- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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Best move: When the Bengals finalized their big board in the days leading up to the draft, they put cornerback Darqueze Dennard near the top of the list. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said Dennard was ranked among the team's top 10 overall players. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther felt that rating was accurate and had few reasons to believe the man-press corner would actually fall to No. 24 where the Bengals were waiting for a defensive back. Once Justin Gilbert was scooped up by the Browns at No. 8 and Kyle Fuller came off the board to the Bears at No. 14, it started looking like a real possibility that Dennard -- rated the No. 2 cornerback on most draft boards -- would be available. That was especially the case when the Browns traded with the Eagles to move up to No. 22, taking a team with a cornerback need (Philadelphia) off the board before the Bengals' selection. As arguably the best player available when his pick was made, Dennard's selection was a wise one and deserved to be classified as the best of the Bengals' draft.
Riskiest move: It's never easy for teams to evaluate draft hopefuls who come into the draft process with arrest records, let alone convictions. That was what the Bengals had to do with running back Jeremy Hill, though, as they tried to figure out whether two separate events -- one from when Hill was in high school and another from when he was at LSU -- ought to be enough to deter them from selecting him. After consultations with Hill's coaches and others around him, the Bengals felt Hill had experienced enough of a life transformation the past several months to warrant grabbing him in the second round. Hill's conviction was for a misdemeanor sexual assault charge from his senior year of high school. He didn't play his entire first season at LSU because school officials wanted to wait until the legal process ran its course. Last year, he was arrested after punching a man in a bar fight. The incident was caught on tape. Taking him in the first place was a risky move. Doing so in the second round might have been even riskier. Time will be the judge of that.
Most surprising move: The biggest move of the Bengals draft was also its most surprising one. After four rounds went by without them selecting a quarterback, it started looking like the Bengals might end up not even entertain taking one. After all, based on their pre-draft chatter about having a firm belief in Andy Dalton, it seemed they might end up feeling so comfortable with their starter and the rest of their quarterback room that they might move beyond thinking about signing one. When quarterbacks started going off the board in the fourth and fifth rounds, though, it was time for the Bengals to act if they were going to act at all. What makes AJ McCarron's selection most surprising, though, was the fact that he was the one picked and not another quarterback. Target Aaron Murray could have been a possibility in earlier rounds. Tom Savage, too. It wasn't long after Murray's pick at 163rd overall that the Bengals did end up grabbing McCarron. They took him with the next pick.
File it away: In case you haven't already, something you might want to remember for future drafts under coach Marvin Lewis is this: He likes drafting SEC players. Entering the draft, the Bengals had claimed 26 players from the conference since Lewis' arrival in 2003. The conference that had the next-highest draft representation was the Big Ten, which had 15 selections. This year, the Bengals took three players from the SEC, including two from LSU. Their first-round pick, Dennard, is the lone Big Ten representative in this class.