It sounds like No. 9 isn't too high for Alabama's No. 10.
INDIANAPOLIS - It's early, but defensive coordinator Paul Guenther says the Bengals are going to have the chance to draft an impact player on his side of the ball no matter what happens before they pick at No. 9.
Even if eight defensive players were plucked, Guenther said Thursday during a break at the NFL scouting combine, "There's going to be a good player there at nine," at every level of defense.
"At the top end of the draft there are a lot of very good defensive players. It's not like one, two, three and then it falls off the shelf."
Which means even though they extended their two young safeties last year, LSU's Jamal Adams and Ohio State's Malik Hooker are in the mix as Guenther keeps looking for that nickel linebacker stout enough to play the run and fast enough to cover the pass.
"There are a couple of safeties high in this draft that can do that," said Guenther, who says current starting safety Shawn Williams has the ability to move down into that nickel backer role of there is a big addition.
It also means, even though it is early, that No. 9 isn't too high for Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. Foster doesn't cover passes or sack the quarterback but Guenther says a speedy backer can still provide impact and points to gentlemen named Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis, not to mention Luke Kuechly, a Pro Bowler picked at No. 14.
"You can't get caught up in the No. 9 pick," Guenther said. "Even if he's ranked in the middle of the round, he's still a first-round player. You're not picking a lesser player."
It's presumed that of all the defensive positions, the one the Bengals covet most is edge rusher. Guenther says not only will there be one there, but there will be one available through much of the draft.
"It's as good a pass rusher draft that I can remember," Guenther said. "As far as inside guys, outside guys, linebackers, where guys are well schooled with moves and hands."
But not all are built like the last four edge rushers the Bengals drafted in the first three rounds: 6-7 Michael Johnson, 6-6 Carlos Dunlap, 6-8 Margus Hunt, and 6-6 Will Clarke. Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett, who could be there, is 6-3.
"If that (guy) is 5-11 and he can get there, I don't care," Guenther said. "For our defense to play every down, head up on the tight end, the outside part of the tackle, you have to hold up on the run. If you can hold up, there are guys in the league playing at 255, 260. Plenty of guys.
"You're just looking for guys that have the traits you're looking for," Guenther said. "You're looking for guys with a long reach, but they also have to have the quickness and burst, too. Not many 6-5, 6-6 defensive ends that can play at a high level. They wouldn't get to us at nine."
But Guenther says there are guys built with all kinds of bodies that can play at nine.
"Hell yeah," he said.
VIGIL UP: Guenther didn't make any announcements about starters, but he thinks Nick Vigil is coming off a good enough rookie year that he'll take the first snap of the spring at SAM linebacker.
WINSTON's ADVICE:Eric Winston is in town for his duties as NFL Players Association president, but he's also meeting and greeting his current and former coaches around the league.
He hopes he returns as the Bengals back-up right tackle, a role that ballooned last year when he split time with Cedric Ogbuehi and then started when Ogbuehi was benched as head coach Marvin Lewis offensive line coach Paul Alexander relied on him more and more.
But with Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth and starting right guard Kevin Zeitler heading into free agency, Winston understands why he hasn't got a definitive answer.
"We left it on really good terms," Winston said Thursday as he bustled to a meeting of agents. "The grass isn't always green. I've been around the league. Marv's a great guy. I love Paul. They're all good coaches. Cincy's great for my family. It's a good setup for me.
"Obviously they have to go through their whole rigmarole of scouting and what they want to do. I'm definitely interested. Hopefully they go through the process sooner than later and I'll know either way. They have to sort it out. I realize my position in the whole grand scheme of things."
Winston mentored both prized top draft picks from 2015 that have struggled, Ogbuehi and second-rounder Jake Fisher, the starter at right tackle the last three games of last season. He's upbeat about their potential, but offered some advice.
"I think the toughest thing for a pro to do is for them to look at (himself) critically," Winston said. "'What do I need to do to do better?' I think guys that do that stay around a long time and guys that don't fall by the way side. "Those guys have all the athleticism in the world. They have the strength you need to play. They just have to go out and do it. I think now that they've had some reps they can take a step back in the offseason and they can say, 'That's what I need to do,' And they can do it."
Winston, 3, heading into his 12th season in the league, thinks they've got some time left to prove themselves given that Ogbuehi came into the NFL with a torn ACL and Fisher only saw time as an extra tight end.
"They're both young guys," Winston said. "I saw this as Ced's rookie year. I hope he has a really big jump."
This gallery features photos of current Bengals players at past NFL Combines (AP Photos)