The Bengals are sure to draft a defensive end in this year’s NFL Draft. The team desperately needs pass rush help after Michael Johnson failed to make much of an impact in 2016. And while Carlos Dunlap is a Pro Bowl player and highly talented, he can’t be the only impactful player at the position for Cincinnati. His fellow starter and all of the backups on the unit were unable to meet expectations in 2016. As such, the position needs addressing in 2017.
Bengals.coms’ Geoff Hobson put out an article this week making it known that the Bengals have plans to address the need and are “certain” to draft two defensive ends “by the end of the fourth round” of the 2017 NFL Draft.
“Can we get two of them?” asked defensive coordinator Paul Guenther during a break in workouts.
Yes. Maybe they even get the first one at nine. Certainly two by the end of the fourth round, especially with two fourth-round picks.
But there’s no question about this. They’re looking at guys that don’t look like their recent top picks at defensive end since they took the 6-7 Michael Johnson at the top of the third round in 2009, followed quickly by 6-6 Carlos Dunlap in the second round of 2010, 6-8 Margus Hunt in the second round of 2013, and the 6-6 Will Clarke in the third round of 2014.
It’s reassuring to hear the Bengals know this is an issue and one they need to fully address this offseason. This year’s draft class is said to be very deep at defensive end, especially with top-level talent. Myles Garrett and Jonathan Allen are near locks (really, they’re locks) to be off the board when the Bengals are on the clock with the No. 9 pick, but Solomon Thomas (if he falls to No. 9 -- he’s climbing up big boards), Derek Barnett, Taco Charlton, Dawuane Smoot, Chris Wormley, Carroll Phillips, DeMarcus Walker and Tanoh Kpassagnon are some of the other top-talent defensive ends in this year’s draft class.
Bengals director of player personnel, Duke Tobin has made it seem like the Bengals might even break out of their shell and draft a defensive end who doesn’t fit the 6-foot-6, 270-280 pound mold that all but one defensive end on the roster match. The one end on the roster who doesn't fit that mold is Margus Hunt, a project player who never met the expectations set for him when he was drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He’s set to become a free agent on Thursday and there’s been no buzz regarding him returning to Cincinnati.
“Are we open to smaller guys? Sure. Is the game changing? Yeah. We’re not ostriches,” Tobin said at the Combine. “We don’t have our head buried in the sand. The game is spreading out just like the college game has spread out; just like the high school game predated the college game to spreading out. Now the college game is kind of driving our game into a similar mindset.”
Tobin also acknowledged that pass rush is king right now in the NFL. That it is, and it sounds like the Bengals will be adding to their unit of able pass rushers this offseason.