ANDY DALTON HAS WEAPONS
Though his numbers through two seasons is impressive enough to apply patience, there's a hesitation developing about Andy Dalton's ceiling. Have we seen the best of what we're going to get? Are the struggles during Cincinnati's passing game related to a lack of weapons? Maybe. Remember how good Cincinnati became when Mohamed Sanu was fully integrated into the red zone offense? They didn't have him for a full season last year and there could be a jump for Sanu in year two (that's just as exciting).
Ultimately, year three will be a significant season for Dalton, perhaps facing the most pressure he's felt since joining the Bengals. But the pressure may be fictional, largely because Cincinnati's overall philosophy remains defensive by nature. That being said the Bengals gave Dalton toys this year with first-round selection Tyler Eifert and second-rounder Giovani Bernard, who are impressively effective in the passing game.
The Bengals might be defense first, but the offensive is catching up.
BENGALS GOT THEIR RUNNING BACK
The Cincinnati Bengals used their No. 37 selection that was acquired during the Carson Palmer trade to snag North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard. Projected to split carries with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Giovani adds dimensions and versatility as a change-of-pace back with a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
As we've also pointed out, the greater impression may be that they have their biggest threat out of the backfield since Chris Perry generated 51 receptions in 2005, falling four shy of James Brooks' record in 1986.
Cincinnati also selected Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead, who appears ideal for replacing Brian Leonard's role, but may become a greater contributor over time. A very solid back on Cincinnati's depth chart.
NO QUARTERBACKS ADDED
Though believed that Cincinnati would acquire a rookie quarterback to groom and develop as an eventual replacement, the Bengals ultimately left the position alone during draft and after, without a reported college free agent. Perhaps the acquisitions of Josh Johnson and John Skelton reduced a plan to develop someone, or perhaps they weren't comfortable with the value of the selection, related to their board.
This doesn't mean Cincinnati won't address the position eventually. College free agency continues and the Bengals may invite a handful of rookie quarterbacks to the team's rookie minicamp in early May. If one is impressive enough, they'll sign him to the offseason roster.
STEAL OF THE DRAFT
Some will say tight end Tyler Eifert, projected as high as the top-ten, is clearly a "steal" at No. 21. Eifert was still the second offensive skill player selected -- wide receiver Tavon Austin went No. 8 to the St. Louis Rams. According to reports, Eifert was their No. 1 player from the beginning.
Reid Fragel (pronounced: FRAY-Gull) was a projected mid-round selection that nearly dropped out of the draft, if not for the Bengals using their No. 240 selection -- their first of two compensatory picks in the seventh round. We had actually pre-written our announcement post on Fragel, expecting the team to select the Ohio State tackle in the fifth round.
Of the three offensive linemen selected, Fragel may contribute the soonest on offense as a backup offensive tackle and likely as the sixth linemen in jumbo packages. Dennis Roland is finally on notice.
REACH OF THE DRAFT
If the Bengals had selected Fragel in the fifth round and Tanner Hawkinson's in the seventh, no one would done a double-take when Cincinnati announced their No. 156 pick. They still got the players that they wanted, only in reverse of what we had expected, so it doesn't really matter. Hawkinson feels like a reach based on predraft projections and the need between the guards.
Considering how the Bengals have drafted in recent years, there's a level of trust that they've earned. So in this context, reach isn't meant to signify negativity, considering most of us are unaware of what the Bengals envision Hawkinson bringing to the team right now. If they keep nine lineman on the 53-man roster this year, Fragel and Hawkinson would be the eighth and ninth respectively (assuming Roland and Travelle Wharton are released).
BENGALS DRAFTED AGAINST THE RUN
Look at some of the running backs that the Cincinnati Bengals defense will defend against. Ray Rice, Trent Richardson, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Reggie Bush, Eddie Lacy, Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley.
Cincinnati finished the season ranked No. 12 last year against the run, allowing 107.2 yards rushing per game. But look no further than Cincinnati's production during the postseason as a motivator. In two playoff games against the Cincinnati Bengals defense in 2011 and 2012, running back Arian Foster killed Cincinnati with 293 yards rushing, three touchdowns and a 5.2 yard/rush average.
Second-round pick Margus Hunt is noted for playing contain on the edge who can penetrate the line of scrimmage with an impressive initial pop, which causes backs to redirect with traffic in the lane. Shawn Williams is identified as a strong run defender that plays in the box and Sean Porter's profile suggests he has a variety of moves to "shimmy" off blocks.
SPECIAL TEAMS WITH BIG IMPACT
Save for the superstar first-rounders and the number of starters found in the second, rookies generally make their way into the NFL through special teams. There aren't many vacant starter positions on Cincinnati's roster, so the Bengals used the draft to improve their overall depth with a handful of prospects that could slide into a starting role if needed.
This benefits special teams most of all. Hunt nearly broke an NCAA record for most kicks blocked during a single season. Rex Burkhead will be a special teams contributor, as will Sean Porter and maybe Fragel, depending on how training camp pans out and the roster is configured. Bernard Giovani could also return kickoffs, depending if Cobi Harrison knocks Brandon Tate out of Cincinnati.