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Thursday, March 13, 2014
Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Bengals

By Coley Harvey

To this point, signs have mostly pointed to the Cincinnati Bengals drafting a cornerback in the first-round of this year's NFL draft.

ESPN draft insider Mel Kiper Jr. ignored them in his latest mock draft Insider that was unveiled earlier Thursday. Instead of taking a cornerback like he suggested in his first two mocks, Kiper now has the Bengals taking outside linebacker Ryan Shazier.

An Ohio State product, Shazier would certainly be welcomed by Bengals fans in southwest Ohio. Fellow Buckeyes Mike Nugent and Dane Sanzenbacher (currently a tendered restricted free agent) are already on the roster.

One of the many underclassmen in this year's draft, Shazier left Ohio State after his junior season. While helping lead his program to the Big Ten championship game, he had 133 tackles and 6.0 sacks in his final year. As a "Will" linebacker, he fits one of the Bengals' many needs. Vontaze Burfict currently starts at the "Will" position and figures to do so for a long time, but an injury at the position on the depth chart put Cincinnati in a bind when it came to numbers for its nickel defense.

Emmanuel Lamur's season-ending injury in the preseason forced the Bengals to get creative with their rotations on pass-specific downs. They even flirted at one point with moving safety Taylor Mays into the nickel linebacker spot to give the position a bigger, athletic body in order to help cover tight ends, running backs and extra receivers.

Shazier's coverage ability, particularly his physical style of play in coverage, has been noted as a strength. His speed and range are also positives. ESPN's draft team currently ranks him the third-best outside linebacker on the boards.

While the cornerback need still exists, if Shazier is still around at pick No. 24, he wouldn't be a bad selection for the Bengals.