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Cincinnati Bengals vision revealed with 2019 NFL Draft class

The Cincinnati Bengals used the 2019 NFL Draft to find the building blocks of a redesigned roster. The class reveals the team’s new philosophy on both sides of the ball.

The Cincinnati Bengals didn’t have the “best player available” luxury of their AFC North counterparts. Heading into a bit of a rebuild with a new head coach, the Bengals attacked the draft by filling roster holes while planning for the future. The draft class also reveals what Zac Taylor has planned for the team heading into 2019. Here’s a look at each Cincinnati draft pick and what it means to the Bengals.

Round 1: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
Grade: A

The Bengals offensive line struggles date back as far as the disastrous 2015 draft. That year, Cincinnati took back-to-back draft bust tackles in Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher. To resolve this mistake, they solidified the left tackle position in trading for Cordy Glenn before the 2018 season. Now, it seems they’ve fortified the right side with the selection of the Alabama lineman. Williams started 44 straight games for the Crimson Tide and did not allow a sack in 2018.

Round 2: Drew Sample, TE, Washington
Grade: C

It’s not so much the player to dislike here but rather the timing. Selecting a run-blocking tight end in the second round seems like a reach. But what a run blocker he is. Pro Football Focus gives Sample the highest run blocking grade (82.3 for you run block grade nerds out there) in the entire 2019 TE draft class. The selection, along with Williams in the first round, reveals Taylor’s commitment to his Bengals establishing a dominant ground game.

Round 3: Germaine Pratt, LB, North Carolina State
Grade: B

Cincinnati turned its attention to defense in the third round, filling arguably the biggest need on the entire roster. Pratt will bring a physical presence the team desperately needs after the departure of Vontaze Burfict. He is a converted safety with questionable coverage skills, but his forte is rushing the passer and in run defense. In addition, Pratt racked up 104 tackles and six sacks in 2018. Considering the need, he’s going to have his immediate work cut out for him. The Bengals defense ranked last in yards allowed per game last year (413.6) and 30th in scoring defense (28.4 points per game). The day two pick should make an immediate impact on a position decimated by injury last season.

Round 4: Ryan Finley, QB, North Carolina State
Grade: A

Taylor may have found Andy Dalton’s successor in Finley. His size and style of play draw some comparisons to Jared Goff, who Taylor helped mold as quarterbacks coach in Los Angeles. Finley is careful with the ball. The three-year starter threw just 25 interceptions in 1,364 pass attempts at N.C. State. He has good anticipation as a passer and can process complicated defenses. Dalton’s contract is set to expire after 2020 but carries no cap hit if he’s released before then. Barring a disastrous first impression, Finley could very well be the Bengals starting QB heading into 2020.

Round 4: Renell Wren, DT, Arizona State
Grade: B

Wrenn is a bit of a project. At 6’4” and 295 lbs. he gives Cincinnati some size they desperately need in the middle of the defensive front. Wrenn is still developing as a pass rusher but has the physical tools to start in the league and should contribute early on running downs. Bengals two-time all-pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins was also a fourth-round selection and turns 32 at the end of the upcoming season. Wrenn couldn’t ask for a better place to serve as an understudy to one of the game’s best at the position.

Round 4: Michael Jordan, G, Ohio State
Grade: A

Jordan is one of several players that demonstrate Cincinnati’s new commitment to the running game. He started 41 consecutive games at Ohio State at both guard and center. In 2017, Ohio State led the Big Ten in rushing with an incredible 245.2 yards per game. Jordan has great size (6’6” and 312 lbs.) and athleticism for the position and is a likely replacement for left guard Clint Boling when his contract expires after 2019.

Round 6: Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M
Grade: A

Cincinnati found tremendous value in their first of three sixth-round picks with Williams. The running back led the SEC with 1,760 rushing yards and 18 TD’s in 2018. Running back became a need after the offseason release of Mark Walton and Gio Bernard’s contract set to expire after 2019. After the draft, Williams tweeted his displeasure with where he was selected. Though currently entrenched behind Joe Mixon and Bernard, Texas A&M’s record holder for all-purpose yardage will likely be a big part of Zac Taylor’s new-look offense in the Queen City.

Round 6: Deshaun Davis, LB, Auburn
Grade: B

Despite the NFL becoming a “passing league” the AFC North continues to keep it old school. With running backs like James Conner, Mark Ingram, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the division, the Bengals rebuilt their linebacker corps with the run defense in mind. Davis adds depth and brings leadership to the team. He served as Auburn’s 2018 defensive captain while racking up 112 tackles. In four years he tallied 29.5 tackles for loss. Davis might not have metrics that pop off the page, but the heavy-hitter brings a toughness still needed in the AFC North.

Round 6: Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma
Grade: A

Oklahoma isn’t the only thing Anderson and starter Joe Mixon have in common. Anderson is a clone of Mixon, offering both power and speed with soft hands. He showed it in 2017, his only healthy season when he rushed for 1,442 yards. He put an exclamation on the season with 201 yards against Georgia in the Rose Bowl. In addition to the torn ACL that ended his 2018 season, Anderson suffered a neck injury in 2017 and a broken leg in 2015. After a single round, the Bengals get two starting-caliber running backs in the sixth round. In Anderson’s case, he can keep his body fresh while substituting for Mixon in spot duty and Cincinnati’s offense won’t miss a beat.

Round 7: Jordan Brown, CB, South Dakota State
Grade: B

Brown brings some impressive production to the table for a seventh-round selection. The converted receiver recorded 27 pass breakups and six interceptions over the past two seasons. He also offers great size and athleticism. At 6’0” and 200 lbs. he recorded a 39.5” vertical jump and 128” broad jump at the NFL combine. Brown is a durable three-year starter and was named team captain in 2018.

So why were 27 CB’s taken before Brown? Quite simply, he’s an FCS player. The South Dakota State Jackrabbits don’t strike fear in the hearts of many major college football programs and there will be an adjustment at the next level. Regardless, Brown offers traits you want in a defensive back, especially one taken in the last round of the draft. He’ll provide depth, and a potentially high ceiling, for the Cincinnati Bengals defense.

Summary

The Cincinnati Bengals made their new team philosophy loud and clear on draft day. Taylor wants a strong ground game paired with a punishing defense build to shut down AFC North opponents. There will be growing pains, but the roster is now stocked with players that can implement Taylor’s new vision for the Bengals.

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