For general managers drafting is often a fine balance between wants and needs, and addressing those needs vs. taking the best player available. It’s a delicate dance, and the ability to execute it flawlessly each spring is what separates the elite from the mediocre.
But there’s another instinct a general manager needs during the build up to draft day. Identifying a weakness is easy, but forecasting when a strength could quickly become a weakness can be much trickier. The decision to make a heavy investment in a position requires gauging the age of the roster’s current players, and determining who could quickly see their ability decline with age. That’s the position Cincinnati is in with their secondary, despite allowing only 211.6 passing yards per game in 2011 (9th).
The Bengals have two first-round picks to work with (the second pick was acquired from Oakland in the Carson Palmer deal), and they’re separated by only four spots on the draft board. With the age of Nate Clements and the expected value at his position when Cincy is on the clock for the first time at No. 17, cornerback is an ideal direction. Then the flexibility provided by the extra pick could continue the infusion of youth into the offense, with Andy Dalton getting another weapon at wide receiver.
1. Jason Allen was signed to replace the injured Leon Hall, but will a cornerback still be high on the list with one of the Bengals’ two first-round picks if someone like Dre Kirkpatrick is still on the board?
Easily. Jason Allen has been with three teams in his career, yet he’s never earned a full-time starting role, save for injuries ahead of him on the depth chart. Allen, nor Adam Jones, are by any means long-term solutions, and instead they’re signed to strengthen the team’s overall depth. Nate Clements, who turns 33 this year, is entering his final year under contract. If Kirkpatrick, Stephon Gilmore or even Janoris Jenkins are available with either first-round pick, the Bengals will grab one.
2. Cornerback and an upgrade on the offensive line feel like they’re the two highest priorities. Do you see Cincy addressing those two needs where they currently sit at No. 21 and No. 17? Or could a trade be brewing either up or down?
Yes and no. Cornerback definitely. An offensive lineman makes the most sense, but the need largely settles at offensive guard and the Bengals have never drafted a guard in the first round. We wouldn’t be surprised if the Bengals went defense with their first two selections, or at least a wide receiver paired with a cornerback. I don’t want to discount it entirely, but a trade seems highly unlikely.
3. If one of those picks is dedicated to the offensive line, is there anyone you’re eying?
The usual suspects at guard, David DeCastro and Cordy Glenn. They’ve expressed a big interest in Wisconsin center Peter Konz too.
4. There’s a chance Jerome Simpson comes back, but that seems unlikely at this point. Will a wide receiver be targeted in the mid to late rounds? Or is the depth fine with A.J. Green assuming an even larger role?
Don’t be surprised if the Bengals look at a wide receiver in the first round. There’s A.J. Green, and a collection of slot receivers, leaving a hole for that No. 2 spot. Armon Binns is a possibility. He’s already on the roster, knows the system and terminology, and he’s generating enough of an impression from the coaches to beg Marvin Lewis to get him in games last season. However, much of the coaching staff visited Michael Floyd at Notre Dame’s Pro Day, so if he’s available or Baylor’s Kendall Wright if on the board, they could pull the trigger.