Second, I went over the Bengals draft needs here and am going to give my take on each pick, as I see fit. The needs I had listed are as follows:
1st round, Darqueze Dennard CB: I like this pick. Dennard was probably a top 15 talent that fell to #24, and he happened to fit a need of ours. He was the best player on a great MSU team last year, won the Jim Thorpe Award as the best CB in the country and he had a historically great 2013 campaign. From Mlive.com,
Dennard had 111 passes targeted to his area last season, and only 17 were completed (15.32 percent) for 91 yards. He defended 14 passes, with four interceptions and 10 deflections. On 55.86 percent of those passes, Dennard re-routed or jammed his man away from the ball.
Receivers averaged 5.35 yards per reception against Dennard, the lowest figure by any defensive back since the BCS era begin in 1998.
The 0.8198 yards per pass attempt is the lowest since The NFL Draft Report began compiling in-depth statistics in 1968. For some perspective on that, two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Deion Sanders held teams to 0.935 yards per attempt in 1988 at Florida State.Not too shabby. At the same time, Teddy Bridgewater was right there at #24. Neither he or Dennard will see much field, ideally, in 2014 so you're looking at down the line. And down the line, I feel like Bridgewater will pay dividends more so than Dennard. Dennard is blocked by Leon Hall, Terrence Newman, Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick. Not a shut down corner in that group, but a very solid bunch when healthy. Bridgewater would be blocked by Andy Dalton, who is going into the last year of his deal. I won't rehash my issues with Dalton here, but I would have went Bridgewater here and been more than pleased to do so.
2nd round, Jeremy Hill RB: Again, Hill is a solid pick. He rushed for 1,400 yards on nearly 7 YPC in the SEC last season and more importantly, he's not Benjarvus Green-Ellis. But again, I feel like there was better talent on the board. Kony Ealy had a first round grade, was sitting there in the second round and would have fit our biggest need, in my eyes. Hill comes with some off field baggage, and at a position where value could be found later, especially since Gio Bernard seems to be set as the starter and we only need someone to spell him. This made me feel a bit better about the pick.
3rd round, Will Clarke DE: Finally, we get our DE. Clarke fits the Bengals preference for tall DE's (Clarke, Dunlap, Hunt and the departed Michael Johnson are all 6'6 or above) and using him in a rotation should help maximize his productivity. At that spot, I would have preferred Florida CB Jaylen Watkins, because we would have nabbed Ealy in round 2. He played some CB/S at UF and I thought DC Paul Guenther would like to have a guy of his versatility on the squad. Like Dennard, there would be no pressure to play right away so he could learn at his own pace.
4th round, Russell Bodine C/G: I got no beef with this pick. It was considered a reach by some, and we traded up to get him, but we need interior linemen. We cut starting center Kyle Cook, and I imagine Mike Pollak will win the starting job but Bodine should push him for it and at the very least provide depth at center and guard, where he played in college. This and the Hill pick show me that OC Hue Jackson is serious about shaping up a running game that finished 28th in the league in YPC. Doesn't hurt that he has some experience blocking for Gio Bernard from their days together at UNC.
5th round, AJ McCarron QB: Before you read the following, just understand that I know how ridiculous it is to criticize a fifth round selection. I get it, I get it. We've had some recent success with 5th round picks. Tanner Hawkinson was active for five games last year, and will stick around on the team this season (no easy feat for a 5th rounder on a playoff team). The season before we struck gold with Marvin Jones and George Illoka in the fifth round, both of whom started all 16 games for us a year ago. We had the chance to nab another nice player here, but instead chose AJ McCarron.
I would have ran to the podium with Zach Mettenberger's name on the card. McCarron is the college winner that showed up in big games and has intangibles on intangibles to makeup for the lack of physical skills he has. We already have a red headed QB that fits all of that, so why McCarron? Mettenberger has legit arm talent and made some phenomenal throws last season. He's coming off of an ACL tear and a failed drug test at the combine, neither of which bother me. 1, he's not playing this year anyway. Andy Dalton will be the starting quarterback this season and Jason Campbell will back him up. Mettenberger is third string as he recovers from the ACL and learns the playbook. 2, he's a fifth rounder at this point. If the drug test proves to be foreshadowing of future bad decisions, you cut bait with zero consequences. Mettenberger has the arm to make every throw a QB needs to make and thus a higher ceiling than McCarron. I've seen Bledsoe comparisons and I don't think they're terribly off the mark, if everything breaks right. Consider that 51% of Mettenberger's throws were 11+ yards downfield (15-20% points higher than Bridgewater, Bortles, Manziel, McCarron, whoever) and he still finished the season at 65% accuracy. I imagine that kind of arm talent, a year learning the system with no pressure and the type of weapons he have around him and think about what could have been. Instead, we went with a safe QB at a point in the draft where you can take the chance that your lottery ticket turns into the $100 million dollar winner. Instead, we went with Dalton 2.0.
In the 6th and 7th rounds we took a OLB, a WR and a CB that I won't pretend to know anything about. Talented guys like Seantrel Henderson, Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson and Isaiah Crowell are all talented guys that went undrafted. Maybe you take a flyer on them in the 6th or 7th round, but I got no gripe if you dont. As of now, Purifoy and Roberson are still available so we might be able to strike gold again in a Vontaze Burfict type of redemption story. We might not though.
In the end, we hit four of the five draft needs I identified and our recent success in the draft leaves me with more faith than I once had in our coaches/scouting staff. That Mettenberger pick though man...