This is only a look at the first round of the 2010 draft, trying to predict the later rounds is tricky.
When trying to project who the Bengals might take in round one, I think a good place to start is which positions won't they draft in the first round. In my opinion, QB, RB, OT, C, and ILB. You could make an argument that if a great OT or RB fell to #21 they might consider it, but these are our positions of strength.
Next we have a group of positions where we are relatively strong or have a lot of money invested already. Probably won't draft any of these in round one either: CB, DE, and OLB. Again, if a great pass rusher falls to #21 we might look at drafting him, but for the moment I'm going to discount these positions too.
So, that leaves the following positions: WR, TE, G, DT, or S. Here are some guys at those positions who might be around when the Bengals draft:
WR - Dez Bryant, Damien Williams, Brandon Lafell, Arrelious Benn, Golden Tate
TE - Jermaine Gresham, Aaron Hernandez
G - Brian Bulaga, Mike Iupati
DT - Brian Price
S - Earl Thomas, Taylor Mays
Finally, here are my thoughts on each of these guys and rankings on who I think we should draft. Keep in mind this list only includes prospects who might be available at pick #21...i.e. no Eric Berry or Ndamukong Suh.
1) Brian Price - Yes, even ahead of Dez Bryant I would like to see the Bengals draft Brian Price. He is an extremely productive pass rushing DT (22.5 TFL in 2009, Pac Ten Defensive Player of the Year). He could team with Peko to give us strong play up the middle for the foreseeable future. Solid receivers can be drafted in rounds 2 and 3. Pass rushing DTs? Not so much.
2) Dez Bryant - The consensus best receiver in the draft. The only reason I think he may be available at pick #21 is the suspension the NCAA hit him with this year. Let me put it this way, if you're picking the the top half of the first round do you want to draft a guy who only played in 3 games this season?
3) Earl Thomas - Thomas is a bit undersized, but he is is an excellent playmaking safety (11 interceptions in 2 years of college football), and we could really use a safety with good coverage skills. He probably won't make it to pick #21 because the Giants, Titans, Steelers, and Texans could all use safety help.
4) Brian Bulaga - The best O-lineman who might be available at 21. Stick him in at LG and we immediately have an improved offensive line. I know he is an OT, but the Bengals seem pretty content with Whit at LT, and Andre Smith was drafted to play RT.
5) Damien Williams - Second best receiver in this draft. His stats took a hit this year when Mark Sanchez went pro, but he is arguably the most polished route runner in the draft. Williams reminds me of Steve Smith (Giants), and could be an immediate contributor next season.
6) Jermaine Gresham/Aaron Hernandez - Tight end is a big need for the Bengals, but their inexperience blocking would probably mean neither Gresharm nor Hernandez would play much as a rookie, just like Chase Coffman. Still, due to their upside and production, we need to consider these guys a possibility. I've listed them here together because I'm not really sure which one I would rather the Bengals draft. Gresham is the bigger target, but he was injured this season so he might not be ready to go for training camp. Herenandez put up solid numbers, but he played in a goofy spread offense. Also, Hernandez is more of a Dallas Clark type H-back than a true tight end.
7) Mike Iupati - I'm a little torn on Iupati. On one hand he is the top ranked guard in this draft, and guard is a position of need for us. On the other hand, guards rarely get drafted in round one - they just aren't a premier position - so unless he is an uber prospect, we shouldn't take him at pick #21. Oh and by the way, he played for Idaho - it's not like he put up dominating performances against Alabama, Texas, or USC. After seeing how Jerome Simpson has panned out I'm hesitant to advocate drafting another project, despite how talented he might be.
8) Taylor Mays - Before the college football season started I don't know if there was a hotter prospect than Taylor Mays. A huge safety (6'3", 235) with the speed of a cornerback. Mays has been exposed in coverage this year though, and he has often been caught taking bad angles to the ball in run play as well. No doubt he is talented, but he is essentially a faster Roy Williams/Chinedum Ndukwe. The Bengals need to lean towards drafting a free safety type player, rather than another strong safety.
9) Brandon Lafell/Arrelious Benn/Golden Tate - I've listed all these guys together because it really depends on who the Bengals have rated the highest. Lafell is the most physical of the group, Tate has the most game breaking ability, and Benn is arguably a mixture of the two. As you can see from these rankings, I hope the Bengals don't draft any of these guys (at least in the first round). Lafell is inconsistent and sometimes has a case of the drops (Braylon Edwards anyone?), Tate has only played WR for two seasons and is an unpolished route-runner (we don't need another project at WR), and Benn has just never performed up to his ability (7 receiving TDs in 3 seasons at Illinois). All that said, if I had to guess who the Bengals would draft in round one I would put my money on one of these guys.
Comments, criticism, your mom jokes, etc all welcome.