With the clock ticking down to under 36 hours before the Bengals hand in the 21st pick of Thursday night's NFL Draft, we offer the third and final Bengals.com Media Mock Draft.
While beat reporters in 20 other cities are dropping harassment charges against Bengals.com with this final notice, it's not so clear cut in NFL draft rooms. When you have one general manager (anonymous, naturally) say it's a historically bad draft, you have an idea of how convoluted and puzzling is the 2013 board.
Some would call it a draft lacking in star power and game-changers. The other kinder, gentler description is it is a deep draft of solid players that will have good pro careers.
But when you hear guys that know saying you can get the same guy at No. 6 and No. 60, it makes trying to chart the first round a worse nightmare than being alone in the Situation Room listening to Wolf Blitzer.
You can get the sense talking to the writers that this thing could go about 80 different ways. And fast. Start looking at No. 8 and Buffalo. Or Miami at No. 12, the Saints at 15, the Steelers at 17, the Cowboys at 18.
The Bills could take a QB. Or not. The Dolphins could draft six different spots, starting with cornerback. If the Saints can't get one of the top three offensive tackles or pass rushers, they're leering at safeties. The Steelers are also looking at safeties as they anticipate the post-Polamalu era, but they also love Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert. The Cowboys would love an offensive lineman and could try and trade back if they can't get one of the top six of tackles Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson and D.J. Fluker, and guards Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper. If they can't trade, maybe a D-lineman or safety. Maybe …
But the Cowboys are going to be in a long line if they want to trade back.
Mock drafts aren't meant to split the atom. But in this one, especially, they are meant to whittle down the universe of players the Bengals could be viewing after the Bears pick at No. 20. So even if there are a bunch of trades to try and get a certain player in the next day-and-a-half, roughly the same 20 players should be off the board.
Unless, of course, there is that infamous "slide" of a player the team likes falling through the cracks at No. 21.
We now slide in, Cincy style, with a Pete Rose header:
1. CHIEFS: LT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M; Adam Teicher, Kansas City Star: Teicher is 3-for-3 picking Joeckel and with Branden Albert now on the trading block, it makes sense. Plus, if you're building around a new quarterback in Alex Smith, this is the classic first pick in a non-star draft. Previous Pick: Joeckel.
2. JAGUARS: LT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan; Vito Stellino, Florida Times-Union: He's the safest pick in a top five that features two players with a bunch of surgeries in Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner and Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan, BYU pass rusher Ziggy Ansah has little big-time experience, and Florida defensive tackle Shariff Floyd didn't dominate in college. Previous Pick: Florida DT Shariff Floyd.
3. RAIDERS: DT Shariff Floyd, Florida; Jerry McDonald, Bay Area News Group: The Raiders have to get a player that helps them immediately with anything less a disaster. Floyd automatically becomes one of Oakland's best players and hits the Raiders right where they need it with the departures of defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly. Previous Pick: Fisher
4. EAGLES: OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon;Paul Domowitch, Philadelphia Daily News: It's going to come down to Jordan or Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson. Both came in for visits and the Eagles need both spots. Jordan would seem to be the better fit. Philly is switching to a 3-4 and prized free agent Conner Barwin needs a pass rush running mate on the other side, particularly since it's unknown how veteran Trent Cole is going to adapt to the 3-4. And new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly was Jordan's college coach, and since nutrition is one of Kelly's pet subjects, the Eagles should be able to beef up the 235-pound Jordan, looked upon by some as a bit slight. Plus, they finished 22nd last season in generating sacks per pass. Previous Pick: Jordan.
*5. LIONS: CB Dee Milliner, Alabama; *Mike O'Hara, detroitlions.com: If it's this scenario, this is where teams are already looking to trade out. But Milliner isn't a bad get here. The Lions did re-sign cornerback Chris Houston and last year drafted Bill Bentley in the third round. But if this truly is a best-player-available draft, Milliner is gone by this pick. Previous pick: LSU DE Barkevious Mingo.
*6. BROWNS: DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU; *Mary Kay Cabot, Cleveland Plain-Dealer: Mingo gets the nod over Ansah because of his experience and speed. Plus, his style seems to fit what former Bengals cornerback Ray Horton plans to do in his first year as the Browns defensive coordinator and that is let all hell break loose in a combination of pressure 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. Previous Pick: Milliner.
7. CARDINALS: G Chance Warmack, Alabama; Kent Somers, Arizona Republic: Tough call. Warmack or Lane Johnson. But it figures to be an offensive lineman since the Cards haven't drafted one above the fourth round since 2007. Warmack looks to fit the immediate need with tackles Levi Brown and Bobby Massie, last year's fourth-rounder, coming back. And the Cards see Warmack as a high-level performer for the next several years. Previous Pick: Warmack.
8. BILLS: LT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma; Mark Gaughan, Buffalo News: Simply the best player on the board and why not? New head coach Doug Marrone is a former Syracuse offensive lineman. But don't be all that surprised if the Bills trade out, or stay here and stun the world by taking Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib. Previous Pick: Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson.
9. JETS: G Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina;Rich Cimini ESPN New York: The Jets have lost two starting guards and while they've signed former Steeler Willie Colon, he's viewed as a question mark. Previous pick: Utah DT Star Lotulelei,
10. TITANS: DT Star Lotulelei, Utah;Jim Wyatt, The Tennessean: With all the offensive linemen gone, Tennessee turns its attention to another question, the defensive interior. But even if Warmack is there, don't look for the Titans to go guard after signing Andy Levitre, Rob Turner and Chris Spencer in free agency. The Titans feel like they could build something around Lotulelei a la Albert Haynesworth. Hopefully with less drama. Previous Pick: Cooper.
