The ninth day of TGH Draftmas brings us to the Cincinnati Bengals’ draft profile.
The Bengals finished 6-9-1 last season, snapping a streak of five consecutive playoff appearances for the Bengals. This also marks the first time the team has missed the playoffs in the Andy Dalton era. Fans are hoping this down year was due to injuries to stars like Tyler Eifert and A.J. Green, as well as the suspension of Vontez Burfict. However the disappointing season seems to have been more likely caused by decline after the loss of key free agents the previous offseason.
Cincinnati has had a quiet offseason so far as has been the trend in recent years. The coaching staff remains largely intact and the team has focused on trying to resign their own free agents as usual. Unfortunately, this trend of focusing on retaining their own players and signing veterans to team-friendly deals has backfired this offseason. The offensive line has been left in shambles with the departures of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler. The Bengals attempted to stop the bleeding with the signing of former right tackle Andre Smith, who is a marginal starter at best in this point of his career.
The only silver linings for the Bengals’ free agency were the resigning of Dre Kirkpatrick and the signing of Cardinals’ linebacker Kevin Minter. Resigning Dre Kirkpatrick was an absolute priority and he will return to lead a young secondary after finally putting together a strong season in 2016. The signing of Kevin Minter allowed the Bengals to finally part ways with Rey Maualuga and will help anchor the middle of the defense after the former 2nd round pick had a strong year for the Cardinals last year.
The Bengals have been one of the biggest losers of the offseason thus far. However the team has always made building through the draft a priority, a strategy that had seemed to work quite well until this year.
PICKS AND NEEDS
The Bengals have 11 picks in the 2017 draft. Four of these picks are compensatory picks coming from the losses in last year’s free agency. With 11 picks the Bengals have some flexibility to move up or trade down. The Bengals have never been a team known to make moves on draft day and usually take the conservative route.
First Round: (1) No. 9
Second Round: (1) No. 41
Third Round: (1) No. 73
Fourth Round: (2) No. 116, No. 138
Fifth Round: (2) No. 153, No. 176
Sixth Round: (2) No. 193, No. 217
Seventh Round: (2) No. 227, No. 251
The Bengals will try to use these picks to help shore up a team who has lost a couple key players in the last two years and try to make another playoff run. I see the Bengals using a lot of their picks in the trenches this year, focusing on strengthening the offensive and defensive lines, with a receiver or safety taken at some point in the mid rounds.
Offensive Tackles- The Bengals lost the anchor of their line with Whitworth’s departure. This need will probably not be addressed early on with a weak tackle class. The Bengals also signed Andre Smith and will probably give Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher one more year to figure things out after being their 2015 1st and 2nd round picks.
Right Guard– Kevin Zeitler left another huge hole on the line and will be hard to replace. Pro Football Focus has reported that Andre Smith could be moving to guard. This would fill the need, but it is to early to tell if he won’t be needed more at tackle.
Center– Russell Bodine has been one of the worst starting centers in the NFL over the last few seasons. With other good lineman no longer there to help him, an upgrade is needed to protect Andy Dalton.
Wide Receiver– Tyler Boyd showed a few flashes in his rookie year, but Brandon Lafell should not be a starter. Also it could not hurt to have more depth in case A.J. Green goes down again.
Defensive End: The Bengals need another pass rusher to pair with Carlos Dunlap. Michael Johnson is a shell of the player he was before leaving for Tampa Bay.
Safety: The loss of Reggie Nelson could be felt last year as the have some problems on the back end
Defensive Tackle: Andrew Billings could be a good player coming back from an injury that caused him to miss his entire rookie year. However a little depth is still needed with the departure of Domata Peko.
Targets and Thoughts:
Assuming there are no trades, these are the players the Bengals should target in the first three rounds of the 2017 NFL draft.
First Round Pick 9: Taco Charlton DE, Michigan
Taco Charlton is a very talented defensive end with great size and athleticism that many scouts see as a top ten talent. Many scouts have even compared him to the Bengals’ Carlos Dunlap, so who better to be across from for the next few years. I debated between Charlton and Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett for this pick, but chose Charlton ultimately due to his better size.
Second Round Pick 41: Forrest Lamp OG/C, Western Kentucky
There is a good chance Lamp could slip into the second round, especially if the Falcons don’t take him a 31 overall. Lamp played left tackle in college, but projects as a guard or center in the NFL due to his lack of size. Lamp had great performances at both the Senior Bowl and the Combine, showing power at the point of attack and good feet in pass protection. His versatility would also good for a team that has many question marks going into the season on the offensive line. If Lamp is gone, Dan Feeney a guard from Indiana would also be good choice to fill a big need at this juncture.
Third Round Pick No. 73: Josh Jones S, NC State
Josh Jones is the type of big safety the Bengals need to pair with George Iloka. Jones comes in at 6’1” and runs a blazing 4.41 40 time. Strong safety is his natural position and would be a natural complement to Iloka at free safety.
The Bengals should have a win now mentality when it comes to this draft and will select players that address immediate needs. The Bengals hope this years draft will help propel them back into the playoffs. However, after the loses of many veterans and leaders on both sides of the ball over the last two seasons, has the window of opportunity for the Bengals already closed?