The Cincinnati Bengals come into the draft with some things to feel good about. They finished the season 10-6 and 2nd place in the AFC North. Not too bad considering the 1st place team won the Super Bowl. Owner Mike Brown is in charge of all player personnel decisions, but head coach Marvin Lewis has an opinion that counts. The team has had a mixed bag of success through past drafts, but have also made considerable improvement recently, especially on defense. Last years draft was slightly above average with the Bengals getting solid play from G Kevin Zeiter. Dre Kirkpatrick got limited play due to injuries, but after surgery he has the potential to have a strong season. The defense has been solid, finishing in the top 10 three out of the last four seasons. However, coming in to this draft there are still positions that need to be addressed.
Chris Cocker became a free agent and the Bengals are going to need someone solid to line up alongside Reggie Nelson. They need to add a player who can both cover tight ends or drop down into the box to offer run support. The group of cornerbacks they have will be able to make any missteps by a young safety less detrimental.
Maybe this is a huge need and maybe not, that all depends on how the situation with Andre Smith goes. Smith and the team have been trying to put a deal together for weeks but reportedly they are not even close on the numbers. Smith and his agent feel he is worth more than what the Bengals, or anyone else, are willing to offer. If they decide to pass on the former first round pick, they are going to need to pick up someone who can replace him.
Imagine if the Bengals had a legitimate starter that lined up opposite A.J. Green? Not only would that free him up because the defense would be forced to pay attention to his compliment, but it would also help Andy Dalton develop. He would have more confidence in throwing to other receivers, and he would be able to go off his reads more and have to try and force the ball less. Mohamed Sanu, 3rd round pick from Rutgers, didn't get much time last year, but he appeared to have potential. He is a raw player who needs to refine his technique to become a starting caliber NFL receiver, but he looked good. The offense moved better when he was on the field. This is a classic case of a guy making the people around him better.
The Bengals believe that to get to the next step they need to improve on their running game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a solid, sturdy player who has served the team well. However, the problem the Bengals have is that he is not explosive enough, he lacks the ability to break off the big run. They may pursue someone more capable of hitting the home run ball. Marching up and down the field is difficult to do in the NFL, an offense that can't provide big plays will usually stutter as the season progresses.
The Bengals come into the 2013 draft with the 21st overall pick. The biggest need they have on the board is the safety position. They need to be able to get someone who is capable of starting alongside Reggie Nelson from day 1. It would be great if they could get their hands on Kenny Vaccaro, but that isn't likely. He is the most talented safety in the draft and the odds of him falling all the way to number 21 are unlikely. However, no one would have ever though Aaron Rodgers fell as far as he did either. A much more likely scenario is Matt Elam. Some would criticize this pick as being somewhat of a reach at 21, but that is debatable. He is only 5'10", which is a little shorter than NFL GM's like, but it's easier to hide his height at safety than it would be a cornerback. He plays the game fast and with an aggressive streak. He blitzes the quarterback well and like to play physical and bring the hammer down on guys. He also has good instincts and loves to compete. Whoever they decide to go with, Cincinnati fans shouldn't be worried. The Bengals front office have proven they know what they are doing with the talent they have acquired through previous drafts.