Our Point/Counterpoint series continues, which has so far examined the cornerback position as well as wide receivers; positions that we feel are most likely going to be addressed during the early rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft. We argue for and against it. Ultimately this signifies the reality, as this year's draft approaches, that the Cincinnati Bengals could literally address any position on the roster, and it would probably make sense (caution: evidence may suggest that this writer could have multiple personality disorder... and it might be true).
+ ROSTER IS SET AND THE DEPTH IS DEVELOPMENT
During their quiet-gone-radically-active free agency period last month, the Cincinnati Bengals signed two guards in Travelle Wharton and Jacob Bell, who join the Bengals with a combined 199 starts in the NFL. Not bad. Experience is good. And since there's only 64 jobs for starting guards in the NFL, they can't be that bad by default. Additionally the Bengals have a young second-year player in Clint Boling and Otis Hudson, who Paul Alexander praised as the second-most improved offensive lineman last before injury trivialized his year last season.
Finally we have (an unsubstantiated) feeling that if he recovers soon, Bobbie Williams could return at some point this summer. Hell, the team has a 90-man roster limit now, let's bring the band back together. Ifeanyi Ohalete anyone?
That's five guards. Presuming that Hudson surprises all, becoming the "new Bobbie Williams" as the team's starting right guard, it would seem to us that Cincinnati's focus and plan doesn't involve an early-round prospect.
Finally if the Bengals shy away from selecting a guard in the first round (which they've done for over 40 years), it's hardly the end of the world. There are talented prospects outside of David DeCastro that Cincinnati could acquire that may project as significant contributors -- if not this year, then next year and the year after that. And let's not completely abandon Boling either.
Does this suggest Cincinnati couldn't use a first-round prospect, injecting the position with a talented guard from this year's draft? No. Does it suggest that Cincinnati could be satisfied with their roster of guards heading into the 2012 NFL draft? Would it really surprise you if they actually were?
+ IF THEY THINK THE ROSTER IS SET, WE'RE IN TROUBLE
Let's face facts. The Bengals have an extra first-round selection this year, the first being at No. 17, which is the highest spot that a guard has been selected since New Orleans selected Chris Naeole at No. 10 during the 1997 draft. During the 2010 NFL draft, Mike Iupati was selected at No. 17 by the San Francisco 49ers and before that the Seahawks selected Steve Hutchinson at the same spot in 2001. There have been other collegiate guards selected earlier, but were quickly shifted to other positions like center (Mike Pouncey) or offensive tackle (Branden Albert).
That being said, when looking at the team's roster of offensive guards, blown away isn't the descriptive summary I'm looking for. In fact I'm more "blah" than "hurrah". Some would argue that Jacob Bell is a poor man's Nate Livings, generating a run blocking score of -11.0 per Pro Football Focus. According to the same source, Travelle Wharton, while better, isn't a significant improvement to absolve the overall feeling that Cincinnati should address the guard position.
With two first-round selections, and a handful of well-rounded guards that could help this roster, it would make sense that the Bengals continue building their offense. After spending so much time at skill positions already, now it's time for a little attention on the interior portion of the offensive line.