How They'll Approach The Draft/Their First Round Pick
Do you remember the great 'Sewell vs Chase' debate that took place before the 2021 draft? Remember how split the fanbase was on deciding who they should draft, say both of them were available, with the fifth pick? Sure, it's easy to say they made the right choice in hindsight, but back then, people were rightfully concerned about protecting their new franchise QB, who was fresh off of an ACL tear.
This might be recency bias talking, but the debate taking place this off-season has been more divisive than that one was. For one, there's no clear, number-one need like there were in previous drafts.
In 2020, the Bengals needed a quarterback and it was obvious they were going with Joe Burrow. In 2021, sure, Burrow needed protection, but with A.J. Green's departure, they also needed to pair him up with a new, explosive weapon. Even last year the fanbase generally agreed with the choice to draft a replacement at safety, as they assumed Bates would be gone by the season's end.
This year? I've seen takes for almost everything under the sun, and, oddly enough, they are all valid choices.
The offensive line (or rather the lack of depth in the O-line) was a huge liability in this year's playoffs, and it showed against the Chiefs. Replacing Jonah Williams/La'el Collins is definitely in question, especially with how disappointing they've been and how they're both coming off injuries. However, detractors to this say there any tackle selected in the first would be a reach, at least when it comes to those that are theoretically available when Cincy's pick rolls around
Interior Defensive Line
As much as I love D.J. Reader and B.J. Hill, they admittedly had trouble getting past their opposing interior linemen, and that was a big reason the Bengals struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks this year.
Most people who back a first-rounder being used on the DL say a more explosive option on the inside that can bull rush past guards/centers would make a world of difference in terms of getting pressure on the other team's quarterback. However, those who disagree argue whether or not this is a big enough need to justify using a first-round pick on the position.
Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton, Cam Taylor-Britt, and Eli Apple coming off the bench sounds like a good enough CB room, but there's always the hypothetical (which hurts me to think about because Awuzie is my favorite player on the team) that Awuzie won't be back to full form when he returns, at least not for a good while.
After all, he's coming off an ACL tear and plays a position where speed and movement have a huge role. So, do they draft a cornerback in case Awuzie isn't 100% or, worse, falls off entirely? Again, people who disagree with this often cite the same reasons as the first two. Is it big enough need to address with a first-round pick and will there be any worth taking with said pick by the team the Bengals are on the clock?
Those are just three of the most common positions that I see from fans. Others include Bijan Robinson from the Texas Longhorns, which works under the assumption Mixon won't be in stripes next season and that he'll fall to Cincy and a guard to have competition with Cordell Volson so he'll either work harder and improve his game or they have someone to take over the starting role.
With so many options and opinions flying around, it's no doubt this debate has become a heated and divisive one with many sides, and I'm sure the Bengals themselves are just as unsure, at least right now, of who to draft. Hopefully, they have a better idea once April rolls around.
What are some difficult decisions you believe this front office will have to make?