The Cincinnati Bengals have their next quarterback. Now, they enter Day 2 of the NFL Draft on Friday with plenty of options, holding the first pick of the second round.
Cincinnati selected LSU quarterback Joe Burrow with the top overall pick of the draft Thursday night and will be looking to either give him some more help on offense or address needs on defense based on “best available player.”
Thanks to a surprising spending spree in free agency, the Bengals have flexibility with their picks in Rounds 2 and 3 tonight, and there are solid options at several positions of need still on the board after the first round. Based on how things played out with other teams Thursday, it wouldn’t be surprising if Cincinnati trades down in the second round to add more picks – something the organization has a tendency to do anyway.
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Cincinnati entered the draft needing players at linebacker, offensive line, wide receiver and pass rushers, but the top three linebackers went off the board in the first round and there is more depth at some of the other positions. Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun would be a reasonable choice at No. 33 but some think he is more of a middle second-round pick so perhaps he remains an option even if the Bengals trade down.
Or, they could go after one of the better pass rushers still available or take advantage of draft pool depth at wide receiver and offensive line at No. 33 or later if they trade down.
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“I think we’re in a really good position to see what happens at pick 33,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said Thursday. “We didn’t pigeonhole ourselves into a particular position. It’s exciting for us to get a chance to regroup in the morning. We’ve put a lot of work into potential scenarios, and we’ll get a chance to run through it one more time. I’m sure people will be excited to see how it shakes out, but we’ll have plenty of time tomorrow to sort that out.”
Here are some options of players the Bengals might take on Day 2:
Zack Baun, OLB, Wisconsin
The Bengals still have big needs at linebacker, and there seems to be a big drop-off after Baun, so it might be wise to grab him at No. 33, even if there are better rated players at other positions still available. He is known as a “relentless pass-rusher wo shows top-end closing speed when he gets a path to the quarterback,” according to ESPN’s Steve Muench, who also calls him a rangy run defender and strong tackler.
Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
It doesn’t seem as though the Bengals really need a safety after getting Vonn Bell in free agency and still having Shawn Williams and Jessie Bates on the roster. However, if the Bengals are considering replacing Williams, McKinney is the best player available at any position, according to Mel Kiper Jr., so it might be a good value pick. McKinney is a similar type of player as Williams in that he could line up as more of a linebacker. He was considered by some the top safety in the draft and can play two-high, single-high, in-the-box and as the over-the-slot.
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Josh Jones, OL, Houston
CBSSports.com ranks Jones as the “best player available” after Thursday, and the Bengals are always looking to add depth or starters to the offensive line. In Kiper’s Mock Draft 4.0, he said Jones at No. 33 would “cap an ideal top two picks for Cincinnati.” Jones was a four-year starter at left tackle but he lacks the length typically sought at that position so some project him at guard. Either way, he’s a good pass-blocker who excels at climbing to the second level in the run game and the Bengals could use help in both areas.
Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
ESPN ranks Cleveland ahead of Jones, but either player is worthy of consideration. Cleveland also has shorter arms for a tackle, but he gets set quickly and doesn’t lunge or chase with his hands, and he has good foot speed. He’s an effective a positional blocker who also could excel in a zone-heavy scheme, and the Bengals tried doing both last year so that versatility could fit them well.
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Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
Both CBSSports.com and ESPN have Higgins as the best available wide receiver, and the Bengals should be looking at another weapon for Burrow, especially with A.J. Green yet to strike a long-term deal and John Ross yet to get through a season healthy. Higgins is a big target with good body control and catching radius. He averaged 18.1 yards per catch at Clemson but is more of a downfield threat. If the Bengals trade down, other receiver possibilities could include Baylor’s Denzel Mims or Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr.
Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
The Bengals need to add depth to the defensive line, and Gross-Matos is the best available end according to CBSSports.com. He has excellent length and is a problem for offensive guards when he kicks inside to rush the passer, but he also has good size and strength to set the edge against the run.
Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
If the Bengals are looking for Geno Atkins eventual successor, Blacklock should be on their list, as many consider him the best interior lineman available. He is an outstanding run defender with potential to develop into a productive interior pass-rusher. A taller, leaner defensive tackle with top-end speed, he is more of a threat to the quarterback than his sack numbers suggest.
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