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4-round NFL mock draft gives Bengals new name at DE

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Expect the Bengals to upgrade their defense with their first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, which may come with the selection of a defensive end.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Through the early portion of the mock draft season, defensive end has been the slight favorite for the pick the Bengals address with the No. 9 selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.

That’s what NFL.com’s Chad Reuter has Cincinnati addressing in his latest 4-round mock draft. However, it’s not Stanford’s Solomon Thomas or Tennessee’s Derek Barnett going there, as those two have been the most common pass-rushers mocked to the Bengals in Round 1.

Instead, he has Michigan’s Taco Charlton going No. 9 to the Bengals, the same spot where another stud pass-rusher was taken in last year’s draft.

9. BENGALS - Taco Charlton - DE, Michigan

Last year, people were surprised Chicago chose Leonard Floyd at No. 9; no one should be surprised at this pick.

Charlton hasn’t been a name mentioned much for the Bengals thus far, but the former Wolverine is starting to get noticed in the mock draft community more and more. Todd McShay’s latest big board actually ranks Charlton ahead of Barnett and other defensive ends worthy of Round 1 picks.

Rotoworld’s Josh Norris recently mocked Charlton to the Panthers with pick No. 8, while Fox Sports’ Dieter Kurtenbach pegged him to Cincinnati.

The Bengals can’t give Michael Johnson 800 snaps in 2017 and expect to contend for the postseason, plain and simple. Charlton is moving up draft boards and is expected to stay high up on them, as his late-season push at Michigan turned heads and his size will have 4-3 teams projecting Pro Bowls.

In 2016, Charlton played in 11 games while finishing with 40 tackles (20 solo), 13.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and two passes defensed. He had 2.5 sacks and nine tackles against Ohio State alone. As a rotational reserve in 2015, Charlton record 30 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries.

With just one year as a full-time starter under his belt, Charlton is a bit of a risky pick this high in the draft, but he certainly has the potential to be a big upgrade at this position of need for Cincinnati. Charlton fits the look the Bengals like their defensive ends to have at 6'6" and 273 pounds, so definitely look for him to be someone the team is eyeing in the coming months.

As for the rest of Reuter’s four round mock, he has the Bengals grabbing Auburn defensive tackle Montravius Adams with their second-round pick (No. 41). The 6’4”, 304-pound tackle posted 39 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one interception and two passes batted in 2016.

In a 4-3 defense, Adams could play three-technique tackle or nose tackle, so he’d give the Bengals depth at both spots. He could be in for a big role if Domata Peko leaves in free agency and Pat Sims becomes a cap casualty. The Bengals are hoping Andrew Billings takes on a big role, but he’s coming off major knee surgery, and Brandon Thompson didn’t play at all in 2017, so don’t be surprised if the Bengals draft another defensive tackle this year.

In Round 3, Reuter has the Bengals find a likely replacement for Kevin Zeitler in USC guard Damien Mama at pick No. 73. As a junior in 2016, Mama started 12 of 13 games, emerging as one of USC’s most dominant linemen. He was voted to the All-Pac-12 second team before entering the draft.

In Round 4, Reuter projects the Bengals to take Florida linebacker Alex Anzalone at pick No. 111. The oft-injured Gators linebacker started the first eight contests of 2016 while posting 53 tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks, but was sidelined for the end of the season with a broken left arm.

As for compensatory picks, Reuter has the Bengals landing an extra fourth-round pick (No. 137) for Marvin Jones, which he has turning into Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. One of the better corners in college football over the past two year, Chidobe was a 2015 AP Second-Team All-Pac-12 pick, as well as a 2016 Associated Press First-Team All-Pac-12 selection.

The Bengals will probably be in the market for a corner on Day 3 if they lose Dre Kirkpatrick or cut Adam Jones this offseason, so a guy like Chidobe here would be a solid pickup.

So what are your thoughts on this five-man haul for the Bengals?