The Cincinnati Bengals have some holes to fill this offseason in order to get back into the playoffs, and make a run at a Super Bowl. Offensive line, defensive line, and linebackers look to be a big priority for the Bengals as an organization. With the ninth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft starting Thursday night, which hole will the Bengals fill first? Here are some ideas of who you might see as options for their pick.
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Derek Barnett, Defensive End – Tennessee
Barnett is a prospect that may not continually have the flash of other prospects, (i.e. Myles Garrett) but it could be argued that his consistent and impressive production at Tennessee was more convincing. That being said, depending on whose Big Board you’re looking at, some argue that Barnett would be a more-than solid pick in the first round for the Bengals, but also, there are others that say taking Barnett at the number nine pick could be a stretch.
The Bengals still have enough firepower on their team to make the playoffs, and possibly a have a playoff run. Taking an immediate-impact pass rusher would greatly increase their chances, and solid up their line that is currently holds other solid players in Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, and Pat Sims. If they pick defensive end here, it should be Barnett. However, there is also a possibility that they elect to wait on the pick for the defensive line, and end up electing to fill other positions, which leads us to the next option.
Cam Robinson, Offensive Line – Alabama
Cam Robinson is one of the most highly touted offensive lineman of the NFL Draft Class of 2017. His play at Alabama saw a lot of success, and he was a wall on the offensive line for much of his time at the school. To be fair, Robinson has a fair amount of downside, but has shown to be able to work hard to fix them, given time.
In his years at Alabama, he was criticized for things such as technique, and having a problem with bending his knee while blocking. Robinson was a freshman sensation for the Crimson Tide in 2014. He was the leader on an offensive line that allowed only 16 sacks on the season. It didn’t go as well in 2015 as Robinson allowed pressure and sacks on the quarterback. He had some trouble with blocking defensive ends throughout his time, but has shown signs of improvement.
His ratings with NFL teams vary anywhere from a top 15 pick, to an early-second rounder. Should the Bengal decide to shore up their offensive line in this draft, Robinson will be an option, along with our other options listed below.
Reuben Foster, Linebacker – Alabama
This is a big one for Cincinatti if he’s still on the table, and they are lucky enough to get him. Foster is one of the best linebacker prospects to come out of college recently. He has great range and can dissect any and all plays well. Foster had a big impact on what has made the Alabama defense so good recently; with a skill for solo tackling due to his ability to read the plays, along with his speed and agility. The one knock against foster is that he could definitely increase his ability to defend passes at the NFL level, though that isn’t the worst problem he could have when compared to other linebackers in this draft class.
The Bengals should not let the incident at the combine (and being sent home early) confuse or worry them if it comes down to drafting him. The incident won’t matter much in the long term run of things. Though there’s a good chance Foster goes before the Bengals’ pick, other teams’ needs could lead to him falling to them in the draft.
Given the opportunity, it will be hard to pass up on him.
Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky, Guard
Lamp is a consistent, strong, and reliable lineman. He excelled in the tackle spot in college, but most are saying that a move to the interior of the line into the guard spot would be in his favor. Lamp excelled at Western Kentucky, and has continued to further impress NFL scouts, leading many analysts to move him up into their Top-20 Prospects lists. (It also should be noted that he was lights out in a game against Alabama last year)
Lamp is being hailed as one of the most technically sound lineman picks in recent draft classes. Lamp lacks a little in height and length, but a move to guard solves these issues. Height, length, and similar attributes are not as important as technical skill for a player who can make an immediate contribution.
The Bengals’ offensive line could definitely use some work this offseason, after a lackluster season last year that ended with a mediocre four rushing yards per carry. As they failed to make any huge free agent linemen signings, the draft could be their opportunity to pick up a player who could make an immediate difference in protecting Andy Dalton this season.
Taco Charlton, Defensive End – Michigan
Though some do not consider Taco Charlton a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, especially due to the depth of this year’s defensive end class, he could see his stock rise due to his massive frame, long arms, and the talented skill set he possesses. Charlton has a unique physique to offer any team that takes him as he is still growing in his body. He also has a great spin-move that allows him to pick up speed and make big hits behind the line of scrimmage. Most issues with him revolve around the production and overall level of play that he showed during his time at Michigan.
I know this may not seem like a very likely pick, but it’s a possibility to say the least. His physique and play-style scream “Marvin Lewis” to me. It’s a possibility that Lewis and Co. Will like what Charlton has to offer, and look to land him. (If he is still there when the Bengals make their second round pick, there is no doubt they’d consider that an option as well.)
Honorable Mention: Corey Davis, Wide Receiver – Western Michigan
Corey Davis is one of the most interesting prospects in this year’s class when it comes to his draft stock. Some see him going earlier in the first round than others. Last season the Bengals definitely missed Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones after they left, though the receiving core managed to pick up the slack fairly well. Tyler Boyd added depth to their passing attack, but was not expected to fill the void of two veteran slot receivers.
Boyd will likely continue to grow and progress, but Dalton could benefit from a player like Davis who brings a whole new level of speed to the NFL and already has the tools to come in and be a productive receiver in this offense. By pairing Davis with A.J. Green, Dalton won’t ever be short of receiving targets.
Though no one can predict for certain who the Bengals will end up taking tomorrow night, it never hurts to speculate. Look for one of these six first round prospect to potentially be wearing orange and black in 2017. The Bengals need help across their roster and with many picks in this year’s deep draft class, they could look to fill some holes and make the push towards a playoff run.
— Nate Williamson is a Managing Editor for cover32 and covers the Kansas City Chiefs. He can be followed on Twitter here.