One of our regular segments on the Orange and Black Insider is answering fan questions. While most questions of late have revolved around the NFL Draft, this week, we received questions on future possibilities because of Cincinnati’s player attrition over the past calendar year.
An OBI regular, Waldo, sent us a fan mock draft to examine and we did on the air. Here’s what he came up with, while getting a bit creative. Like some other editions, Waldo’s included a trade of AJ McCarron, as well as third and fifth round picks to the Giants, giving the Bengals a second pick in the first round.
Round 1: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Round 1: Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
Round 2: Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
Round 4: Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
Round 4: Pat Elflein, C/G, Ohio State
Round 5: Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M
While these picks are littered with high-profile names, I tend to like the later picks more than the first few. That’s not to say that I don’t think the combination of Thomas, Lamp and Brantley can’t be early contributors, but the upside of Mixon, Elflein and Reynolds can’t be denied.
Let’s start with the first handful of picks. I’m lower on Thomas’ stock than almost everyone else, it seems. I suppose I should add that some of my negative thoughts on him revolve around a potential scheme-fit and proper usage with the Bengals. At 6’3” and 273 pounds, he seems to have prototypical size for a 4-3 or nickel scheme as the Bengals run, but one almost wonders if his truest strengths would come from moving around up front.
It’s funny that NFL.com compared Thomas to Justin Smith because that’s exactly who I see on film. Now, on one hand, Bengals fans would love another clone of the former No. 4 overall pick, but keep in mind that Smith’s best statistical years came in the 49ers’ 3-4 defense.
However, in his seven seasons as a Bengal, Smith never amassed more than 8.5 sacks in a season. In fact, in his entire 14-year career, it’s a mark he never eclipsed. Now, when you look at his five Pro Bowl berths and three All-Pro designations (all with San Francisco), one is inclined to push the team to sprint to the podium if Thomas is available at No. 9. But, if he’s a guy who ends up averaging 6.2 sacks per season in his career, as Smith did in his NFL career, is that worth a top-10 pick?
When you look at the picks later in Waldo’s mock, selections like Reynolds and Mixon definitely stick out. Some believe that neither player will be available in those rounds, but the upside with both are huge.
We’ve talked at length on the program about Mixon and the huge roll of the dice teams will take on him, but the talent is there. However, with rumors of some teams completely taking the explosive running back off of their boards, it’s important for the Bengals to get good value, while also not reaching for a problem player.
Mixon’s skill set is downright insane, but there is so much P.R. heat to take with his selection. For the fans that want to see Mixon in stripes, be prepared for decade-old stigmas to resurface, should he land with the Bengals.
Truth be told, I didn’t know a ton about Reynolds a few short months ago. But, as his name continued to surface, I began to look at more of his film and what others were saying about him. I hate to continue to compare college pros to any pro player, much less those who have suited up for the Bengals, but Reynolds’ skill set and 6’3”, 195-pound frame eerily remind some of the late Chris Henry. Check out the gazelle-like strides, the long limbs and ridiculous catches.
Reynolds hasn’t had the off-field troubles that Henry did at the University of West Virginia, but the size, potential and even the 4.5 40-yard dash times are uncanny. For some of the raw aspects to Reynolds’ game, there is a ton of clay there to mold, as there was with “Slim”.
Texas A&M's Josh Reynolds does not receive enough love in the rankings I've seen. Here are a few difficult grabs he's made (and a non-catch) pic.twitter.com/6N3Kky6ojz— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) February 22, 2017
While some fans froth at the mouth of Western Michigan’s Corey Davis or Clemson’s Mike Williams opposite of A.J. Green, other needs, like Thomas, might press the team to go in a different direction at No. 9. However, with a slight project possessing high upside in Reynolds in the middle rounds, he could provide another great weapon in the Bengals’ offense.
Speaking of Davis, the explosive small school receiver isn’t participating in any pre-draft workouts. Whether it was at the NFL Combine or at his Pro Day, teams will be left in the dark about some of the major workout numbers for one of this year’s top receivers.
While game tape is still the barometer NFL teams should use when gauging the talent of a collegian, certain workouts mean more for some prospects than others. For a small school guy like Davis, having him run, catch and jump means a bit more than it might for a guy like Williams.
Regarding Williams, the 6’4”, 215-pound receiver recently ran an impressive 4.5 40-yard dash. While he didn’t run at the Combine, his Pro Day workout has him running up boards even higher than where he was pegged a couple of months ago.
I like Davis—I think I like Williams a bit more, though everyone has their taste. After two straight offseasons of major player attrition in free agency, this team needs players who are ready to contribute now. That isn’t to say that Davis isn’t capable of bursting on the scene right away, but some believe that Williams is a more pro-ready receiver than Davis.
Regardless of the preference, it will be interesting to see how high the Bengals put receiver on their list of needs. Guys like Reynolds, JuJu Smith-Schuster, ArDarius Stewart and so many others could be had in the rounds after the Bengals’ top-10 pick, but with recent franchise plans being to surround Andy Dalton with a ton of talent, Davis, Williams or even John Ross provide interesting options.
One of the questions-du-jour regarding the Bengals is if the team should be moving on from Jeremy Hill. After an insanely productive rookie year back in 2014, Hill hasn’t found the same consistency, in terms of big plays and yards-per-carry. He is still finding the end zone frequently though, which is always an enviable trait in a running back.
If you’re taking the word of Bengals.com editor, Geoff Hobson, there are no reasons to believe that the team doesn’t seem to be committed to Hill in 2017. There are rumors linking the team to both Leonard Fournette and Mixon in this year’s draft, but they think they have a formula to get Hill back to his explosive 2014 rookie campaign.
Depending on who you ask, a vastly improved Hill took the field for the team last year. After a 2015 campaign marred with a lack of big runs and huge fumbles, Hill improved on both critical areas in 2016. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t to the level we saw in the second half of 2014, but he did improve upon on the areas in which the team asked of him.
Even after a tumultuous past two seasons, I’ve been more supportive of Hill than most. Still, we have to ask if 2014 was the best we’ll see from Hill? While the idea of a “thunder and lightning” approach of Hill and Giovani Bernard on the ground seems great in theory, it just hasn’t had the results everyone had hoped for.
Aside from Hill potentially being one of those backs who get better with more touches, the downswing in recent years can’t be denied. So, is the best idea to rely on Hill while re-building the offensive line, or getting one of these supposedly great backs in this year’s draft class?
While I’ve been in the minority of being in Hill’s corner lately, the potential championship window of the Bengals is closing—especially after a six-win season—so, every position, starter or otherwise, should be on the table for re-evaluation.
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