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Defensive End among Cincinnati Bengals' biggest NFL Draft needs

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Replacing Michael Johnson should be priority No. 1 for the Bengals.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

What are the biggest needs for the Bengals entering the draft?

You can argue and debate the order of needs, but cornerback, defensive end and offensive line were the biggest needs heading into free agency, and that will probably hold true going into the draft.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com thinks those three positions -- along with a new safety -- are the Bengals' biggest needs heading into May's draft, but replacing Michael Johnson should be priority No. 1:

Michael Johnson, who started 15 games for Cincinnati last season, signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. The Bengals do have some young talent at the position, but I could see them taking another end in the early rounds.

Missouri's Kony Ealy and Auburn's Dee Ford both stand out as players who could give new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's unit a reliable edge presence. Ealy has the versatility to play multiple positions along the line, while Ford's burst would make him a nice complement to All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins.

As for who the various NFL.com media think the Bengals will take in the first round:

Daniel Jeremiah: Dee Ford

Bucky Brooks: Dee Ford

Charles Davis: Kony Ealy

Matt Smith: Dee Ford

Chase Goodbread: Bradley Roby

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The only player I disagree with is Roby. At No. 24, he'd be a bit of a reach, but if the Bengals are able to trade back in the draft, he could be a guy they target to upgrade the secondary.

As for Kony Ealy and Dee Ford, I'd prefer Ealy at that point in the draft. He's a more complete defensive end, whereas Ford thrives as a pass-rusher.

Johnson's pass-rushing production can be easily replaced, but his ability to set the edge and stuff running backs at the line of scrimmage is what will be hard to replace.

Ealy has shown a better ability to do that than Ford.