Solid draft helps propel Bengals to B offseason grade

After a relatively quiet free agency, the Bengals had a strong draft that could look even stronger down the road, says Sam Monson.

| 5 months ago
(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

Solid draft helps propel Bengals to B offseason grade

The Bengals looked like legitimate contenders in 2015, with Andy Dalton discovering a consistent and improved level of play that had eluded him in the past. It ultimately failed to matter when he was injured and the Bengals were forced to go to the bench again, but this is a roster poised to contend, so what did they do this offseason to get better?

Offseason Grade: B

Free agency/Trades

New arrivals: WR Brandon LaFell, S Taylor Mays, LB Karlos Dansby

Re-signings: CB Adam Jones, S George Iloka, WR Brandon Tate, DI Pat Sims, DI Brandon Thompson, T Eric Winston, LB Vincent Rey

Departures: LB A.J. Hawk, WR Mohamed Sanu, WR Marvin Jones, ED Wallace Gilberry, S Reggie Nelson, CB Leon Hall, LB Emmanuel Lamur, T Andre Smith Jr.

Perhaps the biggest achievement the Bengals made in the offseason was retaining as much of their secondary as they did. With Leon Hall, Adam Jones, George Iloka and Reggie Nelson all out of contract, the Bengals could potentially have lost an entire secondary in a few days, but they managed to bring back Jones and Iloka — arguably the two most important players of the group.

Adding Karlos Dansby brings a veteran linebacker who is still playing at a high level and hass an ability in coverage that most of their corps does not possess, and they retained a few other depth pieces of the roster. Losing both their second and third receivers at the same time could potentially hurt, but they did at least address that issue in the draft, as we shall see.

2016 NFL draft

  • Round 1 (pick No. 24) William Jackson III, CB, Houston
  • Round 2 (pick No. 55) Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
  • Round 3 (pick No. 87) Nick Vigil, ILB, Utah State
  • Round 4 (pick No. 122) Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
  • Round 5 (pick No. 161) Christian Westerman, G, Arizona State
  • Round 6 (pick No. 199) Cody Core, WR, Ole Miss
  • Round 7 (pick No. 245) Clayton Fejedelem, S, Illinois

If you classify Jalen Ramsey as something unique in this draft, the best pure cover corner in PFF’s eyes was William Jackson III (see below), and the Bengals were able to snag him with the 24th-overall pick of the draft after two other corners had been drafted. Jackson can play both man and zone schemes and had the second-highest coverage grade in this draft class last year in college, allowing just 47.4 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught.

Tyler Boyd and Cody Core provide a needed boost to the receiving corps after Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu departed in free agency, while Andrew Billings in the fourth round may be the best value pick of the entire draft. He should be able to unseat Domata Peko immediately and upgrade their nose tackle position in a major way.



The Bengals did a lot of good things offseason, but it was not a perfect period for the team. They allowed significant players for them to depart in free agency in the shape of Marvin Jones and Reggie Nelson, and while they did replace them, they will be relying on rookies to pick up the slack and hit the ground running, which is often a long shot.

They did, however, get spectacular value in several spots in the draft with Jackson, Billings and Christian Westerman all representing steals at the spots they were drafted. This is an offseason that might look much better in a couple of years’ time than it does right now — and it already looks pretty good.

Bengals’ projected base defense in 2016 (2015 grades shown):

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 9.14.13 AM

Bengals’ projected base offense in 2016 (2015 grades shown):

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 9.14.30 AM

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • crosseyedlemon

    Cincinnati probably slipped a bit in the off season but it doesn’t appear that any division rivals made upgrades significant enough to overtake them. The Bengals greatest need might be a psychologist who can help them with their playoff mindset.