The Cincinnati Bengals are getting ready for another NFL Draft. This year’s offering is a defense-heavy class. Will the Bengals’ picks tell their direction?
It’s not quite that time. The NFL Draft is still 75 days away. But, it’s never too early to think about football. The Bengals’ season was a dismal journey through games that most fans would like to forget. There were bright spots that kept the faithful smiling and moments that could cause hair-pulling madness. Surely, ending the campaign at 6-9-1 wasn’t the result that Marvin Lewis and Co. wanted. But, with the draft looming, there are a few ways things can go.
Mock drafts are all over the internet. It wouldn’t be surprising to find grandma’s secret file drawer with draft picks and in-depth analysis. But, no one really knows the real deal. It’s fun to speculate about the outcome. But, the bottom line always has a way of making experts look, um, crazy.
The Bengals have more than a few holes that need to be addressed in the upcoming draft. Getting those orders filled can be a nightmare. Teams tend to trade up, move down and make life horrendous for teams that have their sights set on specific players. The jockeying for position is enough to warrant a score card. Ultimately, it will be all about the Bengals getting the best available players to make that Super Bowl run.
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Now On The Clock…
This year’s edition of the NFL Draft is loaded with defensive talent. The Bengals were able to get their paws on a couple of the coveted studs last year. But, the board may be empty when that No. 9 slot rolls around. What do the Bengals need from the draft? Actually, it gets kind of interesting on both sides of the ball. Defensively, things should get better. With the return of Andrew Billings and William Jackson III, the Bengals’ defense should get a lift.
The one thing the Bengals do need to improve is defensive speed. Yes, I know. I just said they would be fine. But, who doesn’t remember the mantra from the early Madden NFL games? Speed kills. It was true then and it still rings out loud now. Though the Bengals’ defense was able to turn things around towards the end of the season, the first half was…interesting. Any fan looking at the defense was aware of the slowness of the D.
If Myles Garrett or Derek Barnett just happen to slide down the draft waterfall, the Bengals should definitely snatch one. According to Geoff Hobson at Bengals.com, Barnett is one of the players on the radar. It’s been a long time since the Bengals have gone with a defensive end in the first round. How long, you ask? Does the name Justin Smith ring a bell? If you’re not a bandwagon believer, you should have no trouble remembering his rise to legendary status…away from Cincinnati.
Both Garrett and Barnett have the speed to play the DE position. The question is whether they can come through in the NFL. Look for the Bengals to play draft busters and grab one of the speedsters if they’re still around. An interesting situation arises with Marcus Hardison. He’s spent a couple of seasons on Injured Reserve, due to preseason mishaps.
Hardison has yet to prove his worth. There have been flashes of potential but nothing beyond that. Would he be better shedding some weight and going back to his natural end position?
The other big name is (say it with me, class), Reuben Foster. Karlos Dansby will probably be asking for too much cash in free agency. He won’t stick around.Besides, he didn’t get his ring. Foster will be the antidote for a slow Bengals’ linebacker corps.
Toys For Zampese?
Of course, there will be tons of toys for OC Ken Zampese to drool over. But, the priority for the Bengals has to remain the same. Jeremy Hill has yet to regain the form that made him a Fantasy Football star in 2014. Giovani Bernard will be coming off an ACL tear. Re-signing Rex Burkhead is crucial. But, if Rex walks, there’s always the main man in the War Room. Leonard Fournette could give the Orange and Black the offensive lift they need.
Before Zampese can think about exotic schemes, deep routes and team speed. Andy Dalton needs time to throw. Getting him a nice pocket would be nice. Outside of Fournette and the O-line, the sleeper is Kareem Hunt. His 1,878 yards from scrimmage should get the Bengals’ attention.
Offensive or defensive slant? Draft day will surely tell the story.