1. First round, 21st overall: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
This was a pretty shocking pick in the first round, but when you look at what the Bengals will be able to do with their tight ends, it’s pretty remarkable. I don’t know what they feel about the development of last year’s fourth rounder Orson Charles, but they have added Eifert to a group that includes Charles and one of the better TEs in the NFL in Jermaine Gresham. The Bengals have so much size and athletic ability at the offensive skill positions, and Eifert only amplifies that. He can be an elite red zone threat, and will give them a guy who can create major mismatches for opposing defenses. Do you think Andy Dalton will have any excuses for not taking the next step in 2013? This could be a make or break year for Dalton with this kind of talent after losing two straight playoff games.
2. Second round, 37th overall: Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
The Bengals hit a home run with this pickup. Bernard has the shiftiniess and speed to be a perfect complement to Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis at the RB position. The Bengals really lacked that explosiveness in the backfield this past year, and Bernard can come in and provide that for them. I think when I watched him play, he reminded me a lot of LeSean McCoy with some of the things he does, and even though he’s not a “power” running back, he has really good bulk at 5’8″ 202 pounds. Some feel like he compares favorably to DeAngelo Williams. All I know is, this is an explosive running back who has a history with a knee injury, but I think he’s got the potential to be a game-changer in the NFL with the Bengals.
3. Second round, 53rd overall: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
Hunt is an absolute freakish athlete who can help the Bengals’ depth at the defensive end position. He is massive at 6’8″ 277 pounds, and I think he can get even bigger in that frame without losing any speed or quickness. He blocked a ton of kicks in his time at SMU, and the only knock on him for me was that he didn’t come into his senior season and dominate people with his ability. I think that was a bit surprising for everyone. He can close on the QB pretty well, and his length allows him to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage with ease. I think he’s a powerful defensive end prospect who can kick inside in nickel situations, and a guy who can eventually develop into a starter.
4. Third round, 84th overall: Shawn Williams, S, Georgia
This was one of my top strong safety prospects and a good value here in the third round for the Bengals, filling one of their top needs. Williams was one of the team leaders for arguably the best and most dominant defense in the country at Georgia, and he can do a lot of things really well. At 6’0″ 213 pounds, he has great size and runs a 4.46 40 yard dash. He also has great strength and is a hard worker off the field. Going into the draft, he was one of my favorite overall prospects in the defensive backfield because of his leadership traits, his toughness, and physicality. I think this guy could start for the Bengals with their need at safety, and could be a good one for a long time.
5. Fourth round, 118th overall: Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M
Porter is a player with a lot of potential, but he really disappointed in 2012 with only 3.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. He showed a ton of promise as a potential rush linebacker taking over for Von Miller at Texas A&M, but he didn’t come through with a great senior season at all with the Aggies. I think he has solid athletic ability, and can provide the Bengals depth at both OLB and ILB, and he will contribute immediately on special teams.
6. Fifth round, 156th overall: Tanner Hawkinson, OT, Kansas
This is a guy who is a great athlete at the tackle position, but he will have to get a lot stronger before he can contribute in the NFL. I think with 48 straight starts at Kansas, this was a guy who deserved to get drafted. He is a converted tight end who gives the Bengals depth at the right tackle position, and he could be a guy who develops with his work ethic off the field I like this pick a lot for them in the later rounds.
7. Sixth round, 190th overall: Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska
Let me just say this–I am a big fan of Rex Burkhead and I think he is a huge difference maker. It was a big knock for him that he was only able to run a 4.65 at the Scouting Combine, and then slower at 4.69 at the Nebraska Pro Day. I think that’s ultimately what brought him down to the sixth round, because he’s a much better running back prospect than this. I think people comparing him to Brian Leonard never watched either player play. Those comparisons to me are either intentionally lazy or just strictly innocent white-on-white comparisons. If you want to compare him to another white RB, Toby Gerhart is more appropriate comparison since he’s actually a running back. Burkhead is not a fullback, because he’s not a blocker. He is a good receiver like Leonard was at Rutgers, but when you look at Burkhead, he is more of a traditional running back than anything. He can get you tough yards, and he has a nose for the end zone. He had some injury problems last year, but I think he can be a really good pickup for the Bengals this late in the draft.
8. Sixth round, 197th overall: Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas
After all the dust settled from Joe Adams, Greg Childs, and Jarius Wright leaving Arkansas last year, it was evident that Hamilton would be the number one target for Tyler Wilson, and he turned out to be just that. He had over 1,300 receiving yards but only five touchdowns, and I think this is another really solid value pickup for the Bengals who are looking for some upside at the receiver position. Hamilton surprisingly didn’t test well at the Combine in any thing but the 40 yard dash where he ran a 4.50, but I think he’s improved a lot on the field when it matters.
9. Seventh round, 240th overall: Reid Fragel, OT, Ohio State
Fragel is a converted 6’8″ tight end who needs a lot of coaching, but this is a very solid developmental project in the seventh round. He has solid athletic ability and can provide the Bengals depth at the tackle positions. This might be a guy they look to stash away on the practice squad for a year or so to try and develop him.
10. Seventh round, 251st overall: T.J. Johnson, C, South Carolina
Another player likely destined for the Bengals’ practice squad, Johnson is a very smart, durable player who can be coached into a spot starter in the NFL. He played in a lot of games for South Carolina, and he understands the game really well. This is a decent pick in the seventh round for them.
The Bengals addressed some of their primary needs, and I think their offense got even more electric with the additions of Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard, two of the best players at their respective positions in the draft. I’m a big fan of the Margus Hunt selection in the later portion of the second round, and Shawn Williams was a player I also really liked at the SS position. Rex Burkhead would have been picked much higher had it not been for his knee injuries as a senior.