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Bengals Mock Draft 2017: Derek Barnett vs Solomon Thomas

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Which stud pass rusher would you like to see the Bengals land in this year’s NFL Draft?

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl - Nebraska v Tennessee Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Who will the Bengals take first when the 2017 NFL Draft rolls around?

That’s what we’ll be trying to project for the time being, and the latest mock draft from SB Nation has a familiar name landing in Cincinnati. In addition to projecting the entire first round, SB Nation also analyzed the quarterback situation for each team.

Luckily, the Bengals have no need for this at No. 9, where they take Stanford’s Solomon Thomas. However, spending a late-round pick on a quarterback like Pitt’s Nathan Peterman is certainly a possibility.

9. Cincinnati Bengals: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

The pick for Cincinnati could come down to deciding if a pass rusher makes more of an impact than Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. If the lean is pass rusher, Thomas is the best one available. He can work the edge, and move inside in certain situations.

Should they draft a quarterback? AJ McCarron could get traded this offseason, so finding a backup to Andy Dalton may become a need. This is another team where Peterman would be a fit.

Regarding Nathan Peterman, I think he’s very much in play for the Bengals...If AJ McCarron is traded. If not, I don’t see the Bengals drafting a quarterback before Round 6, and Peterman will very likely be off the board by then.

But the real focus is on who the Bengals take at No. 9, and Thomas has been the popular pick this offseason. He’ll likely remain such with news that Reuben Foster, who’s also been a popular mock target, had rotator cuff surgery that will sideline him for around four months and keep him from participating in drills at the NFL Combine.

That’s why I believe pass rushing defensive end is now the favorite to be what the Bengals do with the No. 9 pick. Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson seems to agree, but his first stab at a mock draft has Thomas off the board by the time Cincinnati is on the clock.

That’s why he has Tennessee’s Derek Barnett going No. 9 overall, despite his limited frame suggesting he won’t fit the Bengals’ scheme, even though there’s plenty of elite pass rushers who possess Barnett’s size.

9. BENGALS: DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee

Barnett would seem to be their type of guy. They love big-school-players with year-after-year production and Barnett is all about production with a school-record 33 sacks in 39 games. And that’s just not any school record. Barnett, a Nashville native, broke Pro Football Hall of Famer Reggie White’s record for the Vols.

At 6-2-1/2, the 265-pound Barnett is shorter than the Bengals’ recent generation of drafted ends with the 6-8 Margus Hunt, 6-7 Michael Johnson, 6-6 Carlos Dunlap, and 6-6 Will Clarke. But Barnett has already played the position he’d play in Cincinnati, a 4-3 right end, for three seasons on a big stage with an amazing 52 tackles for loss in 36 starts.

But a lot of prolific NFL pass rushers past and present are built like Barnett. Dwight Freeney is 6-1, 268 pounds, Robert Mathis 6-2, 235, Trent Cole (6-3, 270), and Tamba Hali (6-2, 265) just to name a few.

In 2016, Barnett recorded 13 sacks while breaking Reggie White’s school sack record (totaled 33 while at Tennessee; previous mark was 32). He finished the year with 19 tackles for loss, an interception, 12 hurries and three pass breakups.

The 6’3”, 265 pound pass rusher will need to bulk up a little for 4-3 teams like the Bengals to best utilize him, but he’s more than capable of playing on the end in the NFL. There’s plenty of teams ahead of the Bengals who could use Barnett, but again, his smaller frame should push him to No. 9, at least based on nearly every mock draft thus far.

If it came down to it, would you rather the Bengals take Barnett or Thomas?