Bengals’ Draft Choices Should Be Based On Need

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Nov 29, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert (85) catches a pass for a touchdown from quarterback Andy Dalton (not pictured) in the first half against the St. Louis Rams at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 29, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert (85) catches a pass for a touchdown from quarterback Andy Dalton (not pictured) in the first half against the St. Louis Rams at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Cincinnati Bengals will be on the clock in a matter of days. Hopefully, the 2017 NFL Draft will provide the answers fans have been waiting for.

It’s always nice to window shop. Dreaming about that shiny new purchase and how it can be put to use. But, on April 27, the Cincinnati Bengals won’t have the options most shoppers have. Once they decide on who to draft, it’s a mutual agreement that could elevate or embarrass the franchise. To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite movies, they must “choose wisely.”

It’s tempting for fans to look at the athletes available and assume that each one has something to offer the Bengals. That may be true. But, this is the beginning of a turnaround for Cincinnati. The 2017 season is one that will be remembered for a number of scenarios. After a 6-9-1 meltdown, Marvin Lewis will be in the crosshairs. Any players permanently brought into the halls of PBS will have to contribute immediately. That said, some players should be looked at with the intent of starting or pushing veterans to step their game up.

What does the 2016 season tell us about the Bengals? At first glance, it seemed to be all about the offense. Hue Jackson wasn’t directing the offense, Tyler Eifert was missing for the majority of the year and the running game…well, it was the running game. Defensively, the Bengals didn’t really come together until the last half of the season. So, where does it start? Are there ground rules or is it a “best player available” situation? This draft has to produce on the basis of need over want. With that in mind, who can give immediate impact?

Ground Game Blues 

Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals /

Cincinnati Bengals

Yes, it was that noticeable. The Bengals’ ground game was there but lacked the punch it needed. According to offensive coordinator Ken Zampese, getting the running attack in gear is part of the 2017 plan. The numbers were similar in the past two years. But, the production wasn’t enough to take the heat off Andy Dalton. The focus is on raising the YPC to at least 4.4 yards per and how to get there.

"“We have to get those numbers up,” Zampese commented, per Bengals.com. “4.4. That usually puts you in the top ten. More consistency with the backs’ tracks and courses. Less mental errors in the blocking unit. And when the ball gets in the secondary, staying on blocks on the outside. Running through arm tackles to get those extra yards play after play that you need to get the average up. We’re identical to where we were last year, which is not what we were expecting, then or now. That’s our challenge. To find out what the new cheese is. To do what we already do better.”"

Finding that new cheese is embracing change (Who Moved My Cheese?). In order for the Bengals to get better, change will have to occur at some point. That means Joe Mixon, Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook could be eating Gold Star Chili in a week or two.

Whoever gets the honor of wearing the Orange and Black stripes will be the catalyst. Jeremy Hill says he’s ready for the challenge. He’s not worried….This could be it.

Speed Kills

Tyler Eifert is saying he’ll be ready for offseason workouts and camp. But, actions speak louder than missing games. Andy’s favorite target gives a good reason for not rushing back. Technically, the workouts don’t mean a thing (we talkin’ ‘bout…practice). But, it would be encouraging to see him on the field snagging footballs and running routes with ease.

Next: 2017 Schedule Is Here

I’ve calmly said it before and I’ll say it again. Dalton’s 2015 stats were phenomenal. Eifert had a lot to do with that. Drafting O.J. Howard would not only help the offense–with potential two TE sets–it would give Dalton the peace of mind he needs over the middle. Think of the damage Howard could do down the seam or from the slot. Now, imagine a healthy Eifert and Howard on the field together. There’ll be no stacking the box.

Draft day could hold more than a few surprises for Bengals faithful. But, the bottom line is getting back to the postseason. If that means making some people angry, so be it. Another sub .500 campaign will be disastrous.

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