The Cincinnati Bengals enjoyed significant contributions from 2017 draft picks Joe Mixon and Carl Lawson but now must look to reload in the 2018 draft for a shot at a playoff run next season.
After missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season in 2017, the Bengals will have to address a number of issues up front if they want a shot at reversing the trend in 2018.
To the surprise of many, the team chose to bring back head coach Marvin Lewis for his 16th season but some feel it could be his last if the club fails to make a playoff run next season.
If the Bengals want a shot at returning to the postseason, they’ll have to make significant improvements to an offensive line that ranked as one of the worst in football last season. The free agent departures of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and guard Kevin Zeitler proved to be extremely costly for Cincinnati, and many are expecting the solution to that problem to come via the draft.
With the number of quarterbacks expected to fly off the board in the top ten picks, the Bengals holding the 12th overall selection could be a good spot to snag the top offensive lineman on their draft board. The Bengals’ second-round selection in 2017, running back Joe Mixon, already looks to be one of the better young backs in the NFL and improving the line play would go a long way towards improving the team’s chances of a playoff spot.
So, without further ado, here’s a look at some of the ways the Bengals could address these issues in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Round 1 (Pick 12)
The Bengals find themselves in a position where much of their first-round strategy will depend on the number of quarterbacks taken ahead of them. If a run on signal-callers happens early, they could opt to go for a best player available strategy. Taking one of the top available tackles here (Orlando Brown, Mike McGlinchey, Connor Williams) may be a bit of a reach, so the team could instead address the interior with this selection or via a trade down.
Quenton Nelson, the clear best offensive lineman in the class, figures to be long gone by this point but UTEP’s Will Hernandez offers a nice consolation prize. Hernandez is built like an industrial refrigerator, standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing 348 pounds. He’s got relatively short arms for the position but there’s no doubting his four years of production on the UTEP offensive line.
Hernandez relies on sound technique and power and also displays the type of mean streak coveted by offensive line coaches at the next level. Duke Tobin has mentioned that two of the biggest traits that Cincinnati looks for in the evaluation are size and production. Hernandez seems to check both of those boxes and could see his stock improve even further with a good showing at the Combine.