Detailed Analysis of Bengals Roster - Examining likelihood of drafting each position

Every so often we try to re-examine the team's current roster and how it relates to the NFL draft. Since we have less than a week to go, I figure it was time for us to examine the roster, look at (unscientific) probabilities that we'll draft at that position, and get a general feel for where this team stands. We'll do this all again a week or two after the draft to reexamine the team's roster. Note: Best and Worst Case scenarios are based on long-term visions that I have after drinking some funky blue stuff. Here goes.

QUARTERBACK (3)
Even though the Bengals signed J.T. O'Sullivan this off-season in response to Ryan Fitzpatrick departure for Buffalo, Cincinnati could look at drafting a quarterback, whom would compete with Jordan Palmer for that number-three emergency quarterback slot. If all goes well, and the Bengals select a late-draft quarterback (sixth round or later), there's a chance they could luck into finding a long-term backup solution. If all goes poorly, then we'll have another Jeff Rowe on our hands. I rated the Bengals quarterbacks as strong, weighting Palmer's return much more than any player does at any position. Without Palmer, it's a mediocre position.

Strength of position: Strong
Probability of drafting position: Maybe
Best case scenario: Find a quarterback late in the draft to eventually become a long-term backup solution.
Worst case scenario: Jeff Rowe
Highest round team could draft: Fifth Round

  1. Carson Palmer
  2. J.T. O'Sullivan
  3. Jordan Palmer

RUNNING BACK (6)
This off-season, the Bengals were able to re-sign Cedric Benson to a two-year contract, and recently claimed Gary Russell off of waivers. Still on the roster is Kenny Watson, who briefly became the team's feature back in 2007 and recorded two 130-yard plus performances. Chris Perry's low yard-per-rush and propensity to fumble likely cost him. DeDe Dorsey and James Johnson will have to put together masterful off-season and training camp performances just to have a shot on the roster. The Bengals are likely drafting a running back to backup Benson while, we think, Russell will be primarily used as a short-yardage/goalline back.

Strength of position: Average
Probability of drafting position: High
Best case scenario: Draft a running back that plays behind Benson and eventually replaces him as the team's starting running back within a year or two.
Worst case scenario: Kenny Irons
Highest round team could draft: Second Round

  1. Cedric Benson
  2. Gary Russell
  3. Kenny Watson
  4. Chris Perry
  5. DeDe Dorsey
  6. James Johnson

FULLBACKS (2)
In 2004 and 2005, former Bengals running back Rudi Johnson broke franchise single-season rushing marks in back-to-back seasons. A large part of that contribution goes to quality blocking from the fullback spot. Daniel Coats moved to fullback last season. And while he did his best in the transformation from tight end to fullback, he's just not an NFL-caliber blocker.

Strength of position: Very Weak
Probability of drafting position: High
Best case scenario: A bull-dozer.
Worst case scenario: Not realizing the need for a quality fullback and doing nothing about it.
Highest round team could draft: Fifth Round

  1. Daniel Coats
  2. J.D. Runnels

WIDE RECEIVER (8)
This has been the most talked about position during the off-season; ranging from T.J. Houshmandzadeh's departure to trade rumors about Chad Johnson. Furthermore, the Bengals costliest free agent pickup was Laveranues Coles. With all that said and done, there's really no concrete idea of what the Bengals are going to do here. One argument suggests that the Bengals will pick up a top-tier wide receiver in the first round, with an opposite argument that the Bengals won't draft anyone. With Johnson, Coles and Chris Henry the top-three receivers on the depth chart, and Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson drafted last season, I don't see any way the Bengals draft a receiver. When and where would he play? Basing a conclusion at this position is a matter of conjecture and I don't believe the Bengals will, or even should, draft a receiver. If Johnson is traded, we'll see. However, I've been very clear on my position about the team drafting a receiver. I don't like it. However, this is the only position in which I rate "probability of drafting position" as unknown.

Strength of position: Strong (based on potential), Average overall
Probability of drafting position: Unknown
Best case scenario: Not drafting a receiver and Caldwell and Simpson come through.
Worst case scenario: Bengals use the first-round pick for a wide receiver and he never gets playing time.
Highest round team could draft: First through Fifth

  1. Chad Johnson
  2. Laveranues Coles
  3. Chris Henry
  4. Andre Caldwell
  5. Jerome Simpson
  6. Antonio Chatman
  7. Mario Urrutia
  8. Maurice Purify

TIGHT END (5)
We're a spoiled bunch when it comes to tight ends. No, not recently of course. Through our history, the franchise has seen all-pro quality tight ends with great hands. Then when the Bengals offense recently morphed back to a passing offense, the philosophy turned tight ends into blockers to help protection and limit trends between blocking and receiving specific ends. The question here is how do you think tight ends should be built in Cincinnati now?

