The NFL Draft is coming soon, and instead of just another mock, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay did something different with their latest projection.
The two ESPN talking heads did a head-to-head debate for the first two rounds of the upcoming draft. When it came time for Cincinnati to use the No. 9 pick, both Kiper and McShay went with a wide receiver:
Kiper: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The Bengals' offense didn't look the same after losing Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency last year. With Williams (98 catches for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns for the national champs last season) and A.J. Green, Cincinnati would have one of the best receiving tandems in the league. Last year's second-round pick, Tyler Boyd, was just OK in 2016 (54 catches, 603 yards), and veteran Brandon LaFell is slotted in as the other starter.
McShay: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Agree on the position, but not the pick, Kiper. If the board falls this way, the Bengals will be in a tough spot. Davis and Williams would both be slight reaches; same with UCLA pass-rusher Takkarist McKinley. Davis' size (6-2, 205), ball skills and speed (estimated in the 4.4s, based on tape) make him a Day 1 NFL starter outside the numbers.
Adding an impact receiver at No. 9 would be nice, but it’s not a pressing need with Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd and Cody Core flanking A.J. Green, not to mention Tyler Eifert gets a ton of targets in this offense.
Taking a receiver this high would make more sense for a pass-happy team, but the Bengals just don’t utilize that No. 2 receiver enough to warrant a top-10 pick. The bulk of the targets are going towards Eifert and Green with occasional looks to Boyd in the slot, leaving little room for a No. 2 receiver to make an impact that justifies spending the No. 9 pick on him.
So while getting Davis or Williams sounds nice, it’s a bad move this high for Cincinnati.
In Round 2, Kiper has the Bengals landing one of the top defensive linemen in this draft, whereas McShay has Cincinnati grabbing a defensive lineman, too, who just happens to be the brother of J.J. Watt.
41. Cincinnati Bengals
Kiper: Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
On pure talent alone, McDowell might be a top-10 pick, and at 6-6 and 295 pounds, he's a physical specimen. But he didn't have a great junior season, posting just 1.5 sacks in eight games, and there are questions around the league about his effort.
McShay: T.J. Watt, DE/OLB, Wisconsin
Watt has just one year of notable production at linebacker after suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2014 and undergoing a position change from tight end. But his combine numbers showed his upside as a pass-rusher: 4.69 40, 37-inch vertical and 10-foot-8-inch broad jump at 6-foot-4 and 252 pounds.
Getting McDowell here would be a tremendous steal and a huge boost to a defensive line that needs more help outside of Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. McDowell is ranked as a first-round prospect by nearly every scouting service, but Kiper’s mock has him falling to Cincinnati in Round 2.
At 6’6” and about 280 pounds, McDowell played every spot along Michigan State’s defensive line this past season, though mostly at nose tackle. He needs to bulk up a little to play that position in the NFL, but he’d still be someone who could play both the 1 and 3-technique a ton during his rookie season.
As for Watt, he’d be a decent get here; he’s projected as a Round 2 prospect, so this would be a fair value pick, whereas McDowell would be a massive steal. Last season, Watt earned second-team AP All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors with 63 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.
At 6’4” and 252 pounds, Watt is projected as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in the NFL, but he has the potential to grow into a 4-3 defensive end. The Bengals don’t need another project pass-rusher though. They need an instant-impact guy who is more of a sure thing in this defense, which, as promising of a prospect as Watt is, is not a great fit here.
Of these two projections, which two-man haul do you like most for the Bengals?