ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31: Jonathan Allen #93 of the Alabama Crimson Tide tackles Myles Gaskin #9 of the Washington Huskies during the 2016 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome on December 31, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

NFL Draft: Top 5 defensive tackle prospects for Cincinnati Bengals

When it comes to defensive tackle, the Cincinnati Bengals have one sure thing and a whole bunch of questions.

Geno Atkins is a five-time Pro Bowler whose presence alone will make anyone lining up next to him that much better. But the question is, with Domata Peko ending his run of 11 seasons in Cincinnati by signing with Denver, who will be lining up next to Atkins? The list of possible replacements features a lot of potential but little production.

Neither 2012 third-round pick Brandon Thompson nor 2016 fourth-rounder Andrew Billings played a snap last year due to knee injuries. The coaches are high on Marcus Hardison (fifth round, 2015) and DeShawn Williams (undrafted, 2015) even though neither has been asked to play more than a handful of snaps per game. And then there’s Pat Sims, who is a quality run stuffer but is entering his 10th season.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Like our Cincinnati Bengals News Now Facebook page

The Bengals are likely to add at least one defensive tackle in the draft, but there are other positions that warrant more attention. Still, the best-player-available philosophy could lead the Bengals to grab a guy early.

Here are the top five prospects available as part of our continuing series looking at each position:

Jonathan Allen, Alabama

There are a handful of elite prospects the Bengals know have no chance of falling to them at No. 9, but Allen might be the exception. There are a few mocks that have him going in the 8-10 range, and if he’s still on the board at No. 7 there would have to be some temptation to trade up.

The 6-foot-3, 286-pound Allen was the best defensive player on the best defense in college football last year, winning the Chuck Bednarik and Bronco Nagurski awards. While he’s listed as a tackle, he has the ability to rush from the outside which would make him an idea fit in the defensive line rotation.

One of the knocks on Allen is he’s not built to take on double-team blocks, but that issue disappears if you line him up next to Geno Atkins.

›› RELATED: Jay Morrison’s Mock Draft 3.0

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 05: Malik McDowell #4 of the Michigan State Spartans reacts during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Photo: Staff Writer

Malik McDowell, Michigan State

The Bengals lost a former Michigan State defensive tackle in free agency, a bedrock of the franchise in Domata Peko, but the “Circle of Life” storylines probably will need to stay on the back burner. McDowell is a first-round talent, but it’s doubtful he’ll be in play at No. 9 and unlikely he’ll still be around when the Bengals pick again at 41.

A two-year starter in East Lansing, the 6-6, 295-pound McDowell is an unusually large defensive tackle. In fact,’s Dane Brugler list’s McDowell’s NFL comparison player as Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap.

But some question whether McDowell is quick enough to play outside, and his height will make it easy for NFL offensive lineman to get under his pads to clear running lanes. Still, many scouts think he can develop into a dominant player.


TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 02: Caleb Brantley of the Gators rushes the passer during the Outback Bowl game between the Florida Gators and the Iowa Hawkeyes on January 02, 2017, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Photo: Staff Writer

Caleb Brantley, Florida

Prior to his junior season in college, Brantley declared for all to hear that he was the best defensive tackle in the country, followed by the fact that he didn’t think it was close. But he wasn’t even the best in the SEC, earning second team all-league honors.

The 6-3, 307-pound Brantley led the Gators with 8.5 tackles for loss while showing an ability to beat double teams. He’s an ideal fit as a three-technique in a 4-3 defense and could still be available when the Bengals pick at 41.

Scouts love the power in his hands but question whether his shorter arms will be a detriment going against bigger, stronger guards in the NFL, noting that he struggled to disengage once blockers locked on to him.

›› MORE: Bengals star says he’ll be ready by training camp, if not sooner

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 05: Defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte participates in a drill during day five of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 5, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Photo: Staff Writer

Larry Ogunjobi, North Carolina Charlotte

His impressive resume goes beyond the football field. His parents were Nigerian immigrants and he didn’t start playing the game until his sophomore year of high school. He double majored at Charlotte in computer science and biology, spending all four years on the honor roll, and was a member of the school’s first-ever football team and owns the distinction of appearing in every game in school history.

The 6-3, 305-pound Ogunjobi (Oh-ghun-JOE-bee) displays great power but also is fast enough to chase down ball carriers. Some scouts question whether he has enough size to excel at the next level after playing in Conference USA.

›› RELATED: Bengals make trade with Jaguars for defensive end

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Chris Wormley #43 of the Michigan Wolverines sacks quarterback Trace McSorley #9 of the Penn State Nittany Lions during the first quarter of the game at Michigan Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Photo: Staff Writer

Chris Wormley, Michigan

The 6-5, 298-pound Wormley primarily played end at Michigan, but he projects as a tackle in the NFL.

Scouts love the lateral agility he displays despite his size and his discipline to not bite on misdirection. One of the questions they have is whether he can be an every-down player after benefiting from a deep defensive line in Ann Arbor that gave him plenty of breaks.

Wormley was lauded for his character and leadership at UM by coach Jim Harbaugh. If the Bengals target other positions in the first two rounds and Wormley is still there in the third, he could be an attractive piece to add to the d-line rotation.

Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.