Mock draft season will be in full swing soon enough with the Super Bowl almost here.
This time next week, we'll know the full order of the 2016 NFL Draft's first round, and that's when everyone will begin teeing off with their best guesses at how April's draft will play out. For the most part, these mock drafts have one purpose (if done correctly), and that's to help us learn the names of this year's crop of future NFL talent.
It often doesn't matter what round players get drafted in. Just ask Andy Dalton (second round), Andrew Whitworth (second round), Michael Johnson (third round), Geno Atkins (fourth round) or Vontaze Burfict (undrafted). You can assemble a team capable of winning and making the playoffs on an annual basis through all rounds of the draft, and seeing mock drafts that go multiple rounds helps us better learn which players the Bengals could take in each round.
NFL.com's Chad Reuter just put out a four-round mock draft following last week's Senior Bowl festivities, and one of the stars of that event was Ohio State Buckeyes star Braxton Miller. That's who Reuter has Cincinnati taking with the 24th-overall pick in this year's draft.
Braxton Miller's still learning the position, but his athleticism and natural hands will earn him high grades. Combining A.J. Green and Miller on the outside will only make Tyler Eifert more dangerous ... and Andy Dalton more comfortable.
As for the rest of the draft, Reuter has the Bengals grabbing USC linebacker/safety Su'a Cravens with the 55th pick in the second round. Given the Bengals' love of versatile players who can play multiple positions, combined with Reggie Nelson, George Iloka, Vincent Rey and Emmanuel Lamur hitting free agency, Cravens could fill two roles depending on how Cincy uses him.
In the third round with the 87th pick, Reuter has the Bengals grabbing Southern Utah safety Miles Killebrew. I don't think this is realistic since the Bengals tend to stay out of the FCS ranks in the higher rounds of the draft. The last player the Bengals drafted from the FCS ranks before Round 5 was Coastal Carolina receiver Jerome Simpson in the second round of the 2008 draft.
Finally in the fourth round with the 119th pick, Reuter mocked Mississippi State corner Taveze Calhoun to the Bengals. If you've watched film of Calhoun, you'll see he's a physical corner who does well on special teams and really gets into the pads of opposing receivers to disrupt them. The Bengals also tend to add a corner nearly every year, drafting one in six of the past seven drafts.
Elsewhere, NFL.com's other three draft guys are split on who the Bengals will take. Bucky Brooks has them taking Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman in the first round, while Daniel Jeremiah and Lance Zierlein both have the Bengals getting Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee.
Coleman is also who CBS Sports' Rob Rang is taking in hopes he'll be the kind of dynamic No. 2 receiver the Bengals would love to pair with Green.
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor: The Bengals locked up A.J. Green to a huge extension prior to the season but virtually every other receiver on the roster is a pending free agent, including Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu. Coleman - the Biletnikoff Award winner who scored 20 touchdowns over the regular season - offers a different level of playmaking ability than Jones or Sanu, making him potentially the perfect addition to complement Green.
Receiver and linebacker could both be big areas of need this offseason if Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Tate, Emmanuel Lamur and Vincent Rey are not re-signed. That explains why those two positions are being targeted heavily for the Bengals in these early, pre-free agency mocks.
However, defensive tackle is somewhere the Bengals need an upgrade in the eyes of many. That's why SB Nation's Dan Kadar has Cincy going with Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings with the 24th pick.
Cincinnati could look to upgrade over Domata Peko at defensive tackle this offseason. If that's the case, Billings is an excellent option to play the nose spot next to Geno Atkins.
Jon Ledyard of USA Today's Draft Wire also has the Bengals going defensive tackle, though his pick is UCLA's Kenny Clark.
The time has finally come to replace the underachieving Domata Peko, and Clark’s addition next to Geno Atkins could give the Bengals a formidable duo in the middle of their defensive line. Clark has the power to anchor against the run and the quick hands to stack-and-shed blockers as well. The Bengals love to get pressure with four, so Clark’s ability to be an every-down player could be another selling point for his draft stock.
In the end, these mock drafts are fun to use as a learning tool for who the prospects are in this year's draft, what rounds they may go in and how they may find a good fit with the Bengals. But, it's hard to tell in early February before the combine and free agency just how realistic these mocks will prove to be in late April.