Mock Drafts are like opinions, and according to “Dirty” Harry Callahan opinions are like a certain body part, which everybody has one of. But that doesn’t stop fans and media types from generating a litany of mock drafts, and it doesn’t stop fans and media types from reading them and reacting to them. So with NFL Draft week upon us, I’m offering the only Bengals mock draft I’ll be creating for the 2017 NFL Draft.
The objective of this mock is not to pick who I would personally select if I were in the Bengals’ shoes, nor is the goal to nominate who who I think the best options and fits are at the given spots. Rather, this mock is a reasoned attempt to try to forecast (guess) who I think the Bengals could select, and why the selections would make sense.
Round 1, pick 9 - O.J. Howard, TE (Alabama)
It’s no secret that Marvin Lewis loves to draft players from the SEC. The Bengals have drafted six first round picks and six second round picks from the SEC since Lewis arrived in 2003. Without a sure-fire obvious pick for the Bengals at the ninth spot, they are likely to repeat their history of following their board, regardless of position. For the Bengals, it could be the big tight end from Alabama who is chosen with pick No. 9.
The Bengals also have a tendency of using their first round pick on the side of the ball that was the weaker link on the team in the prior season. Last year the offense lagged behind the defense, so this would indicate an offensive player is quite likely.
The Bengals like tight ends who are solid blockers, such as Reggie Kelly who saw much playing time, despite providing few receptions. It’s what led them to try to convert Chase Coffman to a blocker, and likely why they drafted Jermaine Gresham over Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. Howard is a very athletic tight end and a great blocker who doesn’t have Tyler Eifert elite receiving traits, but could be a long-time NFL starter who can block and catch the ball. Hailing from a winning program in the SEC, as a big and fast player, Howard checks the boxes that Lewis likes in his first round picks.
Round 2, pick 41 - Malik McDowell, DE (Michigan State)
Much like Carlos Dunlap falling to the Bengals’ second round pick seven years ago, McDowell has some issues that could push his first round talent to the Bengals’ second round pick. He provides scheme versatility, an ability to play inside and outside. He stands up well against the run, and has shown a great ability to disrupt the passing game, even against top talent, such as Ryan Ramczyk of Wisconsin. He is not a true speed rusher, but could easily split snaps with Michael Johnson this season before taking over full-time in 2018. A defensive line of Dunlap, Geno Atkins, Andrew Billings, and McDowell could be a nightmare of a match-up for opposing offenses for years to come.
Round 3, pick 73 - Teez Tabor, CB (Florida)
It’s just not a Bengals’ draft without the team selecting yet another cornerback. After selecting William Jackson III with their first round pick last year, the Bengals could easily grab another in 2017 – especially if the league suspends Adam Jones, who the team seemingly refuses to release.
Tabor has good instincts, technique, and athleticism to play corner in the NFL, but his pedestrian 4.64 time in the 40 yard dash and team suspensions for off-field issues will push him down in the draft. His inability to cover deep will likely limit his ability to ever be a shutdown corner, but that’s what the Bengals have Dre Kirkpatrick and Jackson for. The Bengals are fairly adept at sitting at their draft spots and waiting for good players to fall to them, and Tabor could become the next in the long line of solid players who have fallen to the Bengals.
Round 4, pick 116 - D’Onta Foreman, RB (Texas)
From Rudi Johnson, to Cedric Benson, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Jeremy Hill, the team has an infatuation with using big backs who lack top-end speed, and offer little in the passing game. Foreman fits that mold perfectly with his pounding running style. Foreman has a knack of bouncing off defenders, making him difficult to bring down at times. He is a true 2-down back, which will lessen his draft stock and make him a viable option in the fourth round. With Giovani Bernard signed long-term it is unlikely that the Bengals will re-sign Hill as well after his contract ends after this season. If Hill struggles this season, the Bengals will be ready to move on, and if Hill has a great season, he will price himself out of being a Bengal beyond 2017 (much like Rex Burkhead did this past season). This makes the selection of Foreman a logical one as Hill’s replacement going forward.
Round 4, pick 138 - Chris Godwin, WR (Penn St)
The Bengals would love to find a receiver who can play opposite of A.J. Green, and with stop-gap Brandon LaFell and late round flier Cody Core as the leading candidates, there is certainly room for another contender for the No. 2 role. Godwin is fast (4.42 speed in the 40 yard dash) and strong (19 reps on the bench press), and can bring the Bengals a prospect to groom as a speedy deep threat.
Round 5, pick 153 - Jermaine Eluemunor, OL (Texas A&M)
The Bengals love their interior linemen to dominate on the bench press, and Eluemunor’s 34 repetitions of 225 pounds clearly fits that criteria. The Bengals are also not a team to shy away from taking athletic projects, which is another box that Eluemunor checks. The former rugby player is still learning to play American football, but has flashed impressive play in his limited playing time. With Andre Smith currently slated to start at right guard, this gives the Bengals a little time before they would have to press their latest Aggie lineman into service.
Round 5, pick 176 - Jake Elliott, K (Memphis)
The Bengals have a track record of making horrible kicker selections in the NFL Draft, but here’s to hoping they finally turn the corner in this department. They will likely wait too long on a kicker and miss on Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez, but could likely seek the next best kicking talent, with a fairly sizeable drop in talent after Elliott.
Besides hailing from Stephen Gostkowski’s alma mater, Elliott has his own merits that make him a favorable draft choice. After four seasons he has never missed a single kick inside of 30 yards, and has more successful career kicks from beyond 50 yards than Gonzalez (10 for 16). His numbers are a bit shaky in the 30~39 range, but if he is nearly automatic from short and from long, hopefully some NFL coaching could refine the accuracy on the medium kicks.