The NFL draft is less than two weeks away, and the Cincinnati Bengals have several needs on their team that have to be addressed if this team is to not only remain a playoff team, but also take the next step and make a deep postseason run.
One could argue the Bengals are just two or three players away from becoming a true Super Bowl contender. That's why for our latest NFL mock draft, we kept it to just three rounds.
As good as Cincinnati has drafted recently, it’s not crazy to think they could land impact players in each of the first three rounds this year.
With that said, here’s who we had the Bengals drafting in our latest three-round mock.
1st Round No. 24: TCU CB Jason Verrett
One could argue the Bengals already have four legitimate corners on their roster already between Adam Jones, Terence Newman, Dre Kirkpatrick and Leon Hall.
Still, taking a CB early, even in the first, wouldn’t be a bad idea with age, injury and question marks surrounding the position. In the past two years, the All-American Verrett is responsible for 38 pass breakups (eight interceptions and 30 pass breakups).
Verrett has the ability to contribute right away with his solid coverage skills, ability to wrap-up ball-carries and his knack to block field goals on special teams as he does in this video:
He has all the tools to come in and make an immediate impact on defense and special teams.
Verrett’s size (5-foot-10, 176 pounds) means he’d be better suited filling the slot-corner role that Hall has thrived in over the past two seasons.
But with a second torn Achilles tendon, Verrett would likely open the season as the starting slot-corner with Jones and Newman flanked on the outside.
This would also allow Hall to recover from his latest torn Achilles and return when he’s healthy enough and not a second too soon. Then, going into 2015, you now have a CB corps. of Hall, Jones, Kirkpatrick and Verrett. Not too shabby.
Oh, and there’s the small chance Hall isn’t brought back next year and Verrett is his replacement. Hopefully, that’s not the case, but having a backup plan in place is a smart move at this point.
2nd round No. 55 Terrence Brooks, Safety, Florida State
At 5-11 200 pounds Brooks isn’t an imposing safety at first glance, but Brooks is as hard hitting as any safety in this draft class. A converted cornerback, Brooks was asked to cover the slot at times and played a linebacker role in certain looks.
He earned the starting job at free safety in 2012, leading the Seminoles' defensive backs with 52 tackles and two interceptions. In 2013, he recorded 56 tackles and two more interceptions, helping a unit that led the nation in scoring (12.1 points per game) and passing defense (156.6 yards per game).
Last year saw Brooks start 13 games (five at free safety, eight at strong safety) for the '13 national champion Seminoles, so he could challenge for a starting spot as a rookie.
Right away, Brooks becomes an impact player for the Bengals in the safety/cornerback/linebacker role that Taylor Mays and Chris Crocker have played.
Brooks would also be solid on special teams and would provide depth behind Reggie Nelson and George Iloka at safety and can even spell Leon Hall in the slot.
3rd Round No. 88 Travis Swanson, Center, Arkansas
A 50 game starter at the University of Arkansas, Swanson has been battling in the SEC his whole career. Swanson is arguably the top rated center in the draft, and could legitimately sneak into the first round, ala Travis Frederick in '13.
Leadership is also a strong trait with Swanson, as he was elected as a team captain in 2012 and 2013 to become the 11th Razorback to serve consecutive seasons as a captain.
Arkansas coaches said Swanson earned a grade of 80 percent or higher eight times and registered 74 knockdown blocks in 2013 on his way to being named First-Team All-American.
Withe Kyle Cook haven been released this offseason, offensive guard Mike Pollak is penciled in as the starting center now. He could probably do a serviceable job, but it's not his normal position (full-time C in college but converted to guard in NFL), and it leaves a lack of depth at guard.
Drafting Swanson gives the Bengals an immediate starter and kicks Pollak back to the inside to backup Clint Boling, who's recovering from a torn ACL to begin with.
The theme with the latter two picks is versatility. As it stands, the Bengals roster doesn't have many spots where a rookie can come in ans immediately earn a starting spot, especially players drafted after the first round.
Brooks provides depth at CB and S, and could possibly challenge George Illoka for his starting spot. If Swanson is unable to beat-out Pollak for the starting C job, he can backup Boling and Kevin Zeitler at guard while developing his rookie year, then take over at C in a year or two.