Analyzing a mock draft isn't something I normally do for several reasons. I rarely know enough of the players coming into the draft; mostly because I haven't had the opportunity to watch game tape of every prospect. Nor have I seen every college's pro day, sat in during a team's private workout and I don't consider myself versed enough on every NFL team to make those judgments.
But I do know the Cincinnati Bengals. And I do know that Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay addressed positions in their latest mock drafts that the Bengals will have to address at some point. I'm just not sure if they're the right ones.
Let's get this out of the way with. Based on conjecture and the value of quarterbacks expected to be taken in the first round, I'd be surprised if the Bengals don't wait until the second round to draft a quarterback. Not only is it a need, but the Bengals have expressed interest in three quarterbacks expected to go in the second round in TCU's Andy Dalton, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and Florida State University's Christian Ponder.
So a quarterback in the second round isn't really an issue here. Actually, I'd say it's the closest thing to an expectation we can assume.
However, we also find it hard to believe that the Bengals would select all offense in the first three rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft. And drafting a running back in the third round, as McShay and Kiper have done, is suspect at best.
We've made arguments for and against A.J. Green. We're fence-sitters on the issue, understanding enough that he could bring a lot to the table, though not persuaded enough not to make arguments for other positions. In both mock drafts, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson reaches San Francisco's seventh overall selection.
We favor Peterson in Cincinnati for two reasons.
If the Bengals surprise the entire population of man by re-signing Johnathan Joseph, Peterson could be used as a safety -- another position that's in desperate need of being addressed. And then when the Bengals elect not to bring Leon Hall back next year (with the idea that the team can't re-sign both Hall and Joseph), Peterson could move back to cornerback next year. We feel Peterson addresses a need while also be considered the best player available -- the difference between he and Green in the BPA argument is inconsequential.
Additionally, the Bengals were strong on defense during both of their playoff runs in the past decade. In 2005, it was about turnovers. In 2009, it was about overall defense. If we allow our defense to slowly break apart as we could do -- such as letting players like Brandon Johnson, Jonathan Fanene, Johnathan Joseph, Chinedum Ndukwe leave for free agency -- then no amount of offensive talent is going to help them return to the playoffs.
There's no disputing Green's talent. However if Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell resume their production the way they ended 2010, Green could easily be listed as the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart. Normally, this is good, because the team won't need to put a rookie wide receiver into the starting lineup immediately, allowing him to adjust to the NFL at a position that's often thought to have the steepest learning curve.
This is all subjective thanks to the lack of free agency this offseason where the Bengals could have had a more definitive gameplan. Such as, did Johnathan Joseph sign with another team? Could the Bengals work at upgrading a position through free agency rather than using the draft to fill gaps? What about running backs? By now we'd know if Cedric Benson and Brian Leonard are returning. No free agency is the reason we're pointing at so many positions in which the Bengals could draft replacements and upgrades.
Regardless, predictions on the draft is more subjective than ever this year. And it's why, I have to admit, mock drafts are kind of fun.