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Road to Super Bowl LI in 2017: Bengals 7 round mock draft

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Who better to tell you how to fix the Bengals for 2016 then a guy who's got the pulse of the team and the draft. Let's look into some options the Bengals will have to target in each round.

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The Bengals had one of their best seasons ever in 2015 and that was with their backup quarterback at the helm for the last four games. They also ended their season in the most gut-wrenching fashion and it still stings to think about nearly a month later. It left us all with a sour taste in our mouth and it will no doubt have a lasting affect on the fanbase. Why does all of this matter? Well, if it was crushing to to fans think about how it was on the players.

That could be great or awful with all of the free agents the Bengals have this offseason. Do they make a pact to get the band back together and be heros to the fan base, or tuck tail and run away from the dark cloud that is presumably hovering over Paul Brown Stadium

I think this period of dead time hurts the Bengals because guys go off and do their own things and don't remain as close as they were. Then they feel less guilty if they make a few extra bucks and leave their comrades. With this in mind, I will tell you where my head is with this mock draft and what areas I feel are the biggest need. Judging from Duke Tobin's comments at the Senior Bowl, the Bengals are going to be aggressive at keeping their own "young" talent. To me that means George Iloka is going to be back and they are going to make a run at Marvin Jones as well. Iloka seems keepable, but Jones is the wild card. They will make him a fair offer, like Golden Tate fair (5 years, about $30 million), but if the price gets north of that, we all know he's leaving. He's really important, but if he gets $7-8 million per year, as a guy who has missed virtually 50 percent of his NFL career, that's not happening and it shouldn't. They can offer that deal to Tyler Eifert instead and take the compensatory pick for Jones.

For the sake of the mock, here is what I am going to say happens in free agency, but if Jones is gone they will need to take a wide receiver in the first two rounds and it really messes up their draft plan.

Key Free Agents (for mock purposes)
Leaving Via Free Agency Staying with the Bengals
Reggie Nelson George Iloka
Andre Smith Marvin Jones
Mohamed Sanu Adam Jones
Leon Hall Vincent Rey
Emmanuel Lamur Pat Sims
Wallace Gilberry
Eric Winston

Team Needs: 

Athletic coverage LB, NT (0-tech), WR, K, C, CB, S, Edge Rusher

For the early rounds I will be offering a few options because it is hard to know who will be there when they pick, but for the later rounds I'm going to be going on where I have guys graded, along with considering consensus rankings. Now to get to the actual mock here we go.....

Round 1

Best case Scenario/possible Pipe Dream:  Jaylon Smith, LB- Notre Dame

Many have Smith in their top five players overall and he is my number one LB that I have currently scouted. I doubt anyone will be able to pass him either, right now he has a 1A grade for me (top of the first, my grades go to round then A-D for area of round). The only reason there is a flicker of hope is that he tore his PCL & LCL in the Fiesta Bowl, without that he was a top 15 lock. He could go high still and a lot of it will depend on where teams think he is with his rehab and if they think he will be ready for the season opener. If they think he will need to be on the PUP that will eliminate him from some of the early boards because they need instant impact from their first rounders, what a novel concept right? Anyways, if he falls to pick 24 the Bengals better not even answer that war room phone and let Mike Brown be tempted by a juicy offer. If I'm Paul Guenther and he's available at 23, I would unplug the phone without Mike Brown seeing it just in case. Jaylon is the perfect fit to the Bengals need and is an elite talent too. He can cover, blitz, play the run, and he is very instinctive. The Bengals run their sub packages 70 percent of the time now, meaning a lot of times it would be just him and Burfict out there and this is ideal. He has the complete opposite demeanor to Burfict and one can hope they will be the yin to each other's yang causing both to play on right side of that thin line NFL defenders are forced to walk.

Realistic Option and Great Fit: Jarran Reed, DT- Alabama

Notice a theme here? Regardless of what happens in free agency these are both needs the will have to be filled this year and since the Bengals won't likely dip their toe into free agency from the outside the draft will have to fill this hole. To be frank this year the Bengals will almost have to use a two of their first three picks at LB and DT. Lucky for the Bengals this class is absolutely LOADED at DT. I already have five players with first round grades and there still might be a few more that slip in. That means one thing, if you love a guy get him, if not wait and get some value. Well, I love Jarran Reed, the Bengals should too and I think they will. He is a consensus first round talent, yet he attended the Senior Bowl and absolutely dominated. Next to a top tier three technique DT like Geno they will be unstoppable. Teams would not be able to double team Geno or Reed would eat them alive. He is a massive man, but is unbelievably quick for his size. If you watched the national championship game and noticed a tank of a man that ran down Deshaun Watson from behind, that was Jarran Reed. He is a true nose tackle that is excellent versus the run, but will push the pocket if teams sleep on him.

