NFL Cincinnati Bengals

2014 NFL Draft: The 5 Best First-Round Fits for the Cincinnati Bengals

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5 First-Rounders Who Fit the Bengals

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Yes, it happened again.

The Cincinnati Bengals and their fan base are getting used to watching outstanding regular seasons turn into disappointing postseason showings.

The latest letdown came this past season. After a 12-4 campaign earned them the No. 3 seed in the AFC, they choked against a hot San Diego Chargers team, bringing what looked like a potential Super Bowl XLVIII run to a premature end.

It happens year after year, and it’s about time the team finally figures out how to stop the cycle.

One way for the Bengals to avoid another huge letdown in 2014 is to bolster their roster during the 2014 NFL Draft. Annually, the draft is an opportunity for teams to add young talent while filling holes that opened up at the end of the previous season. At least in the first round, it’s a chance to bring aboard a player who should – in theory – be able to contribute from Day 1.

When the draft finally arrives in early May, the Bengals have a number of issues that must be addressed. From cornerback to offensive tackle, there are several positions in desperate need of help. Depending on how the coaching staff and front office feel heading into the offseason, the quarterback position could even be a concern in 2014.

Cincinnati could choose to fix these problems via free agency also, but the draft provides a solid avenue to make sure a certain position is addressed.

Either way, here’s a look at five players the Bengals should consider picking in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

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Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

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With left tackle Anthony Collins set to enter free agency, there’s a real chance the Bengals could be without a legitimate starter on the blindside when the 2014 NFL Draft arrives. If that’s the case, it must be addressed. While Kouandjio might not be available when Cincinnati is finally on the clock, he’d be a great fit for its offense. He has all of the physical tools to dominate at the next level, and could step in from Day 1 to fill the void.

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Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

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After another disappointing showing during the playoffs, Andy Dalton could be in serious jeopardy of losing his job. The third-year quarterback has suffered from his fair share of struggles since becoming the Bengals’ starter, but he always seems to reach his boiling point during the postseason – something that is simply unacceptable in Cincinnati. While it’s a longshot, there’s a sliver of possibility the Bengals could go quarterback early. Carr could slide, and would be a solid option to overtake Dalton under center.

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Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

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Even though the Bengals have two linebacker spots sewn up, the addition of Shazier would be a welcomed one. James Harrison isn’t getting any younger, and the rest of the depth chart behind him is made up of young, unproven players with little invested in them. If Shazier is still on the board when the Bengals are up, you have to believe they’ll take a long hard look at the former Buckeye. He’s a polished talent who can step in and contribute from Day 1.

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Zach Martin, OT, Notre Dame

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As mentioned early, the Bengals could lose Collins this offseason to free agency. If they can’t re-sign him, they’ll need to find a capable replacement via the draft. Martin has quickly risen up draft boards over the last month or so due to his outstanding aggressiveness and versatility. Even if the Bengals do find another option at left tackle, Martin has the tools and experience to plug in at guard and be a difference-maker along the interior of the offensive line.

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Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

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While the Bengals have a number of needs to address this offseason, none appears to be greater than at cornerback. With Leon Hall constantly hurt, Terence Newman getting up there in age and Adam Jones an off-field liability, Cincinnati needs a plan in place for the future of the position. The Bengals pick too late to land one of the top two cornerbacks of the 2014 class, but Verrett is a solid consolation prize. Despite his small stature, he’s a tough, physical cornerback who has the coverage skills to develop into one of the better players in the NFL at his position.

Gil Alcaraz IV is the Director of Content for Follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.