2017 Bengals Mock Draft 8.0: Ranking the top five potential first-round candidates

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Each Tuesday since the Bengals 2016 regular season ended, has examined several mock drafts from around the country to see which players' names are popping up the most in relation to where the team will make its first-round selection and I even took a stab at a full seven-round Bengals mock draft (including four compensatory picks) a couple of weeks ago.

This week I rank the top five players in order of preference who the Bengals should pick if they are available when the team selects ninth in the first round:

  • 1. MLB Reuben Foster (Alabama)
  • 2. DE Solomon Thomas (Stanford)
  • 3. DE Derek Barnett (Tennessee)
  • 4. WR Mike Williams (Clemson)
  • 5. RB Leonard Fournette (LSU)

The Skinny: The Bengals desperately need help at linebacker and Foster would seem to be the perfect fit as he is projected to be able to play not only in base defenses, but also in nickel situations. Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga simply has little left in the tank to help and his backup Vinny Rey is best-suited in a utility role.

If Foster is gone then either Thomas or Barnett would fit a need to replace Michael Johnson, who was unproductive each of the last two seasons (8.5 sacks in the two seasons combined), although in fairness he played hurt for much of the 2015 season. I would personally give the slight edge to Thomas, although opinions vary wildly.

Almost every mock draft has Thomas being a top-10 pick, including having him go No. 4 overall and Dane Brugler of taking him No. 7 overall in his most recent mock draft on Monday. has Barnett going No. 4 overall, but some other mock drafts from have him going as late as No. 22 overall.

If all three of those players are gone by the time the Bengals pick they might go offense if Williams is high enough on their board. A.J. Green does return from injury and Tyler Boyd had an outstanding rookie season in the slot, but Williams could provide an outstanding No. 2 option outside to complement Green. The team could also opt to re-sign veteran wide receiver Brandon LaFell or sign another veteran free agent wide receiver instead of drafting one this high, but Williams may be too good to overlook if other options they wanted are gone.

Fournette is a long shot, but he could slip to the Bengals due to past injury issues. While I still think the team will try to squeeze another season out of the Jeremy Hill/Giovani Bernard duo or wait a couple of rounds to draft a running back, Fournette may be too hard to bypass if the defensive options they had on their board are gone.

Here are links to each of the seven previous looks at Mock Drafts this offseason:

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