The first round of the 2019 NFL Draft was nothing is not interesting. It started off innocently enough, but soon enough surprises started to mount, The Bengals missed out on the Devin White/Devin Bush sweepstakes, but in the end got the draft’s best offensive tackle in Jonah Williams, so it ended up being a positive.
They still have more needs to fill with their 10 remaining pick and although the top 32 players are off the board, there is still a lot of talent remaining. Here are the best players available heading in to Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft,
Linebacker is a good place to start seeing that it is the team’s biggest need. Alabama’s Mack Wilson is the top remaining player at the position. He was seen by some as a potential first-round pick, but his testing at Alabama’s pro day was troubling. Wilson’s tape, however, is impressive. The 6’2” 238-pound linebacker has a knack for making plays in the pass game and totaled six interceptions in the last two seasons. Wilson could be a good bet for a Bengals team that struggles in coverage.
Minnesota linebacker Blake Cashman is another option in Round 2 or 3. Although he is always around the ball, he tends to dive at ankles on tackles rather than securing the tackle. This is troubling especially on a team which already has plenty of tackling issues.
Conversely, Stanford linebacker Bobby Okereke is an excellent tackler. Okereke is 6’3”, 234 pounds and can fly around the field. He has excellent burst and closing speed and is a big hitter. He was very productive with 88 total tackles in his junior season and 94 last year.
Germaine Pratt only started one season North Carolina State, but he made it count, totaling 104 tackles. Pratt is the total package. He is 6’3”, 240 pounds and has some of the best film in the class. He has very good athletic ability, but nothing that jumps off of the page like the pair of first-round linebackers.
This was quite a year for defensive line and a ton of talented players went off the board in Round 1. Having said that, there are still some excellent players remaining. Michigan’s Chase Winovich has a relentless motor and always seems to be around the ball. He only had five sacks in 2018, but had 8.5 the season before.
The Bengals have also shown some interest in Florida’s a Jachai Polite. He has some red flags involving his attitude, testing and effort, but is a beast against both the run and the pass, where he had 11 sacks last season.
Boston College’s Zach Allen could be a fit as well. He never put up great numbers, but was an excellent moving piece in the Golden Eagles’ defensive front. Allen can play inside, outside, or with his hand in the dirt.
If the Bengals decide they need a true interior defensive lineman, there are still a couple of good options available in Arizona State’s Renell Wren, Western Illinois’ Khalen Saunders, and of course Ohio State’s Dre’mont Jones.
Saunders is a freak athlete who impressed at the FCS level then showed he can hang with the big boys at the Senior Bowl. Jones had a monster year for the Buckeyes, tallying 8.5 sacks as a defensive tackle, Either would make a great compliment to Geno Atkins on the inside.
Defensive back is not really a need for the Bengals at this point. They might need to find an eventual replacement for Darqueze Dennard, but hopefully he is one of the pair of defensive backs they can keep beyond 2019.
Still, with the way talent has slipped in this draft, they could end up making a value selection. Byron Murphy and Greedy Williams are widely seen as the best two cornerbacks in this draft, and it is shocking that they did not go in Round 1. Rock Ya-Sin, and Amani Oruwariye also make a strong case as top players in the group, but they have slipped as well.
Florida’s Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is seen by many as the top safety in the draft, yet the versatile player remains. He is interesting because although he plays safety, he is excellent in man and perhaps the best slot defender in the draft. Could he be Dennard’s replacement?
The trio of Delaware’s Nasir Adderley, Virginia’s Juan Thornhill, and Kentucky’s Mike Edwards also have potential to be huge play-makers in the NFL, and could worth finding a place for in the Bengals’ secondary.
It is time to address the elephant in the room: Missouri quarterback Drew Lock is still available. Lock does some really good things on film. He is accurate, throws a great deep ball, and can create with his feet. Lock will not last long in Round 2, but could be a huge pick up. At the very least, the Bengals need to add a backup quarterback, and Lock could be a great developmental prospect.
Other options that could be around a little later include West Virginia’s Will Grier and Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson. Grier, like Lock, has some impressive film. Both are quarterbacks who I would be excited about seeing develop in the future. Jackson is a little rough around the edges, but does some things very well. He is an accurate passer who is not flustered by the pass rush.
While Alabama’s Irv Smith, Jr. is still on the board, the best available player by my estimate is Jace Sternberger. The Texas A&M prospect had a great year, catching 48 passes for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns. At 6’4” and 250 pounds, he is not exactly a physical specimen by positional standards, but he has an incredible ability to gain additional yardage once the ball is in his hands. Blocking is not his strong suit though, and he would primarily serve as an additional pass-catching option to make this Bengals offense even more potent.
Speaking of pass-catchers, there are a number of options available. D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Deebo Samuel, and Hakeem Butler were all considered potential first round picks and bring very different skill sets to the table. A pair of Buckeyes in Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin also should be high on boards going into Night 2.
Receiver is not a huge need for the Bengals, but they could be tempted by one of these players or a plethora of others in Round 3. However, it is most likely that they wait until Day 3 to make a move at the position.
The Bengals lost their third running back recently, but don’t expect them to use a second or third round pick to replace him. Damien Harris, Miles Sanders, and David Montgomery are likely they next three players off of the board at the position, but there will be plenty of options for the Bengals on Day 3.
The Bengals already added one offensive tackle, and although they are likely to add a second, it probably won’t be on Day 2. Florida’s Jawaan Taylor could be tempting, but he probably won’t last very long. Oklahoma’s Cody Ford and Kansas State’s Dalton Risner are other players they have shown interest in through the pre-draft process. Both can play either guard or tackle, which is useful in many respects.
Most Intriguing Bengals Options
The Bengals still have a massive need at linebacker which makes Wilson, Okereke, and Pratt all very interesting Day 2 prospects, All three could be plug-n-play starters for the Bengals.
This clip shows how Wilson makes plays in the passing game.
Good to see linebackers getting INTs pic.twitter.com/VNSpUSGQk2— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) April 23, 2019
Okereke is an excellent tackler.
Great fill by Bobby Okereke pic.twitter.com/0cPMMuHd6e— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) April 23, 2019
Here is a sample of Pratt’s athleticism.
Burst! pic.twitter.com/QZ5hfV0QoO— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) April 23, 2019
If they want to add an offensive playmaker, Sternberger is the way to go. The Bengals don’t absolutely need to add a tight end, but Tyler Eifert is a liability and C.J. Uzomah is a big drop-off. Sternberger gives them the flexibility to use EIfert more as a wide receiver or save his body by using him sparingly.
Take a look at how Sternberger makes plays
Sternberger is a YAC machine pic.twitter.com/FQyeyX0IrA— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) April 24, 2019
It was predicted before the draft that Drew Lock could fall, but I don’t think anyone expected this. Lock has an excellent arm and a viable leadership presence on the field. Lock could be a steal in Round 2 and a star in the NFL for years to come.
Take a look.
This is why many NFL evaluators think @MizzouFootball QB Drew Lock is a first-rounder. He’s had a bunch of NFL starter level plays in this game. Can’t wait to see him at @seniorbowl. #armtalent pic.twitter.com/MhHkrk8NkI— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) January 1, 2019
Who do you want the Bengals to target today?