Round 2

Best Case Scenario if Jaylon Smith in the first: Andrew Billings, DT- Baylor

As I mentioned earlier, there are so many good DT's in this class. Some are bound to slide to round two as teams get excited to take position players and quarterbacks that they had first round grades on they will be forgotten. Teams without a need will likely wait for extreme value, so I think the top of the third will be loaded with defensive linemen. I would actually be okay if the Bengals took Billings in the first, but I could see him sliding because he won't meet some teams size requirements. He is short like Geno was, so it could happen. He plays a lot like Geno because he uses his height, well lack of it, to his advantage and plays with great leverage. He is much different than Geno in the position he plays though he is a run stuffing block eater. He can get some pressure, but he's not known for that he's know for his brute strength and tossing blockers aside to shut the run down. He lacks that sideline to sideline speed that a guy like Reed has, so some 4-3 teams may avoid him, but for the Bengals he would be fine because the other defensive linemen have speed. He would keep Burfict and Jaylon Smith clean of blockers so they could play downhill and make plays. If the Bengals walk away with those two to start the draft they will have a top 3 defense in 2016.

Best Case scenario if Jarran Reed in the First: Nick Martin, C- Notre Dame

My thoughts on the Bengals' current disaster who snaps the ball to Andy Dalton are well known. He has continued to struggle and did not progress much, if at all from his rookie year. It's time for the Bengals to cut their losses on some of these projects and get solid football players in this year's draft to replace them. Nick Martin is going to be a dominant center in this league for a decade, He has power, can anchor with the best of them, and has a great football IQ. He played great against the best competition at the Senior Bowl and was able to pick up the offense fast. If there is an area that Martin struggles it is more with speed guys and since the other teams in the AFC North run a 3-4 he won't see them often. They can use Russell Bodine as a backup at C/G to fill T.J. Johnson's former role.

Likely Available Options: Will Fuller, WR - Notre Dame / Corey Coleman, WR- Baylor / Josh Doctson, WR - TCU

It's highly likely that one of these three receivers will be available when the Bengals go on the clock in round two. They all have their positives and negatives, but at this point in the draft if you lose Jones you have to make this pick and if not it's still probably a good idea. Fuller is a deep threat and is a touchdown threat every time he catches the ball, there is his biggest weakness though, he has too many drops. Corey Coleman was an excellent receiver in college, but a lot of his dominance was due to the Baylor offensive scheme. Could he be great? Sure. Could he struggle to get open in the NFL and bust? Yes, that risk is real. If you want risky with mega upside then Josh Doctson is your guy. He has the size to be a legit number one receiver, but he is a little thin for his height. Again, a high powered offense that was not afraid to take shots against the poor defenses in the Big 12 there is inherently some risk here.

Round 3

Deion Jones, LB- LSU

Since we will assume that the pipedream will not happen in round one they still will need an athletic LB. The best value to fill that role might be Deion Jones. He is very athletic, can cover well, anticipates well, and is a willing tackler. He doesn't always make the tackles, but he is not afraid to mix it up and he is in the right spots. The hope would be that the coaches can work on his technique and improve that department. He dives at the feet way too much right now. His biggest weakness is getting off of blocks once linemen engage with him. At this point he is a steal and fills a huge need. I actually have a mid second round grade on him, but most don't have him that high. By draft day it very well may cost the Bengals their second round pick to get him.

Round 4

Robert Aguayo, K- Florida State:

Yeah I did it, I've gone and drafted a kicker and many of you already know that this is a big need in my opinion. Mike Nugent, thank you for your services and you have been that, serviceable, but that's not good enough for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Aguayo is a generational talent at kicker as he made 96.73% of his attempts in college. He also made over 70% of his kicks from over 50 yards out. The last kicker to be taken in the top 100 picks was Mike Nugent and Aguayo might be the next one, so if he's there in round four, the Bengals need to pull the trigger. What other pick in the fourth round will have an impact on this team? The answer is none. The Bengals can afford to make a luxury pick on a kicker, because it will improve this team. The easiest way to help this team be better on kickoff coverage and be a top five special teams unit is to draft a guy who can bang it through the uprights anytime he chooses.

Round 5

DJ White, CB- Georgia Tech:

The Bengals will need to take a cornerback in the later rounds even if they bring back Adam Jones. This is because they will need some depth at slot corner because Leon Hall likely won't  be back and they don't have much depth there. DJ White is a guy with some pretty good tape, but because of his size he might be available in this area. White is a willing tackler, a smart player, and above average at in coverage especially fighting to break up passes.

