With the NFL Scouting Combine quickly approaching, draft experts of all kinds are pumping out one last mock draft before the combine forces them to re-evaluate where they think the top prospects will end up getting drafted.
Mel Kiper of ESPN is no different, and his mocks usually are among the most anticipated by fans considering how long he’s been doing it. His latest pick doesn’t stir any drama for the Bengals though as it fills a major hole the team has going into 2019 (and no, it isn’t a defensive coordinator).
Devin White, ILB, LSU
New coach Zac Taylor still doesn’t have a defensive coordinator, so this is a tough pick to project. I’m sticking to my best-player-available philosophy here, as White is the No. 4 prospect on my board. He is the best inside linebacker in this class, a three-down player with excellent speed and athleticism and the ability to diagnose plays and get to the ball carrier. Middle linebacker Preston Brown, who signed a one-year deal with Cincinnati last offseason, is a free agent, and he’s coming off a major knee injury. White is a plug-and-play replacement.
It just makes too much sense that the Bengals run their pick in if White is still available. Linebacker has been a major weakness for Cincinnati for a fairly long time, and implementing White into their defense would be a huge step in the right direction.
The Bengals need a linebacker who can keep running backs from bouncing outside, play some decent coverage and pass rush when asked to do so. White checks all those boxes, and he could be a centerpiece for that side of the ball as a new era will is set to begin.
Kiper also alluded to Brown being a free agent, but the Bengals could also move on from Vontaze Burfict as well this offseason. He had his seventh official concussion last season, and with Zac Taylor taking over for Marvin Lewis as the head coach, it could mean that his antics could be looking for a new home. Looking past that, Nick Vigil is the next best linebacker, which isn’t an indictment on him as much as it is on the rest of the position group.
In case you were curious about other options available at areas of need that White was picked over, pass-rushers Ed Oliver and Clelin Ferrell were both available. Dwayne Haskins was also the only quarterback taken before the Bengals’ selection.
The most interesting player still available was Jonah Williams, the offensive tackle out of Alabama. Kiper notes that he views him as more of an elite guard than a tackle at the next level, which would explain why he has Jawaan Taylor going in the top 10 instead.
We’ve lost count on how many mock drafts have White going to the Bengals, but it’s hard to imagine Bengals fans not rejoicing at White being the team’s inside linebacker for the foreseeable future.