Cincinnati Bengals Mock Draft Roundup
The Cincinnati Bengals, for the first time in what seems like the franchise's entire history, will enter the 2014 NFL draft with no real gaping holes to fill. Sure, there are spots that the team could stand to fill, but there aren't any positions that are in dire need of help.
Still, the draft is upcoming, and the Bengals can continue building a solid foundation for the future. They've got a good base with A.J. Green, Vontaze Burfict, and Giovani Bernard, but there is always room for improvement.
How can the Bengals best upgrade this May?
Round 1: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Dane Brugler and Pete Prisco of CBS Sports both agree with me on this pick, given that the cornerback position is probably the most gaping hole on the Bengals' roster. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report seems to be of the same belief.
Others, such as Pat Kirwan and Rob Rang, suspect the Bengals will address their corps of linebackers by taking Ryan Shazier from Ohio State.
Cincinnati will be best served to add a young cornerback to a corps that is aging. Right now, the Bengals are living with Adam Jones, Terence Newman and Leon Hall, which isn't a terrible group of corners, but they're clearly older and likely past their prime.
TCU cornerback Jason Verrett brings blazing speed with him and a great eye for passes. He will consistently make plays on the ball. The problem with that, though, is that can also be his downfall. He's smaller and not a fantastic tackler, but his ability to go after passes should make up for that.
If Cincinnati goes with another position in Round 1, it could really end up reaching for a cornerback in a later round. That would solve none of the issues that currently lie in the Bengals' secondary.
Round 2: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Matt Miller is projecting the Bengals to take linebacker Carl Bradford from Arizona State in Round 2, but it's still hard to think that the organization feels it needs such dire help at the position.
Granted, the same could be said of the offensive line selection. No, it's not an immediate need, but the Bengals' starting offensive linemen come with some stipulations at this point. Right tackle Andre Smith has come with baggage since Day 1—his last couple of seasons have been fantastic, sure, but that lazy kid who was drafted out of Alabama is likely still in existence somewhere.
As for left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who has been one of the league's best in recent years, is 32 years old and has struggled with injuries the last couple of seasons. There's no telling how long he'll stick around in the league, but the injury bug seems to hang around him these days.
With the departure of Anthony Collins, it would be good for Cincinnati to bulk up an already decent offensive line. "Tiny" Richardson put up 36 reps on the bench at the combine and is one of the strong linemen in the draft.
He won't start Day 1, barring any injuries, but his incredible brute strength can make him a star in the NFL. It would do the Bengals well to strengthen up the line that protects Andy Dalton.
Round 3: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
It would be a much better selection for the Bengals to go with Zach Mettenberger with this pick, but there's no way they get him unless they use their second-round pick, and even then they may be too late.
Enter Aaron Murray, who NFL.com seems to think is a sixth- or seventh-round pick. For Cincinnati, it is essential to get one of these young quarterbacks, as Andy Dalton's contract situation is no secret. The Red Rifle's contract is up after the season, and it is unclear if he'll be the man going forward.
The Bengals should be prepared for that not to be the case. Murray, fresh off a spectacular senior season that saw him throw 26 touchdowns and only nine interceptions, has similar attributes to Dalton—good mid-range accuracy but not a great deep threat.
However, he's a better pocket passer than Dalton and tends to get rid of the ball more quickly. He isn't going to be dubbed a "slam dunk" at this point, but there's certainly a lot of potential for Murray to be Cincinnati's version of Russell Wilson minus the pistol offense.
If the Bengals don't get their guy here, they shouldn't reach for a less talented one later on.
Round 4: Terrance West, RB, Towson
He will be one of the lesser known draft talents, but Terrance West is coming off a season at Towson that saw him rack up an astonishing 42 touchdowns and over 2,500 yards on the ground.
Yes, these stats came from the FCS, but they're impressive no matter what league you are coming from. West likely won't see a lot of playing time as a rookie with Gio Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis handling the load.
BGE will be leaving the Bengals when his contract is up, though, and West has a somewhat similar running style. While small at only 5'9", he runs with a lot of power and good vision. He's got butterfingers but is good at finding holes in defenses and exposing those holes.
He likely won't blow by anyone like Bernard or a Darren Sproles, but West has the capabilities of being a solid back in the NFL. This is likely a very imaginary spot for West to fall to, but if he's available at this juncture, the opportunity to add a solid running back to complement Bernard in the future can't be passed.
Round 5: Michael Sam, DE/OLB, Missouri
In all likelihood, Michael Sam would be one of the bigger projects on the team. He's going to be a guy who will need some adjustment to the NFL's style of play.
If he does though, Sam could be an outstanding linebacker for Cincinnati. What I like about Sam is that he plays with such intensity and with a lot of heart. He will give it his everything on every play, and I'm willing to bet that most NFL players won't do that.
He made it clear during his senior season at Missouri that he could play—he recorded three three-sack games and was the heart of the Tigers defensive line. This comes from his ability to soundly read quarterbacks and make good first steps.
He had a poor combine showing but so did Vontaze Burfict, and look at how that turned out. Getting Sam on a team to be coached by Paul Guenther, the Bengals' former linebackers coach, and allowing him to play with Burfict, Vincent Rey and Carlos Dunlap puts him in a fantastic position to succeed.
Round 6 (2 Picks): James Morris, ILB, Iowa, and Michael Schofield, OT/OG, Michigan
With Rey Maualuga forever being a huge question mark, it'd be good for Cincinnati to bring in a young guy to be developed by Paul Guenther, the Bengals' new defensive coordinator.
James Morris doesn't bring a whole lot in the way of power or excessive speed, but he brings three-and-a-half years as a starter at Iowa and spectacular vision. Unlike Maualuga, he is good in zone coverage, so he could be useful guarding against Dennis Pitta and Jordan Cameron.
As for Michael Schofield, he's good against the run and can also serve as backup on the offensive line. Kevin Zeitler seems to be the only stone-cold lock on the line for the future, but the left guard position remains a mystery.
Clint Boling is the current starter and should be backed up by Tanner Hawkinson. Boling, while decent, is not an impact player, and an upgrade is certainly available. That could be Hawkinson, but Schofield should come in as insurance.
If nothing else, he could also fill in if there's a case of the injury bug. It's not to make him sound like a last resort—he's a strong lineman who drives well with the lower part of his body. He's not a project and would be a suitable replacement should it become necessary.
Round 7 (2 Picks): Michael Campanaro, WR, WF, and Sean Parker, SS, Washington
At this point in the draft, teams are just hoping to find that diamond-in-the-rough guy. Cincinnati is solid at both the receiver and strong safety position, but an improvement would advance it one more step.
Michael Campanaro is criticized for being 5'9", but put in the right position, he could succeed. He has decent speed and is stunningly powerful for his size, so coming out of the slot would be a good fit.
His size could also work in his favor, as it makes him more difficult to capture for opposing defenses.
Sean Parker is built for the position but never showed true competency in coverage, hence the reason he's not expected to go early. He's wildly competitive and built like a safety, so if he can be coached up and taught how to read routes, he may be one of those proverbial diamonds in the rough.