>\n\nWorst to First: 21. Cincinnati Bengals \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 21. Cincinnati Bengals

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/16/2010

The Cincinnati Bengals are one of those teams who just do their own thing on draft day. They have players they like and they generally don't let anything that happens in the offseason change the way they think. Consequently they've built up a roster full of players that got red flagged for one reason or another by other teams. In the recent past it's been highlighted by a high number of arrests but last year, despite the tragic death of Chris Henry this Bengals team finally started to play up to the level of talent it possesses. They folded a bit down the stretch and went out in the first round of the playoffs but I think if you'd asked most non Bengals fans before the season started they'd have thought the Bengals very likely to be picking inside the top 10 in the draft again. And yet here we are, all the way to 21st in our write ups and we've only just made it to them. On the way through that season they managed to knock off the defending Superbowl champs not once but twice, before finally succumbing to the streaking Jets two weeks in a row.

So can they build on that success and go further this year? Well, let's take a look at their roster and see what they need to progress.

2010 Free Agent Losses 2010 Free Agent Additions
Shaun Smith DT (Chiefs,RFA), Larry Johnson RB (Redskins,UFA)

Antonio Bryant WR (Buccaneers,UFA), Chris Davis WR (Titans,UFA), 
2010 Unsigned Free Agents 2011 Potential Free Agents
Laveranues Coles WR (UFA-cut), J.P. Foschi TE (RFA), Shayne Graham K (UFA), Brandon Johnson OLB (RFA), Jeremi Johnson FB (UFA), Reggie Kelly TE (UFA), Evan Mathis G (RFA), Matt Sherry TE (RFA)

Cedric Benson RB (UFA), Kyle Cook C (RFA), Jonathan Fanene DE (UFA), Kyries Hebert DB (RFA), Abdul Hodge LB (UFA), Rashad Jeanty LB (UFA), Brandon Johnson LB (UFA), David Jones DB (RFA), Dhani Jones LB (UFA), Matt Jones WR (RFA), Johnathan Joseph CB (UFA), Brian Leonard RB (RFA), Nate Livings OG (RFA), Chinedum Ndukwe S (RFA), J.T. O'Sullivan QB (UFA), Chad Ochocinco WR (UFA-option), Jordan Palmer QB (RFA), Keiwan Ratliff DB (UFA), Dennis Roland OT (RFA), Dan Santucci OG (RFA), Roy Williams S (UFA)

Quarterbacks Minor Need
I've always been a big fan of Carson Palmer so realistically I'm not going to have this slot as anything more than the need for a young developmental type of QB. But, a few things, yes the Bengals lost Housh and that was Palmer's security blanket gone. But I dunno, was it just me or did Carson not look fully recovered from his shoulder surgery last year? He just didn't quite exude the same class to me. It's probably nothing and he'll probably be back to full strength this year, which would give the Bengals very little to worry about in this department except the depth. Could the Bengals win with J.T. O'Sullivan or Palmer Jr. if Palmer Sr. got hurt again? I would have to say I'd doubt it. They could, and probably should, look at a QB at some point in this draft. mid rounders like John Skelton or Dan LeFevour for example. But if Jimmy Clausen is stil unclaimed at #21 (as unlikely as that seems right now), well, if there are questions about Carson Palmer's shoulder Clausen would have to be a consideration.

Runningbacks Minimal Need
Well who'd have thought that Cedric Benson would be a star NFL RB? I'll hold my hand up, not me. Not by a long shot. And yet there he is, a touch shy of averaging 100 yards per game. And he was certainly a workhorse last year  averaging 23 carries per game as well. He'll be an unrestricted free agent in 2011 and there's no signs of a contract extension yet. And, IMO, nor should there be. It's a callous thought but really, the Bengals should run Benson into the ground in 2010 and then move on. He missed 3 games this year and he's the sort of back who's NFL career should be short. Bernard Scott might be a serviceable option for them for this year as a backup and they also have Brian Leonard as a 3rd down back. Being as they don't seem to have invited any RBs for pre-draft visits I would guess it's not on their radar this year except perhaps in the late rounds. I would say they let Benson play out his contract, then decide if they want to offer an extension. If they don't re-sign him, expect them to place RB high on their draft board in 2011. But for this year it's a Minimal Need.

