Columnist Chris Dunham Jr gives his thoughts on the Bengals draft needs:
Now that free agency is cooling down and the pre-draft roster is almost set, it’s time to take one last look at the Bengals’ biggest weaknesses. While some spots (like cornerback and quarterback) need addressed for the future, these are the spots that can get the most help in the draft this year and five positions I expect to see addressed in the draft’s first four rounds.
1. Tight End — Though tight end is not a first-round need (because no tight end warrants the pick), it is the biggest weakness on this team. If Reggie Kelly does not sign before the draft, the team must draft a player who can block and catch like USC’s Anthony McCoy, Pitt’s Nate Byham or BYU’s Dennis Pitta late on day two or early on day three.
2. Safety — Any great defense is built through the middle Yes, Crocker, Williams and Ndukwe form a solid enough rotation, but Cincinnati lacks a playmaker in its last line of defense. Earl Thomas from Texas would be a fantastic fit if he were to fall to Cincinnati in round one and USC’s Taylor Mays would fit Marvin’s track record of drafting USC players early. If not a first round pick, safety is certainly a day-two need where South Florida’s Nate Allen, Georgia Tech’s Morgan Burnett or Virginia’s Chris Cook (a corner with safety size) could get a phone call from the Bengals.
3. Pass Rush — Okay, I know “pass rusher” isn’t exactly a position, but a player who can make plays getting after the quarterback can be added at defensive end, defensive tackle or linebacker that frees up the other spots. The more I see from Sergio Kindle out of Texas, the more I like. If Earl Thomas isn’t there at 21, I want his college teammate with the pick. Other second and third round options include Northwestern’s Corey Wootton, who had 10 sacks in 2008, Ohio State’s Thaddeus Gibson, and Virginia Tech’s Jason Worlids. In the middle, UCLA’s Brian Price, Cal’s Tyson Alualu and East Carolina’s Linval Joseph could give that push. **I will note that a DT needs to be added to the rotation in this draft, pass rusher or not.**
4. Wide Receiver — The influx of new talent and speed with Antonio Bryant and Matt Jones drops this on the need list, but if Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant drops to 21, isn’t he too big a talent to pass up? If not Dez, Cincinnati needs a receiver who can work the middle of the field out of the slot. Cincinnati’s Mardy Gilyard (round 3), Ohio University’s Taylor Price (round 4) and Bowling Green’s Freddie Barnes (round 6-7) all offer this ability and some regional appeal. Joining Ochocinco, Bryant, Jones and Caldwell, the pick would push Cosby or Simpson out the door.
5. Guard — Bobbie Williams signing on for two more years dropped this from the top of the needs list, but guard is the only position on the line we aren’t set at. Kyle Cook is the center and will be for (hopefully) a very long time. Marvin will not move Andrew Whitworth from left tackle or Andre Smith from right tackle — they’re both in place to stay. Guard is the only spot the future is uncertain at. How long will Livings and Mathis (if he re-signs) be splitting time? How long will Bobbie hold up? Let’s be safe instead of sorry with the group opening holes for Cedric Benson and keeping Carson Palmer upright.
Stay with BengalsGab.com in the coming days for more draft coverage as we count down to the NFL Draft.
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