The NFL Network has been reviewing each NFL team, reviewing many off-season moves in a segment called "2012 State of the...", analyzing how off-season transactions have impacted respective teams and the overall outlook of each team for the 2012 season. The NFL Network aired their segment covering the Bengals and had some interesting things to say regarding Cincinnati's draft prospects in regards to their first-round picks, their overall team needs, and the impact that sophomore players will have on the team. Let's recap and analyze what they have to say about our beloved Cincinnati Bengals.
Charles Davis examines the Bengals draft, specifically their first round selections and notes that, although the Bengals have quite a few needs, the one that is most important to fill is the cornerback position. Even though the Bengals have added Jason Allen and re-signed Adam Jones, Nate Clements is in the last year of his contract, not getting any younger (32 years old) and Leon Hall's status is unknown after coming off of an Achilles' injury which normally takes a conservative estimate of nine months to fully heal.
There have been reports that Hall's rehab is ahead of schedule, but only time will tell when he's ready. Remember, Antonio Bryant's knee injury was supposedly healed before the Bengals signed him to a four-year deal in 2010, but only participated in one practice and was subsequently released from the team. You can never be sure how healthy a player is until they play, and this should be the approach when projecting Hall's injury as well.
Davis notes that the Bengals would be a good fit for Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick, who is rated by many as the No. 2 cornerback in the draft behind LSU's Morris Claiborne. Kirkpatrick's off-the-field issues likely helps the Bengals acquire him at No. 17, but do the Bengals really want to take another player with a character-based flag? The reward could be greater than the risk with Kirkpatrick (as opposed to another CB with character issues but Davis mentioned the Bengals could take with the No. 17 pick in the draft: Janoris Jenkins) because of his talent and athleticism.
There is no doubt that Kirkpatrick could provide an injection of talent into a weak Bengals secondary, but the rising stock of Stephon Gilmore and the addition of Jason Allen in free agency, the Bengals may look into another direction (i.e. Gilmore or offensive guard) even if Kirkpatrick is still available. The debate is unending, but the point is clear: the Bengals need to draft a CB with one of their first two picks in this year's NFL draft.
The Bengals second first-round draft pick will be directly affected by their No. 17 selection, but it is safe to say that if they draft defensively then they could focus on either protecting Dalton or giving him a weapon. Davis takes the latter choice with Cincinnati selecting Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright. It is well documented that the Bengals are moving into a running-back-by-committee philosophy, so it is a possibility that the Bengals could take a running back with their second pick, even after signing free agent BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Doug Martin, David WIlson, and Lamar Miller are expected to be available at No. 21, but would those players be worth a first-round pick? It might make more sense if they use their second-round pick on a RB while going into an entirely different direction. The Bengals need a strong No. 2 WR to play opposite of A.J. Green since Andre Caldwell left for Denver and Jerome Simpson's future with the Bengals remains in jeopardy. Wright would be a perfect addition to the Bengals offense because of his elite athleticism, ability to run after the catch, and his big-play abilities (see here for Joe Goodberry's full scouting report on Wright). The thought of Dalton having Green, Wright, Gresham, Shipley, Hawkins, and BJGE at his disposal is exciting, but knowing that they would have a full off-season together is insane.
Later in the video, NFL Network's Brian Billick speaks about expectations for sophomore players, namely Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. Billick notes that expectations are high for Dalton and Green after a great rookie year, but while most people are concentrating on those two players, the Bengals are getting Jordan Shipley back, and having acquired Green-Ellis from free agency, their offense is going to be much more than just the Dalton-to-Green combination in 2012. Combine this with the two first-round picks the Bengals have and the possibilities for the Bengals are endless. In Billick's own words, "the Bengals' arrow is definitely going up." We couldn't agree with you more, Mr. Billick.
As we have said time and time again, it is a very exciting time to be a Bengals fan because of the amazing, young talent on the team, the (mostly) young and impactful coaching staff, and the possibilities that lay ahead with the Bengals 2012 draft class. Put all of these things together and the Bengal's fanbase has legitimate reasons to believe more this year than any during the Marvin Lewis regime.