Johnny Manziel boosted the Bengals in his first act as Cleveland's QB.
The first pick in this draft was the hard one for the Bengals.
Because of the depth of the next few rounds, they think the draft has plenty of options in rounds two to five. It's why they held on to those fourth- and fifth-rounds picks when the temptation burned. to trade up and steal Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard as he slid so tantalizingly close to them
Now that they've got Dennard after he dropped in their lap, maybe they can have their cake and eat it, too, and they can probably thank the dear old Cleveland Browns. Johnny Manziel now makes preparing for Cleveland a pain for defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. But Manziel's first act as a Brown feathered Guenther's nest.
The Eagles at No. 22 were thought to be the biggest obstacle for Dennard, but when the Browns traded up with Philadelphia so they could take Manziel, it gift-wrapped a corner Manziel is going to face for the next decade.
There was also a fear that the Chargers, picking at No. 25, would jump in front of them because of their corner needs. But they stayed put and drafted Texas Christian cornerback Jason Verrett.
And since the Browns took the other highest-rated cornerback in the draft at No. 8, Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, the Dennard picked sealed another rivalry for the AFC North. How about two Texas gunslingers, Manziel and the Bengals Andy Dalton, taking aim at each other in the Thursday night game on Nov. 6 at Paul Brown Stadium?
Dennard, one of the draft's consensus two top corners, hit them where they lived. Although the Steelers grabbed Ohio State's Ryan Shazier at No. 15, linebacker never seemed to be in play for the Bengals in the first round. Neither did quarterback. But cornerback...
"Well, the good thing is we had a couple of options at 24," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "I think the quarterback going was helpful to us. So that was good."
Since the Bengals had Dennard rated so highly -in their top ten- there was virtually no other option. "A no-brainer," Guenther called it. Lewis alluded to a few offers to both trade up and down, but this is a draft where the fourth and fifth-rounders are valuable. And as for trading down, it was tough to slide out with the last of the first-round talent still hanging around.
It was nearly a mirror image of the last draft when they saw their No. 6-rated player, tight end Tyler Eifert, show up at No. 21
"I think we valued keeping the picks we have and it kind of worked out for us," Lewis said. "There were teams interested in coming up into that spot, but we felt good because we were really hitting an area we wanted to address with players available that we felt were good enough for that spot."
Lewis didn't look as relieved as Guenther, but he sounded it. The world is the Bengals' oyster Friday. There is a raft of quarterbacks out there, not to mention offensive linemen, and even more cornerbacks. Could a running back be in the offing? Whatever, it's open season. The Dennard pick loosens them up.
"It gives us the ability to move forward and take a look at some other spots where the draft might be a little deeper and get us in the right spots," Lewis said.
The Bengals, like everyone else, had a shot at Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and passed. It's the first sign that they think they can re-sign Dalton. Unless, of course, they take a quarterback in Friday's second or third round. By midnight we should have a pretty good idea on how they really feel about it.
They certainly feel good about Dennard, a guy they think is going to compete to start, particularly in the slot. If they're looking to ease the pounding on versatile corner Leon Hall, the guy they compare Dennard to, he could learn from Hall in the slot.
"He's a mature player to come in to compete for a starting job," Joseph said. "Some guys are good enough, but they're not mature enough to play yet. He's all business, no-nonsense. He wants to be good.
"He's got Leon's personality, but his skill set might be a little different than Leon's in college. Leon's all business, a good person. And that's important being a corner in the first round. It's a hard job."
Dre Kirkpatrick, the last corner they drafted in the first round two years ago, has struggled to break into the lineup of Hall, Terence Newman and Adam Jones. With Newman heading into the last year of his deal and turning 36 the first month of the season, Hall rehabbing, and Jones turning 31 in September, Joseph said the pick isn't supposed to send Kirkpatrick a message.
"I've been around Dre for three months. I believe in Dre," Joseph said. "It's not a message to Dre at all. I think for our team it was the right pick."
And they love how tight Dennard plays man coverage.
"If you can play man-to-man natural, we can teach zone," Joseph said. "Zone is taught , man is a skill set that you have. If he can play man he can play zone.
"He's a physical press corner. He's not a quick twitch player," Joseph said. "If you beat me, I'm there again."