Coming off their first losing season since 2010, the Cincinnati Bengals are a team at the crossroads. In order to return to the playoffs, they must improve in several areas. Mike Brown has never been among the most active general manager in free agency, and with that phase of 2017 offseason betterment largely in the rear-view mirror, I don’t expect it to suddenly become his modus operandi. That leaves the draft as his only real opportunity to get things back on track, before the bullets start flying in September.
Among the Bengals' most pressing needs are offensive linemen and edge rushers. Lesser area of concern include quality depth in the secondary, as well as at wide receiver, tight end and running back. With O.J. Howard and Leonard Fournette already off the board, the latter two positions can obviously wait. The best available players capable of elevating the former, according to Mike Detillier's Draft Report 2017: DE/DT Jonathan Allen (Alabama), DE Derek Barnett (Clemson), DE Taco Charlton (Michigan), SS Jabrill Peppers (Michigan), WR Mike Williams (Clemson), OLB Takkarist McKinley (UCLA), CB Sidney Jones (Washington), WR Corey Davis (Western Michigan), WR John Ross (Washington), CB Bobby Humphrey (Alabama), ILB/OLB Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt), OT Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin) and OG Forrest Lamp (Western Kentucky).
In boiling down this list of fine athletes, I brushed up on the strengths and weaknesses of each prospect, then compared them to the strengths and weaknesses of the current veteran roster. I also took age, remaining contract length, and base salaries into account. What I came away with was a Top 5 Big Board of my very own:
- M. Williams
The much bigger temptation, Mike Williams, was at least tempered by the impressive recovery effort they made last offseason, following double whammy loss of UFAs Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. As you may recall, the Bengals signed Patriots' castoff Brandon LaFell, who wound up having a career season. They also drafted a couple of promising rookies in Tyler Boyd and Cody Core, and landed a solid special teams contributor, Alex Erickson, as an UDFA. Not saying I think any of these guys are a hair on the buttocks of what Mike Williams projects to be on the pro level. Just that I have bigger fish to fry.
Quite honestly, I view offensive tackle as the team's biggest need. They lost Andrew Whitworth to the Rams in free agency, who not only was a rock solid contributor at LT, but also valuable swing depth at guard. Throw in the fact that Kevin Zeitler is now playing Division II football in that cesspool of a Ohio city situated kitty-corner to us, and easy to understand why I'm not 100% comfortable with the O-line as is. That said, the difference between Ramczyk's scouting grade and the average scouting grade of the top three remaining D-linemen is night-and-dusk at best. Okay, maybe more like night-and-sitting in 5pm traffic, since daylight saving time is currently in effect. Do you see where I'm going with this? There's a rather sizable disparity betwixt.
Aside from that, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher and Clint Boling are all capable of playing both OT and OG. Further, the Bengals recently signed tackles Eric Winston and Andre Smith to one year contracts. So, while none of these guys are likely the long term solution at LT, it's safe to assume that at least three of the five will be starting somewhere along the O-line in 2017, based on experience alone, no matter who they wind up drafting.
If I had to lay money, it would be on the former three, with one of the two tackle spots still up for grabs. In any case, I strongly believe the prudent course of action here is to allow considerably greater value to override marginally greater need and go defense. With any luck, Cam Robinson's stock will continue to plummet. Or perhaps Garrett Bolles is still on the board at 41. If not, it's going to be an interesting season.
I mentioned temptation earlier. Raise your hand if can appreciate the amount of self control it takes NOT to draft someone named Taco on a Taco Tuesday. Seriously, I feel like pulling up Jewel's "You Were Meant for Me" on YouTube, grabbing a jar of picante sauce out of the fridge and changing my pick. On a whim. Because it's Taco Tuesday. Would you guys be cool with that? No? Okay, what if I put the screws to the Saints by nabbing Barnett two picks before y'all get to the podium? Hey man, all's fair in the cutthroat world of e-mocks. All joking aside. IRL, I'd be working the phones like Ernestine at this point, trying to trade down a dozen or so slots and nab me some Mikey Mxyzptlk, or however you spell that kid from Wisconsin's name. As is, I'm going SEC! SEC!
With the ninth selection in the 2017 CSC Community Mock Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select:
Jonathan Allen, DE/DT, Alabama (6-foot-3, 286-pounds)
Before I start gushing all over the front row, do you think we can get a dumbwaiter in here for all this cat's hardware? I mean, all this 6'3" 288-lb beast won last season was the Bronko Nagurski Award for best defensive player, the Chuck Bednarik Award for best defensive player, and the Ted Hendricks Award for best defensive end.
Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking. Why Allen when you could have a pure DE, like Barnett or Charlton? I'll tell why. Because he brings so much more to the table. Sure, his ideal spot in a 4-3 scheme would be the 3-tech, a position already capably manned by All-Pro Geno Atkins. But you could line this guy up at any spot on the line on 3rd down and he would be a matchup problem. Any front four combination involving Atkins, Dunlap and Allen would mean all Michael Johnson has to do is wrap up to look like a top tier DE again. Not to mention, Andrew Billings, last year's third round pick, is due back at the nose. With this much freedom to roam, Allen could conceivably play in rotation at LDE and 3-tech, keeping both Atkins and Johnson fresh.
I realize that with a Top 10 pick, you're typically looking for a guy that will play significant snaps. However, the potential Allen has is simply too good to pass up. I've seen him rated just below Myles Garrett as the second best player in this draft. Looking at it practically, it doesn’t make much sense. But think in the abstract and of all the possibilities that it opens up. Not just for the line, but for the rest of the defense as well.
When Marvin Lewis was the defensive coordinator for Baltimore, he was asked who he thought the most important player on the defense was and without hesitation, he said Peter Boulware. The versatility that Boulware possessed allowed him to play every position within the front seven. Obviously Allen is a D-lineman and can't really help in coverage, but you get the idea. Lewis and Bengals' DC Paul Guenther get off on versatility and this guy gives you endless amounts of it.
For example, think about the last few seasons, how the Bengals have struggled against their biggest rival, Pittsburgh. Talent wise, from top to bottom, I think they were pretty evenly matched outside of QB and RB. The recurring theme in these games the past few years and why Cincinnati usually loses, is that fact that the Bengals think they can line up across the board and by sheer will outplay the Steelers. Sometimes when they play a flawless game it works, but most of the time Pittsburgh comes out on top, because there are a handful of plays that they make in critical times that the Bengals simply cannot overcome.
The Bengals never try to do anything out of the norm and Pittsburgh has no fear of them even trying to. The game plan is stale, they know who is coming and where on just about every play. Having a guy like Allen, i.e., the Swiss Army/Boulware type, opens up such potential mismatches that they will be scrambling trying to find an answer for him. He is exactly the kind of player the Bengals need.
With that said, there is a slight caveat. While Alabama team doctor Dr. Lyle Cain doesn't think Allen’s shoulder injuries should be anything of a concern, he did reveal that both of Allen’s shoulders have been surgically repaired, which should be a red flag for any team considering him early in Round 1. Keep in mind, this is no late developing plot twist. Nor is it a drive by. The guy from Train slipped me a buck to throw that in.
Allen has been consistently rated in the Top 5, while being compared to the likes of Fletcher Cox and Leonard Williams, despite that. Still, it certainly bears mentioning. It's also no secret that Alabama players enter the NFL with a lot more wear and tear than most schools. We’ve seen plenty of former Crimson Tide superstars become duds in the NFL because they couldn’t stay healthy, or at the very least have a rough first couple of years in the pros.
Dre Kirkpatrick was among them, as he could barely get on the field over his first two years, in large part due to injuries. He eventually developed into a guy worthy of the 17th pick in that 2012 NFL Draft, but the Bengals simply can’t afford to take a guy at 9th overall that takes that long to develop. Fortunately, we're still a couple of weeks away from the actual draft and the more teams poke and prod, the more often potential problems come to light.
So, even if I have zero NFL scout insight and wind up screwing the pooch in this mock draft because of it, there's a fairly good chance the Bengals' won't make that same shortsighted same mistake, should Allen happen to fall to the 9 spot. That's how Alan Branch and Da'Quan Bowers wound up tumbling from a Top 5 initial projection, all the way into the 2nd round. So, what would you label that, if it was a jar of picante sauce? Mild risk, ghost pepper reward? I'm good with that. Who Dey!
You guys can put your hands down now.
Do you agree with the Bengals taking Jonathan Allen?
This poll is closed
Community Mock Draft Results
- Cleveland Browns - Myles Garrett, DE, TAMU
- San Francisco 49ers - Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
- Chicago Bears - Jamal Adams, S, LSU
- Jacksonville Jaguars - O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
- Tennessee Titans - Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
- New York Jets - Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
- Los Angeles Chargers - Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
- Carolina Panthers - Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
- Cincinnati Bengals - Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
The Bills pick is in, and the New Orleans Saints are on the clock! Be sure to vote on what position they should take:
The #Saints are on the clock in our community @SaintsCSC Mock! What should they take at 11th?— John Hendrix (@JohnJHendrix) April 11, 2017