The Bengals have many needs entering the NFL Draft, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
Clearly the Bengals biggest need is linebacker, where they are in major need of an athletic upgrade. The status of quarterback Andy Dalton moving forward is a point of contention amongst Bengals fans, but we can all agree that they at least need a better backup than that they currently have.
Despite re-signing Bobby Hart Because they re-signed Bobby Hart, the need to upgrade the right tackle position through the draft as well. They re-signed two of their top three tight ends, but neither Tyler EIfert remains an injury concern and neither he nor C.J. Uzomah is much of a blocker. Finally, the Bengals are looking hard at pass rushers, which may tell us how they feel about the defensive line.
So, lots of needs to address with lots of picks. The Bengals have several options as to how they fill these needs, and these players represent their best options pending on what they try to address first.
QB - Dwayne Haskins
Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray will be long gone by the time the Bengals pick, but rumors are swirling that Haskins may be available. Haskins is an accurate passer who distributed the ball well to a plethora of talented Ohio State wide receivers. He is not a scrambler in the mold of most modern NFL quarterbacks, but is a talented passer from inside the pocket.
TE - T.J. Hockenson
Hockenson is an excellent all-around tight end. At 6-5 251 pounds, he is a superb blocker in the run game and a matchup nightmare in the pass game. The Bengals don’t need to find a starting tight end in this draft, but Hockenson may be the biggest offensive play maker available. The combination of Hockenson and a healthy Eifert would make the Bengals extremely hard to defend.
OT - Jonah Williams
Washington’s Andre Dillard and Florida’s Jawaan Taylor have risen up the charts over the last several weeks, but Williams started there for a reason. Williams has excellent film and is still just 21 years old. The Alabama tackle already has good feet and a great strike, and he’s only going to get better. He would be the ideal fit for the Bengals right tackle spot.
EDGE - Brian Burns
Burns is not getting as much attention as some of the other edges in the class, but he has an incredible talent for pass rush. Burns has a great initial burst off the line of scrimmage which puts offensive tackles in a bind almost immediately. He is not just a speed rusher. He has a well-developed array of pass rush moves. His most impressive quality however is his flexibility. He stands out amongst his peers for his ability to bend around the edge as a pass rusher.
LB - Devin Bush
Personally, I would much prefer Devin White, but it is looking like he will be the Buccaneers or Raiders’ pick long before the Bengals have a shot at him. Bush, who is an athletic linebacker with sideline-to-sideline playmaking ability, is an excellent consolation prize. He is talented as a pass defender as well, which is something the Bengals sorely need in this position group. Bush may be a bit of a reach at this juncture to some, but is the likely pick when it’s all said and done.
QB - Will Grier
Grier was a popular name coming into the season, but many got off of him. Some question his arm, but it is strong enough. He makes good reads and anticipates throws. His accuracy and ball placement are very good on short and medium range throws, but less reliable on deep balls. Having said that, he has been more of a gunslinger than other quarterbacks in this class and can create with his feet. He seems to have an X-factor that can make this all work together.
TE - Jace Sternberger
Forget Noah Fant and Irv Smith Jr., Sternberger is the second best tight end in this class. He is an excellent pass catcher with the athletic ability to dominate linebackers and safeties alike. He does however need work as a blocker and at 6-4 250 pounds he may never be dominant in that area. He is, however, a terrific playmaker and someone is going to get away with robbery by getting this guy in the second or third round.
OT - David Edwards
The 6-7 315-pound Wisconsin tackle has everything that teams look for in an offensive tackle. He is big and long, but still moves incredibly will. He can get a little aggressive and off balance at times in the run game, but he gets great movement. Edwards shows excellent athletic ability cutting off backside pursuit. Dalton Risner will be a popular name at the top of the second round, but the Kansas State tackle likely won’t make it to the Bengals’ pick.
EDGE - Jachai Polite
Polite had some early buzz, but then dropped down most analysts’ boards and personally I don’t understand why. Yes, his week at the NFL combine was bad, but he does some really nice things on film. He can get after the quarterback rushing the edge and is a strong run defender. He has a little bit of Carl Lawson in him, but is probably better against the run. Polite would be an excellent addition to the Bengals pass rush and gives them another player who can do Lawson-esque things if Lawson gets injured.
LB - Germaine Pratt
Pratt’s film should make him one of the top linebackers in this class, but for whatever reason, he is not getting that much attention. At 6’3” 240, he has the size team’s covet and is an exceptional athlete. He can make plays from sideline to sideline and totaled 104 tackles as a senior. Pratt has all of the tools to make an immediate impact in the NFL. Even if the Bengals get one of the Devins in round one, they should consider doubling down on the position and adding Pratt later on.
QB - Brett Rypien
Rypien is a four-year starter who had his best season in 2018. He completed over 67% of his passes and threw for over 3,700 yards and 30 touchdowns. He played in a complex offense at Boise State that required a lot out of the quarterback mentally. When all is said and done, he could end up as one of the top quarterbacks in this draft class.
TE - Foster Moreau
What the Bengals are missing at the tight end position is a blocker and that is what Moreau is best at. Moreau will help open holes for Joe Mixon and could be useful in pass protection as well. He is an athletic player who could very well contribute as a pass catcher as well, but saw limited use in this area at LSU.
OT - Trey Pipkins
Pipkins is a big man from a small school. The 6-6 309 pound tackle was a star at Division II University of Sioux Falls. He has the strength and flexibility to develop into a quality NFL player. His biggest issue is level of competition, but he proved at the Shrine Game that he was capable of competing with the best of the best.
EDGE - Wyatt Ray
Ray is a bit undersized but he can get after the quarterback. He has a great initial step and tenaciously attacks the quarterback. He is lacking in flexibility, but has the burst to function as a rotational player in the NFL. Ray had a great 2018, posting 11.5 sacks for the season.
LB - Ben Burr-Kirven
Coming off a monster year at Washington with 176 tackles, Burr-Kirven is poised to make a splash in the NFL. At 6-0 230 pounds, he is a bit undersized, but he is an excellent athlete who ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at the combine. The Bengals need to look for athletic and productive linebackers like this. Last year the group not only had problems in coverage, they failed to make open-field tackles after the ball was caught, allowing the opposing offense to pick up even more yardage. Burr-Kirven solves both of those problems.