With the first round being in the book, we turn our gaze to tonight's second and third rounds, which are stocked with talent. Cincinnati, fresh off a fantastic pick of cornerback Darqueze Dennard, is sitting pretty with picks at 55 and 88 overall. Dennard was essentially a perfect pick for Cincinnati considering where they were picking. Dennard plays a position of need at corner and Dennard's ability probably warranted a higher selection giving the Bengals great value at 24. I personally think he is the best corner prospect in this draft, despite concerns about his pure athleticism. He can play.
However, you are here, not to hear me lecture about last night, as most media has overwhelmed their consumers to this point, but to find out who I think Cincinnati could be, or should be, targeting tonight. Let me just say, without a doubt, Cincinnati would love to stumble upon wide receiver Marquise Lee or running back Carlos Hyde with their second round pick, but we have to assume they will be gone, so if the names below seem like stretches, it's because frankly... they are. Just like throwing together a mock draft, there is really no way of correctly predicting the NFL draft.
1. Defensive End Kony Ealy - Missouri
Ealy has been linked with Cincinnati for weeks. He is very athletic for the position and has the size to develop into the perfect Michael Johnson replacement. He is raw from a technical aspect and needs to get stronger, but the Bengals have done well as of late developing their draft picks. He would fit a need, with the void from Johnson's departure, and could contribute immediately in passing situations. Ealy is an intriguing talent and definitely seems like a "Bengals pick" as he would fit the athletic mold that Cincinnati has been coveting on the defensive line.
There is a very good chance that Ealy is available when Cincinnati picks, but I can assure you... the Bengals are taking the best available regardless of need. If Cincinnati goes another direction, it will probably be because someone who was supposed to go earlier has surprisingly dropped.
2. Defensive End Demarcus Lawrence - Boise State
As I said above, Cincinnati will take the best available. Fortunately for them, there are some talented defensive lineman who would fit the need at defensive end. So, then the pick could come down to personal preference between Ealy and Lawrence. Lawrence is considered even more athletic for the position, but has similar flaws in a lack of strength that is desired at the pro level. That is a relatively easy fix, but may be why Lawrence, who was at times mocked in the end of the first round or early in the second, may fall to Cincinnati. Odds are Lawrence is gone when Cincinnati picks, but if he is there, he seems like a similar talent to perhaps what Michael Johnson was coming out of Georgia Tech, albeit four inches shorter.
3. Center Weston Richburg - Colorado State
Picking a center here would make sense with Kyle Cook's release, but I personally think Cincinnati will go elsewhere with this pick. Richburg could be a great fit and good player to step in and takeover the center of the offensive line, but I always had the sense that the Bengals coaching staff released Cook, not because they wanted to restart completely, but because they preferred backup Trevor Robinson's potential at the position. I could be off-base, but that's just the sense I had. Either way, Richburg should be available to the Bengals at pick 55 and maybe even later.
4. Defensive Tackle Will Sutton - Arizona State
Sutton is intriguing. He was widely considered one of the best defensive line prospects heading into this past season, but he struggled due to unhealthy weight gain and poor consistency with his work ethic. If that is controlled though, Sutton could be a huge part of Cincinnati's rotation with Geno Atkins recovering from his knee injury. This is probably more of a third round pick, but I would keep an eye on Sutton as head coach Marvin Lewis may take him on much like the last Arizona State star he took a chance on, Vontaze Burfict.
5. Running Back Andre Williams - Boston College
The guy led the NCAA in rushing this past season and has the punishing, bruising style that could be the perfect compliment to Giovani Bernard. I know Cincinnati still have BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but Williams would be a wonderful addition to the rotation now and the eventual main compliment to Bernard as soon as next season. Running back may not seem like a need, but offensive coordinator Hue Jackson wants to establish a power run game this season to protect quarterback Andy Dalton. Williams, whose main flaw is his "shiftiness" (which Bernard has plenty of), could factor into the Bengals draft plans.
6. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger - LSU
This is for the third round. Dalton is going to start next season and I honestly believe he will improve greatly in this upcoming season, but I do see Cincinnati trying to take someone in the middle rounds to push him a bit. Mettenberger would be a great pick for the third round as he can throw the ball very, very well and possesses a strong arm. He isn't particularly mobile, which is arguably Dalton's most valuable attribute, but he would present a quarterback option that, if Dalton did struggle, could really push the ball down the field to the Cincinnati receivers. Georgia's Aaron Murray could also factor in as a fourth round selection. Just remember that a quarterback selection doesn't mean Dalton is out, it just means Cincinnati is trying to cover themselves moving forward.
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