When the NFL Combine takes place this week, the Bengals will be among all 32 teams in Indianapolis scouting this year’s crop of talent.
Sitting with the No. 9 overall pick, the Bengals have a variety of directions they could go with their first round pick, whether it be wide receiver, defensive line, running back or linebacker. Ahead of the combine, NFL Network analyst and draft guru Mike Mayock did a Q&A with reporters about the draft, and he answered several questions about the Bengals.
Among them was what the team should do with backup quarterback AJ McCarron, who should draw some trade interest this year. But Mayock isn’t so sure the Bengals will be able to net anything more than a second or third-round pick for him.
“I think there is some interest. If you look around the league at the quarterback situation, which is all, you know, we always talk about, I think underneath the Garoppolo stuff, there is some AJ McCarron interest out there,” said Mayock. “I don't know what kind of value to throw on him. And I don't know if Cincinnati would be willing -- what situation they'd be willing to give him up for.
“I don't know if it's a second-round pick or third-round pick,” Mayock said. “I don't know what the value is, but I know there are some people out there who are saying is AJ McCarron better than what we have right now?”
It’s possible the Bengals aren’t able to move McCarron until the 2017 draft begins. After all, that’s when teams will know if they’ll be landing a quarterback in free agency or early in the draft, so perhaps McCarron gets dealt sometime during April’s draft.
Regardless of what the Bengals do with McCarron, the focus of this draft for Cincinnati will be on the No. 9 overall pick, the highest selection Cincinnati has made since taking A.J. Green at No. 4 in the 2011 draft.
That gives you an idea of what type of player a team can land in the top 10, and it helps that there could be a quarterback or two drafted in the top 10. Because that’s a position Cincinnati has no chance of addressing that high, it benefits the team for as many quarterbacks to be drafted as possible before No. 9, ensuring that there will be better players pushed to the Bengals.
“Now, as far as the No. 9 overall pick, you want all three of those quarterbacks to go early, and they might,” said Mayock. “I'm just telling you what I think. You could easily make a case for Cleveland at 1, San Francisco at 2, Chicago 3, the Jets at 6. Easily make a case. They need quarterbacks desperately. And you would imagine at least one, if not two or three, are gone by the time you get to 9. Sitting there at 9 was the value. And there are a couple running backs, because that would probably help, and another situation that I don't think Cincinnati is going to take. So if quarterbacks and running backs go early, it helps Cincinnati.”
As for the No. 9 pick, defensive end has been talked about a lot since that’s arguably the team’s biggest position of need right now. Mayock thinks Tennessee’s Derek Barnett could be worth that pick, but Michigan’s Taco Charlton probably is not.
“As far as the edge guys, Derek Barnett, he very well could be sitting on the board. Derek Barnett can play,” said Mayock. “Taco Charlton, that's a little high for me, but he sits where that defense is. He looks like Carlos Dunlap, he looks like Michael Johnson. He's 6'6", 270. That's what Paul Guenther loves, those kinds of guys. So that's a little high for me, for him. But still he's a first-round defensive end. And I know Coach Guenther will get the most out of him. So I still think, regardless of what happens, you're going to be fine at 9. You're going to get a good football player.”
But as much as Mayock likes Barnett, he doesn’t seem to think the Vol pass-rusher will go as high as No. 10, though Stanford’s Solomon Thomas could be in the mix.
“I think Derek Barnett is one of the hardest working, toughest edge rushers in this draft or any draft,” said Mayock. “I think he's going to go somewhere. Let's say 10 to 22, somewhere in that range. Solomon Thomas from Stanford. Kid can play outside on run down, inside on pass downs. There have been some comparisons to Aaron Donald. I'm not sure I see that, but I love his versatility.”
If defense is not where the Bengals go, wide receiver could be in play since Clemson’s Mike Williams is worthy of a top-10 pick.
“No, I don't think it's too high for the conversation of Mike Williams,” said Mayock. “It's kind of at the borderline. But I don't think it's too high. I also think some of those safeties and corners make some sense also.”
Even though Williams is a great player, defense is more likely how the Bengals spend their first round pick.