The 2017 NFL Draft is days away, and the final mock drafts are starting to pour in. There has been a lot of talk about what the Bengals will do with the No. 9 overall pick this year. They haven’t had a lofty draft positioning like this since selecting A.J. Green with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. However, the 2017 NFL Draft class has a much different look, as do the Bengals’ needs this year.
One of their biggest needs this time around is on the defensive line. Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins are two of the best defensive linemen in the NFL, but the Bengals employ a four-down lineman system. The Bengals’ other defensive end spot is currently filled by an underperforming Michael Johnson, whereas the other defensive tackle spot was recently vacated by Domata Peko. Therefore, it makes sense, according to Chad Reuter of NFL.com, for the Bengals to pick up defensive lineman Jonathan Allen of Alabama.
PICK 9 Jonathan Allen - DL
Arthritic shoulders and average athleticism testing could push the Alabama lineman down boards a bit. The Bengals might see another Geno Atkins.
Primarily used as a defensive end at Alabama, Allen’s size and skillset is expected to translate more to defensive tackle in the NFL. The need for a tackle isn’t all that significant though with Marcus Hardison, Andrew Billings and DeShawn Williams waiting in the wings. But if he pans out, a defensive tackle tandem of Allen and Atkins could be devastating. For that reason, Tony Pauline of draftanalyst.com, also picked Allen to go to the Bengals at No. 9.
At this point in Round 1, Allen is great value, fills a need and offers youth as well as versatility to the defensive line.
If Allen is not available, as proposed by Mike Tanier of Bleacher Report, the Bengals could go with former Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett, among the most popular picks for Cincinnati right now.
Derek Barnett, DE/OLB, Tennessee: Adding a young pass rusher to complement veterans Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap is expected to be among the Bengals' top draft day priorities. Barnett lacks the ideal traits that general manager Mike Brown has prioritized in the past but his production (NCAA-best 33 sacks over the past three seasons) against elite competition speaks for itself and he possesses the pro-ready game and work ethic to continue this success in the NFL.
There are some draft websites that will go as far to call Barnett a prospect of equal or greater potential to that of Myles Garrett. Garrett is expected to go No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Browns because of his sheer potential and absolutely monstrous production in college. Barnett, on the other hand, has been criticized for slow starts. There is also question as to whether or not he would fit in with a 4-3 defensive scheme like the Bengals’. However, his potential alone is enough for a team like the Bengals to consider picking him up and sticking him on the edge. His potential outweighs his baggage, according to Rob Rang of CBS Sports, making the Bengals a very likely destination.
This year marks the first time the Bengals are selecting in the top half of the draft since they chose A.J. Green fourth overall in 2011. They need to be in "best available player" mode if they hope to rebound and extend the seemingly endless Marvin Lewis era.
Derek Barnett has been a forgotten man of the draft run-up, for inexplicable reasons. Put him on a line with Dunlap and Atkins and he will be impossible to forget.
Defensive line is clearly a huge need for the Bengals heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. However, the Bengals are known for preferring to select the ‘best player available’ regardless of position. So, don’t be surprised if they pick up a player at a position they don’t seem to desperately need an addition at, like wide receiver. In fact, that is exactly what is expected to happen, according to Drafttek, in the form of former Clemson receiver Mike Williams.
The Bengals have a huge decision on which direction to go here with the 9th pick. A strong game changing LB is a big need, but a big threatening target is needed opposite AJ Green to keep the triple coverage off of him. Williams has a great frame and very trustworthy hands. To get an idea of Williams's physical attributes, he's 6'4" 218 lbs compared to AJ Green's 6'4" 210lb stature. With a healthy 6'5" Eifert on the field Cincy would be a nightmare to cover and could be unstoppable in the red zone. Williams will keep opposing defenses honest and could help Green to have his best season yet. Williams doesn't have blazing speed and might not rack up a lot of YAC, but he's a big physical former basketball player with an enormous catch radius. His body control and strong hands give him a big edge over smaller CBs. Williams should be the 1st WR off the board as he's considered the most pro ready of the top 3 WRs in the draft. He had some injuries in college but bounced back for a highlight filled final campaign with 84 snags, 1k + yards, and 10 TDs. Williams will need work on route running and concentration but his sure hands and blocking ability make him an immediate asset.
Most recent mock drafts seem to be fairly convinced the Bengals will beef up their defensive line with the ninth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. It is hard to say exactly what will happen as the draft is unpredictable and we truly don’t know who will be available when the Bengals are on the clock. If these mock drafts are to be believed, it will be a defensive lineman. But, the Bengals have been doing their research at every position. They will pick the player whom they believe is the best fit and best prospect at pick No. 9.