At the conclusion of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Bengals received a number of high grades from GM’s an analyst’s around the league. Many believed this would be the beginning of a rebuild that would change the direction of the franchise for the foreseeable future. Now looking back, at the conclusion of the 2019 season, we were able to get a good look at how unprepared the class and ultimately the organization as a whole, really was coming into this season. Hindsight is always 20/20, but here we dive into what really went wrong with this class, and whether or not they can turn it around.
Round 1: Jonah Williams, OT – Alabama (Grade = Incomplete)
At 6’4, 300 lbs, I can speak for the entire fanbase saying that many thought Williams would be a staple for this offensive line, which was clearly the biggest need for the Bengals and has been for 4 years now. Ever since Andrew Whitworth signed with the Rams in 2016, there has been a huge hole at left tackle for the Bengals which is arguably the 2nd most important position on the offensive side of the ball, and the Williams pick finally gave fans some hope.
His 3 seasons at Alabama he dominated SEC defenses and teammates and coaches even called him a film junkie. But in June of 2019, early in OTA’s, it was announced that Williams suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder, effectively ending his season before it began. Williams was activated late in the season but never saw the field so this grade remains incomplete for me, but I do still have confidence in this pick.
Round 2: Drew Sample, TE – Washington (Grade = F)
This pick was ultimately the most disappointing of the Bengals draft class. Not because Sample has no talent or has character issues, but simply for the fact that he was drafted so much higher than he should have been. Sample, a block-heavy tight end from Washington, was drafted ahead of players like DK Metcalf, Terry McLaurghin, and Drew Lock. All of which were and still are positions of need for the Bengals. With Tyler Eifert on a string of 1-year deals, I don’t question picking a tight end, but there was no reason to reach this far for one. Most mock drafts and big boards had Sample going in rounds 4-6. But hey maybe the guys upstairs knew something we didn’t. Except they didn’t.
The sample was a near non-factor in his rookie season. He hardly saw the field and made virtually no impact in the passing game. And in early December, he was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury, ending a meaningless season. With the Bengals unlikely to resign Tyler Eifert in free agency, Sample’s lack of progression in his rookie year leaves the Bengals with yet another hole to fill.
Round 3: Germaine Pratt, LB – North Carolina State (Grade = C+)
Pratt is the first pick in this class so far to show signs of being a consistent starter in this league. Unfortunately, it just happens that he is apart of the worst linebacker core in football. So naturally, he is viewed as incompetent as well. However, stand by this pick. Pratt is a versatile tackling linebacker who showed flashes of being a solid start this season.
He was unable to get on the field most of the year, raising questions throughout the fan base why a third-round pick was unable to find the field especially with virtually no quality veterans at his position. I think that’s on coaching. Halfway through the season, Pratt began to see consistent snaps and eventually has taken over the starting role as the season comes to a close. He hasn’t been able to totally avoid the bad plays, but Pratt is definitely the most talented linebacker the team has currently.
Round 4: Ryan Finley, QB – North Carolina State (Grade = D+)
The Bengals chose back to back Wolfpack players in rounds 3 and 4. This time electing to go quarterback and take the redshirt senior Ryan Finley. At the time, this was mainly a depth pick. Similar to AJ McCarron back in 2014. However with the state, the team is in now, Finley was a more exciting pick for the fanbase because there was more need for him. However, Finley ended up being a major disappointment.
There were questions surrounding him in college about arm strength and athleticism and those proved to be warranted in the time he saw Finley under center. Finley started just 3 games in place of Andy Dalton this season in which: the Bengals were 0-3, he had a 47% completion percentage, the Bengals averaged 11 points a game. After his third start, Zac Taylor announced he was going back to Andy Dalton, confirming that Finley is not the guy nor ever will be.
Round 4: Renell Wren, DT – Arizona State (Grade = C-)
Wrenn’s story is much like the others in this class for the Bengals. He was unable to find the field early in the season despite not having much talent in front of him. In college, he was known as an inconsistent pass rusher who struggled to stop the run. He lacks basic fundamentals on the snap and that held him back throughout his first season.
Wren was, however, able to find the starting lineup early in the second half of the year for 2 games, but was placed on injured reserve late in the season. He finished his rookie season with just 8 tackles. I haven’t given up hope on Wren yet, but he has much work to do on his mechanics if he wants to make an impact on this team.
Round 4: Michael Jordan, IOL – Ohio State (Grade = C)
Fans were buzzing over this pick because of how rarely the Bengals draft Ohio State players for some reason. Although the past 2 years we’ve seen that change with the picks of Billy Price, Sam Hubbard, and now Michael Jordan. His quickness and reaction time is what caused him to drop to Day 3 in the draft. Jordan showed promise in the preseason and was graded as one of the highest run blockers in the league. This earned him the starting left guard spot to start the season. He already looked like a Day 3 steal.
However, Jordan’s production did a complete turn when the regular season started and through the first 5 weeks, he was rated one of the worst offensive linemen in the entire league and was benched. He fought his way back to the starting spot in Week 13 and has managed to keep a hold on it, but hasn’t shown anything special. If he wants to make his mark in this league, he will need to improve on pass protection and second-level blocking.
Round 6: Trayveon Williams, RB – Texas A&M (Grade = D)
Even though he was drafted in the 6th round, I am still giving this pick a D due to the fact that Williams has been unable to find the field one time on offense despite being the 3rd running back on the depth chart. This may be partly due to the talent in front of him, but he has not been able to make an impact on special teams either. These may be later picks, but there has been plenty of 6th and 7th round picks in this draft that has been able to make an impact.
Round 6: DeShaun Davis, LB – Auburn (Grade = F)
Any time a draft pick doesn’t make it through final preseason cuts, it warrants a failing grade. Davis was waived during the last round of cuts right before the season started and has bounced around practice squads since, playing for the Jaguars and now the Eagles. He doesn’t have the instincts or the mental awareness to make an impact.
Round 6: Rodney Anderson, RB – Oklahoma (Grade = Incomplete)
Anderson also receives an incomplete grade after tearing his ACL during the preseason. He is no stranger to season-ending injuries throughout his career. But I think using a 6th rounder on him was a good investment. He has a lot of talent and is capable of being a successful power back in the league if he is able to stay healthy.
Round 7: Jordan Brown, CB South Dakota State (Grade = F)
Brown was cut during the final wave of preseason cuts and never saw a regular-season snap for the Bengals. He has since been on the Jaguars and Raiders practice squad. Another waste of a late-round pick.
Can they turn it around?
No. I think this will go down as one of the worst if not the worst draft classes in Bengals history. This only digs us further into the rebuilding stage and it was a result of not addressing defensive needs early enough. The Williams and the Pratt pick show promise but outside of that there is not much sustainable talent in this draft class. If the Bengals want to make an impact in the North in this next decade they have to be more practical with addressing their needs