Now that the Scouting Combine and first wave of free agency have concluded, we’re getting a better picture of how the NFL Draft may shape up.
In the top 10, it’s mostly the same in Todd McShay’s latest projection at ESPN, as is his pick for the Bengals. Like most mockers, McShay is pegging Alabama’s Reuben Foster to Cincinnati at No. 9.
9. Cincinnati Bengals - Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
The Bengals like high-production players from the highest level of college football, and they don't shy away from drafting players with some character red flags. Foster, who was sent home early from the combine and is a true three-down linebacker, certainly fits the profile. He has some of the best tape of anyone in this class, and he shows great range versus the run.
It’s become clear this offseason that the Bengals want to upgrade their linebacker corps. They’ve already hosted Keenan Robinson and Kevin Minter for free agent visits, and there’s a possibility they cut embattled starter Rey Maualuga at some point before the season begins.
Foster has been mocked ad nauseam to the Bengals, even after his combine incident that saw him sent home for having a run-in with a hospital nurse (sound familiar?). Even so, the Bengals have shown they’re willing to be more lenient with controversial prospects than most NFL teams will, so seeing Foster go here will be no surprise if it happens.
And frankly, Foster is the best pick here based on how Mcshay’s mock plays out. He has Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas going No. 2 to the 49ers and LSU running back Leonard Fournette going No. 8 to the Panthers. Those have been two popular targets for the Bengals at No. 9, so if they’re off the board, that only increases the likelihood that Foster is the pick here.
That said, McShay doesn’t have any quarterbacks being drafted in the top 10, which seems unlikely given the history of the NFL and how valued even average quarterback prospects can be in Round 1. It’s more likely than not one signal caller goes in the top 10, which could help push a guy like Fournette or Thomas down to Cincinnati.
But for now, Foster looks like the slight favorite to be the No. 9 overall pick.