Wide Receivers Minor Need
The Bengals have always shown they don't care much about player's off the field attitudes. What it's meant is they're a team loaded with talent that a lot of other franchises wouldn't touch. Wide Receiver probably epitomises that more than any other position on the squad. Chad Ochocinco is still a top end WR in the NFL and added yet another 1000 yard season to his resume. He's 32 and figured to have a couple more years left in the tank at least. The Bengals have added long time multi-team malcontent Antonio Bryant to the roster this year for $7m a year. He's a legitimiate deep threat when a) he feels like it and b) he's healthy. He was neither in Tampa Bay last year but you can see, even with average QB in 2008 Bryant had a great season and with Ochocinco, a good running game and Carson Palmer this year he should, *should* be able to put up his best season as a pro. If a) he feels like it and b) he's healthy. They also added Matt Jones, a guy with serious off field problems, even for a Bengal. I'm not really sure he's even that talented anymore, his last season in Jacksonville was like watching someone on slow motion instant replay. But he can still be useful underneath and he's got great size. If he can make the roster they could run him in 4 WR slots on short passes. We should see Andre Caldwell in the slot but the other WRs on the roster haven't acheived much on offense up til now. Jerome Simpson, Quan Cosby, Freddie Brown, Maurice Purify and Chris Davis can barely get to double figures in NFL receptions between them. Simpson was a high draft pick and is entering his 3rd year, the magical breakout season for WRs. But most WRs who breakout in year 3 at least have some body of work in year 2. Simpson has nada. I wouldn't expect much. So there is an opening here for a 4th WR and Jones could win the spot. They have 2 starters in place and a good looking slot guy, Cosby brings return ability so he'll probably make the roster. After those top 3 though, they're really light on players. And we all know the Bengals will not shy away from a top end talent because of character concerns. So you have to wonder if Dez Bryant falls all the way to #21... do they need him immediately? No probably not. But Ochocinco has a club option on his contract in 2011 and he will be 33. With WRs taking some time to develop fully it could be on their minds.

