Complete Bengals' 7-Round Mock Draft for 2014
With nine picks—one in each round, plus a compensatory pick in Rounds 6 and 7—the Bengals can use some of their selections on the best players available, again building their roster from the ground up with young talent.
However, the draft will help solve some roster deficiencies, especially in earlier rounds. Pair that with a deep draft class this year, thanks to a record-high 98 underclassmen, and the Bengals have a lot of options on their hands.
The draft is more than one month away, but let's take a look at players the Bengals might select with each pick this year and why they make good fits for the defending AFC North champions.
Round 1, Pick 24: CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
The Bengals aren't lacking for cornerbacks after using a first-round pick on the position in 2012, snagging Dre Kirkpatrick with the 17th overall selection.
However, the starting-caliber corners currently on the roster aren't getting any younger. Leon Hall is coming off an Achilles tendon tear he suffered in October, which is the second such injury he's faced. Terence Newman is entering the final year of his contract and turns 36 in September. Adam Jones will be 31 in September.
Clearly, the Bengals could use some youth in their secondary, which is where Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller fits in.
He had 24 tackles in 2013, along with two interceptions and 10 passes broken up, despite missing six games after undergoing sports hernia surgery. As Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report points out, his biggest strength is in off-man coverage. That skill, combined with his considerable speed and aggressiveness, makes him a good choice for the Bengals in the first round.
Fuller does have some technique issues that need to be ironed out, especially when it comes to playing zone coverage. However, taking him in the first round this year in order to promote him to full-time starter in 2015 will allow him to develop. Selecting him in 2014 means he doesn't have to be thrown into the fire immediately; in this case, that's a good thing.
Round 2, Pick 23 (55th Overall): OT Morgan Moses, Virginia
While relatively deep at offensive guard, the Bengals don't have a lot of depth at tackle. This is a high-priority position for them this year, so much so that they could opt to address it in Round 1 rather than waiting until later.
However, if the Bengals choose to deal with the offensive line in Round 2, they might be in the position to get former Virginia left tackle Morgan Moses.
At 6'6" and 314 pounds, he's a massive left tackle with above-average pass protection (which is the hallmark of Cincinnati's line of late) and great footwork. Bleacher Report's Alex Dunlap describes his 7-foot wingspan as "octopus-like," and that's a good thing for a tackle.
There are a few concerns, like his subpar combine performance and his work-in-progress nature as a run-blocker. Per Dunlap, Moses "does not play with anywhere near the power, motor or leg drive evaluators would expect out of a prospect of his size and build at this stage."
However, he has played both right and left tackle in college and has head-turning size that is prototypical for NFL offensive tackles. His natural skills mean he could see some playing time as a rookie and catch on as the Bengals' right (or left) tackle of the future.
Round 3, Pick 24 (88th Overall): SS Deone Bucannon, Washington State
The Bengals are also thin at safety. Although they are set for now at free safety with Reggie Nelson as their starter, strong safety is still up for grabs.
Though the re-signing of Taylor Mays may hint at their plans with the position this year, their lack of depth means that a safety is likely a priority. And none would be a better fit than Deone Bucannon.
He was Washington State's top defender in 2013, with 114 tackles, six interceptions, three forced fumbles and a pass breakup. He's hard-hitting and "physically intimidating," as Bleacher Report's Ian Wharton phrases it. Wharton added that "receivers are conscious of him when running across the middle of the field."
His sheer physical strength and quickness at diagnosing plays make up for a slight lack of speed. However, he's very good in man coverage. Though his work in zone coverage could use some tweaking, no other safety may be as well-rounded and physically gifted as Bucannon in this draft.
If he is still on the board when the Bengals make their third-round selection, there would be no better choice. Whether he sits behind Mays for a year and focuses on technique and special teams, or he challenges Mays for the starting job, Bucannon is worth the Bengals' third-round pick.
He'll bring true physical toughness to the secondary and could, as Wharton notes, develop into an All-Pro safety with a few adjustments to his game. He could be the value pick of the draft if the Bengals can acquire him in Round 3.
Round 4, Pick 23 (123rd Overall): QB Tom Savage, Pitt
The Bengals could be satisfied by their depth at quarterback behind starter Andy Dalton. They have opted to retain a pair of backups, Josh Johnson and Zac Robinson, while also signing Jason Campbell, who was coordinator Hue Jackson's quarterback during his time with the Oakland Raiders.
But the Campbell signing could be the beginning of the end of Johnson's tenure behind Dalton. Therefore, quarterback could be a position of interest in this year's draft.
Obviously, Dalton is ensconced as the starter, so players like Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles aren't on their radar. But instead of taking a more recognizable name like A.J. McCarron with a mid-round pick, Pitt's Tom Savage seems to be a better fit as a developmental prospect.
He is relatively inexperienced, having missed the 2011 season after transferring from Rutgers to Arizona and then again in 2012, after he transferred from Arizona to Pitt. However, his one season with the Pittsburgh and his measurables make him an intriguing prospect in this year's draft.
He completed 61.2 percent of his 389 attempts in 2013 for 2,958 yards, 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions in Pitt's pro-style offense. His strength? Well, it's his strength. Savage is 6'4" and 228 pounds; scouts tell NFL.com he may have the strongest arm in this year's draft class.
He also boasts good pocket awareness, but he's lacking in both accuracy and mobility. The latter could be improved upon enough to make him a quality backup for Dalton or perhaps help push the veteran as the years progress.
If the Bengals want to get younger at quarterback while finding what WalterFootball.com characterizes as a "diamond in the rough," they should forget the McCarrons and Zach Mettenbergers of the draft and look at Savage instead.
