How do you think the Bengals pick through the first three rounds in the draft this year, based on position?
JOSH KIRKENDALL: Knowing that free agency will heavily dictate that, for the time being, I'll go safety, running back, defensive end, linebacker.
ANTHONY COSENZA: I say linebacker, cornerback, running back, wide receiver. Not in that particular order though. Maybe safety instead of corner, depending.
Josh: Maybe both. We definitely need a safety, but could use another cornerback in this Joe Flacco takes all world. But if they franchise Smith, I could see them going after a tackle, especially if they're not feeling comfortable bringing him back.
JASON GARRISON: I would say running back, wide receiver, linebacker and cornerback.
Josh: Surprised that both of you instinctively went cornerback instead of safety. Is that because of the lack of safeties in the early predraft hype right now?
Anthony: That and the state of the Bengals' cornerback position group right now. Frankly, I'm not comfortable with it because of impending free agents, age and the multitude of injuries that happened at the position. And I don't think that the Bengals value the safety position highly.
Jason: The Bengals seem to neglect the safety position early in the draft. Just going off of their recent trends.
Josh: Don't buy into that too much. I made it a point to predict that the Bengals won't draft a guard in the first round last year because they never did. Even old bastards like me are surprised every so often. Anyway you can only draft what's available if it makes sense.
Anthony: Yeah, true. They broke the trend with Gresham in 2010 and the tight end position too [Editor's note: Bengals drafted TE Mike Cobb in the first round of the 1977 NFL draft]. Still, the last time they drafted a safety in the first round was Daryl Williams. And they had two first round picks that year.
Josh: Right. Free agency truly dictates that. Sign Adam Jones and Terence Newman, there's no need for a cornerback. And what of guys like Shaun Prater or Brandon Ghee, who was "oh so close" last year? And more to your point Anthony, Madieu Williams is the only safety drafted in the first three rounds during the Marvin Lewis era.
Anthony: Newman is in his mid-thirties and was a nice stopgap last year, but there's no future with him. Jones is a must to re-sign, no doubt. Then you have Kirkpatrick who battled knee and concussion issues last year, Prater who was out all year with a knee and Ghee who hasn't been able to get on the field since he was drafted. Nate Clements looks way too old and Jason Allen isn't good or healthy enough to beat anyone out for playing time.
Anthony (again): Since losing Johnathan Joseph, the position has had a sore need for good, young talent--not continual 30+ year olds with little football in front of them. Drafting a guy like Xavier Rhodes out of FSU would be a nice addition and fits Mike Zimmer's cornerback prototype to a "T". You can then have Rhodes (or another rookie), Kirkpatrick, Ghee and Prater all duking it out. You can keep Clements and Allen if you need bodies through camp.
Josh: You drafted a first-round cornerback last year. With Hall, Kirkpatrick and probably Adam Jones, though speculating, the Bengals are set at CB. They won't invest in another cornerback in the top three rounds. They need far more help in other areas. Do you trust their running back position? Linebackers? Save for Carlos Dunlap, they're depleted at defensive end. That said, I get your reasoning and the Bengals will draft based on their board, not necessarily immediate needs either. Plus it would be nice for long-term stability at cornerback.
Jason: I think they'll give Kirkpatrick a chance to start before they draft a cornerback in the first round. If he doesn't work out, maybe they will the following year.
Josh: Hope so. Can't deal with another year of hearing "bust" on someone that hasn't touched the field with an injury.
Anthony: Can't get on the field and can't play, it's hard to call a guy anything else but that.
Jason: If somebody got hurt over and over and over again, maybe. But Kirkpatrick just lost his rookie year. I don't think he's earned the bust title quite yet.
Josh: It's a petty argument. Andre Smith was a bust in year No. 1 and 2, but would anyone say he's a bust today? No.
Anthony: Too early on calling Kirkpatrick that specifically though, I agree.
Josh: There's undoubtedly someone calling someone a bust after three weeks of their rookie season. Drives me bat-shit insane.