The Bengals have drafted quite well over the past several years and after missing the playoffs in 2016, youth and talent were targets. The Black and Orange did not disappoint. Needs like receiver, linebacker, defensive line, and secondary were all addressed. The Bengals also nailed down several top rated undrafted free agents. John Ross, the fleet wide receiver, did not participate in rookie mini-camp or OTAs due to offseason labrum surgery. He also tore his ACL in 2015 and had a torn meniscus in 2014 which included micro-fracture surgery. However, when he’s on the field few can catch him. Has an extra gear and just runs away and hides from defenders. A dynamo after the catch. Very athletic with sudden feet. Needs more strength to hold up. Running back Joe Mixon visited approximately 16 teams in his “Mixon Investigative Tour” prior to the draft. He reported to the Bengals in less than football shape because of the excessive travel. The positive news is that Mixon’s football shape improved from rookie camp to OTAs and he looks like a difference maker. A competitive and patient runner with good hands with pro bowl talent. Jordan Willis was clearly a value pick in the third round. Quality prospects annually fall in the draft for a variety of reasons and Willis was one this year. The productive, athletic, and speedy edge rusher should fit into the Bengals’ pass rush rotation with aging Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. Cincinnati was 19th in the NFL with 33 sacks last fall. Carl Lawson was healthy for the first time in four years in 2016 and his potential translated into production for Auburn. He is getting work during OTAs as a hybrid outside linebacker that the Bengals hope will give the pass rush a jump start. They see Lawson as a member of the new wave of NFL defenders who can rush and cover. Reportedly is quicker in person than he shows on tape. The former Tiger generates an explosive first step to get up the field. His natural ability is evident now that he is learning the defensive scheme. Josh Malone was the second of two wide receivers drafted by the Bengals to compete for a job opposite AJ Green. To stop the Bengal passing game in 2016, putting the brakes on Green was the answer. The ex-Vol is raw but has high ceiling talent with all the measurables and speed to make a difference. Ryan Glasgow brings depth to the Bengal front and is a lineman who can rush the passer from the inside. The former Wolverine was a key run stuffer in 2015 before he was injured. Last season he was credited with 37 pressures, 8.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and 39 total tackles. Will compete with Andrew Billings and Pat Sims to play next to Geno Atkins. Jake Elliott is battling Randy Bullock for the kicking job. Bullock has been on five teams in five years. Elliott is the first kicker drafted in Marvin Lewis’ 14-years as head coach. Most days the top drafted kicker in 2017 has been inching his way to the starting job. Center JJ Dielman is doing light work in OTAs as he recovers from a foot injury suffered last fall. A versatile lineman who started three years at right tackle before moving inside to center. Smart, tough, and aggressive. Good zone blocking fit. Linebacker Jordan Evans was targeted as a late round pick because of his ability to play coverage for the Sooners. Excellent anticipation and reactions. He returned two of his four interceptions for touchdowns in 2016. An outstanding athlete for the position. Should be a major contributor on special teams’ coverage. Brandon Wilson has been sidelined in OTAs by a knee injury and hamstring tweaks. The injury is a carryover from offseason workouts. Pro day numbers: 5101, 198, 4.41/40, 24/BP, 41/VJ, 11-1/BJ, 4.42/SS, and 7.09/3 cone. Wilson returned a missed field goal 100 yards for a score versus Oklahoma. Mason Schreck was a playmaker at Buffalo and adds to the Bengals’ tight end depth. The former Bull caught 59 passes for 651 yards (the most in school history) and four touchdowns. Needs to work on his blocking skill set. Pro day numbers: 6044, 253, 4.77/40, 19/BP, 34.5/VJ, 9-10/BJ, 4.29/SS, and 7.36/3 cone. GRADE: GOOD.
FREE AGENCY: Cincinnati signed Kevin Minter, a three-down inside linebacker who is solid in coverage. Minter inked a one-year deal. Former Bengal Andre Smith returns from Minnesota to compete for a starting job at right guard. Wallace Gilberry (DE), Cedric Peerman (RB), and Eric Winston (OT) were all re-signed to one-year contracts.
NOTABLE UNDRAFTED COLLEGE FREE AGENTS: Karel Hamilton (Samford) WR, Dustin Stanton (Oregon State) OG, Landon Lechler (North Dakota State) OT, Josh Tupou (Colorado) NT, Hardy Nickerson Jr. (Illinois) IB, Brandon Bell (Penn State) OB, and Demetrious Cox (Michigan State) FS.