A week before the draft and I'm tossing about some thoughts about what is going on with the Bengals before heading into the big day.
1. Andre Smith: This is an interesting scenario to me. Of course we would like to fill this gaping hole prior to draft day. I would like to think he will come to his senses and sign before the draft, but I'm not sure he's got much sense to call upon. Looking at it from the Bengals perspective, they may figure they can either sign Smith and draft a DE in this rich class to replace either Dunlap or MJ next season or they can let Smith walk, draft his replacement and have that money earmarked for Dunlap and MJ (remember, MJ is franchised so that would reduce the Bengals cap number if he signed a long term deal). Just a thought.
2. Free agents: Man, watching free agents roll in and out of the building just to get signed by other teams is absolutely frustrating. Harrison is the latest. I'm thinking they come calling if they need the help after the draft, but I don't think anyone is signing FAs at this point, including the Bengals.
3. The backfield: I'm getting a bit tired of the mock drafts I've seen recently. It's driving me crazy that with all of the positions we need, that so many people are picking us to draft a CB in round 1. Enough. It's like one person started and everyone else jumped on board. Berating mock drafts (and people who make them) is common practice these days, so trying to "inform" the mocker does no good. Just know those people have no idea about the Bengals, and their draft is wrong from pick #21 (at least) on. On top of that;
3(b) Safeties: I get it, safety is a big need. But seriously, after Vaccaro, I would not be happy if the Bengals used #21 on a safety. Elam, Swearinger, Cyprien and Reid would all fit and one should slip to the 2b spot. If the longhorn is gone, don't draft the longshot. Not at 21. Trade back, wait, whatever. I'm also under the impression that between Sands and Iloka, who were both projected in the 3rd and drafted in the 5th of their respective drafts as project players, that one of them might be ready. I don't know how much I would bet on that, but I had the same feeling about the Boling - Hudson combo at guard last year. Of course the team didn't bet on them either but it still worked out pretty well. I just don't see this one as quite as gaping of a hole as many do.
4. LB: MLB is the x-factor here. I think however you see this playing out depends on how you see Maualuga. I think the Bengals see him in a completely different light than we do. I'm not an apologist, but I am an optimist, and someone sees something in this guy that we don't get to see on gameday. I think the Bengals draft a guy. I think that depends on value in more ways than one. SLB seems to be more in the early phases of the draft.
5. BPA all the way: There are enough needs on the team to take the best player possible in every round, but only a few players worthy of the #21 pick. Safety, LB, and RB could all be had at the end of the first at most as players will fall (I hear Atlanta is looking to trade down if possible). DE or RT is the only pick at 21 in my opinion, unless Austin is there (WVU bias). There are no gaping holes outside of RT at this point, but there are very few positions that can't be upgraded upon. Fortunately our biggest areas of need are strengths in this draft. That being said, stop with the Bengals only mocks. There's no use to even try to do this one in a vacuum, it's just your personal wet dream.
6. Reaches: One of the best parts about the draft is watching all of these teams reach which allows for the quality players to fall. Last year the following players were all considered big reaches at the time: Mark Barron (7), Bruce Irvin (15), Shea McClellin (19), Brandon Weeden (22), A.J. Jenkins (30), David Wilson (32), Brian Quick (33), Derek Wolfe (36), Tavon Wilson (48), Brock Osweiler (57), and those were just the first two rounds. That allowed a number of very good players to fall. Mocking those picks is going far away from the herd, but that's what teams do. I'm glad the Bengals have been playing it safer recently as those kinds of reaches rarely work out. But there's no accounting for a GM who thinks they have it figured out more so than everyone else.
7. Capitalizing on the fall: This is why the Bengals are considered to have been having strong drafts recently. They are taking players well below value according to consensus. In the last few years they have drafted value, as in Devon Still at 53 (rd. 1 prospect), Mohamed Sanu at 83 (early rd. 2 prosp.), Brandon Thompson at 93 (rd.1-2), Marvin Jones at 166 (rd. 2 by Goodberry, 3-4 by most), George Iloka at 167 (2-3 by many), and that's just in 2012. In 2011, Dontay Moch at 66 (early to mid second), Clint Boling at 101 (mid to late second), and Robert Sand at 134 (3rd by most). in 2010, Carlos Dunlap at 54 (mid to late first), Brandon Ghee (green room guy from a compensatory pick?), Geno Atkins at 120 (early second round), Otis Hudson at 152 (second to third) and Dezmond Briscoe at 191 (third). Obviously some of these picks have played out very well. I think there is a chance that even more come to fruition this year, which may or may not relate to my earlier piece about our need for a safety. The one position that we are in need of and missing from this list? RB. We could likely see a double dip there.
This is going to be a fun few days next week. I'm looking forward to it.