a starter. Finley has some physical limitations for the NFL, so I don’t believe he will ever become a starter, but I do think that he could be a good backup and a fine No. 2 quarterback. Finley has enough physical talent and consistency to be a reliable backup who could help finish a game or make a few starts if necessary. For Cincinnati, I think Finley could be a solid depth player as a backup quarterback.

2018: Mark Walton, RB
2017: Ryan Glasgow, DT
2016: Andrew Billings, DT
2015: Josh Shaw, CB
2014: A.J. McCarron, QB
2013: Margus Hunt, DE

Walt’s 2019 NFL Draft Grades:

11. Jonah Williams, OT/G, Alabama C+ Grade
I had Jonah Williams higher than this in my 2019 NFL Mock Draft, but only because that’s what I thought would happen. Some teams graded Williams in the bottom half of the opening round. The problem with Williams is that his arms are too short for a tackle, yet he’s not strong enough to be a guard. This is the problem Connor Williams had entering the 2018 NFL Draft, but to a lesser extent. I don’t think Jonah Williams will be a bust like Connor Williams, but Jonah doesn’t seem to have the upside to warrant a selection at No. 11 overall. I get why the Bengals drafted a lineman, but they probably should have gone in a different direction with so many talented defensive players on the board.

Oh no. Ooohhh nooo. Teams overpaid blocking tight ends in free agency, and now the Bengals used a second-round pick on one in the 2019 NFL Draft. Sample should have been chosen in the fifth or sixth round. I had him mocked at No. 174 overall. Teams have made mistakes in the past by using high selections on blocking tight ends, and this is yet another blunder.

72. Germaine Pratt, LB, N.C. State B+ Grade
The Bengals needed help at linebacker in the wake of Vontaze Burfict’s departure. I had Germaine Pratt going at the end of the second round, so this is decent value. Pratt is a terrific blitzer and run stopper. He’s not great in coverage, but not totally lost in that regard. The Bengals made a nice selection with Pratt.

104. Ryan Finley, QB, N.C. State A Grade
The Bengals jumped up six spots, leaping a couple of teams that could take quarterbacks (Raiders, Buccaneers). I thought Finley could’ve easily been chosen in the second round, so this is a great selection. Finley resembles Alex Smith, but with slightly less mobility. He could end up being an average starter, which is exceptional for a fourth-round pick.

125. Renell Wren, DE/DT, Arizona State B Grade
I thought there was a good chance Renell Wren could be chosen in the second round. I ultimately put him in the third frame, so I think he offers great value here. Wren is a bit raw, but he has tremendous athleticism. He also has very high character marks, so he’ll give the Bengals all he has.

136. Michael Jordan, G/C, Ohio State B+ Grade
Michael Jordan was an inconsistent player at Ohio State, looking great at times and awful on other occasions. However, he has good upside and versatility, as he can play both guard and center. He makes sense in this range, and he could end up starting for Cincinnati, given the poor state of its offensive line.

182. Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M A+ Grade
This is an absolute steal, and I can’t envision there being a better pick in the sixth round. Trayveon Williams was projected in the third or fourth frame. He was an excellent runner for Texas A&M, and he also had positive receiving skills. I don’t understand why Williams fell so much, but Cincinnati definitely got a great bargain.

210. Deshaun Davis, LB, Auburn C Grade
Deshaun Davis didn’t seem like a draftable prospect to me, so I’m surprised to see him come off the board in Round 6. He can be a thumper as a two-down run defender, but he gets completely lost in coverage and offers zero upside as a player with poor athleticism.

211. Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma A+ Grade
The Bengals have used two third-day picks on running backs, and both have been absolute steals. I can’t decide which pick is better, so they both deserve A+ grades. Rodney Anderson has more upside than Trayveon Williams, but his floor is lower because of his extensive injury history. If it wasn’t for that, Anderson may have drawn first-round consideration.

223. Jordan Brown, CB, South Dakota State A Grade
The Bengals made some terrific value selections on Day 3 of the draft, and this is one of them. Jordan Brown has some level-of-competition questions, but he was a sound cornerback at South Dakota State and projects well to the NFL because of his solid athleticism. Brown was also a team captain, so the Bengals will enjoy his high-character traits.

2019 NFL Draft Team Grade: B . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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