We’re roughly three weeks out from the beginning of the 2018 NFL Draft at this point. The NFL Combine, Pro Days, and multiple waves of free agency have passed. Enough is known about how teams and prospects will look on draft night that analysts can reasonably roll out seven-round mock drafts.
I thought I had a better idea: what if I roll out eight seven-round mock drafts? Hence, this project was born – my first aggregate mock draft.
‘Aggregate’ is a term that describes a whole formed from several disparate parts. You’re probably familiar with the mock draft simulator over at Fanspeak. They feature multiple big boards to choose from, as well as multiple people’s ideas of team needs. There’s no perfect board to use (and some are frankly unusable for this exercise), but molding together multiple drafts from respectable boards seemed like a worthwhile time investment. It certainly seemed like a better idea than just going off my own assumptions of when players would be available.
For this particular mock, I used two boards: the ones provided by Fanspeak (as of April 3rd), and Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller (as of April 4th). For positional needs, I used those provided by Fanspeak and those voted on by their users. I ran two mocks based on each combination of criteria, thus the total of eight. This will be a cumulative exercise – my next seven-round mock will include the data set from this one, and so on.
In each slot, I’ll list every player I picked there. Each name will appear next to a fraction, indicating how often I picked them versus how often they were available. This will provide a means of ranking the various selections, giving some order to the list.
That’s enough explaining. The Bengals have eleven picks to talk about.
- Connor Williams, OT, Texas (2/2)
- Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State (6/8)
I didn’t really have a board of my own going into this, but I had a plan for the first round. I’d taken Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn in the #FPCMockDraft, right? Bengals Twitter and Bengals Reddit were both behind that, so why not do it again? If Wynn wasn’t available, I’d defer to another widely-supported pick in Vander Esch.
Wynn ended up going 18th overall to the Seahawks all eight times. Neat. Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey – who I’d also considered taking in the Full Press mock – never fell past Baltimore at 16. Williams (who I was able to pick twice here) never entered the Full Press mock conversation because the Dolphins had taken him at 11.
In this exercise, Williams went to either the Cardinals (15) or Chargers (17) the other six times. Two things had to happen for him to fall: the Cardinals picking a quarterback, and the Chargers favoring UCLA’s Kolton Miller. There’s reasons that Williams could realistically fall to the Bengals pick, but nothing that should stop them from taking him. They need a guard as badly as they need a tackle.
Either way, Vander Esch isn’t some consolation prize. He might not make it to 21 either.
- Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State (2/2)
- Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado (1/1)
- Will Hernandez, G, UTEP (1/2)
- Austin Corbett, G, Nevada (2/6)
- Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas (2/8)
Oddly enough, Vander Esch was available at 46 each time I took Williams at 21. I don’t think there’s any chance that realistically happens, but it’s not as though either board outright underrated him. Players slip sometimes – hence the availability of Will Hernandez and Isaiah Oliver here on a combined three occasions.
One player I’d been suggested to take at 21 was Iowa center James Daniels. He’d fallen to 46 a couple times, but those mocks didn’t make the cut (recording error on my part, Internet refreshing in the fifth round, noticing a disqualifying board issue, etc.). There’s other times that Daniels came within a pick of being available here, but he was more frequently taken by the Browns at 33 or 35.
I don’t see that as a problem. Ohio State’s Billy Price was available here several times, and I wouldn’t consider either Corbett or Ragnow to be reaches. Passing on Daniels shouldn’t preclude the Bengals from getting a Week 1 starter on the interior line.
- Justin Reid, S, Stanford (3/3)
- Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas (2/4)
- Rasheem Green, DL, USC (1/3)
- Kyzir White, S, West Virginia (1/4)
- Luke Falk, QB, Washington State (1/7)
The third round is when you start to notice some glaring value discrepancies between boards. Reid was available here in three drafts based on Matt Miller’s board. He didn’t even make it to the second-round pick in three drafts from the Fanspeak board. The alternative held true for White, who was available here on the four Fanspeak boards.
I wouldn’t consider safety a ‘need’ for the Bengals in the sense that either George Iloka or Shawn Williams are bad at their jobs. It’s about an overall lack of athleticism in the middle of the back end of the defense. Take out Iloka, Williams, and/or Vontaze Burfict, and how well does the unit run with opposing offenses? The answer was evident several times in 2017, with Williams and Burfict missing a combined eleven games. Reid and White aren’t the same type of safety, but they’re both valuable, athletic pieces that allow other parts of the machine to move around.
