As we get closer to the NFL draft, mock drafts continue to develop. ESPN’s Todd McShay takes a look at the first three rounds for the Cincinnati Bengals.
The NFL Draft is just over two weeks away and we continue the mock drafts trying to predict who the Cincinnati Bengals will take at the 21st overall pick. Most mock drafts cover the first round but ESPN’s Todd McShay went ahead and put together a full three round mock draft. There are absolutely some interesting choices in this mock draft so let’s take a look at what he has the Bengals taking with their four picks in the first three rounds of this year’s draft.
"Round 1 (21): James Daniels, C/G, IowaRound 2 (46): Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise StateRound 3 (77): Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida StateRound 3 (100): Cedrick Wilson, WR, Boise StateDaniels is the clear No. 1 center in this class and could help stabilize a shaky Bengals O-line. Vander Esch is versatile and has outstanding measurables for a linebacker. Nnadi’s poor combine performance hurt his stock, but he’s better on the field than his testing numbers show. He’d be a two-down run defender. Wilson has above-average ball skills and could compete for the No. 2 WR job opposite A.J. Green."
These draft picks hit a little bit of each area in the first three rounds that the Bengals could decide to upgrade. The biggest issue would probably be only taking one offensive lineman in their first four picks of the draft considering the dire need. There are other positions that could use some upgrading but none that come close to the need along the offensive line.
Iowa center James Daniels looks to be a solid lineman who could absolutely help the Bengals. Cincinnati’s former center Russell Bodine left to take a deal with the Buffalo Bills this offseason and the lack of anything there is concerning. Daniels, while not my top center, is probably the second best in my opinion and I would still be happy to see him taken by Cincinnati to take that spot of need.
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When looking at Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, he looks to be a solid linebacker that in many mock drafts could be taken in the first round so finding him there in the second looks like a steal. Even with the signing of linebacker Preston Brown, he would be an immediate impact on this Bengals defense. Brown is only signed to a one-year deal so this could be perfect to give the young Boise State prospect some time to develop.
Cincinnati linebackers have been torched in coverage over the last couple of years and Leighton Vander Esch is extremely talented in coverage. While he is a sideline to sideline tackler who can also break through blocks to get into the backfield against the run, he can also drop into coverage. The Bengals are in desperate need of a three-down linebacker and this could be the guy to fill that void.
The only issue I have is that it will likely take him a year of development to be a strong starter in the NFL. He only has one year of experience at Boise State and has some technique to clean up before he can reach his full potential. The potential is absolutely high so if the Bengals want to take a developmental project that could still contribute as a rotational piece his first year, this is the guy to grab, especially if you can grab him in the second round.
Florida State defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi is an interesting choice as the Bengals do need some run support help next to Geno Atkins. After being one of the worst teams in the league to stop the running game last season, the position could surely be upgraded. The team has already brought in defensive tackle Chris Baker who multiple of the positional coaches worked with in Washington but he’s not a guy I see being that upgrade. Baker is also more of a pass rusher than run stuffer.
The need is absolutely there for a run stuffer next to Atkins and if the Bengals can find that solution in the third round then I am on board with that pick. The 6’1″, 300-pound lineman hauled in 56 tackles, 10 for a loss, and 3.5 sacks in his 13 starts during the 2017 season.
Last but not least you have wide receiver Cedric Wilson out of Boise State. Leading BSU last season with 83 receptions for 1,511 yards and 7 touchdowns is quite impressive. However, the Bengals have multiple young wide receivers who have not been given much of a chance to prove their worth yet. This pick would just be adding to that pool of players and would likely not be the immediate impact that this team needs. Not to say that he wouldn’t be a good player in the NFL but wide receiver is not a top need for Cincinnati regardless of thoughts on what they have already.
Wide receiver John Ross is going to get his first opportunity to prove to the Bengals that drafting him ninth overall last season was not a mistake. Injuries kept him off of the field for almost the entire season last year and rookies don’t normally get many snaps under head coach Marvin Lewis. That could change this year as many other parts of his coaching has changed this offseason but the Bengals still have guys like Tyler Boyd as well that have shown some promise in their limited opportunities.
Overall I would like to see more offensive linemen than just one in the first four picks considering its easily their biggest need. If not the first two picks of their draft, they should at least put two of the first three picks on the offensive line. The only issue I have with Leighton Vander Esch is that he might need a year to develop. Wide receiver could be something to look at but not until the later rounds after they have solved more pressing needs.