We know that it can be a little early -- especially with six regular season games remaining and a postseason picture that sits before us with a blank canvass. But we also know one of the more entertaining aspects of the NFL is the NFL draft, and the direct relation that draft invites with prognostication.
Though we're developing an idea of where the Bengals should address the 2013 NFL draft, there remains too many variables. Specifically what will the team decide with Andre Smith, Michael Johnson, Rey Maualuga, Thomas Howard, Nate Clements, Terence Newman and Adam Jones, all of whom become free agents during the offseason.
So until free agency comes and goes, any effort to mock a first-round draft is literally a crapshoot.
SB Nation's Mocking the Draft does it anyway.
With the No. 16 pick of the 2013 NFL draft, the Bengals select Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley.
Ray Maualuga has been brutal this season. Vontaze Burfict turned out to be a decent find, but linebacker is still a position of need for the Bengals. C.J. Mosley has been a big part of Alabama's dominant stop unit this season. He's probably closer to Manti Te'o than people realize.
Again. What Maualuga has or hasn't done this season has little bearing until we know what the team decides during free agency. That's not the question of replacement through performance and the hype of projection. If the Bengals elect to sign Rey Maualuga and keep pairing him with Vontaze Burfict -- something that's slowly showing positive gains recently -- then it's very unlikely that Cincinnati uses a first-round pick on a linebacker.
Then again it's Marvin Lewis, who has a deep seated love for his linebackers.