With just under a month to go before the 2016 NFL Draft, the Bengals have plenty of holes left on their roster to fill. Last season, the Bengals boasted the most players originally drafted by the team on their roster of any NFL club. They now have 42 players on the roster who they originally drafted and 10 who they signed as college free agents.
With the moves the Bengals have (and haven't) made in free agency in mind, including the latest signings of Karlos Dansby and Brandon LaFell, here's a look at a seven-round Bengals mock draft for the 2016 NFL Draft.
Here's the draft I made on FanSpeak, based off of CBS' big board.
Quick FanSpeak draft, based off CBS draft board. Didn't land a safety, but satisfied otherwise. What do you think? pic.twitter.com/67V3v3fdrS— Connor Howe (@HoweNFL) March 29, 2016
2016 NFL Draft: Kyle's 7-round Bengals mock draft
The Bengals typically save their big moves for the draft to fill roster needs. Here's a look with over a month to the draft at what I think may do this year.
Round 1, Pick 24
Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
Prior to the Combine, several NFL analysts were mocking Darron Lee to the Bengals with the 24th pick. Many Bengals fans were skeptical of Lee as a prospect, citing concerns of the team's inability to select quality linebackers at the top of the draft (Dontay Moch, Rey Maualuga, Keith Rivers, David Pollack, Odell Thurman, among others). While some of these players have been average, and occasionally better than average, none of the aforementioned linebackers have performed up to the level where they were taken.
However, Lee lit the internet on fire with a spectacular combine, and nerve damage to Jaylon Smith's knee leaves far more skepticism of the former Notre Dame linebacker than previously thought. Because of these recent developments, Lee's draft stock has skyrocketed to the point where he could be gone before the Bengals are even on the board. However, if he falls to the 24th pick, I believe the Bengals would jump at the chance to bring him along, even with the recent signing of Karlos Dansby. Dansby won't be around in three years, whereas Lee could be a difference-maker for years to come, if he's able to hit his ceiling.
Lee has been compared to former teammate Ryan Shazier and current free agent Zach Brown. Lee is a speedy linebacker whose quickness could be coveted by several NFL clubs. The Bengals severely need a speedy linebacker who can play alongside Vontaze Burfict in the nickel. While Dansby would be a solid nickel 'backer, Lee could potentially present an upgrade, and I could see the Bengals being on board with that.
Second choice: Andrew Billings, NT, Baylor
Round 2, Pick 55
Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
I'm not an Ohio State fan; it's just coincidence I have the Bengals taking Buckeyes back-to-back in the first two rounds of the draft. Cincinnati reportedly likes Thomas the most of any wide receiver in the 2016 draft class, so being able to nab him in the second round would be fantastic.
The Bengals desperately need another wide receiver to pair with A.J. Green, even with the addition of Brandon LaFell. Thomas could be a solid replacement for the recently departed Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu; he's even drawing comparisons to Jones. Thomas' low floor and high ceiling remind me of Demaryius Thomas. He has the physical gifts to be a fantastic wide receiver, but he still has work to do if he's going to be a difference-maker.
Second choice: William Jackson, CB, Houston
Round 3, Pick 87
Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
I'm starting to get the sense that Bengals fans think Shawn Oakman would be a huge bust in Cincinnati. I have to strongly oppose the notion that Oakman would be a bust, just because of a perceived lack of production in college. Oakman compiled 128 tackles, 46.5 tackles for loss, eight forced fumbles and 17.5 sacks in three seasons, which is far better than Margus Hunt's 112 tackles, 28 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks. Oh yeah, and Hunt's numbers, all lower than Oakman's, came in four seasons, compared to Oakman's three.
In addition to the production, Oakman has overcome more than almost any other prospect in this year's draft class. Bleacher Report's Jason King wrote a fantastic piece on Oakman, detailing the story of "the man behind the meme." I encourage you to read it, as it outlines who Oakman is and what he's overcome in his life. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah highly values players who have shown an ability to overcome personal obstacles, noting how players who haven't gone through trials likely won't be able to handle the spotlight of being a professional football player.
Bottom line: Oakman is a lot better than people give him credit for, and he's not the same prospect as Hunt was in 2013. While defensive end isn't an immediate need for the Bengals, I fully believe Oakman would be a guy the Bengals could draft, develop and eventually, work into their starting lineup. I seem him as a bigger, better version of Michael Johnson.
Second choice: Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State
Side note: I have Nassib higher on my draft board than Oakman, so if he were to fall to the Bengals in Round 3, I'd absolutely pull the trigger--maybe even in the second round, too.
Round 4, Pick 122
Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State
I'll be honest; I have no faith that the Bengals will select a kicker, let alone Aguayo. They haven't taken a kicker since selecting Neil Rackers in the 2000 NFL Draft, and there's little to no chance the team will cut Mike Nugent. But when I saw Aguayo staring me in the eyes late in the fourth round, I had to select the former FSU kicker. Aguayo has been labeled a generational talent, and he's certainly an upgrade over Mike Nugent.
Additional reading: NFL Draft Profile: Roberto Aguayo
I don't see this pick happening, but there's always room for hope. The Bengals had under $200,000 in dead money in 2015, which is a clear indicator that the team hates cutting players, let alone starters. Plus, with only seven picks in the draft, it's unlikely Cincinnati would select a kicker without making at least one trade down in the draft.
Second choice: Jihad Ward, DE, Illinois
Side note: I'd like Eric Striker more than Ward, but I don't see him falling to the Bengals in Round 4.
Round 5, Pick 161
Evan Boehm, C, Missouri
Like with the kicker position, I find it very hard to imagine the Bengals selecting a center in this season's draft, especially considering the other positions of need on the roster. However, I also don't feel that a trade back in the draft is out of the question, especially considering the fact that Cincinnati has drafted eight or more players in every draft since 2007.
The Bengals are keeping a close eye on Boehm, and they worked him out at Missouri's pro day. Boehm looks to be the type of center Cincinnati is looking for, as he's very comparable to Russell Bodine. Like Bodine, Boehm is incredibly durable, tough and strong. Boehm is a bit smaller than Bodine, but he is very smart. Scouts and analysts seem to be high on Boehm, who would be a solid backup along the interior of Cincinnati's line. And if Bodine doesn't show enough progress, Boehm could serve as an eventual replacement at center.
Second choice: DeAndre Houston-Carson, FS, William and Mary
Round 6, Pick 199
Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida
Demarcus Robinson is an immensely talented, yet troubled wide receiver. He'll likely be selected late in the draft, despite being one of the best prospects in this year's draft class.
Rather than avoiding troubled players, the Bengals simply have become wiser about which players they believe can make a change for the better. If they believe Robinson, who could end up not even being considered by certain teams due to four suspensions in his college career, is worthy of a late-round flyer, the team would have a good chance of nabbing a huge steal. However, the team likely knows more about Robinson than you and I, and Cincinnati will definitely do its due diligence if it decides to consider taking a chance on Robinson.
Second choice: Josh Forrest, ILB, Kentucky
Round 7, Pick 245
LeShaun Sims, CB, Southern Utah
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein praised Sims in his NFL Draft Profile, noting that he has the ideal size and speed of an NFL cornerback. While there's a knock on Sims for facing inferior receiver talent, his height, weight and speed are exactly what teams seek. Sims' Combine wasn't as great as some hoped for, but he's still a solid prospect who shouldn't go unnoticed in the last round of this year's draft.
Second choice: Clayton Fejedelem, FS, Illinois