Things will get real interesting on Thursday night when the Cincinnati Bengals make the ninth selection of the draft. Will it be an edge rusher, wide receiver, linebacker or even running back? Could it be another cornerback? One thing is sure. The closer we get, the higher the anticipation rises.
We are only hours away from our beloved Bengals officially being on the clock. After months of fans watching highlight videos, searching scouting reports and obsessively checking mock drafts, one thing is on everyone’s mind. Is the future of the franchise gonna hear their name called? It will take some time to get the answer, However, there is plenty of talent to be found in this year’s crop of college athletes.
There are countless directions the Bengals can go. And if teams start getting itchy for a quarterback, some interesting position players could slide in our direction. Let’s take a look at who to expect (or maybe not expect) to be donning the Orange and Black hat when the card is turned in.
The Mock Draft Darlings
Linebacker Ruben Foster of Alabama seems to be the most popular pick in most mock drafts. Foster is a talented athlete with a nose for the ball. However, he has his fair share of question marks on and off the field. The signing of Kevin Minter makes this pick less likely. But, it’s not impossible.
Edge rusher Derek Barnett is another trendy name that fills a major need. Barnett was extremely productive in college but is a bit undersized. Some analysts question his athletic upside. But, he is very young at 20 years of age. With good coaching, he’s one counter-move away from making some serious noise.
Soloman Thomas of Stanford is a beast on the D-Line. He’s unblockable rushing from the inside as well as showing the ability to set the edge from the outside with his athletic ability. Thomas will probably be the top defensive end on the Bengals’ board. The question is: will he still be available? This is where you start hoping for teams to trade up to snatch a QB.
Wide receiver Corey Davis and tight end O.J. Howard are two offensive dynamos that have also been popular picks in the mock draft universe. Davis is a tall athletic receiver who is excellent after the catch but comes from a small school and Howard is the perfect prototype TE with big time blocking ability as well as receiver-like athleticism. His only knock is the lack of opportunity in Alabama’s offense last season.
Playmakers Who Could Slide
Running back Leonard Fournette is the most exciting bell cow in the draft and a guy the Bengals like a lot. Fournette is fast and physical with an underrated ability to catch the ball. He will have to take an unexpected tumble for the Bengals to land him. He’s definitely a player the coaching staff will be high on.
Jonathan Allen of Alabama is a big time prospect on the defensive line that could slide due to concerns with his shoulder. Allen isn’t an edge rusher but would be a big time pass rusher from the inside along with Geno Atkins in nickel situations. Even though he isn’t really a need, his talent and potential could be too good to pass on if he falls down the board.
Possible Surprise Picks
While we’re on the subject of guys who aren’t needs but too good to pass, there are some defensive backs that could be the guy, If they fall to the ninth pick. Strong safety Jamal Adams could be one the best safety prospects to come out in years. Adams is a natural-born leader who hits like a locomotive. He is an excellent box safety. However, his coverage skills are overlooked. Adams would be a centerpiece in the Bengals’ defense if he makes it that far down the draft.
Malik Hooker is a free safety from Ohio State with endless range and ball skills. The former Buckeye would probably warm up fast to fans with his local ties even though he isn’t a “necessary” pick. If either of these guys fall, the Bengals have to consider them. Both players are game changers.
Now it’s time to address the elephant in the room. Would the Bengals dare take another cornerback? I think there is only one they would consider, and that is Marshon Lattimore also of Ohio State. Lattimore is going to be a premier cover man in the league, however, there are some injury concerns, which is the only way he slides to the bottom of the top ten.
There are two other guys I believe the Bengals will consider. Running back Christian McCaffery and linebacker Hassan Reddick. McCaffery is a true “do it all” offensive weapon. He’s too small to be a feature back. However, he is a tough ball carrier for his size and can also play slot receiver. He can also return kicks and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
Reddick would be interesting because choosing him would be killing two birds with one stone. He is extremely athletic and showed really good coverage skills in all his offseason workouts. Reddick played defensive end in college and could also be used as a pass rusher on third down.
Offensive tackle is another possibility. But, I only see that happening if Cincinnati trades back. The tackle class is very weak this year and there simply isn’t one worthy of a top ten pick this year, but you never know.
The wait is almost over Bengal fans. Who would you like to see selected on draft night?