In this my first attempt at mocking the Bengals 2013 draft I'm operating under three assumptions: 1) that the team re-signs Andre Smith and 2) that they stay true to form and neglect to upgrade any positions through free agency and finally 3) that they do not make any draft day trades (even though I'd personally be in favor of trading the #21 pick for a pair of 2nd rounders in 2013 and 2014).
Following my own draft I'm including my prediction for what the Bengals may actually do, since the FO probably has a differing perception of team needs than my own. I offer 2 choices for each round in order of preference, since a player may not be available at the spot.
My Mock Draft:
1st Round (#21) -
1. Jarvis Jones OLB - Jones may slip due to his poor Pro day numbers and concerns about spinal stenosis. Assuming the Bengals medical staff agrees with the latest medical report that there is actually no stenosis, he would be an excellent value pick here who would instantly upgrade the SAM position. The downside is he may lack the physical skills to excel at the next level, the upside is he could be the next Terrell Suggs, who slipped from a sure-fire Top 5 selection to #10 due to speed concerns.
2. "Nuke" Hopkins WR or Keenan Allen WR - Pick your poison here. While I'm a believer in Mohammed Sanu, I can't resist digging into a deep and talented WR draft class this year and with the increasing use of 3 and 4 WR spread formations, drafting another weapon for Dalton can't help but improve the passing game. Since Sanu can rotate between the X and Z (slot), I'd rather have a big target than another diminuitive slot WR like Austin. Hawkins seemed to lose his effectiveness last year when defenses stacked defenders in the box. Another sure-handed, big-bodied WR on the outside would be just the recipe for keeping those defenders honest.
2nd Round (#37) -
1. Travis Frederick OC - I'm not convinced either Cook or Robinson are the solution at C. Frederick has the Wisconsin pedigree and the build to hold up to the mammoth NTs in the AFC North. An additional bonus is Zeitler should be able to attest to his skills and work ethic, giving the FO an inside scoop that other teams may not have. This pick also provides insurance in the event Wharton or Boling falter at LG (and Robinson or Cook hold the line at center).
2. Eric Reid SS - This is an urgent need. Reid has prototypical size, very good range and coverage skills and has faced top competition in the SEC. Rambo, Thomas or Swearinger could also be options at #53 or in the 3rd round if a tremendous value at another position were available here but this is a safe pick.
2nd Round (#53) -
1. Markus Wheaton WR, Quinton Patton WR, Terrance Williams WR- This pick obviously assumes no WR is selected by the team in Round 1. The pickings start to get slim after Round 2 with WRs (although Ryan Swope in the 3rd round would not be a bad consolation prize). Williams and Patton are big-bodied, sure-handed receivers, while Wheaton is a speed merchant with a size and skill set that will remind people of the former Beaver, Ocho Cinco (nee Johnson). I'd pick Wheaton or Patton over Williams and avoid any chances of a diva receiver ruining team chemistry, unless the background checks and interview convinced me otherwise.
2. Phillip Thomas SS - This assumes the Bengals don't address the SS position with pick #37. Thomas has the size and the coverage skills needed for the position but has not faced top-level competition in the WAC so may need a year or two of seasoning.
3rd Round -
1. Andre Ellington RB or Joseph Randle RB - A change-of-pace RB to complement BJGE is also an urgent need. However, RBs like Ellington, who don't have the size to project into an every-down role are typically still on the board after the first few rounds. Both of these backs offer a speed dimension that would compliment Green-Ellis and have experience catching out of the backfield (which is why you don't see Johnathan Franklin on my list). Ellington is the more dynamic playmaker but Randle has the size to be the featured back should BJGE falter or go down with injury.
2. Khaseem Greene OLB, Sio Moore OLB or Sean Porter OLB - Since both of these players are better suited at WLB than SAM, this pick would even make sense if Jarvis Jones were chosen in the 1st round. Greene and Moore, who may not last until the 3rd round, probably fit the mold better, as both have the size to hold up against the run. Porter has excellent coverage skills but is lighter than the prototypical Bengals OLB.
4th Round -
1. Kenyon Barner RB - Barner is a shifty scatback with experience as a receiver out of the backfield, who could double as a return specialist. Even if the team drafts Randle in the 3rd it would make sense to add a speed merchant like Barner to compliment BJGE (not so much if Ellington is picked).
2. Da'Rick Rogers WR - Don't laugh but every year there's a player with major character flags who slides much further than anticipated. If Rogers is there in the 4th (assuming the Bengals draft no more than 1 WR prior to this round), he'd be difficult to resist. He has an intriguing combination of size, speed and hands and for a 4th round pick it would be worth hiring a babysitter. This is a huge risk/reward gamble but Rogers has cleaned his act up while at Tennessee Tech and his talent is undeniable.
5th Round -
1. A.J. Klein ILB or Kevin Reddick ILB - This is an area of need that may be better of addressed on Day Two or Three of the draft due to the lack of star power at the position in this year's draft. Klein is the kind of high-motor, high-character player with football intelligence and instincts who tend to overcome physical limitations to succeed in the NFL. And more importantly, he's one of the sounder tacklers in this year's crop, so when the team gets tired of Mauluga being out-of-position or missing too many tackles, Klein can step right in. Reddick is an athletic, highly-touted player with a rep for taking plays off, just the kind of project Zimmer loves to take on. He has the speed to hang with tight ends and play either WLB or MLB.
2. Steve Williams CB - Williams will likely slide on draft day due to his diminuitive 5'9" frame. However, his 4.38 speed, quickness and ball skills, along with a 40" vertical leap should allow him to make up for the height disadvantage and at this point in the draft he makes a compelling value as a nickel corner.
