Predicting the NFL Draft is ridiculously tough. Predicting the 31st pick without knowing the first 30 picks is nearly impossible.
ESPN analytics has a tool to help simplify the process. Their Draft Day Predictor takes into account Scouts Inc. prospect grades, mock draft data, team needs, and past results to compute how likely players will be available, and which players are likely to be taken at certain picks.
When it comes to the Cincinnati Bengals’ selection at 31st overall, two names stick out more than others: Tyler Linderbaum of Iowa, and Zion Johnson of Boston College. The model gives Linderbaum about an 8% chance of being the pick and Johnson a 7% chance. No other players have higher probabilities.
In third place is Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green, which makes the top three most likely players all interior offensive linemen. Green barely edged out Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. and Georgia’s Devonte Wyatt.
This does not mean that the model thinks all of these players will be available at this point in the draft. This is combining that probability with the likelihood of Cincinnati selecting them. For example, since Wyatt is more unlikely to be had at 31, his percentage is lower than Linderbaum’s.
As the consensus top center in the draft, Linderbaum takes the top spot due to the fact that he’s graded highly and is projected to be available around when the Bengals pick despite those grades. It would likely be a best player available situation, and the Bengals could also use another interior lineman to complete their offensive line.
This is also why Johnson and Green are close behind him. Both players would be the favorites to start at left guard, and are considered fringe first-round prospects at the position.
Cincinnati truly is in a great spot to add another blocker for Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon if they desire. This will be something to monitor as final mock drafts start pouring out in the coming days.