8 days from now, the Bengals will be making the next decision to help them get back to their playoff ways of the past 8 years. They hold 11 picks, with additional ones in rounds 4-7. Their first selection sits at #9, the first time in the the top 20 since 2011 with they picked that one receiver from Georgia. With holding such a high pick, the pressure to hit on it increases. In order to make it back to the playoffs for the 7th time in 9 years, the Bengals need to get an instant impact player with this spot. Here are the 9 different ways they could go on draft night.
#1: Derek Barnett, DE, TennesseeMichael Johnson is not the same player he was during his first stint with the club. While he is adequate in the run game, he doesn’t get to the QB all that often. The team could use a third consistent pass rusher along side Atkins and Dunlap. No one got to the quarterback more than Barnett over the last three seasons. His three consecutive years of double-digit sack totals is eye-staggering, especially when you consider he broke the late HOF Reggie White’s Volunteer sack record. His measurables aren’t ideal for a top-10 player, but his production is.
#2: Reuben Foster, LB, AlabamaFor the past month, it was an unwritten rule to mock Foster to the Bengals at 9. He is the unquestioned top LB in the class and led the nation’s top defense to the national title game the last two years. His athleticism and instincts slot Foster as a future 3 down linebacker, something that is so coveted in the league today. He doesn’t come without red flags though. To start, he got kicked from the combine after an argument with a nurse during medical checks. This leads us to the next question mark, which is his shoulder. He had surgery on his rotator cuff in February, but news came out after his medical recheck that he needs another surgery. This could sideline him till mid-season. The signing of Kevin Minter won’t affect their selection and if they look past the flags, Foster could step in when healthy and play every down.
#3: O.J. Howard, TE, AlabamaIs a tight-end worth a top-10 pick? The evaluation of Howard tells us yes. Howard is a do-everything TE that can block like a lineman and catch like a receiver. How does he fit with the Bengals with all-pro Tyler Eifert set to come back from an injury filled season? They need another playmaker for Andy Dalton. There is talk about Mike Williams or Corey Davis at this spot, so what is the difference. Howard could bring two TE sets to the offense and make matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. Both Howard and Eifert can line up next to a tackle, in the slot, or out wide. The NFL is a matchup league and Howard is a matchup problem. This, combined with the Eifert’s injury history and expiring contract, makes Howard a real possibility for the Bengals.
#4: Mike Williams, WR, ClemsonTwo 6 foot 4 receivers opposite of each other is a scary thought. That is what could happen if the Bengals decide Williams is their guy. College football’s best wideout is a surefire top-15 pick and looks the part of a future #1 receiver. He has the size, catch radius, and jump ball ability to be a red-menace for the next decade. As we know in Cincinnati, Andy loves to throw the ball up to A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, as well as Marvin Jones when he was here. He would be able to do that, with success, with Williams in the black and orange. His lack of top end speed brings concerns that he won’t be able to separate from DBs, however, his size has always made up for it.
#5 Haason Reddick, LB, TempleNot too many players have moved up draft boards like Haason Reddick has. His versatility allowed him to play both DE, or stand up and play OLB. Much of his uptick was a result of the combine where he ran a 4.5 40 showing his ability to play either linebacker position at the next level. To add to his versatility, Reddick figures to be able to play in both a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. Obviously the Bengals run a 4-3, where Reddick would fit along side Burfict and Minter. Is the top-10 too high? Possibly. A trade-back might be the most logical way to select Reddick if he is truly who Duke Tobin and Mike Brown fall in love with.
#6 Corey Davis, WR, Western MichiganAs stated above with Williams, the Bengals would love to add a future #1 guy to put opposite of A.J. Green. Brandon LaFell isn’t the guy 3 or 4 years down the road and Tyler Boyd is ideal in the slot. At 6’3″ 210, Davis has good size to go along with superior route-running and after the catch ability. Although a lower leg injury caused Davis to miss the combine, his speed is not a concern on tape where he shows he can work all three levels of the defense. The biggest concern is the lack of competition Davis faced while playing in the MAC at Western Michigan. Regardless, he caught for more yards than any other player in FBS history and that should say a lot. Davis would be an instant upgrade over LaFell and Boyd.
The previous 6 guys are the most likely choices of who will be available for the Bengals at 9. But, every year, guys drop and teams reach for players. This especially happens in the top ten with QB hungry teams. Here are two possible players who could fall into the Bengals’ laps.
#7: Jonathan Allen, DL, AlabamaOnce considered the best player outside of Myles Garrett, Allen’s stock seems to have dropped a bit over the last month. The mammoth of the Bama defensive line has questions over his shoulders, as well as his fit on the line. He doesn’t have the ideal mass to play inside, or the length to play outside. This didn’t seem to matter in college as he dominated interior lineman to open up things for Reuben Foster and others to finish off plays. If he falls to the Bengals at 9, they are looking at a Geno Atkins clone. A little undersized, but a combination of speed and strength to bully opposing interior lineman. He could play outside on early downs to help against the run and then move inside to present an almost unblockable combo with Atkins.
#8: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSUIf Roger Goodell announces Leonard Fournette as the #9 overall selection to the Cincinnati Bengals, the city would explode. Fanbases love when their team selects a RB, especially one with the pedigree and hype that Fournette has. While the chance of him still being there is low, it isn’t totally out of the question. With elite size and above average speed, Fournette has the power to run over linebackers and the breakaway speed to hit home runs. Wherever he ends up, he will become the bell cow on day one, at least on early downs. Jeremy Hill hasn’t been able to show his rookie self the last two years and his contract is up. Gio Bernard is recovering from a torn ACL and there is no saying he will be ready to go week one. This would energize the fanbase and make the Bengals better in the run game.
These eight players seem the most likely for the Bengals, but they do have one more option…
#9: Trade down
The Bengals pick one spot ahead of the Buffalo Bills, who have the possibility of selecting a quarterback in the first round. This makes the Bengals pick even more valuable on the trade market come pick time. If Mitch Trubisky is still on the board once the Panthers make their pick, expect Tobin and Brown to answering the phones. Two teams that would be on the other line are the Cleveland Browns (12) and the Arizona Cardinals (13). If the Bengals feel as if their guy will still be there at one of these spots, a trade down seems logical and the smart thing to do. A move from 12 or 13 would probably allow the Bengals to pick up an extra 3rd rounder, or another player who can make an impact early.
What the Bengals will do… With the resigning of Wallace Gilberry and the trade for Chris Smith, I don’t believe the Bengals will take Barnett. Reuben Foster’s risk of being another first-round pick injured puts him off the board. I don’t think Allen or Fournette will be available and I doubt they will risk a first round pick on a MAC player (Khalil Mack, Ben Roethlisberger, I know). This leaves Howard, Williams, Reddick or a trade. I’ll say that they do a little bit of a combination. I think Cleveland offers the 12th and the 65th (3-1) for the 9th in order to take Trubisky. Howard is still on the board on 12 and the Bengals jump on it. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama.
What the Bengals should do… see above. I love the idea of picking up an extra pick and still getting an elite prospect.