Jan 28, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Choose Chicago president Don Welsh speaks at a 2015 Draft celebratory reception at Sheraton Phoenix Downtown. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
We have seen everything from offensive line to defensive line and linebacker to safety being selected by the Bengals at pick 21 in this year’s draft. The major questions should be what would each position mean to this team and who could come in and make an immediate impact?
Offensive tackle would be a depth chart addition until next season. Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith are entering the final year of their contracts and benching the selection for a year would follow the Bengals’ penchant for “redshirting” rookies. It would give guys like Ereck Flowers (Miami) or T.J. Clemmings (Pittsburgh) the opportunity to learn and grow before being thrown into the fire. I am not 100% sold on the idea that they need to go this direction in the first round, especially with nearly every prospect being a project out of the gate.
Defensive end is another position the Bengals could use both for depth and future stability. The Bengals ranked at the bottom of the league in sacks and 20th in both pass and rush defense. They need to create more pressure, but with Michael Johnson just signing a four-year deal and Margus Hunt waiting for his opportunity to shine, it may not be an immediate need out of the gate as well. I could see a hybrid linebacker/defensive end player being the way to go. An Alvin Dupree type who would benefit from dropping off the line might be the style to look for in this case.
Safety has been a more recent and almost more sensible choice for the Bengals. They are entering the final year of George Iloka‘s and Reggie Nelson‘s contract and with Nelson having maybe two or three solid years left, he could be replaceable by a young talent like Landon Collins. Collins is quick and a good open field defensive player. Like an offensive lineman, a safety might be waiting a year to get on the field, but the team could use depth in case Iloka or Nelson gets injured. With Collins, the Bengals would have a player who is largely ready and capable of immediately acting as the “next man up”. This is probably my favorite pick in the first round.
Linebacker, specifically inside linebacker, is another pick tied to the Bengals. I say wait on this position mainly for two reasons. Number one, Vontaze Burfict. He wasn’t even drafted and gem linebackers are typically available later in drafts; keep in mind the Bengals have a certain expertise in finding these players. Number two, Eric Kendricks is the top ranked ILB in the draft and CBSsports.com has him ranked number 40 in their top prospects. If you do go outside linebacker, the Bengals would need to pick early or take one in the second round. Vic Beasley is the lowest ranked first round OLB at number 6 in the same ranking.
Wide Receiver could be a position to address, but with A.J. Green having at least one year under the franchise tag, I have to trust they will be able to bring back Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu at this point, or at least one of them. This would be a better second round draft pick, especially if Jaelen Strong out of Arizona State is available close to their 53rd pick. I might even debate moving up in exchange for their second round (53) and their early fourth round pick (120) to get him.
Cornerback is another position that has had a little buzz over the past few weeks. If they make this move, their first round would be a bust in my opinion. I do not like going after a cornerback after selecting Darqueze Dennard last season. They need to work with what they have at cornerback and maybe use a third-round compensatory pick on cornerback. Doran Grant from Ohio State is not a bad pick in the third round. He was a solid corner and succeeded in Urban Myers’ defense. I would love to see them hold off until the third round for a cornerback.
The Bengals seem prepared to pick the best player on the board at 21, but they still need to keep near future needs in mind when they do so. Any way you look at it, I am excited to see what the Bengals do on April 30th.
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