It has now been 23 years since the Bengals have won a playoff game. Despite making the playoffs the past three seasons, the Bengals have come up short all three times. The Bengals put up an 11-5 record, but were bounced by the San Diego Chargers in the Wild Card Round. Quarterback Andy Dalton has yet to play well in a playoff game, completing 57 percent of his passes with seven turnovers and just one touchdown. On top of that, both coordinators left to take head coaching jobs, with Jay Gruden heading to Washington and Mike Zimmer taking charge in Minnesota. The Bengals are young and talented, and have the ability to take the best player available if they so desire.
1. Cornerback: The Bengals have Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick, but all of those players have issues. Hall missed a significant chunk of last season after tearing his right Achilles (he tore his left one in 2011), is 29 and will be a free agent after next season. Newman is 35, has battled injuries and is on his last legs. Jones was the Bengals most consistent corner for much of the year, but is 30 and isn’t an ideal No. 1 CB. Kirkpatrick has not lived up to his draft status, and injuries have contributed to that. He continues to struggle with double moves and is consistently picked on. A high pick on a cornerback would make sense.
2. Linebacker: The Bengals have Vontaze Burfict, who has been one of the Bengals’ best players since he signed as an undrafted free agent. Rey Maualuga is solid in run support (although he does miss too many tackles), but struggles in pass coverage. James Harrison is on his last legs and can only rush the passer at this point in his career. Vincent Rey has potential as a middle linebacker behind Maualuga, but is still raw. Ideally, the Bengals find an outside linebacker who can rush the passer and replace Harrison.
3. Safety: George Iloka and Reggie Nelson are solid starters, but nothing special. Nelson is also 30. Taylor Mays is a free agent and is a sieve in coverage. Chris Crocker is a free agent and shouldn’t be back unless the Bengals sign him mid-season because of injuries, just like the team did this season. Finding a playmaker at safety would be perfect for the Bengals.
4. Center: Kyle Cook is arguably the weak link on Bengals offensive line. He’ll be a free agent after next season, and the Bengals might look for an upgrade or someone to groom behind him.
5. Quarterback: Andy Dalton will be the starter next season. The Bengals could bring in a veteran to push Dalton, but Dalton is the guy for now. Heck, a contract extension isn’t even off the table. However, the Bengals could draft a developmental type to groom behind Dalton.
6. Defensive end: The Bengals have tons of talent at this spot in Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Robert Geathers and Wallace Gilberry. However, Johnson is a free agent and I don’t think he returns. The Bengals have over 20 million in cap space, but Burfict, Dalton, Hall, A.J. Green and Domata Peko, among others, are all due new contracts within the next two years. If the Bengals let Johnson walk, Margus Hunt (aka the Baltic Bengal), a second round pick last season, might be ready to replace him. Unless someone falls to the Bengals, a late round pick makes the most sense.
Darqueze Denard, CB, Michigan State: I view Denard as one of the best corner prospects in the draft. He isn’t the fastest guy and might get into trouble with pass interference penalties based on his physical playing style. Nevertheless, he is a great cover corner. He might not last until the Bengals first round pick.
Justin Glibert, CB, Oklahoma State: Gilbert might be the first corner taken, even before Denard. He is great in man coverage and can return kicks as well. He is still a little raw in areas, such as his technique, but can be coached up. Like Denard, he might be off the board before the Bengals pick. A player like TCU’s Jason Verrett might be the pick if both Gilbert and Denard are gone.
Ryan Shazier, LB, OSU: Shazier strikes me as the perfect fit for the Bengals. He would be an ideal replacement for James Harrison. He needs some work in pass coverage, but the Bengals can bring him along slowly in that regard. Shazier should be available for the Bengals’ first round pick.
Shazier Big Hit
Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU: Much like Shazier, Van Noy would be a good fit for the Bengals. He had a great year in 2012 but did not play as well this season. He strikes me as a perfect fit as a strong side linebacker and the Bengals might be able to steal him in round two.
Ha Ha Clinton Dix, S, Alabama: In addition to having one of the best names in this year’s draft, I view Clinton-Dix as the best safety prospect. He does everything well and can start right away. However, there is a very good chance that Clinton-Dix will be off the board before the Bengals pick.
Lamarcus Joyner, S, FSU: Joyner’s best trait is his versatility. He can play both safety and cornerback. His best fit will probably be as a nickel corner at the next level or a Tyrann Mathieu-type player. The biggest knock on him is his size, as he is only listed at 5-foot-8, 190-pounds. He should be a Day 2 pick, but I don’t think he’d slip to the Bengals third round pick.
Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State: Richburg might be taken too early for the Bengals’ taste, but he is one of the better center prospects in the draft. Although not a name known among most fans (going to Colorado State and playing center doesn’t result in much publicity), he had a solid bowl game and could go as early as Day 2.
Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming: Another underrated player, solely because he plays for Wyoming, Smith turned pro early and could be taken as early as the second round. He doesn’t have elite arm strength, but can make every throw. His best fit is an offense that would take advantage of his quick release and mobility. He still needs work and isn’t ready to start right away, but if he slips in the draft, the Bengals might pull the trigger.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois: Garoppolo isn’t a name many have heard, but he is talented. He has an incredibly fast release and reminds me a lot of Tony Romo. He still needs some work, but could go as early as the second round. His height and hand size will be key in determining how high he goes. If teams don’t reach on quarterback, he might fall enough for the Bengals to justify drafting him.
Dominique Easley, DE, Florida: Easley played defensive tackle at Florida, but is a little undersized to be a full-time starter. However, I think he would be perfect in a Wallace Gilberry-type role, playing both tackle and end. He has had suffered two ACL injuries (tearing his right one this season and his left one in 2011), which will hurt his draft stock. The Bengals might be able to get him in round three or four.Back to the Cincinnati Bengals Newsfeed