6th Round -
1. Brennan Williams OT - Williams, who played strictly at RT, has the athleticism, quickness and pass-protection skills to project to the left side, if needed. He has significant medical red flags due to a torn labrum that occurred late in the season, which could cause him to slide on draft day. If he's still there in the 6th round it would be worth PUP'ing him and showing some patience.
2. Tyrann Mathieu CB - Mathieu could serve as a nickel corner and kick returner and would be an instant upgrade over Brandon Tate. He's got a smallish frame but is an outstanding athlete with the potential to become a shutdown corner. Since he's got red flags galore, I'm hoping he lasts to the bottom of the 6th round, where he'd be worth the gamble. This pick comes with huge bust potential, as Mathieu is a repeat offender, who screwed up even after completing rehab but the FO can afford to gamble with a 6th, if he slides this far.
7th Round (compensatory)-
1. Omeregie Uzzi OG - A tenacious run-blocker, Uzzi's a work-in-progress when it comes to pass protection but has 3 years of experience as the starting RG for Georgia Tech's 4th ranked run offense and has the quickness and athleticism to challenge for a starting spot. He probably won't last this long but if he slides (or draft-day trades provide extra picks in the 5th or 6th round) I'd run to the podium.
2. Brad Sorensen QB or Zac Dysert QB - Now that the team's signed a backup QB with some experience there's not as much incentive to use a high-round pick on a QB to challenge Dalton (and I've got to believe Gruden has confidence in Johnson's abilities). Sorensen has the frame, athleticism and accuracy you look for in a QB prospect but hasn't faced top-caliber competition and clearly needs seasoning. Dysert is another attractive option but will probably be gone before the 7th round. Not a huge loss if neither is available, since either one would at best be holding a clipboard as the 3rd PS QB. If Dalton fails to live up to expectations next year, they would need to address the QB position earlier rather than later, if they want a shot at the next Dan Marino (not everyone finds a Tom Brady in the sixth round!)
7th Round (compensatory)-
1. Ryan Otten TE, Michael Williams TE - It's hard at the end of the final round to find an athlete who'll stick on the roster but it may be possible for the team to pick up a blocking TE who'd be an improvement over the "Mighty Quinn". Otten has reliable hands and decent blocking skills but may not be there when the Bengals pick. Williams has the size and the blocking skills to thrive as a 2nd TE but lacks speed and experience as a receiver. He might also be gone by the time this pick rolls around but since the 3rd TE rarely sees the field it's not a huge priority in my book.
2. Brad Sorensen QB or Zac Dysert QB - If not picked above.
Round 1 (#21) - Definitely Jarvis Jones, if he's available. This pick would sure fit the mold - a LB who was productive at an SEC school (and we all know how the FO loves their Georgia players). My second guess would be Eddie Lacy, if the FO is convinced he's the best back available (not sure the FO is as enamored with BJGE as the main back as they've been leading the media to believe. If they pick Lacy, I can see the new RB coach saying, "He's our Vanilla." Just a hunch or sense of deja vu.)
Round 2 (#37) - This choice likely depends on whether they go with Jones or Lacy, since we all know they tend to alternate their picks between offense and defense each round. So I'll say if a defensive player is picked, this will be a RB (perhaps Gio Bernard) and if an offensive player is picked it will be a safety (Reid or Elam would be the favorites due to their SEC bloodlines. I would guess Reid, as the Bengals seem to prefer taller players in the secondary ala Kirkpatrick and Mays).
Round 2 (#53) - Once again, this pick depends on whether the preceding one was offense or defense. If it's the defensive staff's turn to pick, I would see them addressing a safety (Reid, Thomas or Rambo being the most likely with Rambo holding the most value for ticket sales and marketing promotions). If the pick goes to an offensive position, this might be where they address the weak link in the line (OC). Frederick would be the logical choice. An OT would not surprise me either (I would guess Kyle Long or Dallas Thomas, since if Moobs is resigned, a LT that can eventually take over for Whit becomes the priority and the Bengals seem to focus their very limited scouting resources on the SEC and Pac12).
Round 3 - Again, the Bengals will rotate picks between offense and defense, regardless of whether it makes sense to do so. If it's the offensive staff's turn to pick, I would anticipate either a center or a LT to groom (Dallas Thomas or Chris Faulk since they're from the SEC, one of the few conferences the FO sends scouts to). If the pick is defense, I would expect to see either an ILB or OLB. Nico Johnson makes a lot of sense here, since he has the size they look for in a LB and comes from Ala-fricking-bama, which our scouts are actually familiar with. Jelani Jenkins would be the obvious choice at OLB, since he comes from an SEC school and the retiree scouts spend plenty of time in Florida. Of course, every year the FO arbitrarily chooses at least one token Pac-12 school to scout. If it's Stanford this year, then Chase Thomas could be a real possibility.
Rounds 4-7 - These rounds are usually devoted to BPA picks, even if it results in a logjam at a particular position (see DT last year). The offensive and defensive staff will normally alternate picks no matter who is available, as this is just the polite thing to do. Look for players from the major conferences with a history of production who've slid due to poor measurables. They require less coaching, which is a positive when Marvin Lewis is doing the game-planning. I think the FO has learned their lesson about taking huge character risks but wouldn't rule out a an ax-murderer if he's an athletic freak and drops a few rounds further than anticipated. Due to the limited scouting reports on the players still on the board at this point in the draft (3 scouts and a couple of retirees can only cover so much ground) Mike and Marvin are usually furiously thumbing through their Lindy's Guides to find good values. This is also the point in the draft where MB feels safe to pick players at any position, any sooner and fans might realize he made a mistake with a recent pick (e.g. rather than draft a MLB early and admit that Mauluga stinks, he'd rather wait until later in the draft so it's not so obvious).