As the 2019 NFL Draft draws ever so near, a small handful of familiar names continue to be connected to the Cincinnati Bengals. This draft class is an interesting one for the club, as it’s the first under a new head coach for the first time in 16 years. It’s also one that should be a mix of both the filling of dire needs and the use of foresight on “luxury picks”.
Speaking of the former, linebacker continues to be the most commonly-mocked position to the Bengals at No. 11 overall. It’s for good reason, as the group is in major transition this year.
When we engaged in the SB Nation contributor mock draft a couple of weeks ago, we made the selection of Michigan linebacker, Devin Bush. The reasoning behind this pick was a blend of need and how the board fell, but it isn’t like the former Wolverine is a poor consolation prize.
As the pre-draft process began, Bush was pegged as a late-first to early-second rounder. But, after an impressive showing at the NFL Combine, Bush has propelled himself into top-15 chatter.
In 2019, he had 66 total tackles (8.5 for loss), 4.5 sacks and four passes defended. He is known as a bit more able in pass coverage than LSU’s Devin White, though the former Tiger is tagged as the better overall prospect.
Why the pick makes sense for the Bengals:
- Even with the re-signing of Preston Brown, the Bengals’ biggest positional need is at linebacker.
- Bush has great range and is able in pass coverage, despite notching just one interception in three collegiate seasons.
- He has the potential to be a three-down player on defense.
- CBS Sports has Bush ranked as the No. 11 overall prospect in this year’s class, and is 14th on Gil Brandt’s list of rookies.
- Cincinnati has some players with a little range at the position (Nick Vigil, Jordan Evans), but they do not have Bush’s instincts.
- He is the second-highest rated linebacker in this year’s class.
- If he does not get picked by Cincinnati, it’s very possible he lands within the division (not the greatest reason to pick a guy, but seeing him twice a year could bring “what if’s?”).
- Cincinnati’s defense was deplorable in almost every area last year, and the linebackers were the biggest issue.
Why the pick doesn’t make sense:
- Even with his high overall rankings, is the value there in taking the second-best player at a position with such a high pick?
- Bush had a dip in production in 2019 from 2018—29 fewer tackles, one less interception, two fewer tackles for loss, three fewer passes defended and one less quarterback sack.
- Linebacker is becoming less of a premium position in today’s NFL.
- Cincinnati hasn’t had the best track record with drafting linebackers with high picks recently.
- Bush is listed at the No. 18 best player in the class by Pro Football Focus’ metrics.
- Does linebacker have the same impact as a quarterback, or a player on either line?
- If many players the Bengals covet are off of the board, moving back a little bit and grabbing Bush would be a home run move. It’s a big if, in terms of being able to have their cake and eat it too, but that’s one of a few ideal scenarios.
Overall, Bush would be a very solid, but not spectacular pick. He’d definitely help anchor a defense that needs improvement in many areas, and he brings an athleticism needed to thrive within the AFC North.
What do you think of the possibility of the Bengals drafting Devin Bush at No. 11?