The Bengals love taking players from big schools. Just last year, their first-round pick was John Ross, played in the College Football Playoffs with Washington.
This year, all four teams in the playoffs look likely to have multiple players drafted in the first couple of rounds, so it would not be surprising for one of those picks to be from the Bengals.
Here is a look at the five players who the Bengals could spend a high pick on in the 2018 NFL Draft:
1. Roquan Smith, Georgia, ILB
The Bengals have been drafting linebackers for the past few years while trying to find a good player to pair with Vontaze Burfict. Since then, Paul Dawson has been cut, Nick Vigil struggled as a starter, and Jordan Evans was bad in replacing Vigil. If the Bengals finally want to fix this problem they should draft Smith.
Smith is a sideline to sideline linebacker with the speed to destroy angles on runs and effectively cover running backs and tight ends. That’s something we’ve rarely been about to say about Bengals linebackers for awhile now.
2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, QB
Andy Dalton, over the past two seasons, has not nearly played up to his 2015 self. That year is looking more and more like the outlier in his career. Picking in the top 12 for the second-straight year, the Bengals have to at least consider a quarterback, even though it is extremely unlikely they go that path.
With that in mind, Mayfield is the only draft eligible starter in the College Football Playoff at the quarterback position. That doesn’t mean Mayfield isn’t also the best player of the group. After losing massive amounts of talent in the past two drafts, Mayfield posted the best year of his career and made it to the Playoff. He would add an air of excitement to the Bengals offense that hasn’t been there in a while.
3. Christian Wilkins, Clemson, DT
Geno Atkins is starting to get up there in age. and although he likely has a few years left, it is not too early to start looking for his eventual replacement. Wilkins can be that. As a great athlete and technician, he can make an immediate impact as a rookie and has room to grow into a dominant force. Letting him learn from Atkins and help out the interior pass rush and run defense would be a huge win. The only question about Wilkins is if he is a product of the great Clemson defensive line, or if he is worthy of the hype himself.
4. Orlando Brown, Oklahoma, OT
Orlando Browns father was a superstar in the NFL while playing for the Browns and the Ravens in the late 1990s after going undrafted. Brown looks a lot like his father with his extreme size at a reported 6’8” and 360 pounds. However, just like his father, when you watch him, you can see that he carries that massive frame with ease. He has his issues technically, but he has the body to smother defensive ends, and with the right coaching, he has the potential to be one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL with his combination of size and speed. The only question is who will be the offensive line coach, as it is not clear if Paul Alexander would be able to harness Brown’s potential.
5. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama, DB
The Bengals, armed with another top-12 pick, may look to just get the absolute best player available at their pick. If Fitzpatrick falls to them, then it seems very likely that that player will be him. Fitzpatrick’s best fit as a pro looks to be as a sort of roving safety playing matchups. He can play man coverage on the inside and outside, he can blitz, he can cover running backs and tight ends, and he can play a deep playmaker safety role as well.
Fitzpatrick is a chess piece that a good defensive coordinator would be extremely excited to have. There is not an obvious fit, but he is extremely talented, and it would allow for some experimentation such as Shawn Williams playing more linebacker or something of the sort.
Who will you be watching in the Playoff that you’d like the Bengals to get?