With the 2016 NFL draft a distant memory, it’s time for teams to ink players and get back to business. The Bengals draft class is a representation of what the team has been able to do over the past five years. They were able to draft speed, strength, and toughness with their picks. They were able to stay ahead of the age curve and secure questionable positions. It’s time to get the youngsters ready.
The Bengals drafted according to need and also availability. There were times in the first round when it was tempting to trade up. But, Bengals brass held true to their model of success and followed the game plan. Head coach Marvin Lewis is excited about the possibilities.
“As I said, from Will Jackson all the way to Clayton Fejedelem at the end, this is a good class of seven players that really has an opportunity to go out and help compete not only for jobs, but also to have an opportunity to make us better on Sundays as we move forward,” Lewis excitedly acknowledged, via the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I’m excited about that.”
Bengals coaches are ready to get down to business. Having just seven picks decreased the amount of flexibility. That handicap made it important to get the best available talent. The Bengals war room impressed the draft analysts and received passing grades from most of their tougher critics. Now, the key is being able to infuse the youngsters into the roster.
The Bengals didn’t have much interaction with Nick Vigil, their third-round pick, but they’re ready to see him in action. Linebackers coach Jim Haslett will have a nice project to develop. While the Bengals are deep at the position, Lewis is content with Haslett’s assessment of Vigil.
“With Nick Vigil, I know Jim was there in Logan, Utah. We don’t have to have much, other than that.”
Bengals culture has seen a renaissance, in recent years. That feeling is now evident in the draft prospects as well. Vigil was surprised that the Bengals wanted him. The versatile young man has played every linebacker position with the Aggies. He’s even touched the ball 16 times as a running back.
“I was surprised,” he recalls. “I hadn’t had much contract with them throughout this whole process. My cell phone actually dropped the call. I saw ‘Cincinnati, Ohio’ and I saw their pick was coming up and I kind of panicked a little bit. Good thing my mom had her phone on her and they ended up calling her. She handed me the phone and it was pure excitement.”
That pure excitement is what the Bengals are looking for. They’ve been building a system that feeds off the intensity and energy of the players. The X’s and O’s are always necessary. But, the drive and desire to be in Bengals orange and black is the main objective.
Players like Vontaze Burfict, Vincent Rey, and Rey Maualuga are emotional leaders for the Bengals. The incoming draft class seems ready for the challenge.
Andrew Billings is a strong defensive tackle, in the mold of Geno Atkins. His weightlifting exploits are legendary. At one point, Billings lifted 805 pounds squatting.
After falling to the fourth round, he has a huge chip on his shoulder. That anger will undoubtedly be part of his motivation. He’ll be part of a defensive rotation, until his time arrives. He spoke to The Cincinnati Enquirer about his disappointment.
“It’s huge. I can’t even explain how huge it is. I like to feel it though. I actually like to feel it.”
He understands, after talking to his agent, that Atkins was taken in the fourth round as well.
For all of the Bengals, it’s time to get down to business. But, some will be more anxious to show how ready they are.
[Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images]