A strong case for Cincinnati Bengals drafting Ryan Shazier

Jamie Sabau

The Bengals may be targeting Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier with their top pick, and a strong case can be made as to why they should select him.

The Cincinnati Bengals appear likely to take an Ohio State Buckeye with their first-round pick. That's because two of their bigger needs (cornerback and coverage linebacker) will likely be on the board at No. 24 in the form of Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby.

Many would argue linebacker is actually not among the Bengals' biggest needs heading into the draft, but when you consider what Shazier could do for the Bengals - as Paul Dehner detailed in his final mock draft - you'll see why Shazier is capable of making a bigger impact for the Bengals than anyone else available at that spot:

24. BENGALS -- LB Ryan Shazier (Ohio State): While the Bengals would love to add a cornerback here, none of the three left trump Shazier in the contribution they can offer right away. Shazier's speed-and-instincts combination bests any other player in this draft at his position. He was a top performer among linebackers at the combine in the vertical jump (42 inches), three-cone drill (6.91 seconds) and broad jump (130 inches).

More than that, his athleticism translates to production on the field. His arrival provides versatility with Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict. It opens up the possibility to move Burfict to his natural position in the middle and place Shazier at outside backer. The concept of Shazier and Burfict pursuing both edges playing behind Geno Atkins is a game-changer.

The thought of having Burfict playing in his natural middle linebacker spot and forcing Rey Maualuga to the bench is an upgrade in and of itself. Having two linebackers at the same time on the field who are solid in coverage and can rush the passer also makes this defense even harder to defend than it already is and could help offset the loss of Mike Zimmer.

As far as some of his other noteworthy picks go, he has Mike Zimmer and the Vikings drafting Blake Bortles at No. 8, the Steelers taking Justin Gilbert at 15, and the Browns finally taking a QB in Derek Carr out of Fresno State.

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