Despite the changes at linebacker this month -- from signing A.J. Hawk, re-signing Rey Maualuga, dropping a second-round tender on linebacker Emmanuel Lamur -- Chris Burke's latest mock draft has Cincinnati going with a linebacker in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft with UCLA backer Eric Kendricks:
Emmanuel Lamur is sitting on a restricted free-agent tender and Vontaze Burfict underwent microfracture knee surgery at the close of 2014, leaving the Bengals in need of depth at linebacker. Kendricks would give them that and then some. He'll be a potential three-down player from Day 1.
Kendricks won the Butkus Award (best linebacker) and Lott Trophy (IMPACT player of the year) in 2014, as well as the Alamo Bowl defensive MVP. Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have Kendricks projected as second-round prospects while SB Nation's Mocking the Draft has him headed to Houston at No. 16 overall.
"His production and character makes it easy for a scout to bang the table for him," said one NFC scout via his NFL draft page. "The only blow-back I anticipate in my room is regarding his size, but if you stick him at the WILL spot, I don't think it matters."
Per the NFL.com draft page, which compares Kendricks to Wesley Woodyard:
Kendricks is an intelligent leader with high football character. Scouts don't see the same explosiveness in Eric as they see in his brother Mychal (Eagles LB), but they do see the same level of production and desire. Eric Kendricks plays with plus instincts against the run and pass. He has the athleticism and demeanor to be an impactful, productive outside linebacker in a 4-3 for years to come.