The NFL Combine has come and gone. For the past few days, the focus has been on players such as Manti Te’o, Tavon Austin, Cordarelle Patterson and Star Lotulelei. However, now the focus will switch onto the 32 teams who did the poking and prodding of the young prospects.
As ever, that includes the Cincinnati Bengals, who enter the off-season with as important, if not as many, priorities to address as the rest of the league. Free Agency will come first, but that is only a prelude to the main event that will take place in new York at the end of April.
After Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Matt Kalil showed off the value of top picks in the NFL draft last year, this year’s class of rookies promises to be less top-heavy and more plateaued when it comes to talent. Stars like Griffin and Luck haven’t been recognized prior to the draft, but that does not mean that they won’t emerge once they enter the league. Regardless, that perception has created a buyer’s market as a vast number of analysts are expecting teams to explore traded that would return multiple mid and low-level selections for their top choices.
Even though most teams will want to take advantage of that depth, the Bengals shouldn’t be following that philosophy. In fact, they should completely swim against the current and look to move up if the right player catches their eye. A strong draft class that didn’t contribute much to a playoff team last season means that the Bengals already have developing prospects in reserve to work on, while remaining picks from the Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson trades give them a plethora of choices to work with.
The Bengals have eight picks in the upcoming draft, with two each in the second and sixth rounds. That second round pick from the Oakland Raiders for Palmer gives them three selections in the top 53 overall. The Bengals will pick 21st, 37th and 53rd. Picking 21st should allow the Bengals to get a very talented prospect who could contribute immediately or sit back to develop for the future, but moving up into the early teens could see them land one of the most talented players in the draft, at least from a perspective prior to the draft actually taking place.
Mock drafts this year have been very inconsistent with one another. Seemingly no two mocks are the same with players ranging from as far down as 16th or 17th to first overall. There is no general consensus like there was last season, so depending on how the first few picks of the draft fall, the Bengals could see one of the better fits for their franchise begin to slip slowly towards a spot where they could move up for a fair price.
Should Patterson, Arthur Brown, Kenny Vaccaro, Jarvis Jones or whoever it is that the Bengals feel would best suit their needs moving forward fall far enough, the Bengals have the fire-power to move up in the draft without worrying about adding depth.
With a huge amount of money to spend in free agency also, much of which will go towards re-signing their own stars, the Bengals can also consider trading draft picks from this year for future picks directly instead of looking for multiple choices from this year’s group. Going against the grain isn’t always advisable, but in the right situation it can be the perfect act for a team looking to take that next step. Something that the Bengals are desperately looking to do.
The Bengals don’t have a roster that needs multiple additions, they should have one of the better top to bottom rosters in the league after free agency. However, they do need to continue to add impact players who can dramatically upgrade certain aspects of their play.
Dre Kirkpatrick is already essentially giving them a second first round pick this season, adding another top choice to his expected impact could be massive in itself.