The Draft is almost upon us, so most analysts are trying to sneak in one last mock draft before the real thing hits. NFL Network’s Peter Schrager is no different with his latest three round mock draft. What is different, is the path the Bengals take with their first four picks in the draft.
Here is how he has the draft breaking for the Bengals, starting with a center as so many mocks do.
21.) James Daniels - C, Iowa
A versatile offensive lineman who played under Kirk Ferentz, Daniels projects to be a starting center or offensive guard for many years in the NFL. Safe, solid selection for a Cincinnati team that needs to hit in the first round this year.
46.) Mark Andrews - TE, Oklahoma
77.) Luke Falk - QB, Washington State
100.) Jessie Bates - S, Wake Forest
That ends up being quite the interesting haul. It is clear he didn’t get the memo that Dave Lapham has already said the Bengals will draft center Frank Ragnow, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt since he still picked a center and one who could be debated on as the top prospect at the position.
Daniels, like Ragnow would be a great fit at center. It is obviously the Bengals’ biggest need going into the draft after Russell Bodine left in free agency. The only real center still on the roster is T.J. Johnson, who shouldn’t be left to get it done in 2018. Daniels’ athleticism and technique make him an incredible prospect, but he lacks that ideal strength you’d like to see at the center position. He is still young though, so that could come with time.
It is really on the second day that Schrager takes a left turn with the Bengals. Andrews is an interesting pick. He adds some real depth to the playmaking position at tight end. The Bengals do have Tyler Kroft and Tyler Eifert, but neither are under contract past 2018. Eifert also has failed to stay healthy for an entire season since entering the NFL. Is it worth drafting Eifert’s insurance policy at pick 46?
Andrews is known for his height and speed ratio. As far as playmaking tight ends go, he is probably the best in this draft. However, he isn’t going to give you anything in the blocking game. He was a high school receiver, and Oklahoma played him more in the slot than attached to the offensive line. If the Bengals did decide to move on from Eifert, Andrews and Kroft could make a pretty nice complimentary duo.
The Bengals didn’t have many better options at this point either. Isaiah Wynn went right before them, and he was pretty much the last of the top interior linemen available. Center Billy Price was available, but the Bengals had obviously already addressed that position. The Bengals did essentially have their pick of tight ends as only Dallas Goedert had been taken before Andrews. It is interesting that Schrager thinks the Bengals would value an NFL-ready playmaker at tight end over a more complete guy like Mike Gesicki.
The third round brought even more curve balls. Falk has been linked to the Bengals several times. The team has shown a ton of interest in him after he lit up the Senior Bowl. There have been doubts about his arm strength, but he possesses some great instincts as to how to move around defenses. It’d be strange to see the Bengals put so much value into the backup quarterback position, but they’d be getting the player they were hoping Jeff Driskel would be.
To close it out, the Bengals take a safety. Bates is a really nice value pick. In any other draft he may have been considered one of the better guys at the position, but this class was stacked. He is more of a center field safety, which pushed him down the board a little as teams are looking more and more for that guy who can come into the box with the linebackers. That said, he could be a second round pick.
The best way to describe Bates is as a ball hawk. He has great anticipation, ball skills and he is dangerous with the ball in his hands. He even has experience returning punts at Wake Forest. The addition of Bates could be just adding depth to the safety position, or the team could start working their way towards a more three safety look on defense to help mask the poor coverage play from the linebackers. What would need to be seen is how that would be presented. Currently George Iloka is the center field safety for the Bengals, so would adding Bates move Iloka to Shawn Williams’ spot, or would Bates just push Williams up? It certainly would give the Bengals’ defense more options.
Overall, this draft would leave the Bengals looking for a possible linebacker, guard, and defensive tackle on Day 3. Cincinnati could also look to add an offensive tackle to the competition on the right side, but if the draft went this way people should get comfortable with the idea of new offensive line coach Frank Pollack getting something out of either Cedric Ogbuehi or Jake Fisher.