Defensive line will be a higher priority than you think
In free agency, the Bengals’ surprised everyone by bolstering their defensive line with the addition of D.J. Reader. By adding the nose tackle from the Houston Texans to a group that already features Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard, and Carl Lawson, the defensive line seems like the Bengals’ biggest strength.
That may be true, but the front office could look to make their biggest strength even stronger by adding another player in the draft. Lou Anarumo‘s defense features multiple fronts, meaning the Bengals’ will lineup in 4-3, 3-4, and even 5-2 formations. This keeps defenses guessing and makes it harder to game plan against the defense. The defense could stand to add a 5-tech defensive lineman to be featured in certain looks.
A.J. Epenesa could be both the best player on the board with the 33rd pick and also a great fit at the 5-tech spot. The tape shows that Epenesa is a first-round talent, but due to testing poorly he could very well be available in the second round. A defensive line that had Reader, Atkins, Dunlap, Hubbard, and Epenesa all on the field at the same time could dominate opposing offensive lines and be the best in the league.
Other players the Bengals could take in the second, third, and fourth rounds to fill the 5-tech spot would be Justin Madubuike, James Lynch, and Marlon Davidson. Cincinnati has coached Davidson and held meetings with Madubuike and Lynch.
The Bengals will take a defensive lineman early in the draft and it will likely be one who fits that 5-tech role.