Like the unstoppable nature of time itself, the draft is continuously approaching and is now mere weeks away. The peak of free agency has come and gone, leaving only a few loose ends for teams to tie up. Even if they are giant, Andre Smith-sized loose ends. Physically and figuratively.
With the bulk of free agency out of the way, team-needs are clearer and now more urgent. This makes life much easier for draft experts who release new mock drafts almost weekly. At this point in the game, much of the uncertainty surrounding the draft is beginning to clear away and it makes pairing players with teams a far simpler affair.
In two new mock drafts released on CBSSports.com, analysts Dane Brugler and Pat Kirwan have forgone the recent trend of selecting a right tackle for the Bengals and instead, opted to return to an earlier tendency of picking a defensive end. Here's what they each had to say.
Brugler: Cornellius Carradine, DE, Florida State: Assuming the Bengals are able to re-sign right tackle Andre Smith, the Bengals focus will likely shift to defense with this pick. Cincinnati franchised Michael Johnson, but drafting another pass rusher would give them flexibility at defensive end and give them insurance if they can't re-sign Johnson.
Kirwan: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M: The Bengals take chances on players and if Moore is still on the board they may not be able to resist. Moore is 20 years old and his production has gone up all three years in college. He will play pro football in the 265 lb. range and his 72 plays behind the line of scrimmage in 38 games played are impressive.
In each of their mock drafts, by the time the Bengals were on the clock at 21, both Kenny Vaccaro and D.J. Fluker were long gone, which probably explains why they ended up going with defensive end help despite bigger needs at safety and tackle. Defensive end isn't technically a current need heading into 2013, but depending on how next year's free agency winds up, it could quickly become rather important. These picks are more of a future insurance policy than anything else.
The Bengals have certainly shifted their priority toward the DE position in recent years, often playing three on the field at one time, so it wouldn't be out of the question for the team to draft another one high this year. But with so many other needs the Bengals face heading into the draft, it would take a serious destruction of their draft board to leave a defensive end sitting at the top of their list with the twenty-first pick.