The Bengals’ offensive line allowed 46 sacks last year. That’s bad enough for 26th overall in a painful metric for sophomore quarterback Andy Dalton, whose body hit the floor once every 11.4 drop backs. This, kids, is how we identify a draft need.
Those fundamental numbers make us all genius general managers. Due to the Raiders continued payment for a quarterback they no longer employ (also, hahahahaha), Cincinnati has two second-round picks in this year’s draft, meaning they own three picks in the top 55. Initially then, the typical question of value surfaces as we try to gauge who might be available when Cincy is on the clock for the first time with their 21st overall pick. And in that process, if we determine that the right names won’t be around to reinforce the O-line, we’re also determining that the Bengals would look elsewhere.
That’s the simplest linear thought we go through in some form for every team. But right now as we attempt to do the same with the Bengals, Andre Smith is the derailment.
Smith is still a free agent, with his asking price far too high. The tackle hasn’t even had a visit from another team, making the Bengals the only suitor by default. There’s still a significant gap between the two sides, and closing it will greatly influence Cincinnati’s early draft strategy.
1. Andre Smith’s situation will clearly have a massive impact on the Bengals’ draft strategy. Since his demands remain high and he hasn’t even had a visit with another team, the cautious assumption is he’ll eventually return to Cincinnati. But as we get close to the draft and he’s still a free agent, will the Bengals bail and target a tackle early, or still wait for his price to fall?
You have to think the Bengals will move on if this standoff reaches April 25th. They’d probably look at OT within the first three rounds, but they wouldn’t be in desperation mode because they believe swing tackle Anthony Collins can start if needed. If D.J. Fluker somehow made it to pick 21, then this scenario gets interesting. Fluker is an Andre Smith clone and I wonder if that would help or hurt his chances of the Bengals selecting him.
2. If drafting a tackle early is the chosen strategy, the first-round caliber talent could be sparse by the time the Bengals are on the clock at No. 21. If Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson, and D.J Fluker are gone, is Menelik Watson’s name called? Or will the Bengals address another need and wait? Having three picks in the top 55 provides some flexibility.
I think this entire draft is set up for the Bengals to draft the best player available while looking ahead to future needs. If the top four OTs are drafted before 21, I doubt Watson is BPA and I would expect them to go in another direction early. Second round BPA possibilities include Terron Armstead, Kyle Long, and Dallas Thomas.
3. During the back half of the first round there’s a building pack of teams that will either be aggressive while pursuing a wide receiver, or at least give it heavy consideration if the right name falls. Are the Bengals one of those teams? A.J. Green still needs a reliable No. 2 to line up across from him, but Mohamed Sanu is expected to be healthy for minicamps.
Sanu is their guy with Marvin Jones also getting looks. But remember, these two were third- and fifth-round picks respectively. There’s a great chance that six-to-eight of this year’s WRs grade out higher than Sanu did in last year’s draft process. I could easily see the Bengals going WR early and chalking it up to BPA, and a clear upgrade.
4. In a perfect scenario where all the names fall exactly the way you expect (because that always happens), who will the Bengals take with their first three picks?
In a perfect scenario, I would love the Bengals to add Arthur Brown (LB, K-State), Johnathan Cyprien (S, FIU) and Johnathan Franklin (RB, UCLA). I doubt it falls this way, but this is the scenario that I dream about.
5. Any late-round sleepers you’re eying?
Reid Fragel (OT, OSU), Dennis Johnson (RB, Arkansas), Kerwynn Williams (RB, Utah St), Joe Kruger (DE, Utah), Earl Wolff (S, NC state)… to name a few.