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Todd McShay’s mock draft has Bengals protecting Joe Burrow

There is no question that the Bengals need to continue to build up this offensive line.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 04 Big Ten Championship Game - Michigan v Iowa Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It is never too early to have an eye on who could be around in the draft for the Cincinnati Bengals after this season.

Of course, fans are hoping the Bengals will be picking as late as possible. This is just an entertaining way to see players who could fill needs down the road.

Todd McShay is one of the more respected draft analysts. He put put his first mock draft of the year for ESPN. Unsurprisingly, he immediately fills a huge need.

Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

No-brainer here. No quarterback has been sacked more than Joe Burrow (41), which of course isn’t what you want to see for your second-year franchise QB who already has a knee injury as a pro. Linderbaum anchors well and would help take the Bengals’ interior line from among the NFL’s worst to one of its best within a few years. Plus, he has good range at the second level, which would open things up more for running back Joe Mixon.

Linderbaum is currently the highest rated interior offensive lineman, and that happens to be one of the biggest issues plaguing the Bengals. They could use improvement at pretty much every position. However, Linderbaum’s instant boost to the interior makes him the easy pick here.

Starting center Trey Hopkins has had his moments of struggles coming off an ACL injury to end last season, but even if he comes back better in 2022, he could always kick out to guard and compete there. Linderbaum could really benefit by having a veteran like Hopkins lining up next to him to help him adjust to the mental side of the NFL.

The other areas the Bengals could look to improve outside of the offensive line include cornerback and pass rusher. Even with Joseph Ossai set to return in 2022 from a preseason injury, this defense needs an extra pass rusher for depth. The inside could also use a boost in this area if the team can’t retain B.J. Hill and Larry Ogunjobi. Many Cincinnati fans would likely also be giddy if Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner fell to the Bengals (he went right before their selection in this mock). That is a position that could easily be improved on in this draft with Trae Waynes unlikely to be on the team in 2022.

It also shouldn’t be ruled out that Cincinnati could move back in the first round and still grab an offensive tackle or any other need if they are sitting in this position. There aren’t incredible quarterback prospects in this class, but the Bengals could find themselves in the area that a few teams want to be selecting a potential franchise quarterback at in this class. This team has not been shy about moving back to collect picks in recent drafts.