A Look At The Rest
Ben Boulware, LB Clemson
How about some leadership to challenge the depth of the Bengals’ linebacker corps? Boulware earned the Jack Lambert Award as the nation’s top linebacker. Even with the credit to his name and a national championship, Boulware could see his draft stock fall. He is undersized for an inside linebacker, and may not post otherworldly combine results.
Boulware could go as early as Day 2 of the draft. It will be interesting to see how he tests and how the scouts view his stock going forward. In round five, the attraction here is clearly his leadership. Also, the fact he has the potential to be a very good special teams player. That aspect could make him a steal at this point in the draft.
Round Six: Picks 195, 220, 221
How many 6th round picks have had an impact for the Bengals? Burkhead is the right answer. I have high hopes that Derron Smith can stick around as the number 3 safety and that Cody Core develops into that home-run threat he flashed his rookie year.
Montae Nicholson, S Michigan State
A surprise early entrant into the draft this year, Nicholson has the skillset to be a starting safety in the league. By the time the draft rolls around, Nicholson may well propel his stock into round two! But for now, he slides a little as he enters the draft as a junior.
There is always room for players on the team who want to be great at what they do. Nicholson can come in and compete with Derron Smith for the next safety up role. If nothing else, he can contribute on special teams. Guys who want to be great special teamers often last longer than those with more talent, but less drive. Nicholson in the sixth round would be a great selection.
Zane Gonzalez, K Arizona State
After holding our breath for every extra point kicked in 2016, it’s time the Bengals invest in the kicker position. The team re-signed Randy Bullock, but his missed field goal against the Texans this year will surely be on the fans’ minds going forward.
Gonzalez made 23 of 25 field goals this year for the Sun Devils, with a long of 59 yards. With a leg like that, fans will quickly forget that Mike Nugent was a career 39% kicker from 50+ yards according to nfl.com. Gonzalez is most likely the first kicker taken, and you never know which team will jump first, and in which round.
James Connor, RB Pitt
The last sixth round, running back selected of recent memory? Rex Burkhead. The guy Connor would be replacing on the depth chart. The Bengals very well could lose Burkhead and special teams leader, Cedric Peerman this offseason. It only makes sense to draft 2 this year.
Connor played very well this year considering the rough times he has had. He had a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the 2015 season and in December that year was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. Another year rehabbing and regaining strength and confidence in his leg will serve him well.
Round Seven: Pick 232
Devonte Fields, Pass Rusher Louisville
How quickly can one fall from fame? Fields was the Big-12 Freshman of the Year. He had 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 2012. After injuries and getting into some off the field trouble, he’s another questionable character pick. But, in the seventh round, the team can cut ties if there is a slip-up and not feel like they lost out on much.
You may notice that I didn’t offer a replacement for Kevin Zeitler. That’s because I believe there are a couple good options on the free agent market, and that Christian Westerman has the potential to step in.
By the time I got deep in this draft, I was honestly running out of players to select. Here’s why the Bengals need to use the available draft pick ammunition to trade up. Comment below who you’d like to see us pick up in the draft this year.