Eight Players Cincinnati Bengals Should Consider Drafting
Marvin Lewis at the Combine
The Cincinnati Bengals go into this NFL off-season with plenty of options for improving the roster. With their recent policy of avoiding big-named free agents, the main focus shifts to the upcoming NFL Draft and the incoming rookie class. The Bengals will almost certainly look to April's draft to fill the holes and keep the team as a contender.
The biggest needs for Cincinnati seem to be at linebacker, safety and running back, with defensive end, cornerback and wide receiver as secondary needs that could also be addressed. This year's draft is as wide-open as any in recent memory and could fall in any number of ways leading up to the Bengals' first pick, leading to endless possibilities. Cincinnati is in the unique, for them, position to be able to look for value and draft for skill instead of need, which is how the best teams stay atop the league. Mike Brown, Marvin Lewis and company, if they can keep up their recent string of good drafts, have a chance to solidify themselves as perennial contenders in the always difficult AFC North.
The eight players on the following list are guys that could provide the Bengals with both a solid player and great value in the draft. Obviously the top players available will be gone before Cincinnati picks, so I have excluded them. This list includes guys who have a real shot at being there and are players I think should be considered very strongly. I think they will be assets in the future and would love to see any of them in stripes in 2013.
Joseph Randle is one of the top RBs in this year's draft, combining speed and just enough power to be effective in multiple formations. He's also a very good receiver out of the backfield and would be a great compliment to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He's dangerous in space and one of my favorite players available.
Johnathan Franklin is another RB who the Bengals should think about taking to amp up the run game. More compact and strong, he does have enough speed to be a homerun threat and is also a good receiver. He was very productive in college and has all the necessary abilities to be just as productive as a pro.
After the 2011 season, Robert Woods was being touted as a top WR and Heisman Trophy candidate. Injuries struck last year and he was overshadowed by teammate Courtney Lee, leading to his draft stock taking a hit. He's a smooth receiver with incredible hands and would make a terrific second receiver across from AJ Green.
Defensive end might not be Cincinnati's most pressing need, depending on what happens with Michael Johnson but a chance to add another great player might be too good to pass up on. Alex Okafor has the size and speed to be effective in the 4-3 scheme but might fall down draft boards due to the potential of guys ahead of him. Okafor should be a solid player and a nice addition to the rotation in Cincinnati.
Linebacker might be the team's biggest need, with plenty of free agents and a lot of inexperience on the roster. Regardless of who is let go and who is brought back, Khaseem Greene would make a nice addition to the unit. Greene is a solid tackler and solid in coverage as well, something the Bengals can certainly use at LB. He immediately makes the entire LB corps immediately quicker and better.
Arthur Brown is one of the best LB'ers in the entire draft. A playmaker in every way, he might already be gone by the time the Bengals pick, so if they want him, it'll likely need to be with their first round selection. He could step in and start right away or join the rotation depending on who is re-signed. He's also a great teammate and leader and the kind of solid locker room presence teams love.
If linebacker is the Bengals' biggest need, safety could be a close second, with a replacement for veteran Chris Crocker needed. Matt Elam is a guy who brings both ball skills and big hits him to the NFL. He played well in big games in college and made plays all over the field and his ability to make opposing receivers pay for making catches would make the Bengals secondary more imposing.
Jonathan Cyprien has seen his stock skyrocket after a remarkable performance at during Senior Bowl week. He is another player who could be selected before the Bengals get a chance to take him, combining hard hits with an ability to cover the entire field. He's also solid in run defense and could be an immediate upgrade. The question is whether he's ready after playing against mostly inferior competition. I think he is.