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11 for 11 draft series: Devin White is a near-perfect fit for the Bengals’ defense

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Of all the players who could be there at 11, Devin White might be the one who’d make the greatest impact of them all.

Georgia v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The 2019 NFL Draft is almost here, and we’re wrapping up our 11 for 11 draft series with the man who’s been most projected the most to Cincinnati.

After all, linebacker is where the Bengals need to focus early in this year’s draft, as their one playmaker away from not only upgrade thait unit, but also making this defense a force to be reckoned with.

White has been projected to go as high as No. 5 overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he’s deserving of such a high pick. However, linebacker isn’t a premium position in today’s NFL, which is why a top-five talent like him could slip to No. 11, where he’d be a great addition.

Here’s why the Bengals should take White at No. 11:

  • He’s the best 4-3 linebacker in this draft, something the Bengals must address early.
  • He’d be great value at No. 11, as many experts have White ranked as a top five prospect, including ESPN and CBS Sports.
  • No linebacker in college football had a higher PFF grade in coverage than White’s 91.6 last season. The Bengals’ linebackers were consistently awful vs. the pass under Marvin Lewis.
  • He’d by a Day 1 starter and make an immediate impact for the Bengals, which should be the goal with their first pick of the Zac Taylor era.
  • Nick Vigil, Hardy Nickerson (RFA) and Brandon Bell (RFA) hit free agency next year, so the Bengals need a quality linebacker under contract for the next 4-5 years.
  • The dropoff at linebacker after White and Michigan’s Devin Bush in this draft is very steep, so much that there may not be one worth taking until Round 3 for Cincinnati.

Now, here’s why the Bengals should pass on White at No. 11:

  • A 4-3 linebacker has only so much value in today’s NFL, and the No. 11 pick could be used to get great players at more important positions.
  • There’s a good chance Dwayne Haskins is on the board here, and he may be the Bengals’ best chance at an upgrade over Andy Dalton for the foreseeable future.
  • Linebacker is a big need, but so too is offensive tackle, a position of more value, and there should be some good ones available here.
  • The Bengals’ last two first-round linebackers were Keith Rivers (2008) and David Pollack (2005), while their second-round picks include Dontay Moch (2011), Rey Maualuga (2009), Odell Thurman (2005). They’ve simply been bad at spending premium picks on linebackers.
  • Adding to that, Rivers is the only top-11 pick Cincinnati has spent on a linebacker since Joe Kelly in 1986. It’s just not a position Cincinnati has ever placed high value on when it comes to high draft picks.

All told, the good greatly outweighs the bad, and that porous history of drafting linebackers should not apply to White, who is easily one of the best overall players in this draft. He’s as close to a perfect fit as Cincinnati can hope for at No. 11.

If White is on the board when the Bengals are on the clock, I believe he’s the first pick of the Zac Taylor era.