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NFL Mock Draft 2017: Bengals upgrade WR and DE in two-round projection

The Bengals need pass-rushers, and there are enough in this year’s draft class that a great one could fall to them in Round 2.

NCAA Football: Kansas at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

We’re now less than three weeks away from the 2017 NFL Draft.

We know what the Bengals’ issues are, and we know the names various experts think could fix those roster deficiencies. The latest mock draft from SB Nation has the Bengals taking a familiar name at No. 9, even if it’s not a position of dire need.

9. Cincinnati Bengals: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Teaming Williams with A.J. Green would push Cincinnati’s offense to the next level.

Williams was a monster during his college career, grabbing 57 passes for 1,030 yards (18.1 ypc) and six touchdowns as a sophomore in 2014. But in 2015, Williams nearly saw his career end after fracturing his neck by hitting his helmet against the goal post on a touchdown catch in the season opener.

Williams missed the rest of 2015, but he returned in 2016 ready to take the nation by storm. He did so by catching 84 passes for 1,171 yards and 10 scores, en route to the College Football Playoff and National Championship. Many of his touchdowns came in jump-ball situations in which he simply out-muscled and out-jumped his defender with ease.

While taking a receiver at No. 9 seems unwise, especially with Green on the roster, you can’t fault Cincinnati for wanting a guy like Williams to pair with Green, forming a nearly unstoppable offense, especially in the red zone. Add Tyler Eifert into the mix and assuming all three are healthy, that will be a lethal combination.

In Round 2 of this mock draft, the Bengals address their pass-rushing woes with Kansas State’s Jordan Willis.

41. Cincinnati Bengals: Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State

Willis doesn’t have quite the length the Bengals usually like in an end, but he’s a good pass rusher to play opposite Carlos Dunlap.

In a draft deep with pass-rushers, Willis was getting little attention leading up to the Scouting Combine. Then he went out and had as good of a workout as anyone in Indianapolis.

In the 40-yard dash, Willis posted the second-best time among all defensive linemen at 4.53 seconds, while his 1.54 10-yard split was the best among linemen. In the three-cone drill, Willis recorded a 6.85, the best among all linemen. He also tied for third in the 20-yard shuffle at 4.28 seconds.

That came after Willis racked up 20 sacks, 31.5 tackles for loss, 86 total tackles and six forced fumbles across 26 games during the last two years at Kansas State. Willis was being projected as Round 2-3 prospect, but his great combine showing has propelled him into the late Round 1 discussion. If he slips to pick No. 41, the Bengals should sprint to the podium, even if they take another defensive end at No. 9.

Overall, this is a pretty solid two-man haul for the Bengals. It could be better, but it could also be much worse, especially since both of those guys look like instant-impact guys, whereas the Bengals have drafted many Round 1-2 guys who’ve failed to make impacts early in their careers.