All I want for Christmas is for Andrew Luck to be a Bengal! But if that doesn't happen, this team has a lot of other needs on its Christmas wish list, and there are a lot of ways this team can turn around.
With all the extra free time I have during Christmas break, I thought I'd break down the Bengals draft needs for this year. Hopefully, Santa's not overworked and overburdened ala Family Guy's portrayal in their disturbing Christmas Special (The elves hung themselves... really Family Guy?).
QB - Whats our situation? Palmer is having the tale of two seasons. On the one hand, He is arguably having his worst year as a pro and the heat is really coming down on him. Is it his line? Is it his mental game? Is it the lack of a running game (which could be attributed back to the line)?
Maybe the playcalling? Is he hurt? Who knows. What we do know is that if Palmer keeps playing subpar ball we'll need a new QB sooner rather than later. Our back ups, LeFevour and Palmer lite... probably aren't the answer. On the other hand, Carson has looked damn sharp the last couple games sans T.Ocho.
Who's there? This is a QB heavy draft and unlike last year it looks like there will be quite a few QBs taken in rounds 1 and 2. Stating the obvious, Andrew Luck is going to be the number 1 pick. But Jake Locker, Cam Newton, & Ryan Mallet could all go in the first Round, or one or more of these guys could slip down to rounds two and three.
How important is it that we address QB in this draft? 7/10 - I'm still a believer that Palmer can turn things around. Even so, it's time to start hedging our bets by making it a high priority to draft a QB in the next year or two. That means drafting a guy in rounds 1-3 sometime in the near future.
How likely is it that we will address QB in this draft? 2/10 - The only way this team will address a QB early is if they cut or trade Palmer. Despite the fact that Palmer still has high trade-ability (Hell, if Jason Campbell was worth a 4th rounder, Palmer has got to be worth at least a 2nd or 3rd) to teams like Oak, Sea, Ari, SF, Min, Ten, & Was, Mike Brown just doesn't have the stones or the vision to make this happen. It's way more likely that Brown will stick by Palmer and continue upgrading the pieces around him through the draft.
Suggestion: Only Draft a QB if his last name is Luck. Drafting a QB is such a crap shoot that he's the only guy I'd be sold on. I don't know that I'd bother with the other guys unless they fell to the third, which isn't likely to happen. This team needs to be built on defense and the run game.
O - Line - Whats our situation? We have three undrafted lineman starting for us in Cook, Roland, and Livings. While they've done a good job, they are certainly not elite. Whit is a great player and on other teams he would be a pro bowler (might be anyway). Flabs has shown flashes, but has had foot injuries and anyone who follows Yao Mings career knows the might not go away. The running game has looked weak this year (3.7 ypc), though the pass protection has been OK allowing only 28 sacks this season (14th in the league). Not bad considering how many times we're in obvious passing situations. This crew could use a shot in the arm of athleticism (or steroids, whichever is more convenient). Plus, Bobby Williams is getting old and it would be wise to draft his eventual replacement.
Who's there? This years draft class looks like one of the weakest in years. According to Walter Football, there are no tackles projected in the top 10, and none that are a lock for the first round. However, the prospect of moving a tackle who slips out of the first round to guard (ala what we did with Whitworth) is certainly a possibility and adds insurance if Andre Smith proves to be a bust. Top Tackles are: Anthony Costonzo, Derek Sharrod, and Joseph Barksdale. Top Guard/Centers are: Mike Pouncey, Marcus Cannon, and Benjamin Ijalana.
How important is it that we address the OL in this draft? 8/10 - It is very important for this team to upgrade at the "non-skill" positions. As we saw against the Browns, when the Bengals win the war of the trenches they tend to win the game. This unit has been solid, but needs an upgrade on athleticism.
How likely is it that we will address the OL in this draft? 6/10 - It seems really unlikely that this team will use their first or second round pick on a lineman with the money they've invested in Andre Smith (especially considering how early we pick). However I would not be surprised if a highly graded lineman slips into the third or fourth rounds and we pick him up.
Suggestion: Start looking O Line in the third round.
WR - Whats our Situation? Anybody else get the sense this team is ready to move on? Anybody else think Ocho is going to be a pain in the ass this offseason? Where at one point it was worth it to put up with Ocho's shananigans, I would say Chad's not the same guy anymore. He'd be a very strong #2 guy, but isn't unguardable anymore. Shipley looks great but is only a slot receiver and needs someone on the outside to open up the middle. It was great to see Caldwell and Simpson in action against the Browns/Chargers, hopefully one of those guys can step into a #2 role someday.
Who's There? AJ Green Baby! The guy is projected as a Larry Fitzgerald/Calvin Johnson type of player worthy of a top 5 pick. The rest of the class is deep as well with guys like Jonathon Baldwin, Julio Jones, and Michael Floyd projected to go in or near the first round. The Bengals will very likely pick up a WR in this draft, the question is do we wait for round 2?
How important is it that we address WR this draft? 9/10 - Ocho won't stick around longer than he has to and nobody knows if TO is going to be around next year. A young #1 receiver must be a priority in this draft. One possible scenario is to wait and see if a WR drops to the second round and find other positions of need.
How likely is it that we will address WR in this draft? 7/10 - But falling with the rise of Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell these last few games. If those two light it up against Baltimore, the chances of us drafting AJ Green will drop like rain! Still, elite WRs are tempting and using one of our first two picks on one seems likely considering who's there.
Suggestion: This team needs to build its D Line before anything else. That being said, if AJ Green lights up the combine ala Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald, draft him. Otherwise wait for one of the other top guys to drop to early round 2 or 3. Pick up Ocho's last year and hope we can trade him for an early draft pick. If not... let him "mope" for one more year and walk in 2012.
RB - This was recently addressed by Carsonorbust so I'll keep it short (again). I think its VERY unlikely we pick up a running back in this draft. If Benson walks, I have no doubt that this team would turn to a Peerman, Scott, and Leonard running back by committee.
Who's There? Ahh.. Mark Ingram, LaMichael James... cricket cricket. This is a weak draft class,
How important is it to draft a RB?: 2/10,
How likely is it that we draft a RB? 4/10
TE - What's our situation? With Coffman and Gresham in stripes this team looks better than ever at TE.
How important is it that we address TE in this draft?? 0/10
How likely is it that we will address TE in this draft? 1/10. This team may not draft a TE for the next 10 years (knock on wood). Though, Mike Brown just might be dumb enough...
Stay tuned for Defense!