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Bengals met privately with Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan

The Bengals are scouting one of the nation’s top linebacker prospects.

Ohio State v Illinois

The driving force behind the Ohio State Buckeyes’ star-studded defense, inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan, is getting a lot of love from football analysts as the NFL Draft approaches. In fact, he’s ranked as Mel Kiper’s No. 2 inside linebacker.

McMillan’s lofty projections have him under close watch by a number of teams, including the Cincinnati Bengals, who held a private workout with the OSU star, according to Walter Football.

The workout took place over the course of the last few days and is an extremely interesting move for a Bengals team that is in possession of the No. 9 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. According to most projections, McMillan is expected to be taken in the late first round, but could fall to the second round. If he is available when the Bengals are on the clock with the No. 41 overall pick in the second round, it would be a shock to see the team pass on him if they have not already picked up a linebacker in the first round.

Over the course of three seasons at Ohio State, McMillan recorded 275 tackles (18 for a loss), six sacks, 10 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 interception. As a result, scouts see him as a Mason Foster-type linebacker with a mental understanding of the game that you don’t often see from players who leave college a year early.

At 6’2” and 240 pounds, McMillan is a thick linebacker with room to grow, but he doesn’t let that affect his ability to move quickly downhill. He can dance around most guards purely with his athleticism, but he doesn’t rely on it and has developed a solid hand-technique to get around blockers.

Unfortunately, having room to grow also means he isn’t quite yet at the ideal size for the NFL level. He has a tendency to be trapped by smart blockers and usually won’t overpower offensive linemen if he is caught on a rush. He can be faked out by an agile player, whether it be a ball carrier or a receiver he’s covering man-to-man. Still, he has the body type to fit into multiple NFL schemes, as long as he is willing to potentially learn a new position.

At the moment, the Bengals are in a state of flux with their linebacker corps. Starting middle linebacker Rey Maualuga has struggled and starting strong side linebacker Karlos Dansby is headed back to Arizona. The Bengals seem set at starting weak side linebacker with Vontaze Burfict, but that is only one of three positions. The thought is that 2016 third round pick Nick Vigil will take over at middle linebacker with the Bengals using Maualuga as a backup (or cutting him). But, McMillan would likely also fill that inside role, as opposed to taking over Dansby’s spot. At that point, it’s possible the athletic Vigil could be plugged into the strong side role.

The likelihood of the Bengals actually selecting McMillan in the 2017 NFL Draft hinges on whether or not he falls to the Bengals in the second round. It is extremely unlikely the team would select him with the No. 9 overall pick and also unlikely, albeit less so, the Bengals would trade down to select him. However, if the team does manage to pick him up, it could turn out to be the perfect selection that combines both need and the ‘best player available’ strategy.