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Could the Bengals take a Clemson DL in Round 1?

The Bengals have often been linked to fixing their linebacker issues early, but we have a new name in the running for the 11th overall selection.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The early stages of draft season have seen many mock drafts link the Bengals to the talented linebacker Devin White of LSU.

Projected to be the best linebacker in this draft class, White is an ideal fit for Cincinnati, but there’s just one problem: White hasn’t even declared for the draft yet, and has until today to do so,

Even if White does decide to go pro, some analysts think that 11th overall pick would too rich for the linebacker, especially with the talent expected to be there. Geoff Hobson of has offered up a new possibility for Cincinnati in the first round.

Christian Wilkins, defensive tackle, Clemson

Spare the linebacker talk here. This pick has to be a tackle. Offensive or defensive. After a year the Bengals’ front seven got gashed during a shocking last-in-the-league season, we waste no time turning to arguably the best defensive player in the national championship game. The 6-3, 312-pound Wilkins is on the rise after a much improved season of six sacks to go with 15 tackles for loss. And he ended with a flourish of four tackles, a half sack, and a tackle for loss in the glare of Monday’s bright lights. In Clemson’s second-half shutdown of Alabama’s record-setting offense, Wilkins was consistently in the backfield on the pass or run.

This wouldn’t be the worst possibility at this juncture if a trade is possible. It will be interesting to see how Kyler Murray throwing his hat into the NFL draft will impact the top-10 (if it even does).

Wilkins, who’s fresh off winning the College Football Playoff National Championship, would add a great presence in the middle for the Bengals next to Geno Atkins, who isn’t getting any younger despite earning his third contract last offseason. It would be a great way of addressing a weakness while also preparing for the future.

If defensive tackle is a legitimate option in the first round, a discourse regarding preference could be started. Ed Oliver from Houston could also be available, and Cincinnati has added quite a few players from that school over the recent seasons with William Jackson and Brandon Wilson. Jeffery Simmons from Mississippi State is another name to remember for the first round.

The argument for a linebacker is one that we cannot simply dismiss, despite Hobson’s early convictions on the subject. The battered linebackers that the Bengals trotted out onto the field last year were incompetent in more ways than one and if not addressed properly, the group will continue to hold the rest of the defense back. If White isn’t there or he doesn’t declare for the draft, the Bengals will simply have to address that need either later in the draft or before in free agency.

Those pining for a quarterback here are also out of luck as Hobson predicted two quarterbacks to be selected in front of Cincinnati. It is unlikely that the Bengals would be content with choosing the third quarterback taken in this class to be the future beyond Andy Dalton.

What are your thoughts? Does Cincinnati need to go after the best linebacker in the first round, or should they go after a trench player first and foremost?