Whatever Lapham says in regards to his former team’s first-round plans is usually reliable info, so his words carry more weight than any of the mock drafts we’ve read up to this point. In the past, Lapham has correctly predicted many of the Bengals’ picks including Tyler Eifert, Darqueze Dennard and Kevin Zeitler.
This year, Lapham offered two pre-draft predictions, which both falls in line with the theme of mock projections this offseason, and that’s an expectation Cincinnati addressed the pass rush or adds a can’t-miss receiver in Round 1. However, Lapham doesn’t think it’s as cut and dry as taking the best available pass-rusher at No. 9. His ideal/dream situation is the Bengals making a strong effort to trade down in Round 1, to around the pick 15-18 range.
If the Bengals are able to move down and acquire more picks, Lapham thinks they’ll take Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett. If Barnett is off the board, Lapham thinks Missouri defensive end Charles Harris or UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley will be the pick. That’s IF the Bengals trade down and don’t use the No. 9 overall pick.
But, if the Bengals stand pat at No. 9, Lapham went with Washington wide receiver John Ross, who’s received a lot of buzz for Cincinnati lately. The Bengals would prefer to upgrade the pass rush, as Lapham alludes to in the trade-down scenarios, but Ross may simply be the best available player at No. 9 if the Bengals don’t make a Round 1 trade.
"I decided to go with John Ross from Washington," said Lapham. "Because last year, I was all over going with the speed receiver Will Fuller from Notre Dame. My thing was, they needed somebody else to stretch the field opposite A.J. Green"
If you recall, Lapham thought the Bengals were going to take Fuller in the 2016 NFL Draft, but the Texans traded up and scooped him up before Cincinnati could get him. They ended up getting a nice slot receiver in Tyler Boyd in Round 2, but Ross would be a huge upgrade at the second boundary receiver spot next to A.J. Green.
Lapham believes Ross’ 4.21 40-yard speed (a Combine record and “wow” factor), polished route running ability, good hands, and history as a defensive back, all make him a great prospect for the Bengals in the top 10.
“I think there’s value there. And to me, if he can stretch the field on the other side with A.J., now, everybody is backpeddling, everyone is backing off. It not only helps A.J., it helps Tyler Eifert, in the middle of the field, to exploit that even more. Can’t load the box up, now all the sudden, the box is open and you have some more running lanes.”
Fellow Bengals announcer Dan Hoard actually went with Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster at pick No. 9. Foster has been the popular pick in mock drafts, but his off-the-field issues may have him off the board for Cincinnati, at least at pick No. 9.
After Foster, Barnett has been the second-most popular mock draft pick for Cincinnati, and there’s a decent chance they take him at No. 9, if they can’t trade down like Lapham alluded to. Ideally, they can trade down in the 12-15 range and take him there, which is really where his value is at.
Harris hasn’t gotten much top-10 love, as he’s projected to go in the teens or early 20s of this draft. He was among the nation’s best pass rushers over the past two years, racking up 16 sacks, 30 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and 117 total tackles across 24 games. Harris is a great pass-rusher in his own right, but he’s not someone that’s been linked to Cincinnati much at all.
The same is true of McKinley, who is also projected as a mid first-round selection, so the only way the Bengals get him or Harris at fair value is if they trade down. McKinley is regarded as one of the top defensive end/outside linebacker prospects after getting up 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss this past season. Either he or Harris would be a nice upgrade for to the Bengals’ enigmatic pass rush.
Most experts have Barnett, Harris and McKinley ranked in that order in terms of pass-rushers in this draft after Myles Garrett, who will be long gone by pick No. 9. Foster’s stock has taken a big hit, but I’d still be willing to bet he’s ahead of Harris and McKinley on the Bengals’ big board.
However, I think Ross has passed Foster on their board, and he probably is ahead of Barnett as well. Ross offers the best value of all these players at No. 9, so don’t be surprised if the speedy Washington receiver gets the call Thursday night.
Of these prospects, which would you like most for the Bengals?
This poll is closed
WR John Ross
LB Reuben Foster
DE Derek Barnett
DE Charles Harris
DE Takkarist McKinley