How would the Bengals have to start the NFL Draft for you to grade it as an A? Would they have to go best player available or strictly attack their biggest needs? Maybe it’s only possible if the two coincided with one another.
The consensus regarding the Bengals’ optimal draft strategy lies in them addressing the linebacker and offensive tackle position very early, and that’s precisely what ESPN’s Todd McShay has them doing in his three-round best-case mock draft.
For reference, here’s how the first 10 picks unfolded before the Bengals:
- Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
- Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
- Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
- Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky
- Devin White, ILB, LSU
- Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
- Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida
- T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
- Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
- Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
Round 1 (11): Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan
Round 2 (42): Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington
Round 3 (72): Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn
If the Broncos hadn’t just taken Lock, I might have taken him here. But with those top three quarterbacks off the board already, Bush makes a lot of sense as a speedy linebacker with range in a unit that desperately needs playmakers. McGary is a strong run-blocker for Joe Mixon in the second round. Then the Bengals take that developmental QB in Stidham. The Auburn signal-caller needs time to work on his reads and progressions before he takes over an NFL offense.
Bush has become the new Devin White for Bengals mock drafts as the latter seems to be a lock for the first six picks. The Bengals met with Bush last week, so the logic of the pairing matches with reality.
Before Bush set the NFL combine on fire, McGary did extraordinary in his own right in Indianapolis. With a solid Senior Bowl performance and a confirmed elite athletic profile, McGary could easily find himself in the first 32 picks come April 25th. If he’s still on the board at the 42nd overall pick, the Bengals should seriously consider adding him to their offensive line room.
With their two biggest needs taken care of, McShay paired the Bengals with a new quarterback in the third round. Stidham was a two-year starter at Auburn after transferring from Baylor and will enter the NFL as a developmental passer with the upside of a potential starter — not exactly the player you’d expect to one day take over a franchise, but for a backup, you can do worse than Stidham.
Would you grade these three rounds as an A for the Bengals?