As for Green and Falk? Depending on which settings you use, the Bengals have a need at either tackle or end. Green is a value pick at 77, and Lance Zierlein’s comparison for him as a prospect is Carlos Dunlap. Falk’s value will vary depending on who you ask, but 77 is a realistic point for the Bengals to start looking for a developmental quarterback.
- Kyzir White, S, West Virginia (2/2)
- Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech (2/4)
- Alex Cappa, OT, Humboldt State (3/7)
- Wyatt Teller, G, Virginia Tech (1/8)
The case for Edmunds is the same case presented for Reid and White: they’re athletic, movable coverage pieces. Of the two, Edmunds is far more reminiscent of White – great near the line of scrimmage, tenacious attacking the run, but can play with tight ends in coverage. What separates them is size and overall coverage ability – Edmunds (6’0″) is a former cornerback and has relevant strengths, while White (6’2″) projects more as a downhill player. Either one should be a Week 1 player in Dime personnel, and an asset in containing division threats like Le’Veon Bell and (potentially) Saquon Barkley.
Teller’s viability depends on how diverse coordinator Bill Lazor wants his running scheme to be – his lateral agility and ability as a pull blocker have both been knocked. He’s also been heavily knocked for effort concerns that weren’t present in his 2016 season. There’s reasons to like him as a prospect, but waiting to take him isn’t preferable to grabbing an interior lineman further up (which I took him because I failed to do).
Cappa, meanwhile, is a small-school prospect who’s biggest concern entering the process was level of competition (which he brutalized). His senior bowl and combine process went well, and he’s in a bubble of offensive tackle prospects (Orlando Brown, Desmond Harrison) similar to the interior line bubble further up. Unlike those prospects, Cappa doesn’t have any particularly glaring questions. Brown’s combine was a massive debacle; Harrison is the same small-school prospect but with worse consistency questions and a dismissal from Texas on his résumé.
- Alex Cappa, OT, Humboldt State (3/4)
- Kyle Lauletta Jr., QB, Richmond (2/3)
- Mason Cole, C, Michigan (1/2)
- R.J. McIntosh, DL, Miami FL (1/3)
- Wyatt Teller, G, Virginia Tech (1/5)
A lot more of the same here. Cappa and Teller have been expounded upon. Lauletta is an extension of the logic used to discuss Falk earlier, but with better value (for an arguably better prospect). This is the optimal location for the Bengals to grab a quarterback if they’re bent on catching Falk, Lauletta, or Western Kentucky’s Mike White.
Cole was valued well above this slot on the Fanspeak board, but even taking him here was a more of a fallback than an active decision. The drop from him to the next center on the board was substantial. He’s the last Week 1 starter available at a position where the Bengals sorely need one.
McIntosh fills the same type of position that Rasheem Green would fill, but with value a round or two further down the board. Green is an athlete that could conceivably start somewhere immediately, whereas McIntosh is expected to need time to fill out his frame. As a backup/situational player and long-term investment, that distinction might not mean a lot. Whether ‘designated Carlos Dunlap backup’ is a true need or not, it’s not a waste of draft capital in a year where the Bengals have plenty.
- Luke Falk, QB, Washington State (4/4)
- Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF (2/2)
- Deontay Burnett, WR, USC (1/3)
- Taron Johnson, CB, Weber State (1/7)
The notable analysis discrepancies I mentioned heading into the third round become massive in this phase. Fifth-round prospects on one board are undraftable on another. Such was the case with Johnson – a perfectly fine small-school cornerback prospect from my own estimation.
I don’t know how much further Falk would’ve fallen on some boards – I don’t care. This pick is a cheap price to pay for him, and he fills an important vacancy on the Bengals’ roster.
Griffin – perhaps the draft’s greatest mid-round wildcard – went substantially higher than this in some mocks. He’s a college edge-rusher with the body of a safety, if not a cornerback. As other prospects go, I imagine the Bengals’ plan for him would look a lot like the one they’d have for Kyzir White. As far as current professionals, there’s guys like Mark Barron out there that he could be groomed to emulate. There’s precedence for a player like Griffin, one-hand bit notwithstanding.
Burnett is another relative value pick, but the Bengals could stand to pick up a slot receiver in this draft. Andy Dalton plays his best when attacking the middle of the field, and the weapons that best facilitated him doing that were mostly absent in 2017. Tyler Eifert was injured, but is returning and can presumably still play at a high level. I don’t know where Tyler Boyd was for most of the season. Giving him a challenge for the slot role aside from Alex Erickson wouldn’t be the worst use of a pick.