Strength of position: Weak (if you think TEs should be receivers), Mediocre (overall)
Probability of drafting position: Low
Best case scenario: Utecht provides a reason why we should have signed him.
Worst case scenario: Kelly leaves after the year, Utecht is disappointing (or injured) again and Matt Sherry amounts to nothing.
Highest round team could draft: Fifth Round

  1. Reggie Kelly
  2. Ben Utecht
  3. Matt Sherry
  4. Nate Lawrie
  5. Brad St. Louis (LS)

OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4)
We've talked about offensive tackles just as much, if not more than Chad Johnson rumors. The facts are appalling; 51 quarterback sacks allowed, and the league's 30th best yard-per-rush average. As it stands, Collins and Jones would figure to be the team's starting offensive tackles. However, Jones has been reportedly on the trading block, and additional reports suggest that he'll just be released if no suitors are found. There is an option that the Bengals could move guard Andrew Whitworth to tackle. However, until that happens, we're keeping Whitworth as a guard in our analysis.

Strength of position: Weak
Probability of drafting position: Certain
Best case scenario: First-round draft pick contributes to an offensive line rebound and multiple All-Pro selection.
Worst case scenario: Bengals do little to address the position leaving the line in a weakened state and pushing back personnel turnover to a point that rebuilding efforts are pushed back an additional year.
Highest round team could draft: First Round

  1. Anthony Collins
  2. Levi Jones
  3. Dennis Roland
  4. Scott Kooistra

GUARD (4)
While offensive tackle is rated as a certain need, guard really isn't that far behind. However the urgency is less because the team figures to have two starting guards, and a third guard that filled in decently when Whitworth went down in 2008. The issue here is 2010. After this year, the only guard on roster will be Andrew Whitworth. If the Bengals don't draft a guard or two this year, it will likely become a critical need in 2010.

Strength of position: Average
Probability of drafting position: Maybe-High
Best case scenario: Bengals draft a quality guard this year, allowing Williams to mentor him for a season and becomes starter in 2010.
Worst case scenario: As typical with the Bengals perception, guards aren't all that critical. Therefore don't address the position and draft guards next year simply to fill the roster.
Highest round team could draft: Fourth Round

  1. Bobbie Williams
  2. Andre Whitworth
  3. Nate Livings
  4. Evan Mathis

CENTER (3)
The first draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals franchise was a center. That's how Paul Brown viewed the offensive line; build from the center out. During the height of the Bengals offensive success during the Carson Palmer era, Rich Braham occupied center, directing traffic and handling the beasts of the AFC North. After his injury in 2006, the Bengals offense began to depreciate. No, we're not blaming Eric Ghiaciuc here -- there's was a general lack of effort by the coaches and front office to rebuild the offensive line allowing the team to suffer so poorly in 2008.

Strength of position: Mediocre
Probability of drafting position: Certain
Best case scenario: Bengals draft one of the top-three centers in the second round as part of a long-term offensive line rebuilding project.
Worst case scenario: Bengals do nothing and put all their faith with the centers on roster, once again, deciding that rebuilding the team's offensive line isn't critical.
Highest round team could draft: Second Round

  1. Dan Santucci
  2. Kyle Cook
  3. Andrew Crummey

DEFENSIVE END (5)
You know the issue here; two highly paid defensive ends failed to pressure the quarterback with any consistency evident by terrible sack numbers. However, because both defensive ends are highly paid, we don't project the Bengals drafting a defensive end on the first day of the NFL draft. However (part 2), because of the Bengals terrible pass rush, many experts are projecting that the Bengals will draft a defensive end high; even in the first round. While they've made some plays in the past, the Bengals roster of backup defensive ends can be, and perhaps should be, easily replaced.

Strength of position: Mediocre
Probability of drafting position: Maybe
Best case scenario: Bengals find a gem in the fifth round or later that challenges the two highly paid defensive end to put in some production. Also, Antwan Odom and Robert Geathers were hurt last year; having a "gem" as a backup player that can get to the quarterback will help immensely if injury becomes a factor again.
Worst case scenario: 2008
Highest round team could draft: First

  1. Robert Geathers
  2. Antwan Odom
  3. Frostee Rucker
  4. Jonathan Fanene
  5. Chris Harrington

DEFENSIVE TACKLE (5)
Last year, the Bengals had defensive tackles Sedrick Ellis and Glenn Dorsey high on their board. This year, with the potential we've seen from Pat Sims, the signing of Tank Johnson and the potential of Jason Shirley, the Bengals could totally leave defensive tackle alone in the NFL draft. On the other hand, the Bengals could draft a defensive tackle high in the draft to complete a four-man rotation of Peko, Sims, Tank and super-massive defensive tackle, forcing the team into a combinations of rush-defensive tackles and pass-defensive tackles. Still, we don't see it. It seems more likely that the Bengals could be content with defensive tackle already.

