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Ranking Cincinnati Bengals' Biggest Needs to Address in the 2014 NFL Draft

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2014

Ranking Cincinnati Bengals' Biggest Needs to Address in the 2014 NFL Draft

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    Michael Conroy

    The Cincinnati Bengals enter the 2014 NFL draft with an eye toward the future as the majority of the starting positions on the roster are already set in stone.

    Of course, a lot can change between now and the kickoff of the regular season, but as it stands now, the needs list reads as mostly one that would be valid a few years down the line.

    Let's break down Cincinnati's most immediate needs that must be addressed in the near future, even if they don't appear to be glaring issues at the moment. A higher ranking doesn't necessarily mean the Bengals will hit on that need earlier in the draft, which is why we'll list multiple prospects who are possibilities to address the issue.

    Let's take a look.

5. Safety

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    Timothy D. Easley

    First Day Option: Calvin Pryor, Louisville

    Second Day Option: Craig Loston, LSU

    Third Day Gamble: Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama

    At first glance, safety doesn't stick out as a major need on the Cincinnati Bengals roster. But one has to remember that with so few major issues, Marvin Lewis and Co. are in a position to upgrade a spot that would be labeled as "acceptable" on other teams.

    George Iloka played well enough next to Reggie Nelson as the season wore on last year, but if Cincinnati is not sold on him, Shawn Williams or even Danieal Manning as the answer, an additional prospect is not out of the question.

    Remember, Nelson is also 30 years old, and the defense in Cincinnati surely doesn't mind relying on players who are interchangeable at either safety slot. With that in mind, Calvin Pryor makes sense in the first round if Cincinnati feels strong enough about an upgrade and the board falls that way.

4. Quarterback

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    Timothy D. Easley

    First Day Option: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

    Second Day Option: Zach Mettenberger, LSU

    Third Day Gamble: David Fales, San Jose State

    Yes, the much-talked about quarterback position is still in play for the Bengals over the course of the three-day draft, even with the team bringing on Jason Campbell and apparently wanting to work out an extension with Andy Dalton

    Marvin Lewis and Co. aren't stupid. Dalton is their guy, but they're going to want a fail-safe in place should he fail—especially now that the excuse of him not having a veteran to hold a clipboard behind him is out the window. 

    To that end, there are a wealth of options for the team. If Teddy Bridgewater for some reason makes an unrealistic fall, he has to be the guy. That may do more harm than good initially because it creates a controversy, but in the long run, it's the best possible move. Quarterbacks are quite the commodity on the trade market if it comes to that.

    Zach Mettenberger lacks mobility, but the offense is flexible enough to suit his needs. The same goes for David Fales, a developmental prospect with interesting upside.

3. Defensive End

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    L.G. Patterson

    First Day Option: Kony Ealy, Missouri

    Second Day Option: Scott Crichton, Oregon State

    Third Day Gamble: Will Clarke, West Virginia

    This is in no way an overreaction to Michael Johnson leaving via free agency. The Cincinnati Bengals simply love to have a rotation of guys who can rush from the edges and kick inside on passing downs to keep the entire line fresh for the full 60 minutes.

    With Margus Hunt a bit of an unknown and a bit of a void in the rotation with Wallace Gilberry, it cannot hurt for the team to grab an additional piece.

    Kony Ealy is the obvious choice, as he's stout against the rush and decent enough as an outside rusher. In Cincinnati, he'd make most of his money as a tackle on the interior in passing situations, but he's clearly an every-down player if the Bengals seek one in the first round.

    End is alarmingly thin this year in terms of what Cincinnati looks for, and Scott Crichton marks the last straw before value takes a nosedive. That said, Will Clarke will remind many of Johnson and is certainly worth a gamble.

2. Offensive Tackle

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    Michael Conroy

    First Day Option: Morgan Moses, Virginia Tech

    Second Day Option: Antonio Richardson, Tennessee

    Third Day Gamble: Seantrel Henderson, Miami (Fla.)

    It seems rather easy to write off offensive line as not being a major concern as it appears Andrew Whitworth will resume his duties at left tackle, and Mike Pollak is getting paid like the man who will play center.

    In reality, the Bengals need to have an eye on the future at the position, and really, the present, as Clint Boling has been mediocre at times at left guard while Whitworth is climbing the age ladder as he deals with an increasing rate of injuries.

    Marshall Newhouse is on board, but more often than not, he had the appearance of a human turnstile in Green Bay. Morgan Moses is very quietly one of the best tackles in the draft, he can play either side and can guard. Both Antonio Richardson and Seantrel Henderson present risks in one way or another, but if the team chooses to wait, they're both intriguing options who can be groomed into contributors.

1. Cornerback

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    Michael Conroy

    First Day Option: Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

    Second Day Option: Pierre Desir, Lindenwood

    Third Day Gamble: Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma

    It seems to be the general consensus that corner is priority No. 1 for the Cincinnati Bengals, and it's hard to argue that notion.

    Leon Hall is 29. Terence Newman is 35. Adam Jones is 30. Dre Kirkpatrick is relatively unproven. All have battled injury woes of varying severity in the past calendar year.

    So yes, that sounds like an area of need, if not the epitome of a position the staff has to keep a keen eye on as the years progress.

    The good news is names like Kyle Fuller and Pierre Desir can likely play right away, but they won't have to. The same goes for Aaron Colvin, who is rehabbing a serious knee injury, although his stock is all over the place.

    Regardless, it's easy to see why corner is problem No. 1 in Cincinnati, and it wouldn't at all be a shock to see the team take more than one before the draft reaches its conclusion.

     

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