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My top-five Bengals draft needs

With this site quickly become the Chad Johnson report -- along with players and their conduct behaviors -- I thought it was time to change things. You know, like talking about something else that actually pertains to football and the success of the Cincinnati Bengals. I know, it's an unpracticed effort around these parts, but we're going to try nonetheless. Though we will likely examine the above briefly.

What I wanted to bring up today, corresponding with the Sports Blog Nation mock draft, is a top-five ranking of "draft needs", by position, for the Cincinnati Bengals. Note: We'll likely do this one more time before the draft simply because issues that could develop from now until the NFL draft like our recent "need" to think about rebuilding our wide receivers position. This is strictly my opinion and I do hope that you provide yours.

My list.

  1. Defensive Tackle. This has been a big need since I was in high school (over 10 years ago) preparing a communications class report support the development of two new stadiums to replace old Riverfront/Cinergy field. Right now the Bengals have four defensive tackles signed for 2008 -- John Thornton, Domata Peko, Michael Myers and Titus Adams (signed to off-season roster). Thornton, scheduled to make $3.5 million, is playing the final season of his contract. Myers is also playing his contract's final season. Adams seems unlikely to make the roster while Peko -- at times showing glimpses of quality, isn't a guy that solidifies the position -- at least not yet. In my opinion, this isn't just a need. It's a desperate need.
  2. Here's the problem. The top two defensive tackles coming into the draft (Sedrick Ellis, Glen Dorsey) will likely be gone by the Bengals' ninth pick. That alone could be the reason we go after another position instead of forcing the ninth pick for the third best defensive tackle in the draft.

  3. Linebacker. A more likely scenario is that the Bengals draft a linebacker to replace the departed Landon Johnson. In the mock draft, we picked up USC linebacker, Keith Rivers. As it stands, only Dhani Jones and Rashad Jeanty appear to be locked in as starting linebackers. Ahmad Brooks, while talented, hasn't claimed his spot due to injury and, at times, playing out of position -- I just don't see them handing him the spot without competing. Odell Thurman is a wild card that we're hesitant to think that he'll replay the effectiveness of his rookie season after suspended for two seasons working a construction job in Georgia.
  4. The Bengals have 11 linebackers signed for 2008 (not including David Pollack). So they have bodies. However, they lack that play-maker that opposing offenses think to themselves, we have to account for that guy.

  5. Wide Receiver. In fantasy land, if Chad Johnson didn't become the newest member of "cry-baby wide receiver" and if Chris Henry stepped out of character and stayed away from trouble, this position wouldn't even be considered, at all (except for maybe a return specialist). Sadly, in reality land, this is position could be the worst on the team by this time next season. This is my "plan ahead" point.
  6. Now, I'm assuming that Chad Johnson, even if he plays in 2008, won't be with the team much longer because I don't see an existing scenario that bridges are rebuilt and fences are mended. With Henry gone, and the unlikely chance that Johnson and the Bengals heal, we're fully aware that T.J. Houshmandzadeh is working on the final season of his contract.

    A scenario does exist that the Bengals could lose their their three best wide receivers that combined for 69 receiving touchdowns since 2005 -- 80% of Palmer's 86 passing touchdowns. Drafting a wide receiver isn't a "need" if we don't draft one the team will suffer for it in 2008. It's the seasons after 2008 that could be dire if the team decides not to replenish the position with the availability of their many draft picks. Then again, do you want Chad Johnson "mentoring" a young receiver?

  7. Guard/Center. This is somewhat surprising, I'm sure you're thinking. I also know and accept that drafting a guard/center combination (or simply one or the other) isn't always a popular draft pick early during the weekend.
  8. Eric Ghiaciuc was appointed as the newest Center after Rich Braham's career was cut short from an injury in 2006 -- though it was likely he'd retire after that season anyway. Sadly, since his retirement, the Bengals offense could hardly be considered consistent. Some blame the line. Some blame the performances of the skill players. Some, justifiably so, just blame those annoying injuries. Ghiaciuc's performance early in 2006 wasn't something to remember. Sack totals went up and Rudi Johnson began a downward spiral of depressing performances that's yet to stop. We're not specifically pointing Ghiaciuc as the problem. However, the coaching staff has acknowledged that he must improve. The Bengals have guys like Casey Hampton and Shaun Rodgers that they must account for. And Ghiaciuc hasn't always been the product of success against big defensive tackles. I do think that the Bengals should consider drafting a center that's strong enough to hold his own against these big guys.

    But guard? It's no secret. This team misses Eric Steinbach. And there isn't a soul alive that can justify the massive contracts for three offensive tackles yet support Steinbach's departure to in-state rivals. As of now, the Bengals have a solid guard in Bobbie Williams and a natural tackle playing where Steinbach left. Andrew Whitworth was a solid guard last season. But I also think there's room for improvement at both guard spots.

    You also have to consider this. Willie Anderson's career is hanging on by a thread. Not because of his performances, but simply his age and the risk of injury. This will be a big make-or-break season for Anderson with Stacy Andrew on his heals. Levi Jones finished last season solid after horrible performances coming off his injury early in the season. Would the team be better off with Whitworth at left tackle and Jones either traded or simply cut -- though the cap ramifications would make that unlikely. In that scenario, the Bengals really need to think about a guard.

    Will the team draft a guard? Unlikely, though I still label it as a need, but not a huge one. Center is a much bigger issue if this line is to ever improve. And the way the Bengals look at the offensive line, a center/guard combination is very likely.

  9. Defensive End. After losing Justin Smith this off-season to the San Francisco 49ers, the Bengals signed Antwan Odom to a five-year deal giving the Bengals Odom, Robert Geathers, Jonathan Fanene, Frostee Rucker and (unlikely to make 53-man roster) Jimmy Verdon as their defensive ends. Rucker is a mainstay on the inactive list almost every week. Fanene shows signs of being a productive end, but hasn't cemented himself. Geathers, our most talented defensive end, had a down year because he was taken out of position to play linebacker. Odom, while having a good 2007 season, could be the product of having one great year during a contract year. I'm not trying to take anything away from Odom, but it wasn't like the Titans were desperate to keep him around. Furthermore, it would seem to us that Odom's strongest contribution will be pass rushing on for-sure passing downs. I still think Odom is a good signing. At the same time, I don't think he's "the answer".
  10. The Bengals still need an all-around defensive end that can pass rush and contain the edges. Even though I do think that the team is stable and serviceable at end, I think there's talent in the draft that could be seen in the later rounds that could challenge Fanene and Rucker -- based on what we've seen them do, not the potential they hold -- to improve the position.