When the Cincinnati Bengals snagged Andrew Billings in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, many people perceived it as a huge bargain. Sure, some last-minute rumblings of his inability of being a three-down player surfaced, but this was a guy who was often mocked to Cincinnati in the late first round.
Throughout minicamps and the early portion of training camp last year, Billings wowed coaches with that mammoth strength that was made of legends while he was at Baylor. Even though Domata Peko looked to be the entrenched starter opposite Geno Atkins, Billings was expected to be a young guy who would rotate in often. Unfortunately, it all came screeching to a halt in early August, as he tore his meniscus, which ended his season before it really began.
As training camp gradually approaches, it seems that Billings could be a breakout player for the Bengals this year, and there are many reasons why.
Why he makes the list:
His size and strength: Billings was not only productive in college, but also continuously set records in various weightlifting exercises. His strength will come in handy against some tough divisional offensive lines—both to make plays himself and by freeing up others to do so.
At 325 pounds, he’s one of the heftier linemen the Bengals employ. Between his weight and strength, he’ll be a tough guy to move and could be a major factor in possibly getting the Bengals’ defense back to elite status.
No more Peko: The Bengals were comfortable letting Peko walk in free agency while allowing some of the younger, promising guys develop. Based on last season and what Billings brings to the table, in terms of a skill set, it could be an immediate improvement on defense.
Even though Cleveland is still far from being a great team, they employ a line with Joe Thomas, Kevin Zeitler, and other young promising players. Pittsburgh’s front always seems to pave lanes for Le’Veon Bell and Baltimore’s scheme is always a hassle to deal with annually. Billings could step in and help make life miserable for those offenses on third down by stopping the run early in the opposition’s series.
The surrounding talent: The Bengals employ what should be one of the biggest and strongest defensive fronts in the league. Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap are massive ends, while the shorter Atkins has a strength that is sneaky big for his size. Throw in Billings and his ability to push offensive linemen and all kinds of Cincinnati defenders should benefit.
His skills and power all point to him being able to beat double-teams, but it will need to be with regularity. And, with the aforementioned surrounding talent, he should see good opportunities to get into the backfield often.