You know them and you love them. Mock drafts. This practice is the primary way that NFL fans get through the doldrums period of the football calendar and usually spark much debate. We always post mocks from various NFL media outlets, even if some of the results and opinions are the same.Would you like to know how much fans crave mock drafts? When doing an internal Cincy Jungle search using the words "Bengals mock drat", almost 780 results popped up for articles. Yowza.
The NFL Draft brings optimism to fans of every team, conjuring up images of how their beloved franchise can improve themselves in the early part of the year. Everyone thinks that their respective team hit a home run in the seven-round crap-shoot and it has become a major ratings-get for ESPN and The NFL Network. With free agency losing its luster a bit with the recent CBA restructuring that led to teams favoring the draft for cheaper and younger talent, all eyes are on the incoming crop of collegiate athletes.
We at Cincy Jungle only put out a couple of versions of a mock draft, usually before and after big scouting events and/or milestones in the process. For instance, the Scouting Combine is a couple of weeks away and with a number of pundits moving guys up and down their rankings because of their respective workout results, we decided to throw out an early mock before those results are tallied.
Keep in mind that free agency hasn't hit and though the Bengals aren't usually monsters in that arena, they do plug some holes--especially later in the process when the dust has settled. Another trend that they have begun is the long-term signing of their core players shortly before the season starts. From 2011 and shortly before last season commenced, the Bengals have locked up their key guys. This mock doesn't necessarily take that into account, but we have considered which internal free agents that they might keep.
For some laughs, you can check out a mock draft of mine from last year and gloss over the comments. Here we go:
Round One, Pick No.24: Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State:
I initially wanted to go with Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard here, but I feel that he'll be gone by the time that the Bengals go on the clock. It is likely that Dennard goes within the first ten to fifteen picks of the draft, leaving Gilbert out there for the taking. Regardless of which one that they take, the Bengals need a cornerback. Leon Hall is coming off of his second Achilles injury in three seasons (to both legs), Terence Newman has a year left on his contract and is in hi mid-30s and Adam Jones is no spring chicken, either. Throw in that former first round corner Dre Kirkpatrick still hasn't found his groove yet and it makes this position one that must be addressed early.
Gilbert has an inch and a few more pounds on him than Dennard, as he stands at 6'0" and 200. He has tremendous speed, ball skills and playmaking ability--all traits that the Bengals' secondary needs. Gilbert had six interceptions last year, two of which he returned for touchdowns. There have been questions on his technique at times, but he seems to be able to get away with it without many problems because he is so athletic. Just how big of a threat is he? Well, Gilbert returned six kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career at Oklahoma State in addition to all of the defensive plays. If the Bengals' coaching staff isn't so sure of throwing him out there in year one on defense, he can definitely provide some spark on special teams.
(Yes, that is Gilbert picking off Andrew Luck midway through as well.)
Round Two, Pick No. 55: Trent Murphy, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Stanford:
I wavered back and forth on taking a defensive end or an offensive tackle here in the second. Given the choices that the Bengals have to make on offensive lineman Anthony Collins and defensive end Michael Johnson, I'd say that Cincinnati is more likely to keep Collins. If they do that, a tackle wouldn't be needed here, much like the last-second Andre Smith re-signing last season (in which Collins could find himself in a similar situation). Given that, I went with a defensive end/linebacker hybrid here, which was a position that I thought the Bengals needed a month ago and have pined on the topic on Who-Dey Weekly lately.
The Bengals invested in Margus Hunt last year and though his potential and athleticism are off of the charts, he didn't prove much in 2013. Murphy is one of those "joker" hybrid defensive players that Marvin Lewis had plenty of in Baltimore with the Ravens. Though he hasn't found the same success with that position in Cincinnati, it's one piece that is missing from this near-dominant Bengals defensive unit.
Even if Murphy develops as only a niche player, he could become a solid pass-rusher. Don't let that fool you into thinking that he can't help out on the edge because he can and will with his tenacity. He has a unique build at 6'6" and just over 250 pounds and was extremely productive for the Cardinal last season with 15 sacks and one interception that he returned for a touchdown. He also had two forced fumbles and 23.5 tackles for loss on the year.
Murphy isn't overly athletic, but has a tremendous motor and if used properly he could develop into a handy pass-rushing specialist for a team that might need one with Johnson's likely departure. Again, this pick is predicated on the team re-signing Collins and letting Johnson walk.
Round Three, Pick No.88: Marcus Martin, Center/Offensive Guard, USC:
What do the Bengals and offensive line coach Paul Alexander covet the most out of their linemen? Versatility. With Andrew Whitworth getting into his mid-30s, Collins' aforementioned uncertain future, Clint Boling rehabbing a late-season knee injury and Kyle Cook having his ups and downs, the offensive line needs to be addressed relatively early in this year's draft. Martin fits the versatility bill and would be a great mid-round pick for Cincinnati.
First, Martin is entering the draft as a center, so that should be made known upfront. He isn't as polished as a couple of players ranked ahead of him at his position (Travis Swanson and Weston Richburg), but he has shown enough in a short time to be one of the top interior linemen prospects in this year's draft. In his first two years at USC, Martin was a guard and did pretty well there--particularly as a sophomore. He was moved to center as a junior and won All-Pac-12 First Team honors. He has good size at 6'3" and 310 pounds and has displayed good tenacity and athleticism.
The thinking here is a potential upgrade at center for the Bengals, while also providing a decent guard option, if needed in a pinch. With the Bengals not usually valuing centers or guards high in the draft, the team could get a solid player with good upside at a draft position that doesn't cost much.
Round Four, Pick No.119: Aaron Murray, Quarterback, Georgia:
The Bengals arguably need a quarterback--be it as an upgrade to the backup situation or to push Andy Dalton, right? The Bengals also love drafting players from the University of Georgia, particularly in the mid-rounds of the draft. Enter Aaron Murray, who in my opinion, is one of the most under-appreciated prospects in this year's draft class.
He's tough, he has won in college, put up big stats (broke school passing records) in the SEC and is a gritty leader. So, what's the problem? He's also small (6'1", 201 pounds), didn't have some of the big-game wins that other SEC quarterbacks have had, and his arm isn't necessarily exceptional. Still, his arm is pretty dang good for a player of his size and he has a nice, compact throwing motion to boot. Though Murray's value seems about right in the fourth round, I think he's a better player than what people give him credit for.