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NFL Draft 2018: Mel Kiper mock draft 1.0 sees Bengals address linebacker position

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Mel Kiper goes against the grain with his first pick for the Bengals this season as he sends one of the top linebackers to Cincinnati.

Virginia Tech v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

Mel Kiper has long been known as one of the premiere draft expert talents, so it is always news when he releases his first mock draft of the season. The mock has three quarterbacks in the top 10, a hint toward what could be a very quarterback-heavy Round 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft. That could benefit the Bengals who pick No. 12 overall and will almost certainly not be going after a quarterback on Day 1 of the draft.

As for his pick for the Bengals, Kiper goes in a direction few have dared wander, though, it does make sense.

Here is Kiper’s pick for the Bengals in his first mock draft of the 2018 offseason:

12. Cincinnati Bengals

*Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Edmunds is another one of my favorite prospects. At 6-5, he doesn’t have the typical frame of a middle linebacker, but he truly could play inside or outside -- he had 109 total tackles and 14 tackles for loss in 2017. If he ended up in Cincinnati under new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, he’d probably be an outside linebacker who could rush the passer on passing downs. I’ve said before that Edmunds has the most upside of any linebacker in this class.

Edmunds is a name Bengals’ fans should get familiar with. He has been rising up draft boards recently, and it doesn’t seem like that will be stopping anytime soon. He would be a great addition to the Bengals linebacker unit, coached by Jim Haslett. One of the best things about drafting Edmunds is that he is only 19 years old, which is great for a team like the Bengals who draft based on the upside of a player. They will have time to basically train him to be whatever player they want or need him to be. Though, on the flip side, the Bengals don’t always like drafting super young players. But, they did with Joe Mixon last year who was only 20 when the Bengals selected him in the draft.

Edmunds would fit the mold of an athletic linebacker who has the closing speed to prevent speedy running backs from breaking outside for big runs. He is able to cover down the field and his large frame doesn’t seem to impede him much either.

Here’s a look at what our friends at Gobbler County, SB Nation’s home for all things Virginia Tech, had to say about Edmunds after the football season ended.

Edmunds led the team in tackles. He was absolutely critical to stopping the run, especially the better results against running quarterbacks and the triple option... Tremaine because he was nominated and is a finalist for the Butkus Award for the NCAA’s best linebacker.

What is more interesting about this pick is what Kiper is saying about the other players in the draft. Georgia linebacker Roqaun Smith and Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey (Kiper’s No. 1 ranked lineman) both went right before the Bengals’ selection. That means Kiper views Edmunds as that much more valuable than any of the top tackles in the draft. Texas offensive tackle Connor Williams didn’t even go until the 31st pick, despite being an early mock draft target for the Bengals in Round 1. Offensive linemen like Ohio State center Billy Price, UCLA tackle Kolton Miller and Pittsburgh tackle Brian O’Neill all went before him, and Orlando Brown was completely missing from the first round. Miller and O’Neill have hardly even made an appearance in most mock drafts to this point.

If Kiper’s mock draft is a sign of where the offensive linemen will be valued by NFL teams, then Bengals fans may want to get comfortable with hearing Edmunds’ name (and other defensive players’ names) in mock drafts, which won’t be a bad thing at all. Though, there’s tons of time before the draft and we shouldn’t expect the actual order of Round 1 to look all that much like Kiper’s first mock of the year.

You can read more and watch some film from Edmunds here.