Before the 2016 NFL draft, everyone and their mother was mocking a wide receiver to the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round. However, when it came time for the Bengals to make their selection, all of the top wide receivers were off the board as a result of selections by Cleveland, Houston, Washington, and Minnesota. The Bengals were forced to choose between reaching for positional needs and maintaining the value of their selection. They chose the latter, which set the tone for the majority of their draft. Here, I’ll analyze each of the picks made by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2016 draft.
Round 1, 24th pick overall: William Jackson III, CB, Houston
Unfortunately for the Bengals, the top wide receivers were not available at this juncture. Rather than reaching for someone like Tyler Boyd or Michael Thomas at this juncture, they decided to take the best player available at a position of need. The Bengals lost Leon Hall in free agency and had trouble with defensive back depth in 2015. Adam Jones is also getting old. By drafting William Jackson III, Cincinnati adds depth to the secondary and a potential successor to Adam Jones. Jackson could eventually supplant Dre Kirkpatrick or Darqueze Dennard for one of the future starting cornerback spots if he performs well. This was good value at 24 overall, and was the kind of solid, under-the-radar pick that have made the Bengals the perennial playoff team they are.
Round 2, 55th pick overall: Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
Despite missing out on the top receivers in the draft, the Bengals grabbed a receiver who can compete for playing time right away in the Cincinnati offense. At one time, Tyler Boyd was considered one of the best receivers in this year’s draft class. All the Bengals need right now is a solid player who can slide in to the number 2 receiver or slot receiver spot and help make up for the production lost due to free agency, and that’s exactly what they did by drafting Tyler Boyd. Boyd is an athletic, smooth receiver who makes difficult plays look easy. He broke many of Larry Fitzgerald’s records at Pittsburgh, and can contribute through the air or on special teams as a return man. He was considered one of the more pro-ready receivers in the class, and the Bengals will need him to contribute right away. This was once again a solid value pick, and Boyd could easily develop as a great second receiver option in the Bengals’ offense.
Round 3, 87th pick overall: Nick Vigil, LB, Utah State
Utah State linebacker Nick Vigil was off-the-radar for many analysts and teams this early in the draft. However, the Bengals loved what they saw out of Vigil this draft season, and didn’t want to risk him not being there for their 4th round pick. Cincinnati needed linebacker depth pretty badly after releasing A.J. Hawk and losing Emmanuel Lamur to free agency, not to mention Vontaze Burfict’s suspension. Many fans and analysts didn’t love the value the Bengals got at this pick, but Cincinnati felt that they needed Vigil on their team.
Round 4, 122nd pick overall: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
This might be the best selection of the entire draft, for any team. Andrew Billings’ name was being bandied around as a mid-first-round pick. No one saw him even dropping out of the second round, let alone the third round. The only reason that could be given for his slide was that teams saw him as a bit one-dimensional; good in run-stopping situations but not so much in other situations. Billings saw defensive tackle after defensive tackle picked before him and will have a huge chip on his shoulder for his career as a Bengal. Fans should be ecstatic about this pick. This is Domata Peko’s successor at nose tackle, and he could be at that spot for a while.
Round 5, 161st pick overall: Christian Westerman, G, Arizona State
This is another incredible value pick. Christian Westerman was seen by many as a solid second-round guard. To get him in the fifth round is once again great value. Westerman is a future starter at the guard position and could fill in the hole left by a potential departing guard in a year or two.
Round 6, 199th pick overall: Cody Core, WR, Ole Miss
The Bengals fill their sixth round selection with a wide receiver. Cody Core played on the same team as Laquon Treadwell, so it’s obvious that Core was fighting him for production. Core produced a solid amount despite being on the same team as Treadwell. However, he is viewed as a bit of a project, which is probably why he lasted until the sixth round.
Round 7, 245th pick overall: Clayton Fejedelem, S, Illinois
The Bengals desperately needed a safety to add depth behind Shawn Williams and George Iloka. The team signed Taylor Mays in the offseason, a player they originally drafted, but some depth at this selection is a very good choice.