Sam Schneider | April 29th, 2020
The Cincinnati Bengals spent over $158 million in free agency in 2020, a sign of commitment to bring fans back to Paul Brown Stadium and to putting a better product on the field before going into the draft with the number one overall pick. The top of the draft was no surprise. They selected the best quarterback in college last year coming off arguably the greatest season in college football history.
Then they added a highly touted wide receiver to pair with him for years to come. From there, the Bengals completed their offseason assault on defensive upgrades with a quartet of defenders who are poised to make an impact more sooner than later. We’ll go pick-by-pick here for grades on each selection and dish out the verdict.
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Round 1, Pick 1: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Cincinnati laid to rest any notions of trading the first overall pick and took the new face of the franchise in Burrow. In fact, it’s been reported that he has had the playbook for weeks and Cincinnati even called him for his ten favorite play calls at LSU which is an awfully smart move considering he tossed for over 5,600 yards and had a record 60 touchdowns en route to a championship in the 2019 season. His accuracy on long passes is unmatched which should be a scary thought for opponents considering the weapons available to him at the next level.
Full Scouting Report here.
Round 2, Pick 33: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
A bit of a divisive spot in the draft amongst Bengals fans and Cincinnati opted to go the same route as in 2011 when they drafted a quarterback-wide receiver combo together (albeit in reverse order). In the end, they get a 6’3” wideout who can bring the ball in whether on short throws or the deep ball. He adds to a stacked wideout core in Cincinnati making the passing game that much more lethal alongside A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and Auden Tate. Higgins’ speed leaves something to be desired (a 4.54 40-time at his pro day) and he did not work out at the NFL combine which seemed to lead to the drop to number 33.
Full Scouting Report here.
Round 3, Pick 65: Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming
Wilson lined up at five positions in high school: quarterback, wide receiver, running back, kicker, and safety. That does not say a whole lot because most of the best college players were standouts at their respective high schools. Of note though is that he was basically recruited to Wyoming as a safety and the traits he brought to the position are what made him a valuable linebacker in college and going forward. Wilson is predominately a coverage guy and the 6’2” linebacker with ten interceptions at Wyoming helps the Bengals in a division that includes multiple talented tight ends.
Round 4, Pick 107: Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State
The Bengals go back-to-back at the position, filling one of their greatest needs at linebacker. Davis-Gaither finished the 2019 season with over 100 tackles, a highlight reel’s worthy 14.5 tackles for loss, and five sacks for good measure. He’s a ball-tracker who can go sideline to sideline and has elite vision. There are injury concerns as he played the majority of 2019 with a stress fracture in his foot, and previous knee issues (and consequently a lack of cartilage) raise questions about how long he can play in the pros. Regardless, he is an absolute gamer. Davis-Gaither is a steal in the fourth round and adds some more attitude to the defense. If he remains healthy, this is a great pick.
Round 5, Pick 147: Khalid Kareem, DE, Notre Dame
Cincinnati takes the best player on their board in the fifth round nabbing Kareem, a lanky defensive end cut from the same mold as former Bengal Michael Johnson if a few inches shorter. The Bengals are strong on the edge with ten-year veteran Carlos Dunlap, Carl Lawson, and Sam Hubbard so they can afford to give Kareem time to develop. Nevertheless, his athletic ability alone suggests that he should make the roster, play some special teams snaps and eventually put himself in a position to join the rotation.
Round 6, Pick 180: Hakeem Adeniji, OT, Kansas
The Bengals finally take an offensive lineman in the sixth round in the form of Adeniji and it is an unbelievable value pick. He has solid, if unspectacular, arm length at 33.75”. He showed the ability as a college tackle to take on all comers and rarely looks winded doing so. In the NFL Adeniji’s athletic prowess is probably better suited at guard, but he may need to add a few extra pounds to the 300 that he currently carries, provided it does not compromise his athleticism. All in all, Cincinnati gets a player that will likely be in the offensive line mix in the coming season which is tremendous value this late in the draft.
Round 7, Pick 215: Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue
The team adds another Ohio native to the draft in Bailey, a Columbus guy who was a projected second-round pick before an injury derailed his 2019 season. He tore both ACLs during his college career. Those injuries are not viewed by the staff as a risk and Bailey is already running sprints and doing drills just months removed from his most recent surgery. In three full seasons at Purdue, Bailey totaled over 300 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 26 tackles-for-loss, and six interceptions. Although he is likely to not see the field much in 2020, this is about as good a player as you could hope for with your final pick.
The Bengals did not aggressively seek out help on the offensive line. This signals their belief that its improvement in the second half of last year and another year of coaching along with the additions that they have made (including last year’s first-round pick Jonah Williams) enabled them to target other needs. In an offseason where pro visits and workouts were few and far between, Cincinnati took advantage of having coached the Senior Bowl with five of their seven picks having been in the game. Additionally, they drafted six players who were their teams’ captains in 2019 continuing their theme of adding leadership and accountability which started in free agency. All in all, after a dismal 2019 season, Bengals fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming years.
Overall Grade: A
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