With the 2017 NFL Draft rapidly approaching, the Cincinnati Bengals have a huge decision staring them down. Here are the Bengals’ top options in the Draft.
With the 2017 NFL Draft rapidly approaching, the Bengals’ front office has a huge decision staring them down. Who do you take with the ninth overall selection on April 29th?
Sitting pretty at nine, the Bengals have a lot of players to choose from. Here we’ll examine which players are the top options for the Bengals heading into this month’s draft.
The Bengals struggles on offense last season were obvious. Too many drives stalled in the red zone and the team’s lack of depth at the receiver and tight end positions ultimately contributed to those woes.
On the other side of the ball, the Bengals defense was steady last season but now has some major holes to fill before the season starts, primarily thanks to the departure of aging middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.
At nine, the Bengals will be selecting from the highest slot since taking A.J. Green fourth overall in 2011. With that, of course, comes added pressure of getting a player that will impact the team in year one. This is a can’t-miss draft. But, luckily for the Bengals, this year’s version is loaded with defensive talent and plenty of skill players. Let’s get to it.
Reuben Foster, Linebacker, Alabama
The most glaring hole on the Bengals defense is at linebacker. Foster fills that need immediately. His speed and pure hit power were on full display during the 2017 National Championship game vs. Clemson. Adding his skill set to a linebacking corps that already includes Vontaze Burfict is a scary thought. At 6’0” 229, his measurables suggest he should play at WLB. But with the recent shift to the leaner, more agile linebacker to assist in pass coverage, I think there’s no doubt he finds a starting spot in Cincinnati year one.
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Foster is a bit of a gamble inside the top ten, as he is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery that prevented him from working out at his pro day. There aren’t a lot of questions about what he can do when he’s on the field. He’s a game-changer, there’s no doubt about that. But there are concerns over Foster’s character, after being sent home from the combine for arguing with a hospital worker. Overlooking the incident as just a misunderstanding is something that makes the most sense but for a Bengals organization that has seen its fair share of off the field issues, arrests, and hot-headed penalties, it may be a red flag large enough to force the Bengals to pass on the Alabama product.
O.J. Howard, Tight End, Alabama
Perhaps the fastest rising prospect in this year’s draft is another member of the Alabama Crimson Tide. At 6’6” 251, the big bodied tight end would fit into the Bengals picture immediately. Howard killed the combine. His 4.51 second 40-time was the second fastest at his position and does a little more than just raise your eyebrows. The fact of the matter is the Bengals already have a starting tight end that’s a top five talent in the league. The only problem is that he has struggled to stay healthy. Drafting Howard to pair with Tyler Eifert not only gives the Bengals and Andy Dalton another big target to help boost red zone efficiency, but will provide an insurance policy if Eifert continues to be snake-bitten.
There really isn’t a whole lot of concern for Howard coming out of one of the best programs in college. The only realistic critique is that he disappears too frequently from the passing game. But realistically, that concern only arises because of ‘Bama’s ground-and-pound style of offense. If Howard adds 10-20 pounds of muscle, he could be a dominant force in Cincy for years.
Corey Davis, Wide Receiver, Western Michigan
How do you take the defensive focus off of A.J. Green? Draft another beast to compliment him. Davis dominated at the college level, personifying the model of consistency that teams covet in the NFL. While at Western Michigan, Davis compiled three straight 1,400-yard seasons, while amassing 52 total touchdowns. In his senior season, the 6-foot-3 wideout caught 97 passes for 1,500 yards, bringing 19 of those in for scores. Having another prolific pass catcher opposite Green would pay immediate dividends for the Bengals offense that struggled to manage just 20.3 points per game last year.
The Wheaton, Illinois native isn’t a burner but has above-average speed for his height and weight. Davis’ 4.48 40-yard dash is honestly impressive for how big he is. His huge frame and success in collegiate-level success is enough for me at least to make him a viable option for the Bengals at number nine. If the Bengals’ front office favors speed, Washington’s John Ross could also be available come time for draft day. But either way, considering a receiver with their first selection is the most likely scenario this year.
Trade back and compile additional selections
The Bengals own prime quarterback real estate in this year’s draft, the Bengals could dangle the ninth pick to a team that is really needy for a QB. The Houston Texans have nearly burned through all its options at QB now that Tony Romo is officially retired. Other than going full desperation mode and signing Jay Cutler, Houston needs to draft a quarterback.
Cincinnati could slide back to 25 and select the best available receiver at that point while amassing a future first rounder, and a mid-round selection this year from the Texans. The best way to ensure you have a successful draft is to play the law of averages and amass as many picks as possible. This, of course, is a less likely option for the Bengals as they are in the market for a game-changing player and taking one of these three guys should take care of that need for a Cincy team that’s looking to get back to the playoffs.