For 20 of the 32 NFL teams today is officially the start of the offseason. Some teams will be looking for new coaches; others will be preparing for free agency and the draft.
The Cincinnati Bengals are not one of those teams. They are one of the select 12 that get to play at least one more game when the playoffs kick off on Saturday afternoon. For the Bengals, there is no thinking about the draft. Today, it’s all about the Houston Texans.
But while the Bengals aren’t thinking about the draft doesn’t mean that we can’t. Mock drafts have been popping up for months, but today is the first day they get serious.
In preparing for this mock draft, I have combed over 20 other drafts in an effort to look for a consensus. A vast majority of those mocks include just the first round but in this slideshow, I will attempt to look at all nine picks the Bengals have over seven rounds. Unlike last week where I listed my wish list, this is my best guess on what the Bengals will actually do.
Let’s take a look.
Roughly a third of the mock drafts on the internet have the Bengals taking Montgomery with their first pick. Whether the LSU pass-rusher will last until the low- to mid-20s (or lower) in order to be taken by Cincinnati will have to be seen.
The Bengals’ biggest strength this season has arguably been its record-setting pass rush. After a slow start, the defensive line has taken over the second half of the season and has 51 sacks so far.
Michael Johnson is a free agent and there is a good chance he will take his 11.5 sacks elsewhere. The Bengals will look to reload and Montgomery, who has seven sacks for LSU this season and gives them a chance to do that right away.
Thanks to the Carson Palmer trade, the Bengals will be on the clock just three picks into the second round. As a result, Cincinnati will get a chance to snag a top-flight safety with their second pick and fill a serious need.
I personally prefer Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro but the chances that he will still be on the board by the time the second round rolls around are slim. But Eric Reid, who is projected anywhere from mid-first round to third round should be there.
Reid isn’t a ball hawk but he is a terrific tackler who plays the run well. He would shore up a position that has been a serious team weakness for years.
The Bengals will need to address running back at some point in the draft and the speedy Bernard, who led the ACC in rushing, scoring, all-purpose yards and punt return average this year, is a good fit.
Cincinnati drafted another Bernard several years ago to serve as the team’s home-run hitter but Bernard Scott has had trouble staying healthy. Giovani Bernard, who is the top-rated running back in the draft by several outlets, will fill that need if he is available late in the second.
With Manny Lawson a free agent and Rey Maualuga somewhat of a disappointment, the Bengals will need to restock what is a suddenly a thin linebacking corps.
Reddick, who should be available, will fit that bill. The senior had 85 tackles this season and led the ACC in tackles for loss with 18.5. Even as a third-rounder, he could start right away.
A.J. Green is one of the best wide receivers in the league but Cincinnati has had trouble finding a consistent No. 2 receiver to pair with him.
Aaron Mellette could be that second receiver. The 6'4", 212-lb Elon senior had 97 receptions for 1,398 yards this season and has been invited to the Senior Bowl.
While the last small-college receiver the Bengals drafted, Coastal Carolina’s Jerome Simpson, didn’t exactly pan out, Mellette is worth a look because of his raw skills.
The Bengals have been rebuilding their offensive line piece by piece and Hansen would slide in perfectly next to Andre Smith on the right side of the line.
The offensive line has struggled at times this season, thanks to injuries and inexperience, and Hansen would help shore up those deficiencies.
Okay, so maybe I’m reaching here. But it may not be as far-fetched as it looks at first glance. Because of his off-field issues, Mathieu could slip dramatically, not unlike Vontaze Burfict this year. And as any Bengals fan knows, if Mathieu is available, Cincinnati will jump on him.
More than likely Mathieu will be gone by the sixth round, but if the Bengals do pick him up they could have the steal of the draft. Maybe Adam “Pacman” Jones could even mentor the troubled star. There’s a sentence few thought would ever be written.
Riddick is projected by several mock drafts to slide down to the later rounds and he could be a steal. He has been a force on the national championship-bound Irish and comes into the league with momentum.
If the Bengals were able to grab both Giovani Bernard in the second and Riddick in the sixth, they would have completely revamped the running back position.
Alford had 10 career interceptions and could be the one big sleeper in the draft. Despite playing for a smaller school, Alford has been generating buzz and his stock could rise after the combine.
Despite the fact that the Bengals have seemingly 54 corners on their roster, they are not very young at the position. Alford would help change that.