The Cincinnati Bengals earned almost universal praise for the additions they made during the 2013 NFL Draft, and for good reason. With the talent added to their roster during the draft, many have started to view Cincinnati as the favorite to win the AFC North division this year. But if there’s one criticism of what the Bengals did during the draft, it’s that they waited too long to draft a safety, eventually taking former Georgia Bulldogs safety Shawn Williams with their third round pick and their fourth pick overall.
As much as the Bengals needed a running back, as much as they needed another linebacker, and as much as they wanted to add an offensive playmaker, their biggest need heading into the draft was at safety. It was clearly a mistake to wait so long before addressing their need at that position. Williams is a quality player who was a key part of a great defense in college and he could end up being good enough to start in the NFL, but in this year’s draft class there was a steep drop off between the safeties that were drafted in the first two rounds and the safeties that were drafted in the third round or later. Williams was not among the group of elite safeties in this draft that can be instant difference makers in the NFL. With three picks in the first two rounds of the draft, there’s no excuse for the Bengals waiting so long to address their biggest need.
It’s hard to second guess the team taking tight end Tyler Eifert with their first round pick, as he’s a big reason why Cincinnati’s draft was considered such a success, but by taking Eifert the Bengals passed up on taking both Matt Elam and John Cyprien, both of whom were available and would have been great candidates to fill their void at safety.
Despite addressing a need at running back and adding a quality defensive lineman in the second round, the Bengals passed up the opportunity to draft safety D.J. Swearinger, a player who would have been a noticeable upgrade over Williams. The players at running back and defensive end later in the draft would have been comparable to the players they took in the second round. The Bengals also could have used their extra picks to be proactive and traded up in the first round to take either Kenny Vaccaro or Eric Reid, the first two safeties taken off the board. There were a lot of ways the Bengals could have filled their need at safety early in the draft, but instead they made the mistake to wait.
The problem isn’t Williams; he should be a fine player. The problem is that Cincinnati already has a lot of players like Williams on their roster to compete for the starting spot at safety. What they needed was a top-tier safety that is ready to start right away and be an impact player in their defense. By waiting too long during the draft, the Bengals didn’t get that, and it could end up costing them.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him to your network on Google+.