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NFL Draft 2018: New 7-round projection has Bengals going linebacker in Round 1

This latest mock draft checks off all of the boxes.

Virginia Tech v Boston College Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

The draft is less than a month away, and the major waves of free agency are behind us. Cincinnati has exceeded the pool it had set aside for free agent acquisitions, but they still have some glaring holes heading into the draft.

As the Bengals prepare for the draft, they still have plenty of weaknesses to address, including center, guard, linebacker, defensive tackle and possibly even safety. With those in mind, we take another stab at predicting where Cincinnati might turn for help.

First round (pick 21 from Buffalo): Harold Landry, Boston College, outside linebacker

For years, Cincinnati has had problems covering tight ends and running backs over the middle. What the Bengals need more than anything is speed on the outside to satisfy that need. Landry is just the ticket.

The 6’3”, 252-pound product of Boston College turned in a 4.62 40-yard dash at the combine, and was among the leaders in the 20-yard shuttle, 60-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill. He was also among the top performers with a 36” long jump and a standing broad jump of 9’11”.

Landry was primarily an edge rusher in college, and finished his junior year with 22 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks and forced seven fumbles. He battled an ankle injury in his junior season and played in only nine games. But he still managed 8.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and a pair of pass breakups. He has the speed and the nose for the ball that the Bengals have been missing.

The only real question is whether Landry will be available at No. 21. Several mock drafts do not even list him as a first-round selection, while others project him as a top-15 pick. If he is still on the board when the Bengals go to the podium, he would be a can’t-miss choice.

Second round (pick 46): Billy Price, Ohio State, center

For a long time, Price was a clear first-round selection, and many mock drafts had him going to the Bengals at No. 21. However, the partially-torn pectoral muscle Price suffered while participating in the bench press has hurt his draft stock and he will likely be available for Cincinnati at this point.

Third round (pick 77): Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State, offensive tackle

The Bengals shored up their offensive line with the trade for Buffalo’s Cordy Glenn, and there is plenty of internal competition for the vacant right tackle and right guard spots. But Cincinnati needs more infusion of outside talent, and Rankin would give them plenty of options.

At 6’5” and 305 pounds, Rankin has the length the Bengals covet and plenty of room to add mass. He also has a mean streak that would make him a welcome addition at either tackle or guard.

Third round (pick 100 – compensatory) Shaquem Griffin, outside linebacker, UCF

Griffin more than earned his place here. He turned in the fastest 40-yard dash time of any linebacker since 2003 at 4.38, and also managed 20 repetitions at 225 pounds, despite having no left hand.

Griffin led UCF to a win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl, finishing with 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and 12 total tackles en route to being named Defensive MVP. While Griffin will probably be a fixture on special teams initially, he is more than capable of being that coverage linebacker that Cincinnati so sorely needs.

Fourth round (pick 112): Jessie Bates, safety, Wake Forest

Bates is a hard-hitter and has the speed to fit right in at free safety. He ran a 4.50 40 at the NFL Combine and looked good in the field work. He showed a nose for the ball with five interceptions as a freshman.

Fifth round (pick 151): Kyle Lauletta, quarterback, Richmond

Lauletta was one of the top quarterbacks in the FCS and finished 2017 with 1 64.9 percent completion rate, 3,737 yards, 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also rushed for seven touchdowns as a sophomore and provides the mobility the Bengals seek at the position.

Fifth round (pick 158 from Buffalo): Da’Shawn Hand, defensive line, Alabama

Long and lean – that about sums it up for Hand, who stands 6’4” and weighs 297 pounds. He has long arms and big hands, but lacks the speed to be successful around the end. But he does have good lateral quickness and could be effective inside with some added bulk.

Fifth round (pick 170 – compensatory): D.J. Reed, cornerback, Kansas State

Reed is quick, never gives up on a play and gives 100% effort all of the time. Unfortunately, he is only 5’9” and his lack of strength makes him a liability in the run game.

Seventh round (pick 249 – from Patriots): Bradley Bozeman, offensive line, Alabama

Bozeman did not receive a combine invite, but was impressive at his pro day with 27 reps at 225 pounds. Bozeman checked in at 6’5” and 296 pounds, down 32 from his playing time with the Crimson Tide. He was a two-year starter at Alabama, can play center or guard and gives Cincinnati more options along the line.

Seventh round (pick 252 – compensatory): Chris Herndon, tight end, Miami

Herndon started 11 games for the Hurricanes in 2017 and recorded 40 receptions for 477 yards and four touchdowns. He has good quickness for his size (6’4”, 245 pounds), but is coming off of a knee injury that ended his season prematurely.

Seventh round (pick 253 – compensatory): Jordan Mailata, offensive tackle

Mailata, of Samoan origin, played professional rugby in Australia and has never been on an American football field. But at just under 6’8” and 346 pounds, he is worth a gamble at this point in the draft. He ran a 5.12 40, and has a massive wingspan of 35.5 inches. He also turned in a top-10 performance in the short shuttle and recorded 22 reps on the bench press.