Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
As is the case with every NFL team, the Cincinnati Bengals have a few needs going into the draft.
I'll briefly* summarize what I consider to be their Top 5 shortcomings, as well as why I decided to go this particular route.
Nose tackle. Interior D-line was one of their biggest needs a year ago, when I fictitiously selected Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman with the 24th overall pick. As it turns out, they didn't address the position whatsoever. Domata Peko's play has been in decline as of late, though Geno Atkins has begun to round back into All-Pro form one door down. On the PTL tip, it was recently announced that Leah Still's pediatric cancer is in remission. Her UFA father, Devon, was retained and has at least shown flashes of brilliance in this capacity. Should his focus be geared more towards football - and it should - perhaps this is the year that he breaks out as a key contributor. Regardless, it's not like we're talking about a veritable chasm of non-talent. Or even a roster vacancy vacancy, for that matter. Any such selection would inevitably be made with the future in mind, not as an immediate fix.
Top five 4-3 NT prospects still on the board: Malcom Brown, Eddie Goldman, Jordan Phillips, Carl Davis and Ellis McCarthy.
Quarterback. Andy Dalton probably isn't the long term solution at QB. That being said, he's truly no worse than Jake Delhomme was, in terms of inconsistency. The Carolina Panthers came awfully close to winning a Lombardi with all the right pieces around Delhomme, so there's still a Lloyd Christmas level chance that something good comes out of this union, before the Ginger Peashooter's exorbitant contract expires in 2021. Dear God, I'll have great-grandchildren by then. Pseudo-optimistically, they invested a mid-round pick on A.J. McCarron (SEC! SEC!) a couple years back and could conceivably go the same route this year. They could also take their medicine and pray for a full recovery. Round up Preston Gary and a canteen of Holy water, then wake me up when December ends.
Top five QB prospects still on the board: Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley, Garrett Grayson, Sean Mannion and Cody Fajardo.
Offensive tackle. Former LSU standout Andrew Whitworth remains one of the premier LTs in the league. He'll also be 34 years old by season's end. Port side, there's Andre Smith, a sixth overall selection who has slowly blossomed into solid starter in his own right. Trouble is, both are entering their contract season and will likely demand compensation that exceeds their long term value going forward. The only semblance of quality depth behind them is Eric Winston. He too is on the wrong side of 30 and, as president of the NFLPA, currently carries roughly the same level of off-field preoccupation as last year's Devon Still. There has been talk of Anthony Collins returning, as he was recently cut by the Buccaneers. That would be dandy, if it transpires. As is, depth along the OL is a concern. Particularly on the edge.
Top five OT prospects still on the board: Ereck Flowers, D. J. Humphries, T.J. Clemmings, Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi.
Defensive end. The Buccaneers also released Michael Johnson, who promptly boomeranged back to the Queen City. While he's a welcomed re-acquisition, it amounts to little more than a lateral move, in terms of overall talent at the position, by the time you take the release of Robert Geathers into account. A consistent pass rush was sorely lacking last year and a lot of that may have to do with Geno Atkins still not being at 100%, which he should be this season. No matter how you slice it, I don't foresee a rookie supplanting either Wallace Gilberry or Carlos Dunlap as a starter out of the gate. As it stands, both depth and overall production are concerns. In all honesty, the same could be said of every position on the roster, outside of RB. And no, I most certainly DO NOT view A.J. Hawk as our UFA savior, in terms of backfield disruption. He's basically Scott Shanle with hair. All in all, I wouldn't be opposed to a shiny new difference maker anywhere along the D-line. As the NFL Films cliché dictates, you ultimately win games in the trenches, be it on offense or defense. And the autumn wind is a Raider. Whatevs.
Top five 4-3 DE prospects still on the board: Randy Gregory, Owa Odighizuwa, Eli Harold, Nate Orchard and Preston Smith.
Cornerback. This one's roughly on par with wide receiver. The only reason I have it rated as a slightly greater need is because the Bengals recently signed Denarius Moore. Who should pick up Jermaine Gresham's slack in the drops-per-target column quite nicely. But that's a facepalm for a future day. Methuselah ... err, I mean Terrence Newman has shuffled off to St. Paul, while Leon Hall and Adam Jones aren't exactly spring chickens themselves. Throw in the fact that Pac-Man will soon be starring in "Pixels", the new Adam Sandler movie, and surely you can understand why this position merits at least some level of war room discussion. First round, though? As Cheech Marin once gracefully opined, "I dunno, mang." Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard effectively represent the team's top draft class investments of 2012 and 2014, i.e., the youth movement ye seeketh is already well underway. Throw too much future cap moola at any given position, and you might find yourself having to trade one of your brightest young stars for a short snapper. Too soon?
