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Bengals 2017 NFL Mock Draft: Roundup of early targets for Cincinnati

While a mock draft for 2017 seems crazy to think about right now, they can help highlight what some of the Bengals' biggest areas in need of addressing will be next year, not to mention who may help fill them.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Mock draft season is over! Oh wait, it's not, because people are already putting out mock drafts for the 2017 NFL Draft.

Thankfully, almost all of them have the Bengals picking in the 20s and even 30s as Cincinnati looks poised for another winning record and postseason berth.

At Bleacher Report, Matt Miller projects Cincinnati to end up picking at No. 27. There, they land the game-breaking receiver they did not get in this year's draft as USC star JuJu Smith becomes a Bengals.

The Pick: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC

One of the most well-regarded players in college football, JuJu Smith-Schuster may get the same treatment Laquon Treadwell received in 2016. He's not overly fast or explosive, but he is talented at the catch point and has been super-productive in a USC offense without much at quarterback.

The Cincinnati Bengals did draft Tyler Boyd to help replace Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, but more help is needed opposite A.J. Green. Smith-Schuster could play both on the outside and as an inside slot receiver given his size and strength. He comes into the 2016 season as a smooth, accomplished route-runner with big-time potential if the new USC regime can coach him up better than the last crew.

Tyler Boyd will probably get most of his snaps in 2015 in the slot and if he does well there, the Bengals could look to add another receiver in 2017, too. Most of the big-time receiver talents are boundary guys like Smith, who the Bengals could take even if Boyd turns out to be a great receiver.

Could the Bengals actually draft ANOTHER corner in Round 1? It's not completely crazy to think about when you realize 1) Adam Jones turns 33 in September 2) Darqueze Dennard hasn't proven he stay healthy and 3) Dre Kirkpatrick also hasn't shown he can stay healthy, has been wildly inconsistent, and hits free agency next year.

So yes, it is actually possible the Bengals draft a corner in Round for the sixth time since 2006. That's why Fansided's Brad Rowland has the Bengals taking Iowa star Desmond King with the 25th pick in next year's draft.

The Bengals love to draft cornerbacks. Cincinnati has taken players at this position when there isn’t a clear need and, well, Desmond King should be a first round pick for someone.

King isn’t nearly as fast as some of the other elite defensive backs in this class, but that his only real weakness. With that in mind, he is plenty fast enough to work as a big-time NFL cornerback, and King is a very nice prospect across the board.

In my mind, Desmond King is the best run-stopping cornerback in this class, and he is a legitimate ball-hawk for Iowa. Many considered him as a likely first round pick in 2016 before he spurned the draft process in favor of another year for the Hawkeyes, and King presents good size at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds to stand up against the bigger receivers in the NFL.

There is nothing particularly flashy about Desmond King, and that is probably why he remains available in this wildly theoretical scenario. Still, he follows in the footsteps of Jourdan Lewis as a shut-down cornerback prospect of the highest order and teams at the NFL level definitely love to see that when projecting down the line.

I've actually seen several games of King's (2 against Pitt and Tyler Boyd), and he's really good. I wouldn't blame the Bengals at all for taking him in the late 20s, if he even lasts that long.

At SB Nation, Dan Kadar has the Bengals holding the 27th overall pick. With it, Cincinnati addresses their defensive line by adding one of the top pass-rushers of next year's draft in Derek Barnett.

27. Cincinnati Bengals: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

The Bengals could use another pass rusher, and next year’s draft should have several to choose from.

At Sports Illustrated, Chris Burke also has the Bengals taking a defensive lineman. However, Burke has them taking a defensive tackle in Michigan State's Malik McDowell.

25. MALIK MCDOWELL, DT, Michigan State

The Spartans continue to churn out NFL-caliber talent, and McDowell might be the best of the recent bunch—not bad considering Shilique Calhoun, Trae Waynes and Darqueze Dennard are among the program’s recent draft picks. McDowell (6' 6", 280 lbs.) is a physically imposing monster inside.

While McDowell is a great player, I think defensive tackle is out of the question at this point for Round 1. While Domata Peko may leave next year as his contract expires, Cincinnati is pretty good there with Geno Atkins, Andrew Billings, Pat Sims, Brandon ThompsonDeShawn Williams and Marcus Hardison, not to mention undrafted free agent David Dean being someone to watch out for.

But defensive end is a much bigger question with no clear-cut third pass-rusher behind Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. Everyone talks about today's pass-happy NFL making team's third cornerbacks essentially starters, but what often gets overlooked is how the third defensive end is also practically a starter.

Since 2012, that's mainly been Wallace Gilberry, but he's gone and there isn't a clear replacement for his role on the roster. This may very well end up being the team's biggest need of addressing next offseason. It's also worth noting that Johnson turns 30 next February.