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SB Nation has Bengals taking a linebacker at pick No. 9

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SB Nation projects the Bengals selecting linebacker Roquan Smith out of Georgia in the first round. Are there better options though?

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Georgia vs Auburn Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals look like they will have plenty of options with their first round pick in the upcoming draft.

That isn’t necessarily a compliment or a good thing. The Bengals have a pretty talented roster overall, but they have pretty defined blind spots. One of those were on full display against the Bears. Linebackers were one of the biggest issues on defense.

They struggled at getting to ball carriers and in coverage. Vontaze Burfict and Nick Vigil were out due to injury, but they have had their issues as well, especially Vigil.

SB Nation sought to correct this in their most recent mock draft:

9. Cincinnati Bengals: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

It was tempting to give Cincinnati a quarterback because chances are Marvin Lewis might finally be gone, and a new coach might not want Andy Dalton. But this pick sticks with needs, and Smith is the type of sure tackler Cincinnati needs.

Smith is a very interesting prospect. He is considered the best linebacker coming out of this years draft, and he has also been called a three down linebacker. That is something the Bengals need in the worst way.

Smith has led the top defense in the nation, and he was a huge part of shutting down Notre Dame’s rushing attack when the two teams met earlier in the season. He is a sure tackler, but more than that he uses his instincts and speed to be able to get to ball carriers early. He also has the knack of keeping the ball in front of him in coverage. Something the Bengals have had issues with this season.

The idea behind this pick is to hopefully pair Smith and Burfict up at linebacker, and it is hard to question whether the team needs an upgrade their with the team’s recent struggles. Still there are some concerns that at 6’1 and only 225 pounds that he could be a little undersized. Although he hardly looks that small when you watch him play.

Smith was just named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. The last Georgia player to do that was David Pollack.

The only question remains is if he is the best player available at a position of need. The Bengals seem to have some pretty slim pickings at selection number nine. It seems like with Connor Williams off the board that the only tackle worth selecting is Mike McGlinchey. He is projected to have to start his career out at right tackle, but he could eventually move over to the left side. Although he was a big part of Notre Dame’s success running the ball this season, and adding some talent to this offensive line should be a big priority this offense.

For the people who want to take a quarterback in the first round this mock draft isn’t for you. Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold all go in the first four picks with the Bills being projected to trade up to four. That leaves Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen who go 11 and 13 respectively.

Personally I get the idea that Andy Dalton is replaceable, and a new coach may want his guy. Still I don’t see Jackson or Allen being that much of an improvement that it is worth passing over a player like Smith who can fix some defensive problems that this team has been having for years.