Bengals cannot afford to reach in the first round

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 14: Offensive lineman Billy Price
LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 14: Offensive lineman Billy Price /

The Cincinnati Bengals have some big needs still to fill with the NFL draft just over a week away. They cannot afford to reach in the first round.

The NFL draft is eight days away and the Cincinnati Bengals still have plenty of holes to fill on their roster to get back to the playoffs in 2018. The most troubling holes are along the offensive line which they will need to address heavily in the draft. While trading back to acquire an upgrade at left tackle, there are other players in free agency they could have gone after.

Cordy Glenn will undoubtfully be an upgrade at the left tackle position and helps lock down the left side of the line with Clint Boling. That still leaves the center, right guard, and right tackle all positions that are up in the air. Cincinnati lost their starting center Russell Bodine in free agency to the Buffalo Bills and now only have one lineman with experience taking snaps at the position.

Depending on the route of the draft, the Bengals could likely get one of the top three centers with their second-round pick, even if they need to move up in the second round to get him. Most fans are hoping that the team can grab someone like Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey, Georgia guard Isaiah Wynn, or UTEP guard Will Hernandez. Drafting one of these three in the first round and grabbing one of the top three centers in the second would be a huge move for the Bengals.

Cincinnati rarely chooses two of the same positional groups back to back and the last time they did with the offensive line was when they drafted Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher in 2015. Obviously, that turned out to be a disaster as neither has turned out to even be average starters for the club. With the offensive line being by far the biggest issue on the roster, the team should be heavily invested this draft to give need offensive line coach Frank Pollack some better players to work with.

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If all of the top offensive linemen are taken when Cincinnati picks at 21, they cannot afford to just take the second group of guys at their first pick. Even though it is their biggest need, the Bengals need big impact players that can contribute this year. Which also means that head coach Marvin Lewis is going to have to let his rookies play more significant roles this season. He cannot afford to let them sit and develop for a year as the Bengals need to win this season.

If the top offensive line group of players is gone at the 21st pick, that means that significant players at other key positions have dropped and could be plugged elsewhere in the roster. Guys that we don’t expect to be there at 21 that might drop could be the likes of Florida State safety Derwin James, Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson, Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith.

There are second-tier linemen that can be found in the second and third rounds but Cincinnati should wait till those rounds to grab those players. Another player that is likely to fall due to his putrid combine performance is Oklahoma tackle, Orlando Brown. There will be offensive linemen that can help and upgrade in 2018 in the second and third round but reaching for them in the first just because that’s your biggest need would be a mistake.

While we still have no idea what 2017 first round pick wide receiver John Ross will turn out to be, the team cannot afford another first-round selection sitting for a season. The Bengals need someone that can come in right away and make a difference. This is not the year to take a raw talent with a high ceiling to develop but a season to find that player that will help you get back to the playoffs now.

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The development players have been successful in the past once past their rookie seasons like cornerbacks William Jackson III and Darqueze Dennard, but this is not the time for developmental types. Lewis will have to reach outside of his comfort zone and allow his rookies to be big contributors to this team in their first year. He has gone against his ways quite frequently this offseason so maybe he will with this part as well.