The 2017 NFL Draft was kind to the Cincinnati Bengals. Very kind. In fact, we’re almost giddy at the thought of what the team will look like this fall. They addressed their needs at running back, receiver, and defensive end … and impressively so. The team took advantage of their 11 picks to improve depth. Quality players were selected early and often. While it wasn’t a perfect draft (like that even exists), you can’t ask for much better from the Bengals.
So why are we excited, and where could the team brass have done even better? Check out our 3 ups and 3 downs from the draft to find the answers.
Cincinnati’s 3 Ups
1. John Ross: You’ve heard us say over and over about how badly the Cincinnati Bengals need a wide receiver who can make AJ Green’s life easier. With John Ross, they’ve found him. In 2016 as a Washington Husky, Ross caught 81 passes for 1,150 yards. He’s so fast (4.22 in the 40), you’re not sure if he has a heart or a Hemi underneath his jersey. Ross’s biggest asset is that he expands the field and draws attention away from Green and tight end Tyler Eifert. That alone would increase the point production of the Bengals’ offense. But Ross is talented enough to be his own TD threat (17 of them last fall at UW). The O is about to O-pen up in Cincinnati.
2. A steal at running back: Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon has all the physical tools to have been a first-round draft choice. But off-the-field issues (more on that later) caused his stock to fall. Remarkably, he was still on the board when the Bengals were up to bat with their second-round pick. Mixon averaged 6.8 yards per carry last year and scored 10 times. If the line can open up some holes for him, the running game will do some impressive things.
3. The Bengals got their kicks: Nowhere in the NFL would a reliable kicker have made a bigger difference than in Cincy in 2016. The 6-9-1 Bengals could have been a playoff team had a few of their closer games turned out different. They lost five games last year by five points or less, along with their Week 8 tie to the Redskins. Drafting Jake Elliott out of Memphis could have as big an offensive impact as taking John Ross. Multiple NFL scouts anonymously called him the best kicker in this year’s draft. The days of Bengals’ fans cringing when the FG unit comes on the field may be over.
Cincinnati’s 3 Downs
1. Mixon’s potential baggage: The controversy stemming from Mixon’s punching a woman in an Oklahoma restaurant in 2014 is a cause for concern on multiple fronts. Someone got hurt. That kind of behavior shouldn’t be tolerated, and those repercussions can be a distraction to the player and the team. Hopefully Mixon will learn from it and keep his nose clean.
2. No big name on the O-line: After losing Kevin Zeitler to Cleveland and Andrew Whitworth to the LA Rams, the Bengals need to replace their two best linemen in a hurry. The team had to spend its draft picks on skill players. Thus, they didn’t land a big ugly worth bragging about.
3. Not enough down points to have a full “down” list: This is a good problem to have. There were not enough shortcomings from the draft to make a full list of “downs”, so we had to make the lack of a down point into its own down point. Because we said we would deliver three down points, and dang it, we’re gonna do it!