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3-round Bengals mock draft by ESPN’s Todd McShay and Mel Kiper

A defensive-heavy projection for the Bengals.

Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Utah Utes 48-45 during the 108th Rose Bowl game in Pasadena on Saturday, January 1, 2022. Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

In their latest three-round mock draft, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay of ESPN have the Cincinnati Bengals focusing heavily on the defensive side of the ball. While there has been chatter of several defensive backs potentially being selected at pick 31, the latest version takes things in a different direction.

Linebacker isn’t a position that you may have heard needs much attention, but that is exactly where McShay projects the Bengals to draft in Round 1.

McShay’s pick: Devin Lloyd, ILB, Utah

“I originally thought hard about Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum here, but Lloyd’s slide out of the top 30 forced my hand. Lloyd impacts the game in so many ways, and he could be the long-term answer in the middle of the Bengals’ defense.”

With the performances we saw from Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt in a defense that mainly relies on two linebackers, that is not a need you’ll see people banging the table to address.

When Wilson went down with a shoulder injury, we saw Joe Bachie fill in admirably before unfortunately suffering a knee injury of his own. Add that to the expectation that Akeem Davis-Gaither will be back healthy in 2022, linebacker doesn’t really jump out as an urgent need.

With that said, Lloyd does provide a ton of big-play ability and is a prospect many are excited about. Actually, he was rated as the top linebacker prospect in the class by Sports Illustrated.

If the Bengals do select Lloyd at 31, it will be interesting to see how Lou Anarumo incorporates him into the game plan.

The defensive focus continues in round two of this NFL Mock Draft, this time having the Bengals addressing the trenches. Since the departure of Larry Ogunjobi, there hasn’t been a replacement signed in free agency, but McShay has Cincinnati going with more of a traditional run stopper at pick 63.

McShay’s pick: Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama

There isn’t really a cornerback in this range, and the Bengals could use a boost on the interior of the defensive line, especially after losing Larry Ogunjobi. Mathis’ game went to another level in 2021.

Bringing in Mathis won’t fill the need of the three technique that remains on the roster, but it does bring a player who excels at plugging the gaps in the middle of the defensive line. Mathis was a captain at Alabama for Nick Saban, he brings very good speed out of his stance and was able to pressure the quarterback at a decent clip for someone who isn’t tasked with it on every snap.

Defensive back has been an area of focus in pre-draft scouting for the team. The return of Eli Apple seems to be more of an insurance policy than a long term plan and McShay has the Bengals addressing cornerback at the end of Day 2.

McShay’s pick: Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama

The Bengals would welcome Jobe’s ability in press coverage to a defense that could lose much of its cornerback room after this season.

Dipping back into the Alabama well again for Jobe would bring the Bengals a player who looks as if he was built to be a perimeter cornerback at the pro level. With good height for the position (5’ 11 1/2”) and long arms (32 5/8”), Jobe showed flashes in college.

However, a subpar senior season no doubt contributed to Jobe falling to Day 2, but the Bengals could come away with a mid-round gem if the physical tools can come together with the competitiveness that oozes from him on tape.

There has been talk of Jobe transitioning to safety as well. If selected, it would be interesting to see how Anarumo would use him.

With the uncertainty around Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell’s contract expiring after the 2022 NFL season, drafting for a future need would make sense.

We’re less than two weeks away from the draft, so all the speculation will come to an end soon. In the meantime, stay tuned in to Cincy Jungle for the latest from the rumor mill on who the Cincinnati Bengals could draft this year.