In the majority of recent NFL mock drafts, the Bengals are predicted to select a cornerback with one of their two first-round picks, and with good reason. Leon Hall is a good corner but he'll be returning to the Bengals from a season-ending Achilles injury suffered in 2010 and there's no telling how well off he'll be to start the season. Even if he is ready to play immediately, the team needs a new corner to replace Johnathan Joseph. Nate Clements did a decent job in 2010 but he isn't the best cover corner and leaves the Bengals vulnerable at times.
Safety is, and has been, another huge concern for the team and is another position the Bengals are likely going to upgrade with one of their early picks. National Football Post's Wes Bunting listed some players at these positions that are underrated and could be available in later rounds. One of these players could find their way on to the Bengals in 2012.
The first is Texas A&M cornerback Coryell Judie (5-foot-11, 190 pounds).
He's a naturally gifted athlete with good range and great ball skills. Displays enough fluidity and balance to develop as a man-to-man corner, but looks ideally suited for a cover two type role at this stage that allows him to attack the football and create turnovers. An eventual starter in that type of scheme.
The Bengals won't wait until the late rounds to pick up a corner but they may draft more than one. If they do, a guy like Judie could add depth to the team's secondary and fight for playing time.
When it comes to safety, the Bengals will hopefully re-sign free safety Reggie Nelson but they badly need an upgrade at strong safety where Chris Crocker has struggled. Bunting lists two strong safeties that are underrated players.
The first is UCLA strong safety Tony Dye (6-foot-0, 216 pounds).
Isn't an elite athlete, but plays faster than he times. Will tackle consistently and is coordinated in coverage. Looks like a potential special teams stud who with some time could fight his way into a starting line-up as a strong safety. However, due to neck issues that caused him to struggle at times this year, he will likely fall on draft day.
The other is arkansas strong safety Jerico Nelson (5-foot-10, 216 pounds).
A tough, rangy kid who holds up well in coverage and I love him as a football player. But where do you play him in the NFL? Body type says strong safety. Looks like a nickel backer to me who can play special teams from day one.
The Bengals may draft a safety in the first couple rounds, maybe even in the first round, but you never really know. They haven't picked up a safety in the first couple rounds when we thought they would through the past few years and with the acquisition of Taylor Mays via a trade with the 49ers, they may be relying on him. They also have safety Robert Sands on the roster from West Virginia Mountaineers, who they selected in the fifth round. Sands never made his way on the field.
What other defensive players do you think the Bengals may look to select in the late rounds of the draft or possibly sign as undrafted free agents?