With the Super Bowl now behind us, it’s time to fully turn our attention to the draft. Over the next couple of months, each player’s stock will rise and fall, rumors will run rampant and mock drafts will dot the landscape as far as the eye can see.
This is my third Cincinnati Bengals’ mock draft, and like the others, there are changes. But many of my picks stay the same as the Bengals attempt to improve on their 10-6 season from a year ago.
Let’s take a look at the Bengals’ nine picks over seven rounds that I project for this year’s draft.
The Bengals’ biggest strength this season has arguably been its record-setting pass rush. After a slow start, the defensive line took over in the second half of the season and set a team record for sacks.
Michael Johnson and Robert Geathers are both a free agents, and there is a good chance the Bengals will not be able to sign both. The Bengals will look to reload, and Sam Montgomery, who had seven sacks for LSU this season, gives them a chance to do that right away.
(Previous pick: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU)
The Bengals already have one of the NFL’s elite receivers in A.J. Green. Getting a sidekick to put on the field with him should be one of their top priorities.
Thanks to the Carson Palmer trade, the Bengals will draft fairly high in the second round where Justin Hunter may be available. He had a mixed junior season after coming off ACL surgery, but at 6'4", 200 pounds, he mirrors Green perfectly and could be the perfect fit on the other side of the field.
(Previous pick: Eric Reid, S, LSU)
The Bengals have serious issues at safety and desperately need a playmaker at that position. The Bengals’ starters at the end of the season were a converted cornerback (Nate Clements) and a guy they cut in training camp (Chris Crocker).
T.J. McDonald showed his playmaking abilities at USC this year and would upgrade the Bengals defense instantly.
(Giovani Benard, RB, North Carolina)
Because of his off-field issues, Tyrann Mathieu could slip dramatically, not unlike Vontaze Burfict last year. And as any Bengals’ fans knows, if Mathieu is available, Cincinnati will jump on him.
The Bengals need to upgrade at cornerback, but Mathieu will also immensely help in the return game, an area that he has excelled at.
(Previous pick: Kevin Riddick, LB, North Carolina)
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 Braden Hansen would help shore up those deficiencies.
(Previous pick: Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon)
The Bengals linebackers underachieved all season long, and although Nico Johnson would not be an instant upgrade, he will certainly help. Cincinnati may re-sign free agents Manny Lawson and Rey Maualuga, and if they do so, then Johnson will provide quality depth.
(Previous pick: Braden Hansen, G, BYU)
The Bengals have issues on the interior line, and the versatile David Quessenberry can address those issues. I believe the Bengals will re-sign tackle Andre Smith, leaving the team needing to only upgrade guard or center.
Quessenberry played all three positions at San Jose State and will be able to step in right away at either guard or center.
(Previous pick: Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU)
DeVonte Holloman is an incredibly big and athletic player who could provide depth at the linebacking position. There are some questions about his abilities, but that’s why he has slipped to the sixth round.
(Previous pick: Theo Riddick, RB, Notre Dame)
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 runner-up Irish and comes into the league with momentum.
Riddick would team with BenJarvus Green-Ellis to give the Bengals a strong one-two punch and allow the Bengals to jettison the injury-prone Bernard Scott.
(Previous pick: Robert Alford, CB, SE Louisiana)