Strength of position: Average-Strong (based on potential)
Probability of drafting position: Low-Maybe
Best case scenario: Bengals rely on their two draft picks in 2008 and Pat Sims and Jason Shirley \ come through.
Worst case scenario: Tank lost gas in the... well... and Sims and Shirley play average at best.
Highest round team could draft: First... more likely Fourth or later.

  1. Domata Peko
  2. Pat Sims
  3. Tank Johnson
  4. Jason Shirley
  5. Orien Harris

LINEBACKERS (7)
I've pointed out before that linebackers could be a serious concern after 2009. Everyone save for Keith Rivers and Dhani Jones will be free agents. It's to the point that if the Bengals don't draft a linebacker this year, this could be the primary focus during the weeks leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft. However, it's speculated that Aaron Curry is on top of the Bengals board this year, and if he falls, the Bengals could pounce on him. If that's the case, then the "need" is tremendously reduced. The question at this point would be, at what cost to the offensive line.

Strength of position: Average
Probability of drafting position: Likely
Best case scenario: Bengals draft as many as two linebackers, one middle and one strong-side to eventually replace the current starters.
Worst case scenario: Rivers is hurt again, Jones feels his age and the Bengals don't draft a linebacker in 2009.
Highest round team could draft: First (if Curry falls to us); Fourth or later if he doesn't.

  1. Keith Rivers
  2. Dhani Jones
  3. Rashad Jeanty
  4. Brandon Johnson
  5. Darryl Blackstock
  6. Abdul Hodge
  7. Jim Maxwell

CORNERBACKS (5)
If you base grades on the starters, I believe that the Bengals cornerbacks are very strong. While they're not shutdown backs, perhaps not even elite backs, I think they've made their share of great plays on defense. David Jones showed he has some talent but there's plenty of room for improvement. The difference between the teams cornerbacks and backups is pretty significant. Mike Zimmer has said that he'd love to draft a cornerback to play nickel and/or coverage-specific safety. I believe that the Bengals will address cornerbacks later in the draft to improve their depth.

Strength of position: Strong
Probability of drafting position: Maybe
Best case scenario: Bengals draft a coverage-excellent cornerback and improves the overall depth at the position.
Worst case scenario: Bengals bank on injury-free season at cornerback and do nothing to improve their depth.
Highest round team could draft: Third-Fourth

  1. Johnathan Joseph
  2. Leon Hall
  3. David Jones
  4. Simeon Castille
  5. Geoffrey Pope

SAFETY (6)
This is another position that we could make a strong case for. However, that projection is based on potential. Corey Lynch started well in 2008 before falling to injury. Marvin White has his moments -- good and bad -- but also fell to injury. Chris Crocker was an awesome surprise and now he's talking leadership. Chinedum Ndukwe is the team's best seventh-round pick since drafting Houshmandzadeh. At the same time, there's weaknesses at safety against the pass. How many plays were there when a pass went over the top while the safeties were sprinting to catch up with wide receivers that blazed by him? We suspect that the Bengals will address safety in the draft to acquire a guy that's better suited to defend the pass.

Strength of position: Average-Strong (based on potential)
Probability of drafting position: High
Best case scenario: Bengals find another start-quality safety stacking the position with potential talent.
Worst case scenario: Crocker slumps, Lynch is hurt again and the Bengals have to rely on lesser talent on the team's depth.
Highest round team could draft: Third-Fourth

  1. Chinedum Ndukwe
  2. Chris Crocker
  3. Corey Lynch
  4. Marvin White
  5. Mike Doss
  6. Kyries Hebert

PUNTER (2)
If the Bengals had a good performance from Kyle Larson last year, this might not be a big deal. However, when your offense is forced to punt 100 times in a season, that means a lot depends on field position. And we didn't get that. Opposing teams had shorter field positions and the Bengals were often playing from behind with a terrible offense. A good punter could have helped that. Not only have the Bengals brought in competition for Larson, but there seems to be a very high likelihood that the Bengals draft a punter.

Strength of position: Weak
Probability of drafting position: High
Best case scenario: Bengals draft UC's Kevin Huber; a guy they've targeted since the end of the season.
Worst case scenario: Larson returns as the team's punter.
Highest round team could draft: Sixth

  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Ryan Plackemeier

KICKER (1)
This is an interesting position. Place kicker Shayne Graham still hasn't signed his franchise contract. There's a chance that if Graham doesn't sign a long-term deal by the end of 2009, he could be gone for free agency. Will that mean that the Bengals will draft a kicker this year? No. Next year? Well, probably no.

Strength of position: Strong
Probability of drafting position: Unlikely
Best case scenario: Graham resigns
Worst case scenario: Graham doesn't resign
Highest round team could draft: Eighth

  1. Shayne Graham (unsigned)

That's my analysis. You might agree, you might not. Either way, I expect to hear from your perspectives as the NFL draft is scary close.

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