2013 NFL Draft: Top 5 Priorities for Cincinnati Bengals
Top 5 Priorities for Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals are stuck. They’re capable of reaching the playoffs, but not capable of getting over the hump and becoming a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Bengals won seven of their final eight games in 2012, only to lose in the wildcard round of the playoffs, which means something significant needs to be done to get them to the next level.
Whatever the Bengals are planning to do to help get them to the next level in 2013, it appears they’re going to be doing it in the draft, as the team has been notoriously quiet during free agency this season. That may not necessarily be a bad thing for Cincinnati, as the franchise has built itself into a quality team by being successful in the draft, while they have gotten burned on some bad free agency signings, so the draft may be the best place for the Bengals to get better.
The Cincinnati roster isn’t exactly punctured with holes. They have a franchise quarterback in Andy Dalton and one of the league’s top wide receivers in A.J. Green, as well as a solid nucleus of young players around them. Still, there are areas where the Bengals would like to be able to bolster their roster and a couple positions where they need to find someone between now and the start of the season. The Bengals are in a position where they can be flexible with where in the draft they can address certain areas, which means they won’t have to force anything and stretch too far when they draft players.
Let’s take a look at the priorities the Bengals will have heading into the upcoming draft.
5. Wide Receiver
With a receiver like A.J. Green that draws so much attention, it never hurts to have a complementary receiver that can hurt teams that focus too much on Green. Tight end Jermaine Gresham was their second-leading receiver last year, so the Bengals will certainly be on the look out for someone that can play on the edge. A lot of mock drafts have Cincinnati picking up a wide receiver in the first round, but with a deep group of receivers this year, they’d prefer to wait until at least a couple rounds until taking a receiver.
4. Running Back
It’s apparent that Cincinnati will be drafting a running back at some point, after quarterback Andy Dalton was their third-leading rusher last season. The Bengals are in the market for a speed back that can play part time and offer a change of pace. Generally, that’s something that could be found on Day 3, so if the Bengals can help it, they shouldn’t be in a rush to address that need, even though they will have to find a running back at some point.
3. Right Tackle
Andre Smith is all but gone, which means the Bengals will have to find someone that can fill in right away. D.J. Fluker is the most likely choice if he’s still on the board when Cincinnati is set to make its first round choice. But if Fluker isn’t available, the Bengals will have to look elsewhere, preferably in either the second or third round, where they can still find a right tackle that can start immediately. With Smith on his way out, the Bengals need to fill this void as soon as they can.
2. Outside Linebacker
The Bengals are strong at middle linebacker, but they lost Manny Lawson in free agency and need to improve their outside pass rush, so adding an outside linebacker is a necessity. There are a lot of great pass rushers available, but most of them should be off the board by the time the Bengals draft in the first round. If somehow one of them falls far enough to where Cincinnati has a chance to draft them, the Bengals should pounce. Otherwise, they will have to look for sleepers in the middle rounds, or perhaps a one-dimensional pass rusher that may not be an every-down player in the NFL.
1. Strong Safety
Reggie Nelson should have the free safety position on lockdown, but at strong safety the Bengals have a hodgepodge of mediocre candidates. Cincinnati may be able to get by with one of them taking the reigns, but if they want to take their team to the next level, they’ll need to upgrade at strong safety, which means dedicating an early round pick to that position. There are a lot of good options at the safety position available in this year’s draft class, and the Bengals should grab one of them in either the first or second round.