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2019 NFL Mock Draft: Bengals find an upgrade at linebacker

The Bengals turn back to LSU to find an answer in the second level of their defense.

Louisiana Tech v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Every team in the NFL has played at least half of their schedule now as we enter Week 10 of the regular season. This of course means one thing and one thing only:

Mock draft season is approaching.

SBNation’s own Dan Kadar posted his midseason mock draft last week with the Bengals slotted at the 24th overall pick. They came away with a new linebacker from the SEC:

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Devin White, LB, LSU

Cincinnati’s run defense is near the bottom in the NFL, and part of the problem is the team’s linebackers. White can slot into multiple linebacker spots, and he has the type of read and react skills to be a standout run stopper.

For the longest time, the Bengals have needed an injection of talent and athleticism at any of the linebacker positions, so White makes a lot of sense. The issue with the logistics in this pick is that the Bengals haven’t taken a linebacker that high since they took Rey Maualuga in the second round back in 2009. But they did just take a center in first round for the first time since the franchise’s first draft, so we’ve seen them deviate from trends occasionally.

In the past four drafts, they’ve taken four linebackers total, with three of them coming from the third round. Three of those linebackers are still with the team, but only one of them, Nick Vigil, is a starter.

Jordan Evans, who was a sixth-round pick, has been a spot starter for the past two seasons and has flashed potential, but is not quite starting-caliber despite possessing impressive athleticism. Malik Jefferson was drafted this year and has shined on special teams, but hasn’t even seen the field for the defense in a regular season game. His upside also lies with his inordinate athleticism for the position.

As of now, the Bengals’ starters are Preston Brown, Jordan Evans and Vincent Rey. Evans is playing for Vigil, who is still nursing a knee injury, and Rey is filling in for Vontaze Burfict, who has been out for a couple weeks with a bad hip. Burfict was suspended for the first four games of the season and didn’t quite look like his old self when he returned for the three games he’s appeared in.

Burfict has carried the Bengals’ linebacking corps for the better part of six years, so when he’s not healthy or playing his best, it’s noticeable. But with Burfict’s constant antics always getting in the way of his performance on the field and costing him hundreds of thousands of dollars, at some point the Bengals need to find legitimate contingencies for him. The talented White, who has 31 solo tackles and seven tackles for a loss on the year thus far for the talented LSU Tigers, could be that contingency plan.

It’ll be interesting to see how this linebacker class evolves in the coming months, and if the Bengals’ need for a new one increases as the season continues to progress.