We take a look at the team as it's currently structured in anticipation of figuring the team's chances of drafting certain positions. The four-part series will be broken down from major needs (expected first three picks), positions to be addressed, possible selections and positions that won't be addressed. Here are positions that could be addressed, but we're not marking them down as certainties.
TIGHT END: Dave Lapham caused it by selecting Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in a Bengals.com community mock draft. Lapham argued Eifert's athleticism in the passing game while using the New England Patriots as an example of having two starter-quality tight ends on the field together.
Another pass-first tight end selected in the first round feels more Maddenism than Bengalsism (aren't mock drafts about picking players you expect the team to pick?). So we're not buying it. Anyway, neither Aaron Hernandez (fourth round) or Rob Gronkowski (second round) were first-round selections. That being said, we wouldn't be surprised if the Bengals selected a blocking tight end in the later rounds to compete with Richard Quinn for the third spot on depth chart.
Orson Charles, selected in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft, probably keeps his job as a backup. Despite only posting eight receptions for 101 yards receiving, his 12.6-yard average ranked higher than Jermaine Gresham, Andrew Hawkins, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu (not that averages mean much because Brandon Tate led the team at 16.2).
That being said Charles was only targeted ten times on 304 offensive snaps with 103 being routes run -- the Bengals ran the football significantly more during two tight end formations. We're not sure if they've used seen enough to warrant a judgment one way or the other with Charles yet.
DEFFENSIVE END: Realistically the Bengals shouldn't have to draft a defensive end, but there's enough uncertainty to promote a scenario.
Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap are entering a contract year on a franchise tag and expiring rookie contract respectively. If Cincinnati feels that their chances to re-sign either (or both) is minimal, then it's possible the Bengals begin to find solutions beyond 2013 -- though we know that the Bengals rarely approach anything with that much foresight.
That being said we're not sure if an advancing plan applies. By the time Cincinnati starts filling the roster after the third round with projected depth players, they may not find a replacement for either Dunlap or Johnson. Geno Atkins was more of an aberration than a rule.
Here's an idea. Sign Johnson and Dunlap long-term and avoid the need altogether.
CORNERBACK: With Adam Jones signed for three years and Terence Newman agreeing in principle for two, the idea of Cincinnati drafting a cornerback within the first three rounds is dead. Based on the roster with Leon Hall, Jones, Newman and Dre Kirkpatrick, the team has solidified the depth, with the remaining question being the last (or maybe final two) spots on the roster. That will boil down to a competition between Jason Allen, Shaun Prater and Brandon Ghee.
However if the Bengals face a situation where a top-rated cornerback falls during the draft that's well-placed on their respective board, we could see the team pulling the trigger. Newman isn't a long-term solution and will earn a majority of his money in 2013. Who knows how Ghee and Prater develop. In other words, if Tyrann Mathieu is around by the fourth or fifth rounds, the Bengals may grab him. They've never been opposed to selecting a prospect that falls during the draft.