The 2011 NFL season isn't quite over yet but that doesn't mean that it's too early for a mock draft. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that you can find a mock draft for the 2014 season somewhere online. There are only four teams, the 49ers, Ravens, Giants and Patriots, who don't have set draft positions yet, but we do know that the Bengals are set with the No. 17 pick (from Oakland) and the No. 21 pick.
SB Nation's Ryan Van Bibber's latest mock draft has the Bengals filling two important roster holes in the first round.
With the No. 17 overall pick, Van Bibber predicts that the Bengals will select Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
Cedric Benson is a free agent. They could re-sign him, but they could draft a much better running back with Richardson. The Alabama product would come cheaper too.
First off, I would be somewhat surprised if Richardson fell to No. 17. However, if he did, I honestly believe that the Bengals would be better suited drafting an offensive lineman with their first pick in 2012, specifically a guard. Van Bibber had David DeCastro from Stanford going to the Cowboys with the 14th overall pick, but if he was available when the Bengals go on the board, I think they should take him instead.
After all, if the Bengals don't have a good offensive line, it won't matter who the running back is.
With the No. 21 pick, Van Bibber predicts that the Bengals will select Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.
Watching Johnathan Joseph help turn the Texans' fortunes around had to be bittersweet for the Bengals who let him walk in free agency. They need help in the secondary. Pacman Jones is a free agent, and Dennard represents like a solid upgrade.
I like the pick of a cornerback in the first round. There is no question that the Bengals need an upgrade at cornerback. Nate Clements isn't terrible but he was just a stopgap after the team foolishly let Joseph walk away. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that Leon Hall will be 100 percent when the season starts and without a new cornerback, the team could find themselves in the same situation they were in late in the season.
The Bengals have a lot of holes to fill but they have the picks necessary to do so. It should be an exciting offseason.