With the draft drawing close, we take a look at the state of the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster before heading into the event.
As the 2020 NFL draft draws ever closer, the Cincinnati Bengals own as much draft capital as any team in the league. This is predominantly due to the ownership of the number 1 pick. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the current Cincinnati roster is not as bad as the draft position would suggest, however, multiple needs are still apparent across the roster.
Below, we dive into ranking the team’s biggest needs, assuming that Joe Burrow will be the first overall selection. Given Zac Taylor’s most recent comments that a trade of the first overall selection seems unlikely, quarterback has been disregarded as a need because the front office will almost assuredly address the position with the opening selection.
1. Offensive Guard
It is no secret that the Bengals have had some recent swing and misses when drafting offensive linemen. 2018 1st round pick Billy Price, unfortunately, has been a disappointment, proven by his position on the depth chart behind Trey Hopkins at center and Michael Jordan at left guard. Both Jordan and current starting right guard Xavier Su’a-Filo have not yet proven themselves to be starting caliber.
A hit at this position, which may come in the form of Ohio State’s Jonah Jackson or Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz, could provide a strong interior presence that has not been present since the departure of Kevin Zeitler.
2. Right Tackle
To the outrage of much of Bengaldom, Bobby Hart signed a 3 year, $16 million contract in 2019. However, optimism still remains that Cincinnati could improve on the position next week, with keeping Burrow upright a priority for 2020.
Despite Hart’s play showing improvement at the latter stages of the season, 33 could prove an excellent spot to find a true upgrade at the position, due to the depth of the position this year. An example selection could include Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland or Austin Jackson of USC.
Last year showed Linebacker to be a glaring defensive need. Despite Germaine Pratt showing real potential and the addition of Josh Bynes in free agency, it is still evident that the area requires addressing in some form. However, with the expectation that the Bengals will move to a 3-4 defense and the fact that the Bengals were in nickel for over 60% of snaps last year, it is probable that the Bengals will only have 2 off-ball linebackers on the field for the majority of the time.
Therefore, it would be wise for the Bengals to look at addressing the position from pick 65 onwards. If prospects such as Akeem Davis-Gaither from Appalachian State or Willie Gay Jr. of Mississippi State were to fall, this could be the ideal situation for a mid-round pickup that could improve the defense immediately.
4. Wide Receiver
Despite the current roster containing a plethora of talent at the position, A.J. Green has proven to be injury-prone in recent years and is only signed through 2020 via franchise tag. It is also likely that John Ross could depart following the conclusion of the season, providing a sudden gaping need.
In addition, it is no secret that this year’s Wide Receiver class contains an abundance of talent. If the Bengals fall in love with premium talent, there should be no queries about Cincy selecting a prospect such as Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk or Baylor’s Denzel Mims as high as 33.
5. Tight End
After the departure of Tyler Eifert to Jacksonville, the current roster contains, in essence, solely C.J. Uzomah, who is coming off a disappointing year, in terms of a pass-catching tight end. There remains hope that last year’s second-round pick Drew Sample can contribute in this area, however, Sample’s strengths look to primarily lie in his blocking.
Eifert’s 2015 campaign proved the value of a pass-catching tight end on the top of his game. However, the scarcity of the Tight End class proves that the Bengals may have to uncover talent in a George Kittle-esque manner, which is imminently unlikely, yet the chance of taking a late-round flier on someone like UCLA’s Devin Asiasi is an exciting possibility.
With the recent additions of Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, the likelihood of taking a corner with a premium pick appears unlikely. Nevertheless, the Bengals are no strangers to spending a premium pick at the position and have had relative success, most recently in William Jackson III.
In addition, it’s difficult to not be energized by some of the play of Darius Phillips last year and hope that he sees the field in the coming season. This year’s class looks to contain strong depth and a mid-late round addition, such as Troy Pride Jr. of Notre Dame, to a position of value could prove highly beneficial down the line.