Top five CBs prospects still on the board: Jalen Collins, Marcus Peters, Ronald Darby, P.J. Williams and Kevin Johnson.
Without delving any deeper than that, here's a quick peek at the top o' me Big Board, non-aforementioned needs excluded:
1. Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami
2. Brandon Scherff, OG, Iowa (merits a name drop, as some project him as an OT; I do not)
3. Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
4. Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
5. Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State6. Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
7. D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida
8. Owa Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA
9. Marcus Peters, CB, Washington1
0. Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
While I may be a tortoise compared to anyone on this short list, I wasted no time racing our selection card up to Commissioner Cariello's podium. Have I mentioned what a fine job he's doing MCing this mock draft, btw? Sorry, I had a little brown smudge on my nose. Not sure what that was.
As soon as I saw this 6'6" 329 lb behemoth still on the board, I knew the Bengals had their man. I had Flowers rated as the #11 overall prospect in this draft, just a hair below Andrus Peat as the top O-line prospect. At 21 overall, the value was simply too good to pass up. He has an excellent combination of size, strength, quickness and athleticism. He also has long arms, something you can't "coach up" in a potential franchise LT.
Flowers put his talents on display at the NFL Combine, leading all offensive linemen in the bench press. He ran a 5.29 forty, which is outstanding for a man his size. He has garnered a boatload of interest as of late, reportedly having spoken to representatives from 31 different NFL teams.
The biggest knock on him, aside from playing for an athletic program known for turning out thugs, is his relative inexperience at the position. As a true freshman, he only started four games. That said, this is a commonplace scouting report caveat, one that typically shadows any collegiate student-athlete who elects to leave school a year early. He also missed a few games due to a torn meniscus, but managed to bounce back quickly.
Most are projecting Flowers to start his NFL career at right tackle. If he does well in short time, he could be shifted over to the left side. Which is perfectly fine, since Whitworth and Smith are the entrenched bookends, at least through 2015 and there's truly no telling which, if either, will be wearing an orange and black striped helmet beyond that. In short, this big cat has ample time to develop and a ton of upside.
During his junior year at Miami, Flowers was absolutely dominant in the season finale against South Carolina. Rock solid in pass protection, manhandling defenders in the ground game. He also had a couple of impressive performances earlier in the season against top flight competition, winning numerous one-on-one battles with fellow first round prospects Randy Gregory and Eli Harold. His stellar run blocking was a huge contributing factor to Duke Johnson's 6.8 ypc career average as a Hurricane.
Still just 20 years old, if he can come in and learn from one of the best OT tandems in football, occasionally spelling either as a rookie. I'd be happy. If he reaches his potential as a starter by the start of the 2016 season, I would be ecstatic. Basically, whatever it takes to keep that Jeremy Hill, Giovanni Bernard 1-2 punch churning, as we patiently wait out the poopstorm that could pass for Archie Andrews.
*Heh. He said briefly.
Thanks to all the CSC members who participated in this year's community mock draft. Without your help, none of this would be possible.
Below are the complete results from our community mock draft.
Catch up with all of the mock draft selections in our 2015 CSC Community Mock Draft Hub.
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Jameis Winston - Florida State
|DE Leonard Williams - USC
|DE Dante Fowler - Florida
|WR Amari Cooper - Alabama
|DE Randy Gregory - Nebraska
|OLB Vic Beasley - Clemson
|LB Shane Ray - Missouri
|DE Bud Dupree - Kentucky
|NT Danny Shelton - Washington
|St. Louis Rams
|OT Andrus Peat - Stanford
|Kevin Sean Held
|WR Kevin White - West Virginia
|QB Marcus Mariota - Oregon
|New Orleans Saints
|CB Trae Waynes - Michigan State
|RB Todd Gurley - Georgia
|San Francisco 49ers
|DE Arik Armstead - Oregon
|The Irish Assassin
|WR DeVante Parker - Louisville
|San Diego Chargers
|OT La'el Collins - LSU
|Kansas City Chiefs
|WR Dorial Green-Beckham - Missouri
|TE Maxx Williams - Minnesota
|S Landon Collins - Alabama
|OT Ereck Flowers - Miami
|Green Bay Packers
|New Orleans Saints
|New England Patriots