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NFL Draft 2017: Bengals focus on offense in 3-round mock

Cincinnati’s front seven needs work, but the Bengals opt to address offensive needs with their first two picks in this mock draft from PFF.

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NCAA Football: Tennessee at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Defense would seem to be the best bet for what the Bengals address with one, if not both of their top picks in the 2017 NFL Draft.

The No. 9 pick in Round 1 and No. 41 pick in Round 2 should net instant-impact guys on whichever side of the ball Cincinnati goes with, and ideally, it’s a defensive end or linebacker who’s among one of those two picks.

And while those are the two positions getting all the love in most mock drafts, Pro Football Focus went in a different direction. PFF selected Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams for the Bengals’ No. 9 pick in their latest three-round projection.

9. Cincinnati Bengals - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson Tigers

While Corey Davis may be the perfect fit for the Bengals, Williams is a good consolation prize. He has the big body to work as a possession receiver, winning on in-breaking routes and moving the chains. He also has the body control to win down the field, where he caught 53.8 percent of his deep targets, good for eighth in the draft class.

Williams was a monster during his college career, racking up 57 catches 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.

Though Williams missed the rest of the season, he returned with a vengeance in 2016, catching 84 passes for 1,171 yards and 10 scores. Many of those scores came in jump-ball situations in which he simply out-muscled and out-jumped his defender with ease. Williams was a big part of Clemson’s College Football Playoff run and win, recording 8 catches for 94 yards and 1 touchdown in the championship game.

Williams is a lock to go in the first round and may not even make it out of the top 10, so if Cincinnati wants him, it will cost the No. 9 pick. That’s awfully high to draft a receiver for a team that doesn’t need one that badly, but if the Bengals simply go with the best player available, Williams may be that guy.

While taking a receiver within the first three rounds seems unnecessary, given that Cincinnati is pretty deep there, taking a running back is widely expected to occur within the first few picks.

In this mock, it comes in Round 2 in the former of Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara.

41. Cincinnati Bengals - Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee Volunteers

Kamara is explosive with the ball in his hands, tying for second in the draft class with an elusive rating of 129.4 and ranking fourth with 2.40 yards per route run. He brings a versatile weapon to the Bengals’ offense, capable of making plays both on the ground and as a receiver.

The former Vol was an explosive and elusive runner in college while playing behind Jalen Hurd for most of his career. Kamara still ran for 1,294 yards and 16 scores on 210 carries (6.2 avg.) while catching 74 balls for 683 yards and seven more scores over the past two years.

But Kamara is guy whose 5’10”, 214 pound-pound frame and durability (two missed games in 2016) may keep him from being drafted too high. He also has character concerns from his days at Alabama, where he was suspended multiple times before transferring to a junior college.

Despite all of this, Kamara is expected to go off the board late in Round 1 or early in Round 2, so the Bengals could snag him if he falls to pick No. 41.

For the final pick in this mock, Cincinnati finally addresses the pass rush with Illinois’ Dawuane Smoot in Round 3.

73. Cincinnati Bengals - Dawuane Smoot, Edge, Illinois Fighting Illini

Smoot was dabbling with first-round hype coming into the year, and he’s a solid pass-rusher who ranked among the nation’s best for the last two seasons. He led the draft class by picking up a bull-rush pressure once every 28.4 snaps.

A two-year starter for the Illini, Smoot finished top-10 in school history in career sacks (16.5) and tackles for loss (38.5), much of which came during the last two years. This past season, the 6’3”, 264-pounder recorded 56 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss and five sacks.

Smoot is close to the frame the Bengals prefer in their defensive ends, so getting him in Round 3 would be alright if they can’t get a pass-rusher earlier in the draft. Still the Bengals need to highly prioritize drafting a pass rusher.

What would you think of this draft haul for the Bengals?