The topic of who the middle linebacker next season will be for the Cincinnati Bengals is a hot one, especially with the draft looming closer and closer.
The general consensus is that last years’ undrafted free agent Vontaze Burfict has proven that he’s up to the challenge to take over the spot from Rey Maualuga, who just didn’t seem quite up to it. Maualuga will move out to the Will linebacker position and someone needs to move inside to take over.
The big question here is: Has Burfict shown the Bengals that he is the right man for the job? This question is the key to the decision of what the Bengals will do in the draft.
If the Bengals have decided that Burfict is not quite ready to shift inside, then they will be using an early-round draft pick to find someone strong enough to take over at the position. The top inside linebacker and this position is Alec Ogletree, a linebacker who won’t make it to the end of the first round and would be ideal to take over inside the defense.
Former LSU ILB Kevin Minter should be available when the Bengals roll around the their Round Two (B) pick. Minter was consistently amazing this past season. Easily the top defender for LSU last season, Minter totaled 130 tackles with 15 tackles for a loss, four sacks, five passes defended, a forced fumble and an interception. These are some incredible numbers from a player who had just 60 tackles in 2011.
On the other side of it all, the Bengals may have decided that Burfict is the perfect fit for the middle linebacker position and therefore will decide not go for an early linebacker. If this is in fact the case (and it seems to be the most likely scenario, considering Burfict’s standout season) the Bengals will still need to fill up the back up role, as they parted ways with Dan Skuta who gave a great amount of depth to the position.
In this scenario, the Bengals will probably wait for a later round to draft a linebacker that can act as a developmental linebacker, but can be called on when Burfict inevitably gets injured over the next few seasons (knock on wood.)
Iowa‘s A.J. Klein had good numbers over the last two seasons, and performed admirably in the NFL Scouting Combine. If he is still available in round five, Klein would be an ideal addition.
Oregon‘s Kiko Alonso will still be available in the third round of the draft, although the team may have to reach in round four if they look to go for him then. Alonso recorded 81 tackles and had a decent performance at the Combine, but his off-field issues (several arrests) have left him as a mid round prospect.
Issues such as his may make Cincinnati an ideal home for him, if the Bengals decide to reach.
Simon Greene – Cincinnati Bengals Writer. Follow Simon on Twitter @simongreene88