It’s amazing how the Bengals selections in the 2017 NFL Draft could polarize a fan base so quickly, but thus is the nature of the game. The Bengals didn’t go boring, didn’t go standard, didn’t go bland in their three selections, but they did go controversial.
Much debate was had between fans regarding what the club might do with that mouth-watering pick at number nine overall, but it turned out his name was WashingtonWR John Ross.
Less debate was had over what the team should’ve done in the second round, but they ended up completely tipping their hand after assessing the talent pool, realizing what they wanted would be available even if they moved to trade backwards (acquiring the Vikings’ 2nd round, 48th overall pick and 4th round, 128th overall pick for the Bengals’ 2nd round, 41st overall pick), and selected controversial Oklahoma HB Joe Mixon.
Their final choice of the day was given to a high-rated, but lesser covered talent in Kansas State DE Jordan Willis.
While Willis gives the Bengals their much-needed insurance policy for going-on-nine-year veteran end Michael Johnson, the obvious voicing in this draft sings of an offensive boom. We’ll talk defense another time.
So again, the first round selection for the Cincinnati Bengals was the wide receiver out of Washington, John Ross. From this selection, we can see that there’s a clear rhetoric to the Bengals’ receiver room; catch the ball, or you’re not going to see the ball.
John Ross is going to make Andy Dalton better. John Ross is going to make the Bengals better.
Among the shortlist of things people are willing to give Andy Dalton credit for include the ability to get the ball out of his hands quickly with an average release time of 2.07, or the second-best in football (I see you at 2.01 Tom Brady, you’re not so tough).
With Dalton’s quick release, Ross’s ability to quickly create separation, as demonstrated in his time at Washington and with his combine-record 4.22″ 40-yard-dash time, the two appear to be a match made in heaven.
Ross’s potential influence on a pro quarterback will be transcendent from his time in the Washington Huskies’ pro style offense. Ross thrived in the system, as his 2016 season came complete with 81 receptions for 1150 yards and 17 TDs. Take a look at his highlight reel:
I hope you watched that, and if you did, you can see that oh-so-suddenly there are a lot of guys on this Bengals roster that can devastate opposing corners.
Future Hall of Fame inductee A.J. Green is now given a more surefire Robin than Marvin Jones, and not that I saw the movie, but the Green-Ross tandem may represent more of a Batman and Superman situation.
Perhaps, this collection of Bengals is more like The Avengers, considering they’ll have Pro Bowl TE Tyler Eifert, Super Bowl Champion WR Brandon LaFell, second-year riser WR Tyler Boyd, sneaky deep-threat option in second-year WR Cody Core, and half-back-turned-screen-maestro Giovani Bernard.
With all of that tough talent coming along with Green and Ross, the Bengals are going to be a nightmare for defensive coordinators to attempt to cover.
However, all of this comes into flux if the offensive line can’t keep Andy Dalton upright, as the 2016 unit gave up the seventh-most sacks in all of football, as despite the quick-firing Dalton’s best efforts to stay vertical, hit the turf 41 times last season.
Maybe I shouldn’t remind you that the Bengals lost their two best offensive linemen, LG Kevin Zeitler and LT Andrew Whitworth, in the offseason… oh wait…
One of the things that could right the ship for the unit is the resurgence of the team’s running game in 2017, as the unit had the 23rd-ranked unit in the NFL with only 4 yards per attempt.
After a breathtaking rookie season, 24-year-old running back Jeremy Hill’s numbers are underwhelming, to say the least.
Hill’s 2016 rushes, which wound up coming in at 3.8 yards per attempt don’t look that bad on paper, but when you look at the 13 games where the Bengals DIDN’T play the Cleveland Browns, Hill rushed for only 560 yards on 188 attempts, averaging a pitiful 3 yards per attempt.
Following the Torn ACL suffered by Giovani Bernard in 2016, now-Patriots running back Rex Burkhead rushed for 119 yards on 27 attempts against the league’s fifth-best rushing defense in the Baltimore Ravens, proving that the blame doesn’t all fall on the blockers.
Enter Joe Mixon.
With the 48th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bengals selected a guy who has been given equal, if not greater coverage to guys like the NFL’s 1st and 2nd-overall selection Myles Garrett (Cleveland) and Mitchell Trubisky (Chicago).
The coverage hasn’t been good coverage.
I’m not here to make a political statement on Mixon (although, you should see the ratings on my blogs and podcasts when I do make a political statement), the guy did something heinous, but the guy is probably a top-ten draft talent, who’s heinous act made him available; it made him so available that the Bengals were comfortable trading back and waiting a few extra picks to call Mixon’s name.
In the press conference following the Mixon pick, head coach Marvin Lewis offered the following:
“Obviously this is a pick that opens everybody’s eyes. We’ve done such a lot of work regarding Joe Mixon throughout the entire process this year. Based on all the time, all the research, we felt that we can continue to move forward. Joe’s situation kind of came to a settlement in all ways this week, which also led us to feel better about the opportunity here and to move forward. We’ve done all of our due diligence we can do, time spent interviewing people, everybody around him, everybody around his background, people that have coached at Oklahoma for insight regarding him and how he has carried himself since that day.”
In a call with the Cincinnati press, Mixon offered his understanding of the situation, offering the following:
“It changed me a lot as a person. How you think. How you carry yourself. How you go about things. The way Oklahoma helped me I can’t thank them enough either. I’m going to continue to keep doing the right thing around the community off the field. I am going to prove to them why they kept me. At Oklahoma I have their name at the end of the day. I’m going to do whatever I can to make them proud, to make them happy. I’m looking forward to doing that with the Cincinnati Bengals as well.”
Listen up y’all, the time for your opinion on Mixon is over; he is a Cincinnati Bengal and there’s nothing that’s going to change that for the time being. For now, you have to sit back and watch the talent that Mixon will bring to this club. Here’s his tape:
See what I mean (or not, I’ve already asked you to watch one highlight video, two is a lot)? Joe Mixon is an outstanding talent.
We’re talking about a guy who rushed for 1,274 yards (which averaged out at 6.8 yards per) and 10 TDS as an Oklahoma Sooner last season. This is a guy who regularly slashed defenses, rushing for 78 yards on nine attempts against an Ohio State front that had the 14th-best rushing defense in college football.
So, now you have a guy in Mixon who looks like a top-tier NFL rusher on paper. You have Jeremy Hill, who despite issues on advancing the ball may very well be one of the best goal line rushers in the NFL, scoring 20 TDS (11 in 2016, 9 in 2017) over the last two seasons. You have Giovani Bernard, who’s array of talents gives you a great amount of threat as he enters the game.
If this group of Bengals running backs, all of whom came as second round picks, despite the fact that Joe Mixon is likely considered a first round talent, could be another conundrum to cover.
So again, this Bengals offense is suddenly irrationally hard to defend; there are a lot of good, if not excellent, options for guys who can be effective when they touch the ball.
The memo now has to be stay healthy, keep Mixon out of any trouble (which isn’t going to be a problem according to both head coach MarvinLewis and Mixon himself), and KEEP THE DAMN QUARTERBACK UPRIGHT.