While we know what the Bengals’ biggest needs are for next season, there’s also a major need lurking at defensive end.
That is, if the Bengals lose Michael Johnson and/or Carlos Dunlap in 2019 when both veterans are slated to become free agents. That’s why NFL.com’s latest four-round mock draft has the Bengals taking a small-school pass-rusher with the No. 12 overall pick in Marcus Davenport.
12. Bengals: Marcus Davenport - EDGE, UTSA
Both Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap are due to become free agents after the 2018 season, so Davenport will learn from those veterans how to use this length on the edge while still making an impact as a rookie.
Davenport is arguably the top small-school prospect in this year’s draft, as he’s spent his college career at the University of Texas-San Antonio in Conference USA. There, he racked up 21.5 sacks, 37.5 tackles for loss and 185 total tackles over his four-year career.
This past season, Devenport racked up 8.5 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss, 55 tackles, three forced fumbles and four pass deflections.
Despite his great production, Davenport has been viewed as more of a late first-round prospect, not someone that could go as high as No. 12. That said, Davenport is a great talent with the potential to be a force off the edge for many years to come in the pros.
After Davenport, this mock draft has the Bengals taking Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne with the No. 46 pick. Payne has been projected as first round pick in some mocks, so getting him here would be great value.
Payne could also give the Bengals insurance if Geno Atkins leaves in free agency in 2019, though Payne is viewed as more of a nose tackle that would actually compliment Atkins this year.
At pick No. 77 in Round 3, the Bengals land Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki. He was actually one of the big winners at the NFL Combine, as he’s an athletic freak who could replace impending free agent Tyler Eifert.
Over the past two seasons, Gesicki has caught 105 passes for 1,242 yards and 14 touchdowns. He struggles as a blocker, but his ability to impact a game as a pass-catcher make him a very tantalizing prospect.
The Bengals get one mock pick in Round 3 thanks to a compensatory selection at pick No. 100, where they land Wisconsin cornerback Nick Nelson. While Nelson is a nice prospect, this isn’t a need by any means, even if the Bengals don’t pick up Adam Jones’ option.
However, Darqueze Dennard and Josh Shaw are both slated to hit free agency in 2019, so having Nelson as insurance would be a good move by Cincinnati.
With the Bengals’ final pick of this projection, they land Michigan center Mason Cole with the No. 114 pick. It took four rounds, but the Bengals finally address their situation at center, as Russell Bodine cannot be handed the starting job going forward (even though we know he will).
Cole is one of the top center prospects in this draft, though he’s played all along the offensive line. He actually played left tackle for the first two years of his college career, moved to center in 2016, then moved back to left tackle this past season.
But Cole’s smaller frame will almost certainly lead to him playing center at the NFL level, but it is nice to know he can play tackle if needed.
What do you think of this five-man haul for the Bengals?