For 30 of the 32 NFL franchises, the season is over, and it’s time to focus on what comes next. In the coming months, there’s going to be a flurry of trade buzz, an active free agency period, and for my money, the best time of year: the NFL Draft! With draft season upon us, I really like this Bengals 7-round mock draft I put together to highlight some issues the team can solve.
While I think it’s safe to say no one in the Bengals fanbase had high hopes for the team coming into this season, finishing the year with the first pick in the draft must be a disappointment. But with disappointment comes opportunity. With the Bengals all but certain to move on from long-time quarterback Andy Dalton, they’ve lucked into the perfect spot to draft arguably the best college quarterback we’ve seen in decades.
While the quarterback may be the most important position in all of sports, there’s so much more to winning in the NFL than just one player. How can the Bengals use the NFL Draft to position themselves for the 2020 season and beyond? Let’s kick off our official NFL Draft coverage with the Cincinnati Bengals 7-round mock draft.
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When a team winds up with the first overall pick in the draft, it’s easy to say they have needs up and down the roster. That is a major understatement for the Bengals. Outside of a few players, there really isn’t a spot on the roster that cannot be improved through savvy drafting.
Obviously, the quarterback is the show stopper. Everything begins and ends with him. If you don’t have THE guy behind center, it’s not going to matter what you have around him.
Looking beyond the quarterback, the Bengals could stand to solidify their trenches, particularly along the defensive side of the ball. Adding a couple more linebackers and defensive backs in rounds 4-7 should also be a priority for the team.
Round 1, Pick 1: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
With the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select Joe Burrow, Quarterback, LSU.
Let’s not try to make this any harder than it needs to be. The NFL Draft is a difficult game with more misses than hits. When a softball like this comes at you, you swing for the fences.
I’m sure the Bengals are going to be fielding plenty of calls from teams wanting to trade up, offering a treasure trove of picks to move into the top spot. It is surely going to be tempting to take a lot of those picks, move back a few spots, and add someone like Chase Young, Andrew Thomas, or Javon Kinlaw.
Bengals Front Office: don’t do it. Don’t fall into the trap of kicking the QB can down the road. Turn in the Burrow pick and have a happy war room until Friday night.
Other possible targets: EDGE Chase Young, OT Andrew Thomas, or trade down.
Round 2, Pick 33: Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama
Now that we have secured the most important position in football, it’s time to start filling out the roster around him. The Bengals aren’t completely deprived of talent like some top picks before them, but just about every position could stand to see an upgrade, including the defensive line.
The Bengals would do well to pair stud defensive tackle Geno Atkins with another big talent next to him. With Andrew Billings unlikely to return next season, Raekwon Davis from Alabama would be the perfect replacement. Davis would provide a much better complement to Atkins than Billings did, and at the cost of a second-round contract rather than a free agent signing. That’s a win-win.
Other possible targets: OC Tyler Biadasz, EDGE Julian Okwara
Round 3, Pick 65: Marlon Davidson, EDGE, Auburn
Supplementing talent already present on the roster is the theme of Day 2 for the Bengals in this 7-round mock draft. We paired Atkins with stud Alabama prospect Raekwon Davis, and now we are going back to the well for a defensive pairing. We are also going back to the SEC to pair pass-rushing star Carlos Dunlap with Auburn’s EDGE Marlon Davidson.
Dunlap has been a stalwart pass rusher for the Bengals defense for a number of years, notching at least 7.5 sacks every season since 2013. Bringing in Davidson to take some of the pass-rush pressure off Dunlap could result in a spike in Dunlap’s productivity. Perhaps more importantly, the pick would give Dunlap someone to pass the torch to, as he reaches what may be the twilight of his career.
Dunlap has been a Bengals faithful since they drafted him in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft and is now on the wrong side of 30. It’s time to start thinking about what comes next at one of the league’s premier positions.
Other possible targets: LB Malik Harrison, TE Hunter Bryant
Round 4, Pick 104: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
If there’s a position group on the Bengals’ roster that is pretty solid, it’s the wide receiver group. The Bengals have a pretty good crop of pass-catchers already in the fold with the illustrious A.J. Green, speedster John Ross, and slot-specialist Tyler Boyd. It is safe to say that taking a wide receiver at any point in the 2020 NFL Draft would be a luxury. Or would it?
There’s still a good amount of uncertainty regarding Green. How healthy is he going to be next season? Is he going to be committed to the Bengals and their rebuild? Is he even going to be around for the rebuild? If Green winds up skipping town, the Bengals would do well to replace him with Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims. Both have very similar play styles, and Mims could provide a lot of what Green has done for the Bengals for so many years.
The biggest question for Mims: With the performance he put up in Senior Bowl practices, is he even an option in the fourth round? I have my doubts, but it is a very deep class at the position that may cause him to fall to Day 3.
Round 5, Pick 147: Evan Weaver, LB, California
As we move into the later stages of the draft, the strategy becomes less about finding complements to the pieces you already have on your roster and more about rounding out the back end. Depth is essential in the NFL. Playing 16 games can be a grind. There are going to be injuries, and if you don’t have the depth to replace those injured players, you’re going to be in a world of hurt.
The Bengals only play two linebackers in most situations, so depth at the linebacker spot isn’t a high priority. However, Evan Weaver from California is the type of high-energy, high-impact player the Bengals should love to have fill in for Nick Vigil or Germaine Pratt in case of injury.
Round 6, Pick 180: Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
Whether you think that cornerback is a position of need for the Bengals or not, it’s a fact of life in today’s NFL that you can never have too many good cornerbacks. With high-powered offenses throwing more and more passes to increasingly skilled receivers, the position has become more of a premium than it has ever been.
Bryce Hall seems to be a forgotten man in this year’s draft, and I have my doubts about whether or not he’ll be available this late. I can see him going in the third or fourth round. However, if he is available, the Bengals should be sprinting to the podium.
Round 7, Pick 215: Shyheim Carter, S, Alabama
With our final pick in this Cincinnati Bengals’ 7-round mock draft, the team gets some depth behind Jessie Bates III and Shawn Williams at the safety position. Alabama standout Shyheim Carter would give the Bengals somewhat of a chess piece they could move around at different positions.
He’s not big enough to be a full-time linebacker, and he may struggle initially at the safety position as well if asked to play either position. But if he is allowed to be more of a free-range type player, he could find a home. A solid “risk” in the last round of the NFL Draft.