Well, 2013 is over, and some would say good riddance. The 2014 NFL draft is coming whether anyone is ready for it or not. The Bengals have done well in the draft in recent years, in fact, they have put five consecutive very solid drafts together.
The Cincinnati Bengals are in a fortunate enough position with developing talent that they do not have glaring needs, nor do they have to reach for a player, however, there are a few skill positions they need help with and they can get away with drafting the best player available. The Bengals are becoming more and more accustomed to drafting later in the first round, mostly because of making the playoffs the past three years in a row. This has given the Bengals an opportunity to really look at the best player available. Cincinnati can’t go wrong with drafting players who are speed and position players.
One position that requires speed, youth, and ability is defensive back, or corner. The Bengals currently have Adam Jones, Terrence Newman, Leon Hall, and Dre Kirkpatrick. Jones and Newman are approaching the end of the NFL careers, Hall is coming off of another Achilles tear, and Kirkpatrick, although improved, is still unproven. This, on paper, sounds shaky at best. Within their own division, these corners are responsible for covering Torrey Smith in Baltimore, Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh and Josh Gordon in Cleveland. Therefore, this is not a position the Bengals can afford to be old, slow and injury prone.
Another potential need is defensive end. It is believed the Bengals are willing to allow Michael Johnson to hit the free agent market due to him turning down a 6 year, $40 million dollar extension, last year, which the Bengals essentially gave to Carlos Dunlap instead. Johnson came off of a less productive year than his 2012 campaign and the Bengals feel he is not worth more than the extension they originally offered. However, the Bengals can wait until the second or third round before having to make that decision.
So far, these needs have all been defensive. With the absence of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, I believe there is a general consensus that the Bengals will fall off defensively, and not be able to continually be in the top 10. Offensively, the Bengals are not hinting at replacing 4th year quarterback Andy Dalton, and the only other player that can walk into free agency is backup tackle Anthony Collins. Now Collins has played well enough to make starting Tackle money, and with the Bengals already paying starters Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth, they may not be able to afford Collins at the going rate.
The Bengals could enter the 2014 draft and surprise everyone by drafting an offensive or defensive lineman with the 24th overall pick, but look for them to go more conservative with either a defensive back, or the best player available. Remember, this team is still very young, with lots of talent, new coordinators and coming off a year in which they won the AFC North by two and a half games. Therefore, best player available is not a bad place to be in any draft.