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NFL Mock Draft 2017: Mel Kiper has Bengals landing Solomon Thomas

The Bengals land one of the draft’s most complete defensive ends with their first selection in Mel Kiper’s mock draft 1.0.

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the college football season completed, Mel Kiper just released his first 2017 NFL Mock Draft.

It’s still hard to tell what exactly the Bengals biggest need will be this year with free agency still needing to play out, but defensive end figures to be near the top. Some would argue the Bengals should wait to take a pass-rusher in Round 2 with this being a deep class for them, and there should be a solid rusher on the board then.

But Kiper has Cincinnati landing one of the better defensive ends at No. 9 in Stanford’s Solomon Thomas.

9. Cincinnati Bengals, Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

Thomas, one of the biggest risers of the year, had eight sacks in 2016. At 6-3, 270, he could move inside and play tackle, too. The Bengals need pass-rushing help -- they had only 33 total sacks in a disappointing 2016 -- and this is a good draft for edge rushers.

The 6'3", 273-pound junior has been a force defensively during the past two seasons. After registering 37 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in his first year as a starter, he followed that up with 61 tackles and 8.5 sacks this past season.

Thomas had arguably the best defensive performance of the bowl season, and it’s helped him skyrocket up mock draft boards.

Against North Carolina in the Sun Bowl, Thomas was unblockable as he destroyed the Tar Heels’ offensive line. However, Thomas was a 3-4 defensive end in college, so there’s some concern over whether he can be a 4-3 end in the NFL.

I think he’d fit nicely in the Bengals’ defense, so he could be in the discussion for this pick. Thomas having the ability to kick inside to defensive tackle could also help make him attractive for the Bengals, being that they need more depth at both spots. And, the Bengals love versatile players, so if they deem Thomas as having that trait, that should increase their interest in selecting him.

I’d be perfectly happy with this pick. The Bengals badly need to upgrade their pass rush, and this would address that with a guy who would be well worth the No. 9 overall pick.