Bengals fans and the media alike have been wondering who the team could possibly take at pick No. 12 since the 2017 regular season ended. Orlando Brown was a popular name as an incredibly rare prospect with a huge frame. However, after he bombed the Scouting Combine it left us all scrambling for a new top name to send to Cincinnati. It seemed like the Bengals would either be reaching for an offensive tackle or picking from the scraps left from the top 10. The offensive tackle class not wowing the Bengals enough to take one of them at 12 led to the team deciding to trade for Cordy Glenn. In doing so, the Bengals moved back nine spots in the draft to pick No. 21 in the first round.
This leaves us, yet again, looking for a new name to land in Cincinnati after tons of speculation on guys like Quenton Nelson, Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds and others who are unlikely to be available at pick 21. Now, we’ll be looking at players expected to be selected in the second half of the first round of the NFL Draft. Really, the names here make a lot more sense for the Bengals, which is maybe why they agreed to the Glenn trade. Most of these guys would have been considered reaches at 12, but now the Bengals have their left tackle while being in position to add a player they likely would’ve been okay reaching for at 12.
Here are eight names for Bengals fans to know as mock draft season continues and the actual NFL Draft nears.
James Daniels, center, Iowa: Daniels is in the argument for the best interior linemen in the draft. He is very athletic, and could be a great zone center in the NFL. He has enough power to get by, but it is still in a place where he needs to improve upon that. He has the potential to be a very good starter in the NFL right away and he’d also be a tremendous upgrade over Russell Bodine. Daniels is widely considered the best center in the draft and as a top need on the team, he wouldn’t be a surprising pick.
Rashaan Evans, linebacker, Alabama: Evans is an athletic linebacker with a knack for showing up where the ball is. He also has that rare sideline-to-sideline ability the Bengals desperately need at linebacker. He could use some work in coverage, but the tools are all there to be a very good coverage linebacker. He has had a nagging groin injury that has teams concerned about durability, which will mean he is likely to be available at pick No. 21. Plus, because the Bengals got Glenn as well as a high second round pick, the team could always try and wait to see if an interior offensive linemen falls to them on the second day of the draft. Even with the addition of Preston Brown, Evans still makes sense as the team’s Round 1 pick, should the Bengals go defense in Round 1.
Isaiah Wynn, offensive lineman, Georgia: Wynn is probably the best interior linemen in this draft. He played tackle in college, but only measures out to 6’2”, which is far too small to be on the outside in the NFL. The saving grace is he could still end up being a very good guard or even a center. He could also play tackle in emergency situations, which is just added value. He is very athletic and strong enough to really help out in the run game. He would be a great addition to the Bengals’ offensive line. It’s also possible he could be in the conversation for Round 2 if the Bengals feel he will fall that far.
Connor Williams, offensive tackle, Texas or Mike McGlinchey, offensive tackle, Notre Dame: The analysis of these guys is very similar. I think had the Bengals started out at pick No. 21 then one of these players would have been the guy. The addition of Glenn eliminates the need for one of these guys to be the pick. But still, the Bengals aren’t afraid to march to their own drum and if they feel strongly about either, the team could still draft a Round 1 tackle. Taking either one of these guys addresses the right tackle spot, and the team should be set there for at least three seasons. It still seems more likely the Bengals will either add a tackle later in the draft and allow him to compete with Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi at the right tackle spot. After all, they didn’t bring in Frank Pollack to just give up on their two highly selected 2015 draft picks.
Will Hernandez, guard, UTEP: Hernandez’s stock has been steadily rising since his terrific Senior Bowl performance. There aren’t too many negatives that come along with this guy. He doesn’t have the ideal height or length, but he checks out in strength, athletic ability and understanding technique. He could walk right into the right guard position and hold it down for years.
Leighton Vander Esch, linebacker, Boise State: No, he only looks like and sounds like a villian from an 80’s ski movie who is going to shutdown the local ski bar unless you beat him in a race. He is actually a super athletic linebacker. He still needs to put on some more weight and work on his technique, but you should expect that from a one-year starter. If he is given some time to develop he could turn into one of the better linebackers in the league. And, we know the Bengals love letting their first round picks sit on the bench to learn, so, maybe this is the pick?
Da’Ron Payne, defensive tackle, Alabama: Payne is the best run stuffing defensive tackle of this draft. Odds are Vita Vea will already be gone at this point (he was a target at pick No. 12), but Payne would be a great addition next to Geno Atkins. He is just a wall of a human being who rarely gets pushed back, which is something the Bengals need in the middle. He also has enough of a motor and a few moves to help get some pass rush when needed. He could be quite the steal for the Bengals if he reaches 21. With the addition of Chris Baker in free agency, this is another spot where the Bengals won’t need to rush a rookie to start and Payne would be able to take his time in getting up to speed.