A critical part of the Cincinnati Bengals’ offseason is figuring out of which positions need upgrades and which can be placed on the back-burner. A handful of spots readily jump out for improvement, which almost-unanimously include linebacker, defensive end and wide receiver.
On The Orange and Black Insider, we’ve been fielding listener questions and with free agency and the NFL Draft ramping up, OBI listeners have been sending some of their mock drafts for us to analyze on air.
Along with a fan-submitted mock, another listener gave us one from a major media outlet that gave the Bengals Leonard Fournette at No. 9 overall. It isn’t the first time we’ve talked about the idea, but the topic of just how good Fournette can be, as well as the current value of the position in the NFL became part of the discussion.
Obviously, Waldo’s mock comes with the caveat of the team trading AJ McCarron. Using the assumption that the quarterback-needy Bears would be willing to part with a second round pick in exchange for Cincinnati’s backup quarterback and one of their fourth round picks, Waldo knocks out three of the team’s biggest perceived needs in the first two rounds.
Opinions vary on whether Corey Davis or Mike Williams is the top wideout in this year’s class, but Davis at No. 9 provides the team another nice weapon after the offense saw A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert miss significant time in 2016. Wideout may be a bit more of a luxury pick than other positions, but I think most fans would end up liking Davis—especially with linebacker and an edge player being selected soon after.
Personally, I’m a fan of Williams over Davis, or the prospect of getting a good one that falls to the team at the top of the second round. Granted, I’ve watched more film on Williams than Davis, but I’m a fan of a guy who has dominated at the top college competition in more of a pro style offense. Davis has absolutely smoked the opposition, but the route tree I’ve seen him run at Western Michigan was more limited than what Williams did at Clemson. Still, both guys seem to have very productive NFL careers ahead of them.
Aside from who Waldo took with his first three picks, there are a couple of new points of conversation to note. The first, of course, is if the Bengals could actually yield a second round pick in exchange for McCarron and a fourth round pick.
The Patriots will most likely be open to Jimmy Garoppolo trade offers this offseason and Chicago could be one of the suitors. Even if the Bears aren’t going to be in the “Jimmy G Sweepstakes”, Garappolo will likely be setting the bar for a potential McCarron trade—especially given the Bengals’ penchant for feeling out the market before they make a significant move.
Since we’ve talked about Joe Mixon to the Bengals before, the other aspect we wanted to touch on this week was the Pat Elflein pick. Russell Bodine has been a whipping boy of Bengals’ fans since his 2014 arrival, and while much of that scorn has been warranted, he is coming off of his best season. Even so, with the Bengals’ potential 2017 offseason mantra being one of improving wherever possible, an upgrade at center could help the team’s offense in multiple facets.
The other reason why Elflein would make sense is right guard Kevin Zeitler possibly testing the open market. Early free agent rumors have the Bengals’ chances of re-signing the veteran relatively slim, so even if Cincinnati continues to be committed to Bodine at center, Elflein could initially compete at right guard with Christian Westerman.
As final additional notes, Demarcus Walker should at least be a quality rotational lineman, as evidenced by his 25 sacks over the past two seasons. Jarrad Davis might have been a player with first round consideration after his junior year, but a couple of missed games hurt his statistical production, and thus, his draft stock.
All in all, this a mock that is both exciting and one that is high-risk, high-reward.
Another listener submitted a recent mock draft from Sports Illustrated had the Bengals taking LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Auburn edge player Carl Lawson and Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker. While the latter two fill obvious positional needs, fan opinions on Fournette to the Bengals vary.
When speaking of a physical profile fit and one who has more statistical productivity, Demarcus Walker has more appeal than Lawson. However, many of us at Cincy Jungle have shared the notion of the team needing to add a smaller, speedier option on the edge like Lawson to complement the big starters they currently employ.
Anthony Walker is a tackling machine, who had 225 total tackles, 29 for loss and six sacks over the past two seasons. He’d be good value and should fit in nicely next to Vontaze Burfict in Cincinnati’s defense.
Back to Fournette, though. One of the ways the Bengals can get back to the postseason in 2017 is to take a look at how the Falcons and Patriots constructed their respective rosters en route to Super Bowl LI. Atlanta, in particular, stacked their offense with skill players (as well as two offensive linemen, via trade and free agency) and it paved the way for Matt Ryan to win the NFL MVP this year.
After investing a fourth round pick on running back Devonta Freeman in 2014, the team used a third round pick on Tevin Coleman a year later. Both have different skill sets and have been very valuable assets to the Falcons in their tenure. However, neither had Atlanta investing a ninth overall selection at the spot—especially with two other second round picks on the roster.
There is a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg conversation with Fournette and the Bengals. Is he a transcendent talent, like a Walter Payton, Barry Sanders or Adrian Peterson, who can pave a Hall of Fame career, despite the offensive line in front of him, or will he need the type of line Ezekiel Elliott had in Dallas this year?
Interestingly enough, not many Bengals fans are openly talking about Florida State running back Dalvin Cook. Though Cook’s and Fournette’s scrimmage yards are similar, particularly in 2015, Cook seems to be a bit of a better receiver than Fournette. Some draftniks even like Cook over Fournette, so might he ben an even better fit for the Bengals at No. 9, or is it a moot point with Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill on the roster?
But, like many other positions the Bengals are examining this year, star-studded groups have question marks. Bernard tore his ACL in Week 11, while Hill has struggled to regain his 2014 rookie stardom. With Rex Burkhead looking at free agency, another multi-dimensional weapon at running back could be a beneficial route. It’s just a matter of if Cook and/or Fournette are transcendent talents, or if they need a lot of help up front to be productive.
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