The Bengals' draft, the offensive line and realistic expectations

The Bengals' draft, the offensive line and realistic expectations
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The Bengals had a successful weekend. Not only did they draft the new face of the franchise, but they also added multiple pieces that should contribute as rookies. 

The biggest criticism the Bengals have received has to do with the top pick. Everyone was on board with the Joe Burrow selection, but who is going to protect him? The Bengals had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season. 

They also had one of the worst secondaries. They struggled to force turnovers and needed to completely overhaul the back half of the defense. 

The Bengals entered the offseason with more weaknesses than strengths. That's generally what happens when you go 2-14.

Zac Taylor and Duke Tobin didn't draft an offensive lineman until the sixth round. That should raise some eyebrows. I was the one that wrote on Friday how important it was to put Burrow in a position to succeed. 

The Bengals had a successful draft, even though they didn't add an anchor at right tackle. The worst grade they've received is a 'B+' and most news outlets across the country have given them an 'A.'

Unfortunately for Cincinnati, they had more weaknesses than picks. Does anyone think they should've reached for an offensive lineman that they didn't love in the second round? 

Once Isaiah Wilson went off the board in round one, so did their chances of taking a tackle at No. 33. Instead, they got a big, physical wide receiver in Tee Higgins. 

Higgins is a monster and should be perfect for an accurate quarterback like Burrow that isn't afraid to throw it up and let his receiver make a big play. 

They took linebacker Logan Wilson in round three. Most of the fan base was rooting for LSU's Patrick Queen or Oklahoma's Kenneth Murray to fall to the second round because they're sick and tired of watching the Bengals try to piece it together at linebacker. The coaching staff was ecstatic to land Wilson at No. 65. 

"He’s a guy we had highly rated. Our defensive staff has certainly been holding their breath all day," Taylor said afterwards. "Best case scenario – truthfully. This was the best case scenario. As we came into today, if you said that we were going to get a receiver and a linebacker that we had at the top of our board, and we’re going to get both of them, I would’ve thought you were crazy."

The Bengals know what they have on the offensive line. They know it's a weakness. That doesn't mean they should've reached on someone, including Houston offensive lineman Josh Jones. If the Bengals' scouts and coaches didn't believe in Jones, then they made the right decision. 

Taylor felt like a quality player would fall to them in the fourth round and that's exactly what happened. They took Akeem Davis-Gaither from Appalachian State. The hard-hitting, but undersized linebacker was expected to go off the board in the late second or early part of the third round. Instead, he fell to the fourth and the Bengals snatched him up. 

Davis-Gaither helps secure a position group that has been in flux for years. The rookie duo has a chance to bring stability to the linebacker spot, which is something they haven't had in a long time. 

Cincinnati added defensive end Khalid Kareem in the fifth round. He should be able to contribute right away and could potentially move inside on passing downs of he adds more weight, which won't be out of the question in the NFL. Kareem should be able to play the edge right away. Andrew Brown moved outside due to injuries last season, but bringing in someone like Kareem that could set the edge, especially if there was an injury was important. 

In round seven the Bengals went with the top player on their board. Purdue linebacker Markus Bailey could've been drafted on day two if it wasn't for his injury history. He's an impressive kid that has a chance to contribute on special teams as a rookie and be a backup linebacker. Why would they take an offensive lineman that they didn't believe in, when they could add Bailey, a player with upside? 

The Bengals did draft Kansas offensive tackle Hakeem Adeniji in the sixth round with pick No. 180. They're going to let him compete with Bobby Hart and Fred Johnson for the starting right tackle job. It's unrealistic to expect him to win the camp battle, but it does add depth to a position of need. 

The Bengals were never going to be able to add quality players at each of their positions of need in the 2020 NFL Draft. They also didn't know Davis-Gaither would fall to round four. In hindsight, would they still take Wilson? They're the only ones that know the answer to that question. 

Mike Brown and the front office have completely overhauled a roster that was in desperate need of young, talented players. They added six projected starters in free agency, including one offensive lineman in Xavier Su'a-Filo. Then, they took Burrow, Higgins and multiple linebackers that could turn a weakness into a strength moving forward. 

In a perfect world, the Bengals would've gotten a plug-and-play right tackle. The board didn't fall that way. Instead of getting desperate, they stuck to their board and took players they think can help the team. No one knows if it will work out, but picking good players, not positions, is important in the draft.

Cincinnati's 2019 first round pick Jonah Williams will start at left tackle this season. Williams and Su'a Filo will give the Bengals at least two new starters on the offensive line. The line play should be improved from a season ago.

"Getting Jonah back is a big portion, it's like getting that first-round pick again, which is nice to have him back in the fold, obviously a guy we felt like and feel like is going to be a cornerstone at left tackle for us," offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said on Saturday after drafting Adeniji. 

The Bengals were always going to have a weakness after the draft. They've done a good job of remaking one of the NFL's worst defenses. Burrow has plenty of talent around him and the offensive line should be better, even if that improvement didn't come in the draft.