Evan Silva (@EvanSilva) is the Senior Football Editor for Rotoworld's NFL Page, and Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) leads Rotoworld's college football and NFL draft coverage. Together, they're breaking down every team's biggest needs and offering potential draft-day solutions.
For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.
No. 1 Team Need: Wide Receiver
The Bengals have pursued Brandon LaFell after losing Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency, but their wideout search shouldn't end even if LaFell signs. Behind A.J. Green, the depth chart is presently rounded out by Mario Alford, Jake Kumerow, Michael Bennett and special teamers James Wright and Brandon Tate. If LaFell is brought aboard, his best-case utilization would be Sanu's old role. Cincinnati would still need a legitimate No. 2 bookend to Green. It's very possible the Bengals use their first-round pick on a wideout, targeting a Z receiver to complement Green's X.
No. 2 Team Need: Defensive Line
Whereas LE Carlos Dunlap and three-technique DT Geno Atkins are premier NFL starters in their prime, RE Michael Johnson and NT Domata Peko are both in states of decline. Cincinnati does have some interior depth in run-stuffing role player Pat Sims, 2015 fourth-round pick Marcus Hardison, and fifth-year DT Brandon Thompson. More help is needed on the edges, where the Bengals could use someone to push Johnson. Failed recent draft picks Will Clarke and Margus Hunt have not been up for the task.
No. 3 Team Need: Secondary
The Bengals did well to retain RCB Adam Jones and FS George Iloka, but strong safety is a question mark with Reggie Nelson still on the market, and LCB Dre Kirkpatrick was one of last year's weakest starting corners. Slot cornerback is another concern with incumbent Leon Hall unsigned. Perhaps Cincinnati is ready to turn the page on aging Nelson and Hall, looking to youngsters Shawn Williams and Darqueze Dennard for increased roles. Those players should still face competition, and Kirkpatrick's starting job deserves to be on the spot.
Norris' Mock Draft
Round 1 (24): WR Michael Thomas, Ohio State - There’s so much of Michael Crabtree’s game in Michael Thomas. He truly is sneaky athletic after the catch as he destroys defenders’ angles of anticipation and glides into full speed very quickly, in similar fashion to Demaryius Thomas. I wouldn't be surprised if some teams rank Thomas as the class’ top receiver.
Round 2 (55): EDGE/DL Jihad Ward, Illinois - Every team, especially the Bengals, likes edge players who can move inside on sub-package downs. Ward fits the bill, using his length on the outside to press blockers back and then using footwork and quickness inside to make an impact there.
Round 3 (87): WR Leonte Carroo, Rutgers - The Bengals have dabbled with different receiver types in the slot, sometimes utilizing bigger targets (Mohamed Sanu), other times shiftier ones (Andrew Hawkins, Rex Burkhead). Carroo was used all over and fits the “big” game mold by coming down with difficult contested catches.
Round 4 (122): DT D.J. Reader, Clemson - A run stuffer at his foundation who could take that role over if the Bengals ever move on from Peko or Sims. Reader understands who he is as a pass rusher, though, and uses his power to get upfield.
Round 5 (161): CB Blake Countess, Auburn - Countess played 176 snaps in the slot last year and comes from two big programs, Michigan and Auburn, which the Bengals seem to value. Highly.
Round 6 (199): S Clayton Fejedelem, Illinois - A split safety who played a number of snaps in a “strong” position, Fejedelem is an aggressive player moving forward and tested like an above-average athlete.
Round 7 (245): LB Reggie Northrup, FSU - Big school, athletic prospect at a position where the Bengals need an injection of speed.
Bengals Current Offensive Depth Chart
QB: Andy Dalton
RB: Jeremy Hill
WR: A.J. Green
WR: Mario Alford
TE: Tyler Eifert
TE: Tyler Kroft
LT: Andrew Whitworth
LG: Clint Boling
RG: Kevin Zeitler
RT: Cedric Ogbuehi
Bengals Current Defensive Depth Chart
LE: Carlos Dunlap
RE: Michael Johnson
DT: Geno Atkins
DT: Domata Peko
MLB: Rey Maualuga
WLB: Vontaze Burfict
SLB: Karlos Dansby
RCB: Adam Jones
LCB: Dre Kirkpatrick
FS: George Iloka
SS: Shawn Williams