The Bengals want to win a playoff game for the first time in 23 years. Here’s a look at whether their draft class will help them reach that elusive goal.
What they needed: Tackle, running back, defensive end, safety, receiver.
Who they got:
Round 1: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame.
Round 2: Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina.
Round 2: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU.
Round 3: Shawn Williams, S, Georgia.
Round 4: Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M.
Round 5: Tanner Hawkinson, OT, Kansas.
Round 6: Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska.
Round 6: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas.
Round 7: Reid Fragel, OT, Ohio State.
Round 7: T.J. Johnson, C, South Carolina.
Where they hit: With a growing nucleus of talented players, the Bengals could afford to go “best available” in round one. And they did, via a tight end who’ll help diversify the passing game. With receiver A.J. Green attracting extra attention, Eifert (who’ll wear Chad Johnson’s No. 85) and tight end Jermaine Gresham will be able to find favorable matchups in the underneath zones and in the seams. Bernard likewise expands the offensive options, giving the Bengals a much-needed complement to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. By re-signing right tackle Andre Smith and systemically addressing areas of need, the Bengals could be ready to take the next step. Or two.
Where they missed: Burkhead feels like a reach in round six. He’s the kind of guy they could have found among the ranks of the undrafted free agents. Still, if that’s the worst thing that can be said about a 10-man draft class, it’s a pretty good draft class.
Impact rookies: Eifert and Bernard could make major contributions right away. Hunt could also earn extensive playing time in the defensive line rotation, wreaking havoc as offensive lines focus on guys like Michael Johnson and Geno Atkins. And don’t overlook Cobi Hamilton, a possession receiver who could earn reps across from Green — especially if Mohamed Sanu has any setbacks as he recovers from a foot injury that derailed his rookie season.
Long-term prospects: The Bengals, with two straight playoff berths in non-strike seasons for the first time in franchise history, aren’t getting complacent. Marvin Lewis, one of the longest-tenured coaches in the league, seems intent on building a consistent contender. With Eifert, Bernard, and Hunt leading the class of incoming rookies, the Bengals could be poised to keep making the postseason, indefinitely.