Jeff Abercrombie @thesofascout
One of the most intriguing picks of the 2019 NFL draft was when the Cincinnati Bengals picked Drew Sample with the 52nd overall pick – and the collective draft Twitter went “WHO?!”
Ok then, who is Drew Sample and why do we care?
In perhaps a historic TE draft class, Sample was considered a late round prospect who could latch on as a backup TE for a team where his specialty was blocking. Last year Cincinnati’s blocking was upgraded in the draft, but it was still atrocious as the season played out. Expecting Rookies to come in and upgrade a unit from day one isn’t always realistic, but we’ve seen that happen with IND and SF selecting stalworth lineman from Notre Dame last year. What they did with their first two picks tells you all you need to know about what they want to do this year. Their 2019 first round pick Jonah Williams (who just went down for the year with a torn pectoral) only addresses one of 5 blocking spots. However, in grabbing Sample 40 picks later, the Bengals effectively drafted a 6th offensive lineman. He’s a guy that will be able to help pave lanes and provide protection for this offense. Drew Sample was an important pick – not because he will have fantasy value in your TE slot, but because he will help unlock that potential for his teammates as Zach Taylor tries to bring the Rams back to the midwest.
We know Zach Taylor is going to emulate what the Rams are doing in LA – he’s going to start the foundation using the Rams’ playbook. People view the genius of McVay to his ability to run multiple plays from the same look. The Rams led the league in 3WR sets last year (77% of the time) and probably would have been even more had Cooper Kupp not been injured. This is a trend the entire league is moving in – even to the extreme when you start analyzing Kliff Kinsbury’s 4 & 5 wide concepts from college he’s trying to port over.
Looking at this background, Cincinnati looks well equipped to emulate “the McVay offense”, at least on the surface. AJ Green, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross may not be as versatile and interchangeable as Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Brandin Cooks – but I expect Taylor to at least try to run the same look with those roles. Dalton is best following a system aided approach, where he doesn’t have to overthink or create for himself (similar to Goff’s strengths and weaknesses). Mixon has long been touted as the next true workhorse back who can do it all, and Tyler Eifert is…… well hurt. Even though the TE’s don’t get a lot of glory on McVay’s Rams, they are integral to being able to run or pass unpredictably out of the 11-personnel. Eifert isn’t going to road grade in the run game, nor be an effective seal in the passing game when a blitz comes. They lost Tyler Kroft in the offseason to Buffalo. The TEs in this scheme play an important role, and while occasionally catching passes, their biggest value is in facilitating the multiplicity of 11-personnel offensive scheme. I expect a tight target tree in Cincinnati, going mostly to Mixon and the 3 WRs with little leftover to other players. And as touted as McVay’s passing offense is, the secret sauce is actually an effective and often used run game, ranking 24th in pass ratio at just 56% last year.
I don’t think the passing game weapons will stand up to the gold standard of the LA Rams – AJ Green might be the best player in both groups, but Boyd and Ross don’t hold a candle to Kupp and Cooks in their roles, and Dalton is a faded facsimile of Jared Goff. But Mixon… oh the things Joe Mixon can do this year if it works. I can see a Gurley-like workload with close to that efficiency (maybe a few less TDs) as the idea will be to respond to whatever look the defense is giving. There will be two playcalls in the huddle: if they hedge against the run, the idea will be to check into a good passing matchup (Mixon included here), but if the defense has to start selling out in Nickel base to stop that, Mixon will have lighter boxes with an extra blocker in – you guessed it – Drew Sample grading the way for more efficient runs with better breakaway chances.
Drew Sample is not a huge target for you to go after in your rookie drafts – sorry for the misleading title. But the Bengals used a high pick to draft him so that the rest of the fantasy assets in this offense might flourish. Sample, we thank you for your sacrifice, and hope you effectively unlock the Rams offense in the midwest.
Leave a comment below or hit Jeffrey up on twitter @thesofascout.