Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is a master at "coachspeak". In his press conferences to the media, he rarely tips his hand as to what he's feeling or the direction the direction that the club may be taking with current or prospective players. Today was one of those rare instances. In addressing the media, Lewis noted that the team has neglected drafting defensive players in the draft and that will likely be changing this year.
Well, where there is smoke, there is usually fire. According to Sports Illustrated's Tony Pauline (via Evan Silva of ProFootballTalk and Rotoworld), the Bengals "will" be using one of their two first round draft picks on Alabama outside linebacker/defensive end, Courtney Upshaw.
While this isn't anything uber-official per se, one rarely sees a definitive report like this unless it revolves around the first pick (or in this year's case, first two) in the draft. While Upshaw had a relatively productive season last year for the Crimson Tide, one has to wonder what specific role he'll play in the Bengals' 4-3 defense. The team invested a third round pick in Dontay Moch last season, who was a defensive end that they tried to convert to outside linebacker. They're no doubt hoping that that move pays dividends this year, after Moch battled migraine issues in 2011.
According to Silva, it appears that the Bengals value Upshaw than most other teams:
The Bengals' interest in Upshaw has been known for months, although they may not necessarily be so locked in if players like Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, North Carolina's Quinton Coples, and Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick start falling. What is clear is Cincinnati has a first-round grade on Upshaw, whereas many teams are less high on him. He's a realistic possibility at 17 or 21.
If you were to watch the NFL Network's "Path to the Draft" specials recently, you'd note that employees and guests of the program have differing opinions on Upshaw as a player. For instance, Michael Lombardi and Jay Glazer noted that if he were to slip past Cincinnati at No.21, he would likely be a second round pick. But, a few days earlier, a former Chicago Bears executive was on the program and praised Upshaw's abilities, calling him a "Dwight Freeney-type of player".
Upshaw has talent, it's just a matter of if it's worth a first round selection or not. Though he may not be as explosive as North Carolina's Quentin Coples, Upshaw's motor hasn't been questioned and seems to be a bit more steady of a prospect. The Bengals would likely use him in a variety of ways on defense, which could include replacing Robert Geathers with him, kicking him inside at tackle on third down passing situations, and/or using him as a rushing outside linebacker.