The national holiday that is the NFL Draft is upon us this week, a three-day festival celebrating football’s future booms and busts beginning on Thursday evening.
The Bengals have the 21st overall pick in the first round and will start with a total of 10 picks in the seven rounds, including two each in Rounds 2, 6 and 7. Coming off of consecutive playoff seasons, the Bengals don’t have large glaring holes to fill on their roster but there are certainly some significant moves to be made.
Today we’ll look at the defensive side of the ball and some of the areas, in order of need, the Bengals could be targeting throughout the draft.
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The Bengals have been trying to shore up this position for the past couple of years with mixed results. Trading for Reggie Nelson and then re-signing him last year as a free agent gives them half of the equation in the defensive backend but they’re still in search of that other half. Chris Crocker came back after a rough ending to the 2011 season to provide stability last season but it’s time for the Bengals to move on and find a more youthful answer.
Kenny Vaccaro of Texas would be a good fit next to Nelson if he’s not gone by pick No. 21. He turned down the draft after his junior season and his stock rose in the past year. He has covered receivers at the line of scrimmage, a trait the Bengals relish, and is viewed as an overall heady player. The Bengals aren’t usually in the mode of trading up but Vaccaro could be a player worth moving up a couple of spots, especially with the Bengals holding 10 picks.
Eric Reid of LSU and Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International are other possibilities in the first round (trading back for a second year in a row?) or more likely in the second round. Cyprien is seen as more of a project player. Phillip Thomas of Fresno State, D.J. Swearingen of South Carolina and Matt Elam of Florida are other possibilities in the first two days of the draft in a safety class that has some good prospects.
Signing James Harrison won’t keep the Bengals from going after linebacker help, particularly for someone capable of playing in the middle. The current linebacking corps is extremely youthful but there is plenty of experience in the other areas to compensate.
The Bengals would love to see Georgia’s Jarvis Jones fall to them in the first round but that’s not likely to happen. They did like what they saw and heard from Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o but the inevitable media circus that will surround Te’o may be more than this organization wants at this time. Kevin Minter of LSU is a possibility on Day 2, as are Arthur Brown of Kansas State and Jamie Collins of Southern Mississippi.
The Bengals lost reliable and versatile Dan Skuta in free agency to San Francisco. The status of Thomas Howard played in just one game last season after a knee injury suffered in practice in early September. Whether he is re-signed, and how effective he could be if he does come back, remains to be seen. Depth, depth, depth is the name of this position.
This really should be a position of strength for the Bengals but one can never have enough corners in today’s NFL. If Dre Kirkpatrick, last’s year’s top pick, can return from a rookie season hampered throughout by injury then the Bengals will be all the better. Desmond Trufant is a thought in the first round but the need doesn’t seem to be there for a pick so high.
Much like the linebacker group, this year’s drafting at cornerback will be about depth.
There has only been one year in the Marvin Lewis era in which the Bengals didn’t draft at least one defensive lineman but even with 10 picks this could be the second time it happens. The defensive line is the best overall unit on the team and the deepest. If there is a need here it is just to replenish for future years.
Over Lewis’ tenure the Bengals have had good luck with players taken in the fourth round (Domata Peko, Geno Atkins and Robert Geathers).