HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 07: Head coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals looks on before the Begals take on the Houston Texans during their 2012 AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Reliant Stadium on January 7, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
+ RUNNING BACK ISN'T A CERTAINTY. Though it appears likely that the Bengals will draft a running back this weekend, we're not writing it down as a certainly. Drafting a running back, especially an early selection, suggests that someone on the suddenly crowded running back roster will have to leave. Will it be Bernard Scott? Or Brian Leonard? Both are entering the final year under existing deals, but unlike other positions with the whole "draft for tomorrow" ideology , the Bengals would have to release someone and the prospect will have to produce immediately.
We know that Brian Leonard and Cedric Peerman are good role players on special teams, but let's be serious. Unless we're talking about a place-kicker, punter or return man (of which Peerman and Leonard are neither), the Bengals aren't drafting with a focus on special teams. They're doing it to rebuild the offense and defense, handing over the rest to special teams coach Darrin Simmons. Though Leonard has nice highlights on offense, he and Peerman have only combined for 31 rushes in the past two years (46 combined games played), with Leonard adding an average of 24 receptions during his three-stint in Cincinnati. So once the depth is realized early during training camp, players will have to prove themselves to the coaching staff, and that's where special teams usually comes into play.
One could argue Bernard Scott, and if they get a smaller scat-back during the draft, his position with the team is hardly secure. And despite the fact he's been identified with the P word (potential) throughout his career, his ceiling remains higher than the rest, with added versatility as a kickoff returner. But no, he's not nearly as safe, perhaps no safer than Leonard or Peerman.
So if the Bengals draft a running back, there will be a sacrifice on the running back roster. However if their board doesn't offer someone when they're on the clock (after the first-round mind you), then we could easily see the team's running back roster being identical to last week.
+ PASSING ON DECASTRO? If Stanford Guard David DeCastro is available at either No. 17 or No. 21, we're not projecting front office to pull the trigger. There's three reasons. Cincinnati likely believes (they believe, not us) that they did enough during free agency to settle the need to select a guard in the first round. And despite the animosity growing regarding the argument, the Cincinnati Bengals have never selected an offensive guard in the first-round during their 40-plus-year history. We'd absolutely welcome the change, to be honest. We just don't expect them to. And more than a handful of front office personnel, especially former executives like Bill Polian, argue that guards are rarely worth first-round selections.
+ IT'S ALL ABOUT THE BOARD, SON. We don't see the Bengals overreacting (aka, trading up) if there's a run at cornerback (aka, Stephon Gilmore being selected higher than anticipation). If Dre Kirkpatrick is the remaining top-three cornerback at No. 17, then it will depend where he's placed on the team's draft board. If they want him while grading him as a mid-first round selection, they'll obviously select him. But don't be surprised if their board doesn't match the value of the pick, focusing on another position to address.
At the same time, don't expect the Bengals to ignore the position this year either. While a first-round cornerback could shift the team's focus elsewhere on Thursday, the position won't go unnoticed. Not with only three cornerbacks signed in 2013.
+ A.J. GREEN AND ANDY DALTON WILL HAVE A NEW FRIEND. Though we've recently argued that Cincinnati may go with two defensive players in the first-round, we're also anticipating that a wide receiver is selected if the player that they like falls to No. 17. However since wide receiver is often considered the deepest position this year, a first-round prospect doesn't mean the end of the world. Again, it's all about the team's board and where they've graded the prospects and how much sense it makes to draft someone at that respective slot.
+ DEFENSIVE LINE IN THE FIRST ROUND? We'd be shocked if the Bengals ignore the defensive line with the first three picks. It's entirely possible that LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers is selected at No. 17, especially if they're anticipating Pat Sims' departure after playing his one-year contract this year. Follow that with Courtney Upshaw at No. 21. Since Michael Johnson, Robert Geathers and Derrick Harvey are entering the final year of their respective deals, it makes sense. That's the beauty of the NFL draft this year for Cincinnati. They can focus on drafting for tomorrow, not just today.
+ LINEBACKER (MAY) BECOME AN EVENTUAL NEED, BUT NOT THIS YEAR. And if they're eyeing the roster beyond 2012, a slight desperation surfaces at linebacker. Dontay Moch and Roddrick Muckelroy, two young but inexperienced prospects, are the only remaining linebackers after Thomas Howard, Manny Lawson, Rey Maualuga and Dan Skuta complete their existing contracts. However with Maualuga expected to serve a suspension of some sort, it wouldn't be surprising if they selected a linebacker at some point.
+ IS THERE A QUARTERBACK IN THE TEAM'S PLANS. One position that could surprise a few is quarterback. Mind you we're referencing something during the late-rounds where many of us had no idea that these prospects even existed. but Bruce Gradkowski and Zac Robinson are entering the final year of their respective contract. By selecting a young low-level player, the team allows themselves to groom Andy Dalton's backup for several years, without the need of putting him into the game this year with Gradkowski on the roster.
Yes, we know. We're anticipating an injury with Andy Dalton (blasphemy!) but that's how the front office has to think. Preparation for every scenario. However the one reason this might not happen? The team loves experienced veterans backing up the starters. It's still something to think about.
+ BARRON WON'T FALL, BUT IF HE DOES... We highly doubt that it will happen, but if Alabama safety Mark Barron falls to No. 17, the Bengals will select him so fast that they'll borderline on Ninja stealth.
+ TIGHT END NOT IMPOSSIBLE. It wouldn't be surprising if the Bengals selected a tight end late, grooming the Donald Lee replacement on the team's practice squad or establishing competition with Colin Cochart... or both. Starting tight end Jermaine Gresham hasn't played a full-compliment of 16 games this season, so the team may focus on generating some depth.
+ ONE LAST THING. We're betting the house that no matter what Cincinnati does, fans won't be happy in the beginning. This draft offers so many scenarios, due to the lack of overwhelming desperation, that if needs aren't addressed from the opionated, there will be outrage. It happens every year. And every year the outrage calms, understanding enters into the formula and the prospects eventually shed an optimstic light.
So if the team doesn't offer a direction that you like, or select players/positions you don't think need to be addressed, then you can do one of two things. Calmly think about the perspective of the team's approach, or complain to holy hell in one of our many open threads this weekend.