There are two schools of thought when it comes to the draft: pick for value (example: Rey Maualuga in 2009) or pick for need (example: A.J. Green last night/Carson Palmer in 2003). Most would agree, especially in the case of the Bengals, that in the middle of a labor dispute in which it is uncertain as to when free agency will be allowed to continue, teams need to draft for need because the draft is the only option they have, at least for right now, to fill the holes in their roster.
The Bengals need a quarterback, there's no way of getting around that. Luckily, there's two still left on the board that could be selected when the Bengals go on the clock for the No. 35 pick tonight, TCU's Andy Dalton and Arkansas' Ryan Mallet, and there's only one team before them that needs a quarterback as badly as them, the Buffalo Bills.
Conventional wisdom would say that the Bills would likely take Dalton and the Bengals, needing a quarterback, would select Mallett, or possibly vise versa. However, conventional wisdom never really showed up for the first round of the draft (cough Christian Ponder cough), so why should it show up for the second?
Now, I do personally believe that if the Bills decide to draft a position other than quarterback, or decide they would rather have Mallett than Dalton, that the Bengals' representative would sprint to the microphone himself to scream that the Bengals want Anday Dalton as loud as they possibly could. However, if the Bills take Dalton, the Bengals, needing a quarterback, would be faced with selecting Mallett, who's probably the best pure passer of all the quarterbacks in this year's draft class. In that scenario, would they draft for need (Mallett) or select the best player available?
Let's take a look.Other than quarterback, the Bengals also need a safety, a linebacker, help on the defensive and offensive lines, a full back and, depending on the Bengals' ability to sign their free agents, a running back and cornerback. There are plenty of prospects that the Bengals could draft to fill some holes in their roster if they decide to pass up on a quarterback in the second round.
UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers
Unlike Rey Maualuga, who is built to be a middle linebacker, Ayers is built to be a strong-side linebacker. At 254 pounds, he's got plenty of bulk to stop running backs and he's got better than average speed for the position. He is also a superior pass rusher and he's decent in coverage. He's ranked as the second best linebacker in this year's draft class behind Von Miller. Drafting him would give the Bengals a great linebacker corps composed of Keith Rivers, Maualuga and Ayers.
Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers
Coming into the offseason, Bowers was considered a top-five pick. However, as the draft approached, Bowers began to slide down most analyst big boards because of his knee injury. Somewhat surprisingly, Bowers fell completely out of the first round. Bowers was by far the most dominating pass rusher in college football during the 2010 season. If he is truly healthy, he and Carlos Dunlap could terrorize quarterbacks from opposite sides of the defensive line, and the Bengals could likely save some money by releasing either Antwan Odom or Robert Geathers, possibly both. However, the Bengals will need to be sure that Bowers is healthy to avoid another Antonio Bryant situation.
UCLA safety Rahim Moore
There weren't any safeties selected in the first round last night, which isn't necessarily surprising considering that safety is one of the weaker positions in this year's draft class. However, Rahim Moore is the best safety in the draft this year. Some may consider him to be a reach with the No. 35 overall pick, but the Bengals need a safety to inject some youth into the position. Moore isn't the run stopping safety that Roy Williams and Chris Crocker are, he's more of the center field safety that the Bengals need to help in the passing game. He reads quarterbacks like a pro and doesn't get drawn in by the play action. Even though he's somewhat undersized, he takes excellent angles and is aggressive against the pass.
Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams
If the Bengals believe that they may be unable to re-sign Cedric Benson, they could think about selecting Williams with the No. 35 pick. He doesn't have the size of Alabama running back Mark Ingram, but he runs low and hard and has better top-end speed than most running backs in this year's draft class. He shows extreme patience for a running back as young as he is and could work well in a two-back system, splitting carries with Bernard Scott.
North Carolina Defensive Tackle Marvin Austin
Even though the Bengals have a lot of defensive linemen on their roster, they could still use some help at the position. There is also more talent on the defensive line in this year's draft class than any other position. The Bengals might want to get their hands on some of it before it's too late. Austin has elite speed for the defensive line position and has a quick first couple steps. Austin would be more of a project over the next couple years because he has questionable work ethic at times and some analysts worry that he takes plays off. He wouldn't likely start if drafted but he would get some playing time and possibly he would eventually start over the next couple seasons.
So, if the Bengals are faced with drafting Mallett or one of these guys, what do you think they should do?