The Bengals are in a rough position at offensive tackle. On the left side, Andrew Whitworth is playing at a Pro Bowl level, but is 35-years-old. No one knows how much longer he can continue to play at his current level and he’s currently a free agent. The Bengals need to make re-signing him a top priority this offseason. Behind him is Cedric Ogbuehi. He was a first round pick for the Bengals in 2015, but struggled mightily attempting to start at right tackle in 2016. On the right side, 2015 second round pick Jake Fisher is expected to be a frontrunner to start at the position. 33-year-old Eric Winston provided relief at right tackle this season, but he, too is a free agent this offseason.
Unfortunately, both Ogbuehi and Fisher struggled in 2016 and made it hard to have confidence in them going forward. If the Bengals’ offensive line has another season like it had in 2016, it is hard to imagine the team as a whole improving much past the 6-9-1 mark they finished with this season. Therefore, it stands to reason that the Bengals might want to pick up some insurance at the position in this year’s draft. This is especially true since the Bengals are expected to have 11 picks to play with.
Given their investment in the tackle position in 2014, it is unlikely the Bengals would invest another high pick at the position this soon. However, those 11 picks mean that it is still a possibility. And if the team is unable to re-sign Whitworth, the possibility would grow. The Bengals will want to pay close attention to these players from Mel Kiper’s annual top 10 prospects at each position list if they are looking to shore up the offensive tackle position.
*1. Cam Robinson (Alabama)
There is some debate as to whether Robinson or Ramczyk is the best tackle in this year’s draft. Both are left tackles, although Robinson is seen as the more natural talent at the position. However, Robinson has a felony arrest hanging over his head. He was arrested in May 2016 on a gun and marijuana possession charge. On top of that, the gun was stolen. But, the Monroe, Louisiana District Attorney decided not to prosecute Robinson and then teammate Hootie Jones, who was with him at the top and also charged. Still, NFL teams will have this in the back of their minds, especially with an almost equally talented tackle available in the same draft. But, when looking for a natural left tackle who is perfectly built for the position with a rare combination of strength and speed, look no further.
*2. Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin)
Ramczyk is certainly the safer pick of the top two tackle prospects, although he doesn’t quite measure up when it comes to his frame, initial stance, and injury history. However, his fundamentals are about as solid as they come. As a technician, he is unrivaled in this draft class and he has developed the kind of awareness that will make him very hard to catch off-guard. Although, he will require a bit more instinctual development at the NFL level and needs to be coached to stay low while blocking. But, he has both the intelligence and athletic ability to truly develop into a menace at left tackle.
*3. Garett Bolles (Utah)
Although Bolles isn’t seen as quite on the same level as Robinson or Ramczyk, there is a very good chance he will still be taken in the second half of the first round. Of the three potential first rounders, Bolles might possess the most athletic ability in this draft. There also might not be a tackle with better feet in this year’s draft. However, he has the frame concerns of Ramczyk. He also is going to be 25 before he ever takes an NFL snap, yet he only has one year’s experience of FBS football. Any team that drafts him will also want to be aware of his troubled history. His checkered adolescence outlined by self-destructive behavior seems to be in his past, but it is still something that professional-level coaches will want to ask him about in interviews and keep in the back of their minds when developing his extremely raw talent.
4 Dion Dawkins (Temple)
Dawkins has the size and strength to compete with NFL pass rushers, and might want to consider a move to guard to take better advantage of his natural talents. His technique needs some refinement and he has a tendency to get a little grabby when redirecting swim moves. But, he has a history as an excellent run blocker. A 2015 arrest might be a red flag for some teams, but he avoided any major charges and bounced right back as a second-team All-American Athletic Conference honoree in 2015 and then first-teamer in 2016. Under the right direction in the NFL, he can develop into a solid blocker. The Bengals might be able to wait until the third round to pick him up.
*5. Roderick Johnson (Florida State)
At 6’7”, 311 pounds and with plenty of potential to get bigger at the next level, you would think Johnson could develop into an absolutely unbeatable tackle, especially considering his notable athleticism. He can run block with the best of them, following through to the second level when necessary. However, his strength and initial push could use some work, as could his fundamental. He could end up in a free-fall as some of the safer prospects ranked below him could be off the board first. However, none of the following prospects on Kiper’s list measure up to Johnson’s immense potential. He might end up being a player the Bengals take simply because he falls to them at an unlikely spot, much like Andrew Billings in 2016.
Here’s the rest of Kiper’s top 10 offensive tackles:
6. Taylor Moton, Western Michigan
7. Antonio Garcia, Troy
8. Zach Banner, USC
9. Conor McDermott, UCLA
10. Justin Senior, Mississippi State
One asterisk denotes a junior, and two asterisks denote a redshirt sophomore for the 2016 season.