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3 big predictions for Bengals’ 2017 draft

We take a guess at three things the Bengals could do (or not do) in the 2017 NFL Draft. What do you think?

NFL: 2015 NFL Draft Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL Draft is fast approaching. With less than two weeks to go, more and more possibilities for the Bengals, who not only have the No. 9 overall pick, but 11 total picks, are taking shape. With many roster holes to address and a plethora of ways to go about it, it is tough to determine exactly how the Bengals are going to attack this draft. However, based on recent trends and moves by the Bengals, I am expecting them to employ to the following three strategies.

1) A linebacker will not be taken before the fourth round

Linebacker is one of the Bengals’ most overrated needs in the 2017 NFL Draft. Yes, the Bengals lost two of their starting linebackers from 2016 this offseason in Karlos Dansby and Rey Maualuga. However, it appears that free agent signing Kevin Minter is expected to take over the starting role at middle linebacker, while second-year linebacker Nick Vigil is expected to take over Dansby’s vacated outside linebacker role.

With long-time rotational linebacker Vincent Rey available to fill in any experience gaps, it is difficult to see the Bengals’ need for a top-end linebacker in this year’s draft. Granted, they absolutely need to shore up their depth with only Marquis Flowers, P.J. Dawson, and Bryson Albright behind the top four linebackers. However, they can and will find plenty of talent at this position in the later stages of the draft. There is virtually no need to take a player like Reuben Foster or Takkarist McKinley at No. 9, which would give off the impression the Bengals are not satisfied with their current starting options. And with Foster’s shoulder still not fully recovered from February surgery, he’s a risky pick in the top 10 anyway and unlikely to be the best player available at pick No. 9.

2) Offense will be the main focus on Day 1 and 2

Most of the Bengals’ draft talk has centered around the need to improve at the aforementioned linebacker position, as well defensive end. There has even been some speculation as to whether or not the Bengals could take a defensive back like Jamal Adams in the first round.

However, the Bengals’ need to improve on offense, too and that should be obvious following their disappointing results in 2016. It would not be surprising to see the Bengals select a wide receiver like Corey Davis in Round 1. The Bengals have met with top wide receiver prospects like John Ross, Mike Williams, and Zay Jones. A running back like Alvin Kamara or Joe Mixon could be in the cards in the second round if they do not go with a receiver. By the third round, the Bengals will likely be beginning to consider offensive linemen to replace their free agency losses.

Don’t be surprised to see an offensive-heavy haul from the Bengals on the first two days.

3) Bengals will select Zane Gonzalez in the fifth round

The Bengals’ focus on shoring up their kicking game in 2017 is no secret. Following long-time kicker Mike Nugent’s very obvious and rapid decline in performance, the Bengals released him and replaced him with Randy Bullock. Bullock generally performed well in Nugent’s stead, but there were still a few nagging issues that prevented the coaching staff from feeling completely confident in his long-term ability.

The Bengals re-signed Bullock to compete for the kicking position in 2017, but they will need to bring in some more talent if any sort of legitimate kicking competition is going to take place. Gonzalez is widely considered the best kicker in this year’s draft. The Bengals will likely need to pick him up by the fifth round if they want him, which can be considered relatively high for a kicker. But, the team is loaded with picks in the later stages of the draft. We already know they are interested in him because they met with him at Arizona State Pro Day. Therefore, this seems like the right prospect for the right position at the right spot.