NFL Cincinnati Bengals

2014 NFL Draft: 5 Late-Round Sleepers the Cincinnati Bengals Should Target

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2014 NFL Draft: 5 Late-Round Sleepers the Cincinnati Bengals Should Target

2014 NFL Draft Cincinnati Bengals
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 NFL Draft is well on its way, and with the NFL Combine in the books, it gets easier and easier to tell which players improve their draft status and those players whose stock has fallen significantly. While the top prospects get all the talk at the top of the draft boards, it’s often the small-school, late-round prospects that mean the most to a team in any given year.

The Cincinnati Bengals are at a crossroads in their franchise's history. On one hand, the team is good enough to reach the playoffs year after year; but on the other hand, the team just can't find a way to win a playoff game. 2014 is a year where many scrutinized people like coach Marvin Lewis and quarterback Andy Dalton will have to step up or else they could be well on their way out of Cincinnati.

The Bengals have had plenty of great players in their team's history come from late-round selections. Players like defensive tackle Tim Krumrie, tight end Bob Trumpy, and cornerback Ken Riley all excelled for the Bengals while being late picks, so they have a track record finding productive late-round players.

The Bengals have plenty of talented players on their roster. WR A.J. Green is a top-five receiver in the NFL, Geno Atkins, when healthy, is a top-five DT and players like RB Giovani Bernard, LB Vontaze Burfict and DE Carlos Dunlap play prominent roles for the Bengals. However, despite all this talent, the entire team has underachieved when it has mattered most. In this year’s draft, critical positions are loaded with a bunch of talented players. These talented late-round players will still be around in days two and three of the draft and are prospects the Bengals should keep targeting from now until May 8.

Brian Kalchik is a writer for Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and connect with him on Google.

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5. C.J. Barnett, Ohio State

C.J. Barnett
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The safety position in Cincinnati is something the Bengals must address this offseason. Both Chris Crocker and Taylor Mays are not game-changing safeties who can impact the game. A late-round player such as Ohio State's C.J. Barnett would be a great pick late in the draft. Barnett made plays for a very good Ohio State secondary and has physicality in the running game. Durability is a concern, but Barnett would be a low-risk, high-reward player.

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4. Cassius Marsh, UCLA

Cassius Marsh
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With Michael Johnson likely out the door in free agency and 2013 second-round pick Margus Hunt expected to step in, another pass rusher will help the Bengals' defense stay at a great level. Someone like UCLA's Cassius Marsh would be a great fit. Marsh is a do-everything lineman who can line up on the inside as well as his natural position at defensive end. This former Bruin has a high motor and fits the bill as a black and blue defender in a black and blue division.

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3. Ross Cockrell, Duke

Ross Cockrell
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Cincinnati's starting corners like Terrence Newman and Leon Hall are either getting up there in age or can't stay on the field due to injuries. Someone who can make the secondary younger and more athletic is Duke's Ross Cockrell. While Duke is predominantly a basketball school, Cockrell excelled for the Blue Devils in one of their great years in recent memory. Cockrell's production at Duke and big frame would be a good to complement to 2012 first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick as the Bengals try to get younger in their secondary.

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2. Storm Johnson, UCF

Storm Johnson
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Starting RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis' best days are behind him, and another back to complement Bernard is a necessity. A player who could learn behind Green-Ellis and eventually take over for him is UCF's Storm Johnson. Johnson has had only one-year as a feature back, meaning while he sits and develops he won't already have the previous punishment from his college days.

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1. Chris Borland, Wisconsin

Chris Borland
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An absolute thumper and overall difference maker at linebacker, Wisconsin's Chris Borland is an absolute steal for any team that selects him late in the draft. Borland's services would best fit with the Bengals as their linebacking corps last year was decimated by injuries. With Rey Maualuga not being as productive as he was in previous years, a successor to him at middle linebacker like Borland would be an excellent fit for a true football player in a physical division.