The Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati ended after the 2018 season, and the Zac Taylor era has officially begun. By all accounts, the Andy Dalton era has come to an end, and the Joe Burrow era in Cincinnati is about to begin. The team shelled out a ton of money during free agency, and the rebuilding process is well underway in Cincinnati. The next, and perhaps most important step of that process begins next week: The 2020 NFL Draft.
After years of complacency, things are finally changing in Cincinnati. Years of conservative spending gave way to a spending spree to fix the defense in free agency. The flurry of free-agent expenditures brought in Bengals defenders at every level, including cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, safety Vonn Bell, linebacker Josh Bynes, and defensive tackle D.J. Reader.
Now the focus shifts to the offense. The defense still needs work, but the majority of the hopes of a successful 2020 season now hinges on the offense. The 2020 NFL Draft is presumably going to bring Burrow to the Bengals, but who else? How can this draft class improve the struggling offense?[sv slug=mocksim]
Most of the Bengals draft capital is going to be spent on offense. It’s nearly inevitable that they’re taking Burrow with the first overall pick. But Burrow alone does not fix the offense or plug all the holes they have on that side of the ball. They still need to add a couple of offensive linemen. The team could also use a wide receiver on day 2 or 3 to improve the depth. They have a good core group right now, but it’s not without question marks. How long will A.J. Green stay in Cincinnati? Can John Ross stay healthy?
Despite the spending spree, there are still a couple of question marks on the defense for the Bengals as well. They need to add at least one linebacker in the draft. They also need to find someone who can help provide an additional pass-rushing threat off the edge. Cincinnati has seven selections and several holes to plug. This updated Bengals 7-round mock draft addresses a lot of those issues.
Round 1, Pick 1: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
There isn’t a whole lot that needs to be said here. This pick should be an easy one. There’s been some smoke about the Dolphins wanting to come up and trade for Burrow, but it’s likely just that – smoke. Miami isn’t likely to give up the number of assets the Bengals would want in exchange for giving up the chance to draft a QB who just put together one of the greatest seasons in college football history.
The Bengals haven’t fully committed to moving on from current quarterback Andy Dalton just yet. But it’s a matter of time. Whether it’s at the beginning of the season, somewhere in the middle, or next year, Burrow will be the next Bengals QB.
Round 2, Pick 33: Joshua Uche, OLB, Michigan
The Bengals went on a spending spree in free agency and dramatically improved their defense. Two areas where the team did not improve, however, is in their linebacker corps and with their ability to rush the passer – two areas they’ll need to rely on the draft to improve in. So why not kill two birds with one stone? Enter former Michigan Wolverine Joshua Uche.
Uche would provide the Bengals with a legitimate pass-rushing threat from the linebacker group. In his final two seasons at Michigan, Uche notched seven or more sacks each season. As he put on display at the Senior Bowl, Uche can also provide legitimate pass-coverage ability. It may take a bit of refinement before he’s a star, but Uche has the tools to dramatically improve the Bengals from day one.
Round 3, Pick 65: Michael Pittman, Jr., WR, USC
A wide receiver in the third round may seem like a misallocation of resources to some, but the Bengals aren’t as solid at the position as it may seem. A.J. Green has been disgruntled in recent years. He’s also struggled with injury the past two seasons. Not a great combination for a team looking to build for the future.
As great as Green has been for the Bengals, fans and the team have to be prepared for his departure, sooner rather than later. Taking Michael Pittman can help fill this void. Pittman is a consistent, big-bodied receiver who would give the Bengals a solid number 2 receiver while Green is in house, and a guy who can step up after Green’s exit.
Round 4, Pick 107: Joe Bachie, ILB, Michigan State
The Bengals need to improve at both outside and inside linebacker. Former Michigan State LB Joe Bachie is a solid three-down linebacker who may be a project to starting out but should be able to develop into a solid starter in a year or two.
He’ll also provide the team with added value in the special teams game. He’s not the fastest or most agile, but he’s intelligent and plays well in space.
Round 5, Pick 147: Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Oregon State
Another wide receiver?!? What gives? As I mentioned, the wide receiver situation in Cincinnati is tenuous, at best. They are a good group, but for how much longer? We’ve already talked about the situation with Green, but there’s also the situation with John Ross to worry about.
Ross is entering his fourth season in the league and has played in 24 of 48 possible games in that time. He managed less than 1,000 receiving yards during his time in Cincinnati, and his contract will be up in two years. Instead of waiting to see what happens, why not find a potential replacement now, in one of the best WR drafts in recent memory?
Finding a guy in the fifth round who can come in and be your number two receiver is a tall order. Hodgins isn’t likely to be that guy. But Hodgins will provide the Bengals with someone who can be a solid red zone target, provides some ‘above the rim’ ability, and, most importantly, should be able to stay on the field.
Round 6, Pick 180: Hakeem Adeniji, OT, Kansas
My — and likely your — biggest disappointment with this Bengals 7-round mock draft is waiting until the sixth round to address the team’s needs on the offensive line. I wanted to address either tackle or guard much earlier than this, but the value never presented itself. Sometimes, that’s just how the draft works, and it’s important not to force a pick.
Hakeem Adeniji was a four-year starter at Kansas who shows some good explosion and strength. He also spent time at both tackle positions during his four years in Lawrence, which gives him versatility. It’s not an ideal situation for the Bengals, but Adeniji has the potential to blossom with a few years of development.
Round 7, Pick 215: Calvin Throckmorton, C, Oregon
When you come to the last round of the NFL Draft, you’re not expecting much. Guys drafted here are typically back-end of the roster guys, or guys who don’t make it through training camp at all. If you want to stick on a roster, you have to have something about you that makes you stand out from the rest. For Calvin Throckmorton, that something is his versatility.
Throckmorton made 52 consecutive starts during his time with the Oregon Ducks. Of those 52, 41 were at right tackle. Additionally, Throckmorton got five starts at left tackle, and three starts at both right guard and center. That experience should mean that he’ll be able to step in and fill any position along the line should someone go down with an injury.