When Mel Kiper Jr. released his first mock draft this year, he selected Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard. Over a month later, he stayed with Dennard in his second mock while maintaining a strong emphasis that Cincinnati should address cornerback -- at least for future considerations.
This is a pick I'm staying with, as I like both the fit and the fact that the Bengals have few major needs, but corner is certainly one. To quote the previous mock, "there are some concerns going forward at a couple of spots, with both age (Adam Jones and Terence Newman are north of 30) and health (Leon Hall ended the season on injured reserve), so the Bengals don't just need depth, they could use a player capable of starting." Dennard can start, and he brings a physical style and an ability to press combined with great awareness and the ability to defend like he's in your jersey without simply grabbing.
On Thursday, Kiper release his 3.0 mock draft. [NOTE: What's the obsession with having point oh at the end of a mock draft for Kiper and Todd McShay? Where was Mock 2.1?]
This time, it's not a cornerback.
With the No. 24 pick of the 2014 NFL draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier.
I've had Shazier as a likelier second-round pick at some points, but there aren't many players in the entire draft who teams are more certain of. This is a high-floor player, an instinctive playmaker who can chase down plays sideline to sideline and gets great reads and will attack the backfield. Shazier is a little undersized, but makes up for it with instincts and an impressive ability to work through blockers. The Bengals aren't awful at linebacker, but they certainly lack speed. Shazier is a fix.
Shazier, who met with the Bengals during the 2014 NFL Combine, has also become a favorite with recent mock drafts at SB Nation. And maybe more appropriate now that it seems James Harrison is leaving Cincinnati.
Extremely athletic, Shazier could help a Bengals linebacker core in need of speed and youth. Shazier had six sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss (tied for third in college football) as a roaming linebacker for the Buckeyes and many believe that he could come into the league and contribute right away, even if on a rotational basis. With Emmanuel Lamur coming back and the possibility of the Bengals re-signing Taylor Mays for his hybrid role, adding a player with Shazier's skill set could be a welcomed addition.
During the NFL combine, the prospect linebacker recorded a 42-inch vertical leap paired with a 10-foot-plus broad jump -- impressive numbers for a linebacker. Then you have Shazier's character. His father is currently the Miami Dolphins team chaplain and the kid brings no baggage with him to the NFL. He boasts an incredible work ethic and the type of intangibles that could make him a solid player at the next level.
NFL analyst, Buck Brooks, says that Shazier is the type of player that is super fast and athletic. He can cover tight ends as well as rush off the edge. He is a typical linebacker that can contribute as a three down player in a pass heavy league.