TUSCALOOSA AL - SEPTEMBER 11: Mark Barron #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide intercepts a pass intended for Brett Brackett #83 of the Penn State Nittany Lions at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 11 2010 in Tuscaloosa Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The 2011 season was considered by many to be "The year of the tight end". Due to the increasing relevance of athletic pass catching tight ends, teams are trying to find the perfect saftey to cover them. Many teams will attempt to cover this need in the draft.
The Bengals first offseason priortiy may be to sign free agent safety Reggie Nelson. It is quite possible that Chris Crocker will either be demoted or cut, so Cincinnati may look to replace him. It is becoming increasingly important to have two safeties on the field that can match up well with a tight end like Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. So the Bengals could target a safety like Alabama's Mark Barron in the first round. Barron has the speed to hang with a tight end like Aaron Hernandez or Vernon Davis.
The National Football Posts top five safeties are Barron, Boisie State's George Iloka, Oklahoma State's Markelle Martin, Notre Dame's Harrison Smith, and LSU's Brandon Taylor. According to NFL Network's Mike Mayock, the top safeties are, in order, Barron, Smith, IIoka, Martin, and Syracuse's Phillip Thomas. So, there seems to be somewhat of a consensus as to who the top safety prospects in this draft are. A guy like George Iloka could see his stock rise with a good combine. Iloka is listed at 6'4 and 222 pounds. If he runs anywhere a 4.55 forty, he could skyrocket up some teams boards. The Bengals have had their troubles covering the tight end over the years, so a safety to help Reggie Nelson in cover two would be a welcomed addition. Marvin Lewis says that he likes Taylor Mays and Robert Sands, but it would be tough to pass on a player like Mark Barron if he is available at 21.