Other Guys they could consider here:

Miles Killebrew, SS- Southern Utah
If you like crushing big hits, then call him Miles Davis Killebrew! When Miles lines you up you are going to feel it and you are going to be driven backwards. That's just how he plays. I could see him going earlier, but the small school guys are hard to predict, so this is where I'll put him. Just to show you how crazy he is, here is a Vine I took of him during the Senior Bowl. From the looks of this, you would think he teammate just won the game, but really he just won a drill they were doing.

Victor Ochi, EDGE- Stony Brook:
The Bengals utilized Chris Carter as a pure edge rusher this year and it seemed to have some promise, but Carter is not an elite talent at this role. If there is one thing that Victor Ochi knows how to get to the quarterback and he is a tackling machine. He played at a lower level of competition in college, but flip on the East vs West Shrine game for a few minutes and you will see him dominate higher levels of competition.

Round 6

MIke Thomas, WR/KR- Southern Mississippi:

The Bengals are going to have to double dip at wide receiver this year most likely because I don't see Jones and Sanu back. As I mentioned in my Mike Thomas interview post, most of the other receivers on the roster can't be counted on for different reasons. Again, with the smaller school guys it is hard to guess where they will end up, but he could likely be a guy in the range late 4th to early 7th round. Mike Thomas has great acceleration and is an above average kick returner. I actually think he is a better kick returner than his numbers show because the depth at Southern Mississippi was not great, so the kickoff teams were not great blocking for him. He has a good build and looks the part, but he is probably just a bit over six feet tall, so being a number two receiver is likely his ceiling.

Other guys they could consider here:

DJ Reader, NT- Clemson:
DJ Reader is an interesting prospect because he is so up and down. If you just watch the national championship game you would have him as a day 2 pick at worst. If you watch some of his other games you would think he is undraftable. He reminds me a lot of Albert Haynesworth, because if he wants to take over he can and if he doesn't then he won't. He is a pure zero technique and block eater, but next to Geno Atkins, I think they could get a lot out of him. It seems like he really gets going when the lights are brightest, so he is something that this team could really use. When he was next to Jarran Reed in the Senior bowl they were unstoppable. I think this is a good year for the Bengals to double dip at DT because of the talent that is available and their roster situation. If they walked away with Reader and Reed in this draft, I would be a very, very happy man.

Round 7

Kris Frost, Off Ball LB- Auburn:

At this point in the draft you are really looking for a guy that you think might be able to make the team and has some upside. Kris Frost was eligible to enter the draft last year and most thought of him as a day two pick at worst. He is very athletic and had a nose for the ball. This year he had a major down tick in production and seemed to not be the same player. Maybe there was an injury, maybe he had a personal matter that effected him negatively, maybe he lost interest, maybe he got exposed as a fraud? Who really knows, but if I can get 2014 Kris Frost back I would be a really happy coach that got a steal. Maybe working with Vontaze Burfict and Vinny Rey could help him progress? I would be willing to take the risk at this point and at worst he would provide some special teams help for a year or two.

Other considerations:
Kenyan Drake, RB- Alabama:
Disclaimer: I don't think that Drake will fall this far, but he has been oft injured at Alabama and was stuck behind Dereck Henry. However, if he is available at this point the Bengals have to pull the trigger. He is a dynamic returner and could be a backup plan for Gio if he gets injured or leaves via free agency in a year. If Drake can stay healthy he is a huge steal here and would help in all parts of special teams both gunner and returner plus the upside he has a RB for the future.

Final Thoughts:

For the purists out there I will give the Mock I chose in a chart below, so you can get after me in the comments section. Really though at this point there is a lot left to find out with interviews with teams, the Combine, Pro Days, team workouts, and possible injuries/off field issues. I think the key is, the Bengals have to go into the draft knowing some areas they are lacking and draft accordingly. Their strategy of best player available can still be used, but the board needs to reflect the holes that this roster has. They need to resign the corners because it is pretty thin after the top and they should trade back at some point and pick up another selection in the mid/late rounds. If they walk away with a coverage LB, a DT, a pure NT, two WR (including who one can return), a kicker, and a center we should all be happy.

Bengals 7 Round Mock

Round

Selection

1

Jarran Reed, DT- Alabama

2

Nick Martin, C- Notre Dame

3

Deion Jones, LB- LSU

4

Robert Aguayo, K- Florida State

5

DJ Reader, NT- Clemson

6

MIke Thomas, WR/KR- Southern Mississippi

7

Kris Frost, LB- Auburn

Make sure you for constant updates on NFL Draft prospects and scouting reports. I try to respond to all reasonable questions and always enjoy a good debate of prospects or Mock Drafts.