Nov 22, 2014; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans cornerback Trae Waynes (15) stands on the field between plays during the1st half of a game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Thus far, this offseason has been a highly successful one for the Cincinnati Bengals. Having found solutions to many of their 2015 “needs,” the Bengals will look to capitalize on the year’s draft class. With nine selections this year, Cincinnati is in great position to fill out their roster with the youthful talent that will ensure their future success.
After signing both Michael Johnson and Pat Sims to their defensive line, and after acquiring A.J. Hawk to help in the middle of the defense, the Bengals have allowed themselves the flexibility most teams look for when drafting. It will allow Cincinnati to avoid reaching for talent, which ensures they can make the most of all of their selections. This flexibility extends to the team’s first round selection.
In recent drafts, the Bengals have often used these selections on defensive backs: Dre Kirkpatrick in 2012 and Darqueze Dennard in 2014. In 2015, it could make sense for the Bengals to continue this trend for several reasons.
First, Marvin Lewis has already expressed wanting to continue utilizing his “redshirting” approach towards developing his rookies. Whether one agrees with this approach or not, the Bengals feel there are obvious benefits to this strategy and will continue to employ this approach. With Leon Hall, Kirkpatrick, and Dennard on the roster, the Bengals would have little reason to force their new first round selection onto the field quickly, hence fitting Lewis’ plan.
I leave Adam Jones off this list intentionally because he inspires the next reason for yet another first round cornerback selection. Jones is undeniably a solid cornerback and one the team has been able to rely on when necessary. Yet, as good as Jones can be in the secondary, he’s an even better returner on special teams.
Jones earned First-Team All-Pro honors in 2014 for his returning performance. He finished first in the league for kick return average (31.3 yards) and third in punt return average (11.9 yards). He returned several game-changing kicks and punts, which turned more than one game around for Cincinnati. As one can easily see, the Bengals must do everything they can to keep Jones in that role. Selecting another highly talented, promising cornerback to fill the team’s fourth depth chart slot would help keep Jones in his returner role.
Finally, after employing a porous defense in 2014, the team has taken the time to fix two levels of the defense: the defensive line and linebacker units. Now, the Bengals must ensure the secondary. The team could certainly select safety Landon Collins in the first round to ensure their safety core, but if Collins isn’t available at 21, selecting a cornerback makes sense.
Dre Kirkpatrick has flashed potential and is clearly improving as time progresses, but has yet to act as a starter, so his ability to do so remains in question. Meanwhile, as promising as Darqueze Dennard has looked according to coaches, he’s in the same boat as Kirkpatrick as of now, maybe even more so with less defensive experience than Kirkpatrick. This while Leon Hall hasn’t exactly been the picture of health over the past few seasons. Adding another cornerback could help ensure the secondary’s future regardless of how the future plays out for the three aforementioned players.
When the Bengals find themselves “on the clock” later this month, the draft is littered with options at cornerback. Cincinnati could continue to improve their secondary by investing yet again in Michigan State’s “No Fly Zone.” If Trae Waynes is available at 21, he could pair once again with Dennard and form a formidable duo once more. The Bengals could also look at Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson, Washington’s Marcus Peters, and Louisiana State’s Jalen Collins.
When April 30th rolls around, the Bengals won’t be forced to select any one position due to “need.” Instead, they will likely choose the best player available. This player could end up being a cornerback who they feel confident they can groom into a formidable force in the secondary. Although cornerback hasn’t been a popular pick amongst pundits’ mock drafts, if Cincinnati does utilize their first round selection on a cornerback, fans shouldn’t be surprised.
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