11. CHARGERS: RT D.J. Fluker, Alabama; Michael Gehlken, Union-Tribune San Diego: This is how bad the Jared Gaither experiment has blown up on San Diego. No one thinks Fluker can play left tackle, but with free-agent pickup King Dunlap and his 20 starts the only thing at right tackle, if the Chargers can't come up with a way to trade up and get Lane Johnson, this may be as good as it gets for them. Previous Pick: Lane Johnson.
12. DOLPHINS: TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame; Ben Volin, Palm Beach Post: Miami could still go with Ziggy here, but like most teams now that the tackles—the safest picks—are gone, the Dolphins are scrambling. One of the themes this season is to give second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill more weapons and Eifert would certainly do that in the red zone. The Dolphins have signed Dustin Keller to a one-year deal, so they could take the year and break in Eifert. But then again, they could go cornerback. Previous Pick: BYU Ansah
13. JETS: WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee;Rich Cimini ESPN New York: Santonio Holmes is coming off foot surgery and is basically working on a one-year deal and is headed out. There are still questions about last year's second-rounder, Stephen Hill, so the Jets need a guy for the future. Previous Pick: Before the Jets got the 13th pick in the Darrelle Revis trade, the Bucs took Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson.
14. PANTHERS: DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri; Joseph Person, Charlotte Observer: The Panthers are hoping someone falls in love here with West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin and trades up. They need the picks because they've only got five. If Lotulelei were here, the Panthers would stay and pick. But if they can't get out, they're trying to replace nose tackle Ron Edwards, a salary cap casualty. Previous Pick: Cal WR Keenan Allen.
15. SAINTS: S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas;Mike Triplett, New Orleans Times-Picayune: The Saints No. 1 priority is a left tackle, but he figures not to be there. So at that point they're expected to go for any impact player on defense and Vaccaro very well could be the highest-rated defensive player on the board at this point. Previous Pick: Georgia LB Alec Ogletree.
16. RAMS: WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia; Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Thomas, one of the game's more esteemed beat reporters, is 3-for-3 on Austin. He says the Rams are still looking at tackle and safety and they seem to be giving Alabama running back Eddie Lacy a long look as Steven Jackson's successor. But those are issues for their second pick in the first round at No. 22. The Rams won't be able to get Austin's dynamism and speed there, only here. Maybe.
17. STEELERS: OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia;Gerry Dulac, *Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: *Like the Bengals (and probably everyone else from 10 on down), the Steelers are going to be looking at a group of three to six players and either take who's left or debate between two or three.
The Steelers don't figure to take a running back here or take a projection at outside linebacker. And Patterson, the wide receiver who could replace Mike Wallace, is gone. So Dulac sees them potentially looking at a group of Eifert, Vaccaro and Jones, three other guys the Steelers like. Pittsburgh really likes Eifert and he seems to be the perfect Steelers receiving tight end target. Vaccaro could be a worthy successor to Polamalu. But they're gone and Jones is there, fitting the need of replacing James Harrison's pressure from the outside. Previous Pick: Vaccaro
18. COWBOYS: DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina;Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas: Nightmare scenario at Jerry's House. The top six offensive linemen are gone. Eifert is gone. Vaccaro is gone. Williams makes sense for an aging defensive line, but LSU safety Eric Reid is also in play here if Dallas can't move back. Previous Pick: Fluker.
19. GIANTS: LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia; Mike Eisen, Giants.com: Not a great script for the New York Football Giants, either. They desperately need a tackle, but he's already been on stage with the commissioner. The Giants also desperately need backers and they'd probably like Jarvis Jones, but in this deal he's gone, too, and they're looking at his college teammate. The wild card here is if his character issues pass muster with Tom Coughlin. Previous Pick: Jarvis Jones.
*20. BEARS: MLB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame; *Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune: Biggs says the Bears have signed D.J. Williams and James Anderson as "bridge" backers for a defense in transition. Te'o, he says, is the best of "a weak crop of interior linebackers." But he can also see the Bears opting for a cornerback to replenish regulars near the end of their deals. Previous Pick: Washington CB Desmond Trufant.
You make the call, remembering that QB and linebacker are probably the only positions not in the mix for the Bengals in the first round.
In Mock I, The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy picked Vaccaro. In Mock II, Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham went with Eifert. Both are gone here.
This is what the Bengals are going to be faced with Thursday night. A group of about half a dozen players as it gets whittled toward No. 21. Here's the universe, although it's unexplored because no one has any idea how the Bengals have graded players that are supposedly this high.
(One note on this mock. There is no sign of BYU defenisve end Ziggy Ansah even though he's almost certain to be one of the first 20 players selected.)
According to the various infinite mocks, players in play at this point for Cincinnati could be Eddie Lacy, the Alabama running back, Florida State tackle Menelik Watson, Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen, cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes of Florida State and Desmond Trufant of Washington, as well safeties Eric Reid of LSU and Jonathan Cyprien of FlU.
You could make arguments either way for this group.
The Bengals take a back in the first round once a decade, but would they do it after injuries blew up Ki-Jana Carter and Chris Perry? And yet they really need one to pair with BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Watson has played just one season of big-time football, but where is Andre Smith?
Allen isn't a burner with no big yards after catch, but he's a big, strong, Bengals-like No. 2 receiver.
Reid has flashed inconsistencies in tackling and that doesn't fly in a Mike Zimmer defense and the Bengals don't usually look at small-school guys like Cyprien early. But who is the safety opposite Reggie Nelson?
Some thought Rhodes came out too early, but at 6-2, 215 pounds he's built like the prototypical modern corner. Trufant isn't as physical as maybe the Bengals like and they just took a corner with the 17th pick last year in Dre Kirkpatrick. But you can never have enough, right?
You make the call.