Tight Ends Minor Need
Well firstly, the Bengals offense has never really included the Tight End as a major pass catching option. But they're facing a major overhaul at the position. Daniel Coats would, I guess start if the season began today. He's there for his blocking and not an awful lot more. They did draft Chase Coffman in the 3rd round last year and he was a receiving threat in college. Sadly for him he lost his rookie year to a combination of foot injuries so he's still a mystery to the Bengals. Jermaine Gresham is a popular pick amongst mock drafters, and I do notice that they've brought in a couple of Tight Ends for pre draft workouts. No Gresham visit (that I've found) but they did bring in Dennis Pitta from BYU. He's an older guy but having caught a couple of BYU games this year he just has a look of an NFL Tight End. Because of his age he'll probably drop to rounds 3 or 4 too. This should be a Major Need slot, but like some other teams, until the Bengals start to use the position for more than blocking I can't justify it being more than a Minor Need. Maybe they're changing their offensive gameplans and maybe they will go for Gresham in round 1, from where I sit though, I'd say I doubt it. If they want a pass catcher I'd say throw Denver a 4th or 5th rounder for Tony Scheffler. He should do until they know what they have in Coffman.
Offensive Line Minor Need
Andre Smith had something of a 2009 to forget. His Moobs becoming a YouTube legend, his draft stock slipped, yet the Bengals took the risk on him at #6 anyway. Then he held out. Then he fractured his foot. His rookie season a virtual write off Smith still has some ways to go to justify that lofty draft status but he must be in with a good chance of earning the starting RT slot. If he does the Bengals should boast decent depth at Tackle. Andrew Whitworth is fine on the Left side and Kyle Cook, an undrafted Center beat out draft pick Jonathan Luigs last year. That should make for some good competition again this year but the Bengals should be good to go at Center. Bobbie Williams was signed to a new 2 year deal this offseason, though he's 34 he should make that slot safe for this year at least. At the other Guard slot it's a little more up in the air. Nate Livings and  Evan Mathis are in competition. I'm not so convinced by those 2 as starters. But the Bengals did put out one of the least experienced OLs in the NFL last year. I could see the Bengals liking a Guard early though. Maybe someone who can light a fire under one of Livings or Mathis and long term replace Bobbie Williams? First round is probably too early but perhaps guys like Vladimir Ducasse in round 2? 
Defensive Tackles Minor Need
147.4. That's the number of rushing yards the Bengals gave up per game in the absence of Domata Peko. And that includes the game against the Detroit Lions were they only conceded 80 yards. It doesn't make for pleasant reading, nor does the 2-3 W-L record over that time span. Regular readers of these reports will know of my man crush on big fat guys. That sounds bad... but NFL Nose Tackles don't get a lot of credit, whether they play in a 3-4 or a 4-3, run stuffing is not for the glory hound. But it is incredibly important to the overall effectiveness of your Defense and Peko is a great example. And a great player. Alongside him has been Tank Johnson, who I'm not such a big fan of. I like him in a rotation but the Bengals really need someone alongside Peko who can worry QBs and get penetration. Which is why I think they could very legitimately look into Jared Odrick or Brian Price with the #21 pick. If they could fill that role they have some rising depth. At the moment it's a big step down from Peko to his backup, Pat Sims, but Sims is young and when he was alongside Peko in 2008 they were an excellent run stuffing pair. The DTs are adequate as a group, I just can't shake the feeling that the Bengals DL could become elite with the addition of a 4-3 DT who can penetrate better than Tank Johnson.

Defensive Ends Minor Need
In my 2008 Worst to First I mocked Antwan Odom for not delivering anything close to what he gets paid. I'm a big man. I was wrong. Horribly wrong. Until his unfortunate Achilles injury Odom led the NFL in sacks, dragging down poor Aaron Rodgers 5 times alone. But that's worth looking at, Odom managed his 8 sacks in just 3 games. 5 v Green Bay, 2 against Denver and 1 against the Browns. Well the Packers Tackles would have looked more at home Bull Fighting as they waved pass rushers by all year long giving up 51 sacks and 93 QB Hits. We probably shouldn't read *too* much into that game. But in fairness to Odom he has clearly improved hugely on 2008. How healthy he is on his return is another matter. If they keep their current personnel they better hope he's completely healthy. Without Odom the Bengals pass rush was not so great. Robert Geathers is so-so, and more of a run stopper, and Michael Johnson is more a long term project with incredible athletic ability. It was unheralded Jonathan Fanene who stepped it up most, recording 6 sacks and one superb game against the Steelers it was my misfortune to watch. With Odom back and Fanene more in the mix they should be more than fine but it couldn't hurt to add another body from round 3 onwards, Geathers and Odom have injury histories, Johnson is a work in progress and Fanene is a free agent next year. But I don't think this is a great class for 4-3 DE pass rushers.

Linebackers No Need
With 2 starters being drafted in rounds 1 and 2 in the last 2 years the Bengals should be pretty happy about their LB situation. Rey Maualuga figures to ultimately end up a very good MLB and Keith Rivers should be tying down one of the OLB slots for years. With an impressive looking depth chart including Dhani Jones, Abdul Hodge, Brandon Johnson and Rashad Jeanty they should be well sewn up. However, as you may not from the 2011 Potential Free Agents list above, all 4 of them are unrestricted free agents in 2011. If they can squeeze a 7th LB onto the final roster it's certainly something they could look at to cover potential losses next year. More likely though they will be happy with what they have for this year and realistically should be able to keep at least 1 or 2 of those guys in 2011 too. It's easy to go out and say we need to draft a rookie LB but when you have the depth Cincy has it's probably a wasted pick unless you can sneak the draftee onto the practice squad for a year. If you cut one of those LBs in favour of a rookie it might help your LB situation long term but short term it doesn't do much for you other than reduce the effectiveness of your Special Teams. This one to me looks like an area they address in the 2011 draft.

