Who Do The Bengals Pick at 9?
If there is one prediction I’m bound to get right for the NFL draft it’s that the Cincinnati Bengals are the team that will destroy my Mock Draft. They will be the team that creates a ripple effect that shakes things up the most. I would not be surprised if they traded up, traded back, or selected a player nobody had predicted.
The Bengals five biggest needs include Offensive line, Linebacker, Wide Receiver, Running back and Kicker. The top LB in this draft is Reuben Foster from Alabama, a player that I have had pegged to the Bengals 9th overall for quite some time. Foster is a lethal hard-hitting playmaker with excellent speed. He’s born to play the Linebacker position and despite many draft gurus saying he is better suited for WLB, I think he could play MLB if given the opportunity.
However, as we inch closer to the NFL Draft it’s become obvious that Reuben Foster’s draft stock has begun to slide due to some off-the-field problems. If you remember, there was the hospital incident that got him thrown out of the NFL combine, then news broke on Thursday of a positive drug test.
The Bengals do have a need at the Linebacker position but have also been down this road before. Vontaze Burfict was regarded as one of the best linebackers available in the 2012 NFL Draft. He slipped through the cracks, went undrafted yet had an excellent rookie campaign for the Bengals when they signed him as an UDFA. Despite his draft gem value, Burfict has been a loose cannon on and off the field and I’m sure a headache for the coaching staff at times.
Do The Bengals Even Need Defensive Help?
The Bengals did far better defensively than most people will give them credit for in 2016. While there is room to improve on their 26th ranked rushing defense, they ranked 8th in points allowed per game, allowing an average of 19.7 points to opponents per contest. However, the Bengals defense actually got better as the season progressed. In the final 6 games, the Bengals points per game average against improved to 14.8.
Taking a stud Linebacker like Foster could transform their defense from good to great overnight, but what a lot of people are forgetting is that the teams’ 2016 first and fourth round picks got hurt before the season even started last year:
CB William Jackson III
Draft 1st round (26th overall)
First round rookie cornerback William Jackson III suffered a season-ending pectoral injury before the season started. The Bengals wanted to bring their first round draft pick back from IR last season, unfortunately, an injury to another player derailed those plans.
DT Andrew Billings
Drafted 4th Round (122nd Overall)
Billings fell to the Bengals on Day 3 due to injury, however, they expected him to only miss 4 to 6 months when they selected him. Billings was viewed as one of the best nose tackle prospects to come out of the draft class. The Baylor prospect is a two-down nose tackle which isn’t viewed to be as valuable in the NFL, yet that being said, his skills would have greatly improved the Bengals 26th ranked run defense last season if he had played.
If the Bengals are getting back two talented prospects that never played a down for them in 2016 and team showed improvements defensively as the season progressed, then why would they not go offense in the first round?
Are the Bengals Targeting a WR?
The Bengals invested a 2nd round pick on Tyler Boyd last season and got the most out of 6th round pick Cody Core who started 4 games for them also. To draft yet another wide receiver could excel their offense considerable, but it’s anyone’s guess whether they feel the WR position outweighs their other problem areas.
Both Mike Williams and Corey Davis who are considered to be the top two WR’s in this draft class are the same type of wide receiver as A.J Green. They are big body targets with good speed that destroy opponents in man to man coverage. If the team added either player, the Bengals would obviously benefit, but to complement A.J Green, the smarter strategy may be to go a with a different type of threat for defenses to worry about. A player like John Ross with his blazing speed would create havoc for opponents. Much of the same way the Texans drafted speedy Will Fuller to complement DeAndre Hopkins or how the Buc’s went out and signed DeSean Jackson to draw coverage away from Mike Evans. There is something to be said for having a versatile group of wide receivers to make a passing game that much more efficient.
As I said in the intro, I’m having trouble narrowing down what the team’s true number one need is. With so many injuries last year and the added draft picks from last season returning and potentially starting, the Bengals truly have a luxury pick 9th overall. I feel they have team needs, but nothing too urgent. At this point, I think the Bengals seek a trade partner. I feel they could move back 5 to 7 spots and still land a guy like WR John Ross or look to take the first offensive lineman in the draft. The picks they gain for such a simple trade back could excel the team greatly on day 2.
Mock Draft coming soon…Thanks for reading!