Now that the NFL season is over, well for the Bengals it's been over since late October, I can turn my attention to the next best thing . . . the NFL draft.
For the first time since 2011, the Bengals have a top ten pick. My how times have changed. It seems like they spent much of the '80's and all of the '90's picking in the top ten, if not the top five.
Last time in 2011, the Bengals hit a home run with the fourth pick overall (AJ Green) and another in the second round (Andy Dalton).
This year, things are different.
The Bengals have a veteran team with some huge holes to fill (namely help on the offensive line and pass rush and linebacker). Plus, they look to have their most picks since the 2012 draft, where they gained extra drafts for several trades, including shipping out Chad Johnson, Keith Rivers, and Carson Palmer.
The Bengals should get up to four compensatory picks thanks to free agency losses last year (Marvin Jones, Mo Sanu, Reggie Nelson, and Andre Smith should all net picks for the Cincy). Plus, the Bengals could well trade their back up quarterback, AJ McCarron, for a second or third round pick.
Here are my wishes for the 9th pick
1. Reuben Foster - LB. This kid comes from Alabama, which has sent some very talented linebackers to the NFL, namely CJ Mosley for the Ravens in our own division. The Bengals lack speed at the linebacking corp. Foster is a maniac. He is probably the best linebacker to come out since Luke Kuechly. I'd love to see him slide down to Cincy's pick.
Now, to be fair, the last time the Bengals did have the #9th pick overall, they tabbed a LB: Keith Rivers, and he was a bust all around. So here's hoping Foster offers more impact than Rivers.
The Bengals don't tend to draft linebackers very high, but if they were to tab a linebacker this high, Foster would be the one to go after.
If they don't draft Foster, though, this draft is packed with talent, and the odds of them landing another backer in the second or third round is good. RaeKwon McMilan out of OSu or Zach Cunningham out of Vandy and Kendell Beckwith out of LSU are all second round possibilities.
2. Derek Barnett- DE. This kid broke Reggie White's sack record at Tennessee. And he still has another year of eligibility. That's good enough for me. He is shorter than the DEs the Bengals like (Barnett is 6'3''), but there is no denying he is a very good player who fills a need for Cincy. If they can land a pass rusher to groom one more year with Michael Johnson in the last year of his contract while Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap (both Pro Bowlers) are still in their prime, they'd be very happy.
Of course, this defense is very loaded, and the Bengals could land another DE (such as FSU's DeMarcus Walker later in the second round).
The last time Cincy took a DE in the top ten, Justin Smith, it worked out really well.
3. Cam Robinson - OT. If there is one position that rewards drafting in the first round, it's offensive lineman, especially tackles. Though the Bengals whiffed back in 2015 on Cedric Ogbuehi out of Texas A & M. They could nab their choice of OT at nine overall.
The last time they grabbed a tackle in the top ten, Andre Smith, it worked out well for Cincy. Though hopefully they can bring Pro Bowler Andrew Whitworth for another couple years and Ced can play his way into the starting line up.
4. Mike Williams - WR. The NFL is funny. Last year when Denver won it all with a vicious pass rush, everyone thought the thing to do would be bulk up on pass rushers. Now that the Falcons have roared to the SB with a killer offense, the thinking will now be to bulk up on playmakers.
If you saw Clemson's national championship win over Bama, you saw Williams put on a show. He is 6'3" and 220 with some good speed and great body control. Pair him with AJ Green and Tyler Eifert and last year's second round pick Tyler Boyd, and you'd have a killer offense.
The Bengals could, though, draft a WR in the second round (where they have struck gold over the last 30 years - Chris Collinsworth, Carl Pickens, Darnay Scott, Chad Johnson, and now Boyd) such as Corey Davis or JuJu Smith-Schuster.
5. And last but not least, Leonard Fournette - RB. Not a huge need for Cincy, since they have Jeremy Hill, who hasn't attained his rookie year explosion, and Gio Bernard, who is out with a knee injury that may linger into the season. Plus, the NFL just doesn't put a premium on the running game anymore. Ezekiel Elliot for Dallas was a revelation last year, but most top running backs don't spear head their teams . But Fournette is the most physically gifted and imposing runner to come out since one Adrian Peterson. And just like Cincy now, the Vikes back then didn't need a running back, but they didn't turn down the talent when it was on the board. I could see Cincy doing the same if he slides that far.
They will draft a RB sometime in the draft. I just think it won't be at number nine. I could see them taking a flyer on a running back with a checkered past, Joe Mixon, out of Oklahoma in the final day of the draft, where they have had luck, landing Rudi Johnson and Rex Burkehead.