The Bengals have shown an affinity for adding cornerback talent early in recent drafts. In 2012, it was Dre Kirkpatrick at No. 17. In 2014, it was Darqueze Dennard at No. 24. And in 2016 it was William Jackson III, also at No. 24.
So while they'll certainly come out of this draft with multiple offensive linemen, don't sleep on the possibility that a cornerback's name is called in Round 1. Dennard is scheduled for free agency after this season. Kirkpatrick is playing on a big-money deal, and the team can clear a lot of cap space by cutting him in 2019 or beyond if his play turns south (it wasn't exactly great in 2017, as opposing QBs managed a 92.7 passer rating against him in coverage, per Pro Football Focus).
So yes, an offensive lineman is the logical answer to what's going to happen with the Bengals' first-round pick. But don't rule out the team drafting a corner instead, especially if only Denzel Ward (and safety/corner Minkah Fitzpatrick) has been selected.
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|1||21||Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa||from BUF|
|2||46||Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State|| |
|3||77||Fred Warner, LB, BYU|| |
|3||100||Jeff Holland, DE, Auburn||Compensatory|
|4||112||John Kelly, RB, Tennessee|| |
|5||151||Marcell Ateman, WR, Oklahoma State|| |
|5||158||Kyzir White, SS, West Virginia||from BUF|
|5||170||Matt Pryor, OT/G, TCU||Compensatory|
|7||249||Mike McCray, LB, Michigan||from NE|
|7||252||John Atkins, DT, Georgia||Compensatory|
|7||253||Arrion Springs, CB, Oregon||Compensatory|
With Mike McGlinchey coming off the board early, the Bengals pivot to taking Josh Jackson, a ballhawk corner who'd be great value if he makes it out of the top 20. The Bengals have a track record of emphasizing corner in the draft, and Jackson could serve as Darqueze Dennard insurance if he leaves in free agency, or as a cheaper alternative to Dre Kirkpatrick down the line.
Considering the Bengals are loaded with 11 picks, they should be looking to move up when the opportunity presents itself on Day 2 and Day 3. But it just didn't happen in my mock, so they stayed put and made all their picks here, something I doubt happens on draft weekend. Jones immediately gives help to an offensive line that needs it. Warner could take over for Vontaze Burfict if the team decides to move on, and the team later adds more depth at the position in McCray. Holland brings depth to the defensive end rotation.
Kelly is a talented back who could be the long-term No. 2 behind Joe Mixon. Ateman adds depth at receiver and serves as an insurance plan for John Ross. White offers nice value in the fifth to come in and push Shawn Williams. Pryor brings more O-line depth and could start down the road. Atkins can compete for a roster spot on the D-line, while Springs is a dart throw at corner.