The Cincinnati Bengals have been surprisingly active in free agency, but they still will use the draft to fill in some other big roster needs.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday announced the league plans to move forward with the draft April 23-25.
The Bengals have the No. 1 pick and appear to be making the most of the opportunity to improve the team by adding some key players through free agency, particularly on defense. Through two weeks of free agency, they have added nose tackle D.J. Reader, safety Vonn Bell, cornerbacks Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander and Leshaun Sims, linebacker Josh Bynes and guard Xavier Su’a-Filo.
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That means the priorities in the draft, if free agency ended today, would remain with offensive needs. The following is a seven-round mock draft for the Bengals, assuming no trades and looking at who could potentially be available and on their board.
ROUND 1 (No. 1 overall): Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
At the NFL Combine, Burrow squashed reports indicating he might not be interested in playing for the Bengals if drafted, and less than a month before the draft, it still appears he is the likely target. With the organization looking to move Andy Dalton, the quarterback spot is the obvious priority and Burrow’s record-setting national championship/Heisman Trophy season make him difficult to pass up.
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ROUND 2 (No. 33 overall): Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
The Bengals still have big needs at linebacker, so if any of the top four at that position are still on the board, it would be wise to grab one of them. For this draft, Baun appears most likely to fall (if not Patrick Queen or Kenneth Murray), and he would be a solid addition to the pass rush. Otherwise, look for a wide receiver or offensive lineman pick here. Some mock drafts have the Bengals taking Georgia tackle Isaiah Wilson, or wide receiver options could include Baylor’s Denzel Mims or Colorado’s Laviska Shenault. The good thing is it’s a deep wideout and offensive line class so the Bengals will be fine waiting if the linebacker is available.
ROUND 3 (No. 65 overall): Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Josh Edwards, from CBSSports.com, has Reagor still available at this spot, and if that’s the case, he would be a very good pick here. Burrow is going to need as many good targets as he can get beyond A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd. CBSSports ranks him the ninth best receiver in the draft. Other choices — a wide receiver seems the right fit here – could include South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards or USC’s Michael Pittman. If the Bengals go wide receiver in the second round instead, some draft boards have them taking Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks here.
ROUND 4 (No. 107 overall): Matt Peart, OT, UConn
The Bengals should take whatever guard or tackle is available here, and Peart could be that guy. He’s a high-ceiling tackle prospect who measured the longest arms at the Combine. Other options might include Michigan’s Ben Bredeson or Georgia guard Solomon Kindley or Louisiana guard/tackle Robert Hurt if they happen to fall to this round.
ROUND 5 (No. 147 overall): Collin Johnson, WR, Texas
Cincinnati probably needs another linebacker more, unless Lou Anarumo views Shawn Williams in that role now, but with John Ross potentially on the trading block and uncertainty over A.J. Green’s future, Taylor might want to take advantage of the wide receiver pool and double-up on that position first. Johnson has great athleticism and upside and his 6-foot-6, 212-pound frame could make him an eventual replacement for Green.
ROUND 6 (No. 180 overall): Josiah Deguara, TE/FB, Cincinnati
The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. first suggested this pick, and it makes sense given Taylor coached him during a short stint with the Bearcats in 2016. Plus, the Bengals now have moved on from Tyler Eifert and the team really doesn’t have a fullback – a position Deguara has dabbled in. Deguara was a beast for UC.
ROUND 7 (No. 215 overall): Jacob Phillips, LB, LSU
The Bengals still really need linebackers, so they use the last pick to fill that need and Phillips is probably one of the best ones still available. Otherwise, if Cincinnati ends up departing with Williams in light of Vonn Bell’s arrival, this spot could be used on a new Clayton Fejedelem-like guy to provide depth at safety and give the Bengals another special teams playmaker. Notre Dame safety Jalen Elliott would fit that bill.
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