Most fans would agree that the most glaring holes on the Bengals roster are at running back, offensive guard, and cornerback. After that, holes remain at the safety position, the second wide receiver spot, and perhaps any spot in the defensive front seven. Rey Maualuga's recent legal troubles also opens up a debate for linebacker as being a particularly high position of need.
Fortunately, it appears that the 2012 draft class is suited for the Bengals' most pressing needs. The cornerback class is one of the best in a long time, and the offensive guard class contains an abnormally high number of top-100-level picks. Running back and wide receiver aren't far behind either, according to Wes Bunting of the National Football Post. Bunting recently ranked the top five deepest positions in this year's draft, placing cornerback at No. 1, offensive guard at No. 2, running back at No. 3, and wide receiver at No. 5.
The Bengals, with two first round picks, are in a unique position to be able to find several rookies who can start right away, especially since this year's draft is so deep at the ideal positions.
Beginning with the wide receivers, Bunting explains that, "Then there is a nice mix of receivers in the mid-first/third round range with either elite speed, a massive frame or natural route runner ability". Because of this impressive mix of skill sets, the Bengals will certainly be in a great position to pick the guy that they want--whether it be the 6'5" towering Stephen Hill in the second or third round, or the big names with incredible talent like Alshon Jeffery or Michael Floyd in the first.
The third-ranked running back class includes highly-touted names like Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, Lamar Miller, David Wilson, and Isaiah Pead (at least among Cincinnati circles). Bunting explains that:
The running back crop looked a bit weak during the regular season. However, it’s seen a major upgrade ever since the onslaught of junior backs decided to declare early and add some top end talent to the class. Alabama’s Trent Richardson is far and away the cream of the crop. But there is the potential to see a number of second round picks emerge into starters over the next couple years as well.
At the offensive guard, there are two potential first round picks in Stanford's David DeCastro and Georgia's Cordy Glenn, but DeCastro may not even fall to the Bengals at the 17th pick. Fortunately, there's a lot of quality guards that will be around in the second and third rounds. Bunting explains that after Decastro and Glenn, there are "a number of potential second/third round options who have the ability to come in and play at a high level early in their NFL career."
Finally, the cornerback class contains many potential first rounders, led by LSU's Morris Claiborne. Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick will probably be taken in the middle of the first round, right where the Bengals are drafting. North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins stock has been sliding up and down, due to the large number of risks that come with the former University of Florida star. Many other cornerbacks could make a strong case for a first round slection, which is why this class is so strong. Bunting had this to say about the 2012 cornerbacks:
With the number of early entries declaring at the cornerback position, it allowed some of the top ranked senior corners to slide down boards a bit and create not only a very solid class toward the top end of round one, but improved the overall depth throughout rounds two/four. Therefore, you can now find solid corners capable of playing in both man and zone concepts throughout the top-100 picks.
The depth of these positions has us all extremely excited for this year's draft. It provides a large amount of flexibility to the Bengals so that they don't find themselves reaching for a position of need.