When the NFL Draft kicks off on April 23, the national spotlight will be shining squarely on the Cincinnati Bengals, and that's because, for the first time in 17 years, they'll be going into the draft with the No. 1 overall pick.
Back in 2003, the Bengals choice was easy: They needed a quarterback, so they selected the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Carson Palmer. This year, the Bengals are in an eerily similar situation. The team needs a franchise quarterback, and once again, the top prospect in the class is a reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
So will the Bengals make the obvious choice and select Joe Burrow? Will they be able to fill the other holes on their roster?
To answer those questions, CBSSports.com NFL Draft writer Chris Trapasso put together a seven-round mock draft, which . Assuming they don't make any trades between now and April 23, the Bengals will have a total of seven picks in the draft, although that number will likely go up if they ship off Andy Dalton in exchange for a draft pick.
In his mock draft, Trapasso took a stab at predicting every single one of Cincinnati's picks, so let's take a look below at what his predictions are for the Bengals.
No. 1 overall pick: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
The first month of the NFL offseason was a nightmare for Bengals fans, who had to sit and listen to the media debate about whether or not Joe Burrow actually wanted to play in Cincinnati. The good news for Bengals fans is that Burrow in February that he'll be more than happy to play for any team that drafts him, including the Bengals.
With that drama out of the way, the first pick in the draft is an absolute no-brainer for the Bengals: Trapasso has them taking Burrow. The Bengals have botched plenty of picks in their history, but there's no way they can botch this one. At least, I don't think there is. As a matter of fact, just to be safe, they should just go ahead and send in the draft card now.
Although Andy Dalton had a nice run in Cincinnati, it's pretty clear that he's reached his ceiling with the Bengals. He's a quarterback who can get you to the playoffs, but not much farther. With Burrow, the Bengals have the chance to land a transcendent quarterback who could very well lead them to their first playoff win since 1990. Burrow put up eye-popping numbers in college while playing in the SEC, and there's no reason to think he can't replicate that success in the NFL, especially when you consider that he'll have offensive weapons like Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon and most likely, A.J. Green.
With Burrow headed to Cincinnati, let's check out what Trapasso has the Bengals doing for their final six picks.
Day 2 picks
33rd overall (second round): Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
65th overall pick (third round): Willie Gay Jr., LB, Mississippi State
Besides quarterback, the Bengals biggest need is probably on the offensive line, which Trapasso doesn't address with his Day 2 picks. That being said, there are actually a lot of quality offensive linemen available in free agency this year -- like Jason Peters, Jack Conklin, Bryan Bulaga, Graham Glasgow and Joe Thuney -- so if the Bengals can go that route to fill their O-line needs, then I like these two picks.
On Gladney's end, he's a speedy corner who forced incompletions on third down during his college career than any other player in the draft. With Darqueze Dennard set to hit free agency, and Dre Kirkpatrick likely on his way out the door as a salary cap casualty, the Bengals will likely be looking to add depth at corner. On Kirkpatrick's end, the Bengals can free up more than $8 million by releasing him, and based on his Instagram feed, that's a move that could be coming soon.
As for Willie Gay, the Bengals biggest need on defense is at linebacker and if a first-round talent falls to them at 33rd overall, they should probably consider using that pick on a linebacker. However, if that's not the case, then getting Gay in the third round wouldn't be a horrible move.
Day 3 picks
107th overall pick (fourth round): Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton
147th overall pick (fifth round): Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty
180th overall pick (sixth round): Carter Coughlin, LB, Minnesota
215th overall pick (seventh round): Javaris Davis, CB, Auburn
As we just mentioned above, the Bengals need some depth at corner and they're extremely needy at linebacker, so taking another corner and another linebacker in Coughlin and Davis actually makes some sense. Those are two positions where a low-round draft pick will have a solid shot at making the team.
As for the team's first two picks on Day 3, Trapasso has them adding weapons for Burrow. Gandy-Golden is a sleeper who is falling to the fifth round in this mock because he played at small school (Liberty). Although the competition isn't as stiff at Liberty as playing at an SEC school, Gandy-Golden did put up some impressive numbers during his college career. Over the past two seasons combined, Gandy-Golden caught 65 passes of 15 or more yards, which was more than any other draft-eligible player over that span, including Jerry Jeudy, Justin Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb.
On Trautman's end, if he's still available when the Bengals pick in the fourth round, he would have the potential to be a steal at 107th overall.