The 2016 season is now in the books.
The Bengals will now look to replicate what the Falcons did last offseason and go from being a .500-caliber team to playing in the Super Bowl the next season. To do this, Cincinnati will need to hit several home-runs in the upcoming NFL Draft, the same thing Atlanta did last year when landing guys like Keanu Neal, Austin Hooper and Deion Jones.
The latest SB Nation mock draft goes three full rounds and hands the Bengals three guys capable of making a major impact next season. It started with a fairly common mock pick for Cincinnati in the first round in the form of Alabama’s Reuben Foster.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Reuben Foster, MLB, Alabama
The Bengals are one of the teams picking high in the draft that only need a couple key pieces to return to the playoffs. A player like Foster could step in straight away and make an impact in the middle of the defense.
You probably know by now that Foster is not only the best middle linebacker in this draft, but one of the best defensive prospects overall. Foster is fully capable of making an instant-impact for a Bengals defense that needs more youth and speed, something Deion Jones gave the Falcons this past season. It’s the kind of impact Foster could have for the Bengals in 2017.
But as good as Foster may end up being, he wouldn’t be enough to make the Bengals a Super Bowl contender on his own. That’s why the rest of this draft is so critical, perhaps more than any other year under Marvin Lewis.
In Round 2 of this mock, the Bengals land another impact defender in the form of Auburn defensive tackle Montravius Adams. A mammoth tackle who can make an impact on the ground and vs the pass, Adams had 39 tackles with 8.5 for a 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. As deep as tackle seems right now, Domata Peko is a free agent, Pat Sims is a situational guy now in his 30s, Geno Atkins has just two years left on his deal, Andrew Billings is coming off major knee surgery, and Brandon Thompson didn’t play at all in 2017.
The Bengals could use more meat up front, so Adams could make a big impact next season. For Round 3 of this mock, the Bengals finally land the heir apparent to Russell Bodine in the form of LSU center Ethan Pocic.
Regarded by many as the top center prospect in this draft, Pocic has the potential to make a similar impact to Cincinnati’s offense that Alex Mack did with the Falcons this past season.
It’s no secret Bodine has been holding the Bengals’ offense back for much of his tenure as the starting center. Just finding a ‘good’ center in this draft could be a huge upgrade for the Bengals’ offense.
If the Bengals end up having this kind of a draft class, it would be a big step toward having the kind of rebound season that Atlanta just had after going 8-8 in 2015, 6-10 in 2014, and 4-12 in 2013.
That said, would you be happy with the above picks?