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Bengals mock draft: A new candidate enters the discussion

Mel Kiper Jr. released his first mock draft of the year, and has the Bengals taking an offensive tackle.

NCAA Football: Florida at Tennessee Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Now a few days beyond the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft, the talent pool for April’s draft is officially set.

The biggest factor that’s been solidified this week is how defensive-heavy the top 10 seems to be looking. The strength of this year’s draft class appears to be on the defensive line, with a few players in the back seven vying to be a high pick as well.

In Mel Kiper Jr.’s first mock draft of the year, he has seven defenders going in the top 10 in front of the Cincinnati Bengals, who pick 11th. One of those defenders is linebacker Devin White, who Kiper has going eighth to the Detroit Lions.

Other well-known names such as Jonah Williams, Dwayne Haskins and Cody Ford also found themselves gone before the Bengals were on the clock.

Kiper decided to mock the Bengals with the third offensive tackle to come off the board:

Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida Gators

The Bengals have missed on a few offensive linemen in the draft in recent years, and there’s still a hole at right tackle. That’s where Taylor would slot in. He took a huge step forward playing on the right side in 2018, though there’s still mixed opinion from people I trust in the league. Taylor is raw, but he has the tools to be a premier road grader in the running game.

The Bengals have missed on more than a few offensive lineman in recent years, but the sentiment is clear: the offensive line still needs work. The biggest hole remains at right tackle with what they have there now, and addressing the position in the first round seems logical.

But is Taylor worth that pick?

As a true junior, Taylor finished his third season starting for the Florida Gators and was the only freshman to start on their offensive line back in 2016. He’s played most of his collegiate career at right tackle, so he wouldn’t have to make an adjustment if he were to be drafted by Cincinnati.

But there’s a reason why the NFL scouts Kiper contacted are mixed about Taylor. He is most definitely raw and is more of a projection than anything, especially compared to his fellow SEC pass protector Williams from Alabama.

Listed at 6’5” and just around 330 pounds, Taylor has tremendous size already for such a young player and his athleticism for that size is ultimately what’s going to attract the team that drafts him. The bigger question will be if teams feel he is ready to start right away.

For the Bengals’ situation, a plug-and-play option at the right tackle position is most definitely preferable considering their current options are just plain bad at the position. But that might no be feasible unless Williams falls out of the top 10, which could still happen.

I look forward to personally evaluating Taylor myself in the coming weeks, as Kiper may not be the last person to link him to the Bengals.

For what it’s worth, Kiper has Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray going two picks later to the Dolphins, if you’re hoping Cincinnati takes that gamble.