The Cincinnati Bengals used their two second-round picks on the oldest player in the draft and one of the youngest.
With the fifth pick in the second round and 37th overall, the Bengals found the change-of-pace running back they have been searching for in North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard, a 21-year-old redshirt sophomore who declared early for the draft.
Sixteen picks later, Cincinnati added SMU defensive end Margus Hunt, a 25-year-old Estonia native with two years of military service under his belt and athletic ability that can only be described as “freakish.”
“He’s a tremendous, tremendous athlete who has a great story that comes with him,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said of Hunt, a 6-foot-8, 277-pounder who is a former world junior record holder in the discus.
Hunt ran a 4.6 40-yard dash and benched 225 pounds 38 times at the NFL Combine, but he has only been playing football since his sophomore year in college when SMU cut its track program.
But with the depth, and talent, the Bengals have on the defensive line, they can afford to take their time developing Hunt.
“He obviously doesn’t have to roll out there as a first-day starter,” Lewis said. “He goes into a great room. There can’t be a better spot to go into with veteran players who know how to work and how to do things.”
Hunt also blocked 17 kicks in college and taught himself English by watching “Friends” and action movies.
“He can run like a deer, he’s got great strength, we’ve just got to point him in the right direction,” Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said. “He has as good of a get-off – getting off the football – as anybody I’ve seen in this draft.”
Asked if he could have ever imagined being a second-round draft pick when he joined the football team four years ago, Hunt said, “Absolutely not. When I got into it, it was just a way to stay at SMU. I wanted to put that scholarship in full use and really learn the game of football.”
The 5-foot-9, 206-pound Bernard is a speed back whose versatility makes him another offensive threat, joining tight end Tyler Eifert, whom the Bengals drafted in Thursday’s first round.
“He brings a dynamic of catching the football, running the football,” Lewis said. “We feel like he will add another great weapon to our offense.”
The son of Haitian immigrants, Bernard recorded the third-highest rushing performance in UNC history with 1,253 yards as a freshman. He came close to matching that last year, finishing with 1,228. He was the first running back selected in the draft.
In the third round, the Bengals re-tapped the University of Georgia pipeline by taking safety Shawn Williams. This marks the fourth year in a row Cincinnati has drafted a player from that school, and Williams becomes the seventh former Bulldog on the roster.