Round 5, Pick 24 (164th Overall): DE Michael Sam, Missouri
Missouri defensive end Michael Sam may project as a "tweener" defender with no true home as a defensive end or outside linebacker in the NFL. That makes him of little value to teams that would want him as a three-down starter on the front seven.
However, the Bengals often employ a situational, rotational approach to their defensive front. There, Sam can be developed into a third-down pass-rusher while providing depth at both linebacker and defensive end.
He has a lengthy list of strengths and weaknesses. Bleacher Report's Darren Page actually notes that his relative lack of size is an advantage; he has long arms, and his "compressed frame" allows him to win leverage battles with offensive linemen. Still, he isn't very flexible or powerful, so finishing tackles and chasing down ball-carriers aren't his strong suits. His poor combine showing didn't help quell many of these criticisms.
Still, he has many traits that make him a good fit in Cincinnati—the biggest being Missouri's employment of various defensive fronts, very much like the Bengals. At 6'2" and 261 pounds, Sam may be smaller than a prototype 4-3 defensive end, but so is 6'2", 275-pound Wallace Gilberry, who has been effective with the Bengals in a role similar to the one that Sam would play in the NFL.
Some teams may have no use for Sam's specific skills, but the Bengals aren't one of them. In fact, they seem like the best landing spot for his strengths to be showcased. With a bit of weight gain and dedication to improving his technique, he could develop into a crucial role player with the Bengals.
Round 6, Pick 23 (199th Overall): OT Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
The sixth round is the perfect place for the Bengals to look for utility offensive linemen, and one that stands out is Vanderbilt's Wesley Johnson. While undersized at 297 pounds—as are most linemen who are drafted in the sixth round—he has played center, guard and left tackle. Though guard will likely be his true home in the NFL, his starting experience at left tackle in 2013—and four years of starting in college—cannot be ignored.
Like most later-round offensive line prospects, he lacks size and therefore power. However, as CBS Sports' Dane Brugler notes, "light and lean" is actually one of his best attributes, allowing him to block on the move and show off good footwork. He's also quite football smart with good awareness of the developing play and the defenders' reactions to it.
Still, Johnson could stand to be more aggressive and use his hands better. Both of these things can be coached up; if he shows improvement through OTAs and training camp, Johnson could stick on the roster to provide depth on an offensive line that hasn't been immune to getting dinged up.
Round 6, Pick 36 (212th Overall, Compensatory): WR Tevin Reese, Baylor
The Bengals lost speedy slot receiver Andrew Hawkins to the rival Cleveland Browns in a free-agency bidding war. That doesn't mean they are lacking slot receivers—they still have Dane Sanzenbacher as well as Mohamed Sanu to work the middle of the field.
However, if they want to replace Hawkins' speed with more speed, then they may opt to give Baylor's Tevin Reese a look. Though he won't see the field much as a rookie, he could be a good practice squad stash.
The main reason? His lack of polish as a route-runner—Bleacher Report's Ryan McCrystal notes this in his scouting report, writing, "Routes aren't necessarily poor, but he's very limited in terms of the technique he showed in college." In addition, he "relied heavily on his pure speed, rarely even attempting double moves or subtle fakes within the stem of his route."
Hawkins was certainly more well-rounded as a receiver, but Reese was still highly valuable to the Baylor offense, and those traits can translate to the NFL. He caught 33 passes for 824 yards and eight touchdowns. He averaged 23 yards per catch in 2013 before his season was cut short with a wrist injury, and he still finished his career ranked third in catches and receiving yards in Baylor history. He may not be as one-note as some may think.
He may be nothing more than a situational slot receiver who is used in moments when opposing defenses seem vulnerable to his type of speed. Still, that's often how Hawkins was employed. Reese could stick in Cincinnati as long as he can show some aptitude on special teams, which he didn't have much experience with in college.
Round 7, Pick 24 (239th Overall): RB Damien Williams, Oklahoma
The Bengals have just four running backs on their roster—the thunder-and-lightning duo of Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, special teams ace Cedric Peerman and developmental prospect Rex Burkhead. So it's quite possible they add another in this year's draft. If so, Oklahoma's Damien Williams seems like a good selection in the low-risk seventh round.
Over the past two seasons, he had a total of 290 carries for 1,499 yards and 18 touchdowns, netting him a 5.2 yards-per-carry average. He also caught 43 passes for 410 yards and a touchdown. He followed up his college career with a strong showing at the scouting combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds, recording a 35.5" vertical jump and running the 20-yard shuttle in 4.25 seconds, per NFLDraftScout.com.
He is fast and versatile, like a poorer man's Bernard. He does lack experience, having only two productive college seasons, but for a 5'11", 222-pound running back, his speed is intriguing. If he exhibits talent on special teams, the Bengals could have more than just a passing interest in Williams.
Round 7, Pick 37 (252nd Overall, Compensatory): FB Jay Prosch, Auburn
One of the biggest positional battles for the Bengals last summer was between Orson Charles and John Conner for the starting fullback job. Charles ultimately won out but played only 67 snaps at the position, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), ranking 48th out of 64 fullbacks in 2013.
If the Bengals want to recommit to having a lead blocker who opens up running lanes, their best bet is to find a true fullback in the draft. A great option is Auburn's Jay Prosch, whom they should be able to select with their second of two seventh-round picks.
As WalterFootball.com points out, Prosch is "extremely strong and physical, yet has some quickness," which are the exact traits the Bengals would be looking for in a fullback. Further, he has experience on special teams, which could only help increase his roster value.
The Bengals may be more inclined to use a fullback under new coordinator Hue Jackson, and Prosch would be a more natural fit at the position than Charles. If the Bengals are going to double down on running the ball, then Prosch is a smart use of their final draft pick of 2014.