- Jalyn Holmes, EDGE, Ohio State (2/3)
- Troy Fumagalli, TE, Wisconsin (3/6)
- Nick Gates, OT, Nebraska (1/3)
- Kevin Toliver II, CB, LSU (1/4)
- Christopher Herndon, TE, Miami FL (1/5)
Herndon is effectively the same case as Taron Johnson above, but with a fringe-draftable grade on the low end. For those that classify TE as a need for the Bengals, Fumagalli is a perfect fit in this range. I’m not sure who he’d knock off the roster, but that’s another conversation.
Holmes is a relative value pick, and projects to be the same style of player that Rasheem Green of R.J. McIntosh would’ve been. Gates is all over the board, but makes sense here if the line hasn’t been sufficiently addressed.
Toliver is a player that I love in this range, if he makes it. He’s a great boundary corner prospect, with a 6’2″ frame and plus tackling ability. He’s mostly knocked for maturity, with deficient ball skills also factoring in, but he has the tools to be a starter. The Bengals’ cornerback room doesn’t have an adequate backup/challenger for Dre Kirkpatrick right now, and Toliver fits that bill.
- Kevin Toliver II, CB, LSU (2/2)
- Nick Gates, OT, Nebraska (1/1)
- Holton Hill, CB, Texas (3/8)
- Skai Moore Jr., LB, South Carolina (1/6)
- Will Richardson, OT, N.C. State (1/7)
Toliver and Gates appear again, in addition to several players who could be regarded as sixth-round prospects. Unfortunately, the sixth round is 44 picks long, and the Bengals own none of them. I’m not about to inject a trade into this exercise, and it’s not like the Bengals would have to make one anyway. They have eleven picks, if I haven’t mentioned that yet. They can take a guy here if they like him that much.
As far as guys I’d like that much – Hill is one that I consistently went back to when I missed out on Toliver. He’s another tall (6’3″) prospect, with talent that far exceeds this draft slot but similar attitude questions holding him here.
Moore is a linebacker prospect who responded well to some athleticism questions at the combine. He’d be worth a pick here, but by this point I’d usually already taken a similar player. Same type of thing with Richardson, who has upside and fit working in his favor but was frequently preceded by too many other linemen.
- Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame (2/2)
- Parry Nickerson, CB, Tulane (4/8)
- Will Richardson, OT, N.C. State (1/2)
- Chase Litton, QB, Marshall (1/5)
Relative value came around in this phase in a big way – if one board had a guy going in the middle rounds and another had him falling here, that’s the swing I took. I don’t personally expect St. Brown to fall this far, but I won’t question Matt Miller if he does. Same thing with Will Richardson, at this point – I didn’t care that he was the fifth lineman I took in that draft.
I love Parry Nickerson. He’s a redshirt senior from an overlooked football school – the kind of player who can be good and still be a seventh-round prospect. He has impressive speed and instincts, top-level ball skills, and could be a viable nickel corner as soon this coming season. I wouldn’t be surprised or disappointed if the Bengals drafted him well ahead of this slot.
Litton is another relative-value bit, falling here once in a Miller draft and well off the board in the other four. He and Toledo’s Logan Woodside make sense as relatively close camp-arm/QB3 types of guys, if there’s no earlier play for a quarterback. They’re two completely different quarterbacks, so ranking them amounts to little more than personal taste.
- Parry Nickerson, CB, Tulane (3/4)
- Brian Allen, C/G, Michigan State (3/5)
- Coleman Shelton, C, Washington (4/7)
- Christopher Herndon, TE, Miami FL (2/4)
- John Franklin-Myers, DL/EDGE, Stephen F. Austin (3/7)
- Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA (1/3)
I let Nickerson fall through the cracks once to see if one of the last three teams in the draft would take him. They didn’t. He might be available as a priority free agent, but with this many picks at the end of the draft, the Bengals shouldn’t bother taking that chance.
Allen, Shelton, and Franklin-Myers are effectively here for the same reason: they’re fringe-draftable players who filled vacant positions. I’m sure the list of such players is longer than those three, but I stuck with what I knew. There’s time to broaden this exercise, and even those at football’s highest levels will acknowledge that this stage of the draft is guesswork.
Herndon and Lasley are the same story that St. Brown was three or four picks ago. Either being here would surprise me, but they’d be absolutely great value if they are. Herndon fell because Fumagalli’s projection was similar and there wasn’t a need for both. Lasley fell, simply enough, because his name blended in better than St. Brown’s. He’s not explicitly the kind of receiver that Cincinnati needs, but he’d be a worthwhile pick here regardless.