The Cincinnati Bengals started off their draft just the way most expected them to, then surprised with a few of their later picks. In the end, they did just what they said they would in balancing their needs with taking advantage of top talent available.
Second-year coach Zac Taylor came out of the three-day event feeling good about how the Bengals improved their roster, and for the most part, they did well addressing needs with good value picks.
National media praised their draft, with ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper Jr. awarding a B+ (tied for his fourth highest grade) and Sporting News giving them an A+. Here is a look at our grades for individual selections:
FIRST ROUND (PICK NO. 1)
Joe Burrow, quarterback, LSU: The top quarterback in the draft, Burrow is the kind of high-character leader the Bengals can build around in what they hope will be a new era for the franchise. They consistently have said they want a quarterback who elevate the play of others around him, and Burrow proved to be that type of player during a record-setting national championship season at LSU in 2019. His incredible accuracy (76.3 percent completion rate) and pocket presence are strong assets he brings to the position, and he exudes the character Taylor is looking for in the culture he’s trying to build in the locker room.
SECOND ROUND (PICK NO. 33)
Tee Higgins, wide receiver, Clemson: A first-round talent, Higgins dropped despite five receivers going off the board on Day 1. He tied as Clemson’s all-time touchdown leader (27) and finished his junior season in 2019 averaging 19.8 yards per catch. Built like his role model A.J. Green, he will be a solid target for Burrow and brings Week 1 starter potential. No one seemed more excited about joining the Bengals than Higgins, who has been a fan of the team since Green was drafted in 2011.
RELATED: Day 3 picks dominated by defense
THIRD ROUND (PICK NO. 65)
Logan Wilson, linebacker, Wyoming: Originally slotted as a second- to fourth-round pick, Wilson was a player the Bengals were hoping would still be around Friday after they took Higgins. They hit a big need with this pick, and Wilson gives them a three-down linebacker with great size (6-foot-2, 240 pounds), experience (39 starts as a three-time captain) and production (104 tackles, 9.5 for loss, three interceptions and six pass breakups).
FOURTH ROUND (PICK NO. 107)
Akeem Davis-Gaither, linebacker, Appalachian State: The Bengals surprised with this pick, as some thought they might take offensive tackle Josh Jones at this point, but Davis-Gaither was too difficult to pass up. Cincinnati was so thin on linebackers, and this shows that isn’t being ignored. Davis-Gaither was made the defensive captain at the Senior Bowl and adds value in Lou Anarumo’s multiple defense as he can play a hybrid role between safety and linebacker. The only knock – and a reason he might have fallen to Day 3) is a slight injury concern, as he played through a stress fracture in his foot most of the season.
FIFTH ROUND (PICK NO. 147)
Khalid Kareem, defensive end, Notre Dame: Kareem brings a rare 84-inch wing span and adds another quality edge rusher to the Bengals’ front seven. A high-effort leader who finished with 5.5 sacks among his 46 total stops in 2019, Kareem can play as an outside linebacker but is viewed now more as a defensive end. There is concern as he is coming off labrum surgery in January, but he expects to be ready for training camp and some already are looking at him as the next Carl Lawson.
SIXTH ROUND (PICK NO. 180)
Hakeem Adeniji, offensive tackle, Kansas: It took longer than expected for the Bengals to draft an offensive lineman, but the team hit a need where there wasn’t much better value at other positions at this point. Bengals offensive line coach Jim Turner has been high on Adeniji since scouting him at the Senior Bowl, where he filled in at guard despite playing tackle all four years at Kansas. Versatile and experienced, he adds depth on the offensive line and could push the competition at guard or right tackle.
SEVENTH ROUND (PICK No. 215)
Markus Bailey, linebacker, Purdue: Few would have expected the Bengals to take a third linebacker, but again, it was a big area of need and Bailey could end up being a steal. He likely would have gone much earlier in the draft but two ACL tears drove down his stock, the latest coming in September and causing him to miss most of his senior season. He’s a smart, hard-nosed tackler and as a seventh-round pick, he’s low-risk, high-reward potential even with his injury history.
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