Cornerbacks Minor Need
Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph go to make up one of the best CB tandems in the league. I love these two and I think they were both very unfortunate not to be in Hawaii this year. Probably split votes I guess. They should both get the recognition they deserve very soon. Cincy should be working out extensions with both of them. But with Joseph due for free agency next year and Hall the following year they have to keep an eye on the situation. CBs typically take 2 or 3 years to develop. And with more and more teams playing with 2 WRs as a base set it pays to have 3 starters these days. David Jones will compete with 2009 late rounder Morgan Trent and should win out. Trent figured to be more of a long term project and they definitely could do with some more competition here. You're probably talking mid rounder though. Assuming Jones is back to full health this should really be a Minimal Need but I'm upping it a notch to cover Jospeh's impending free agency.

Safeties Major Need
There's some difficulties here, particularly at Strong Safety. Roy Williams has surprisingly perhaps been given a new contract. Though it is only a 1 year deal and probably just covers the Bengals going into the draft. That's to say, it shouldn't preclude the Bengals from drafting a Safety early. Chris Crocker starts at Free Safety and while he's a valuable player he's not the best in coverage, he's over 30 and he's had injury troubles too. Depth is not awful, Tom Nelson and Ndukwe but they could really go for replacing Roy Williams, a Free Safety would be terriffic too but the 2 best, Earl Thomas and Eric Berry will be long gone by the time the Bengals pick comes up. Which leads me to Taylor Mays. He's something of a polarizing figure but is an incredible athlete (which means AL Davis will probably draft him at #8!) and our Scouting Director, Curt Popejoy, compares him to Roy Williams. With Mike Zimmer liking Roy Williams enough to give him another chance, why not go for the younger, healthier, faster version of him? Could be very tempting.

Specialists Major Need
With it looking less and less likely Shayne Graham will be back this year and only Dave Rayner on the roster, Kicker is definitely a position they could look to draft a player for. I'm never a fan of drafting a Kicker or Punter too early but with Compensatory selections in rounds 3 and 4 they could go out and grab the best kicker in the draft and have a starter for years out of it. On the punting side having used a draft pick on Kevin Huber last year I doubt they're ready to give up on him already. He had a decent season and that's something to build on.

Return Game No Need
Both Bernard Scott (KR) and Quan Cosby (PR) showed a lot of aptitude for returning. Scott led all kick returners in return average and took one to the house. Cosby was around Top 5 in punt return average (depending on your criteria). There's not much need for improvement here at all. They could just use Scott taking more kickoffs.
Dream Day One
 1.21 Taylor Mays S USC
2.54 Brian Price DT UCLA
Player Visits

Dez Bryant WR Oklahoma State
Taylor Mays S USC
Danny Batten LB South Dakota State
Eric Decker WR Minnesota
Tony Pike QB Cincinnati
Tyler Sheehan QB Bowling Green
Matt Tennant C Boston College
Alex Daniels
DE Cincinnati

Earl Thomas S Texas
MIckey Shuler TE Penn State
Micah Johnson LB Kentucky
Jason Pierre-Paul DE South Florida
Marshwan Gilyard WR Cincinnati
E.J. Morton-Green WR Miami (OH)
Dominic Randolph QB Holy Cross
Brad Jones DB Cincinnati

Joe Haden CB Florida
Marcus Easley WR Connecticut
Zane Beadles OT Utah
Dennis Pitta TE BYU
John Connor FB Kentucky
Dustin Woods WR Miami (OH)
Craig Carey LB Cincinnati


Last Edited: 04/14/2010

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