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 solutions in May's draft.
For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.
No. 1 Team Need: Defensive line
The Bengals fielded one of the NFL's weakest pass rushes in 2014. They did well to bring back Michael Johnson, although he's been a frustratingly inconsistent player throughout his career. Role player Wallace Gilberry is on the wrong side of 30 entering a contract year, while three-technique Geno Atkins hasn't been the same since tearing his ACL in 2013. Cincinnati's biggest need up front is at nose tackle, where Domata Peko has become a liability in run defense and was never much of a pass rusher.
No. 2 Team Need: Tight end
Tyler Eifert oozes potential and may be primed for a year-three leap, but he's missed 15 games through two seasons and has never been a high-impact presence in the run game. He's more of a rocked-up wide receiver. Perhaps the Bengals will wait out free agent Jermaine Gresham's back surgery and re-sign him on the cheap. Otherwise, they're going to need a tight end capable of serving as a sixth offensive lineman with short-area receiving skills.
No. 3 Team Need: Offensive line
The Bengals don't necessarily need starters up front, but they could use more talent. C Russell Bodine got pushed around too frequently last season and should face competition. LT Andrew Whitworth is going on age 34. RT Andre Smith played poorly before tearing his triceps last November, and his contract expires after 2015. As OC Hue Jackson likes to run the ball with power, the Bengals will seek offensive linemen who can generate movement in the trenches.
Norris’ Mock Draft:
Round 1 (21): OL La’El Collins, LSU - I could see Collins projected across multiple positions. To me he is absolutely a left tackle and the best one in this class. As Evan mentioned, both tackle spots might open sooner than later. Collins fits the power blocking the Bengals love, and his strength compensates for the lack of foot speed that shows up from time to time. Focus on the full picture rather than the three or four negative snaps per game.
Round 2 (53): DT Michael Bennett, Ohio State - Bennett played both 1 and 3 technique. There were outstanding flashes from each position, but the lack of consistency from both spots could prevent him from being selected higher. In fact, I could envision a later selection than this. When on, Bennett can make an impact.
Round 3 (85): WR Justin Hardy, ECU - A slot demon at ECU, Hardy created separation with quickness and little wasted movement on underneath and intermediate routes. He even added yards after the catch in confined space. Hardy can adjust for footballs away from his frame and displayed skills as an outside receiver during Senior Bowl week.
Round 3 (99): TE Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State - Heuerman would be a great compliment to Eifert (when healthy). Heuerman goes beyond just being a willing and adequate blocker inline. Add on the fact he has experience in space due to OSU’s offense, and Heuerman could fill the second tight end role immediately.
Round 4 (120): DT Tyeler Davison, Fresno State - Davison could be selected much earlier than this, but others have him projected later. Davison can hold the point of attack and runs the line with an outstanding motor for a big man. He is an above average athlete for his size.
Round 4 (135): LB Mike Hull, Penn State - Hull told me he feels most comfortable inside but has experience at all three spots. Hull understands angles and when to take on blocks or work around them.
Round 5 (157): OL Jarvis Harrison, Texas A&M - There have been multiple reports that Harrison is not fully committed to football. I don’t factor those things into my evaluation because I have never met Harrison. On the field, he has plenty of talent and at the very least will fill a utility lineman role at G and T.
Round 6 (197): CB JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas - A favorite of @JoeGoodberry, who is a must follow. Shepherd can impact the catch point if he can stick with receivers. Obtaining backfield/ball vision with good timing is a difficult task. I think Shepherd flashes it. His timed speed was bad. Shepherd said his injured hamstring is at 70 percent.
Round 7 (238): S Jermaine Whitehead, Auburn - Auburn’s safety play was terrible at times. Whitehead was held out a number of games due to a dispute with coaches. Once he returned, the unit improved and I think Whitehead was the best player in the group.
Bengals Current Offensive Depth Chart
QB: Andy Dalton
RB: Jeremy Hill
FB: Ryan Hewitt
WR: A.J. Green
WR: Marvin Jones
TE: Tyler Eifert
LT: Andrew Whitworth
LG: Clint Boling
RG: Kevin Zeitler
RT: Andre Smith
Bengals Current Defensive Depth Chart
LE: Carlos Dunlap
RE: Michael Johnson
NT: Domata Peko
DT: Geno Atkins
MLB: Rey Maualuga
WLB: Vontaze Burfict
SLB: Emmanuel Lamur
CB: Leon Hall
CB: Pacman Jones
FS: George Iloka
SS: Reggie Nelson