For the first time in forever, the Cincinnati Bengals will have a different head coach calling the shots in the NFL Draft. First-year head coach Zac Taylor faces the arduous task of rebuilding a roster in his image with the help of de-facto general manager Mike Brown. The best way to rebuild said roster is through the draft, and Taylor and company have multiple holes they can address with the Cincinnati Bengals first round pick.
Options for the Cincinnati Bengals First Round Pick
Say what you will about positional value, linebacker Devin White is one of the true difference-making talents in the 2019 NFL Draft. While the linebacker position has become devalued in the pass-happy NFL, there is still a role for a player like White. The LSU linebacker is perhaps the fastest player at his position and has the ability to cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. When factoring in his strong tackling and ability to disrupt runs in the backfield, it’s not hyperbole to suggest White could develop into a top-five linebacker in the league.
This selection would be the perfect marriage of talent and need. Cincinnati’s defense was one of the worst in the league last season, finishing the year with the 28th-ranked defense by DVOA. The Bengals need help stopping both the run and the pass, and White can do both. Zac Taylor may be an offensive-minded coach but don’t be surprised if his first pick ends up addressing the defense.
The Cincinnati Bengals desperately need help at edge defender, and Florida State’s Brian Burns is the best player likely to be on the board when the Bengals are on the clock. Burns was one of the most disruptive players in college football last season, recording 10 sacks, 52 tackles, and 15 tackles-for-loss in 12 games as a Junior.
Burns is one of the fastest edge defenders in the draft, and his fantastic pass-rushing speed is abundantly clear on tape. The Florida native is simply quicker than just about every offensive tackle in the league and can get to the quarterback as a speed rusher on a regular.
Unfortunately, Burns is slightly undersized for the position. He won’t be a great run defender, which could be a problem when you play in the same division as Lamar Jackson, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and James Conner. If a guy like Montez Sweat or Rashan Gary slips to pick 11, the Bengals should take them instead. However, Burns offers enough as a pass rusher to overcome his inconsistent work in the run game.
Andy Dalton is a completely different quarterback when he has a reliable pass-catching tight end on the field. It’s crazy to think about now, but Dalton was actually one of the best passers in the league back in 2015. During that magical season, Dalton completed 66.1% of his passes for 3,250 yards, 25 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions before a thumb injury prematurely ended his season. His 106.2 passer rating was easily the best of his career, and it’s no coincidence that Dalton’s best season coincides with the last time Tyler Eifert was consistently on the field.
The Bengals brought back Eifert on a one-year deal, but that shouldn’t stop them from taking the best tight end in the class. T.J. Hockenson is a fantastic pass-catcher capable of getting open at all levels of the field. On top of that, he’s an equally dominant run blocker capable of opening up holes for Joe Mixon. With the Bengals unwilling to fully commit to Andy Dalton, they need to see if Dalton can play up to his 2015 form when given a legitimate tight end. If he can’t, then the Bengals can freely move on and look for their next quarterback in 2020.
Embed from Getty Images