Quarterback. The narrative was this: If the Cincinnati Bengals drafted a quarterback in the second or third round, it would imply that Andy Dalton's future in Cincinnati was shaky... at best. Then you probably took note that 68 players were drafted on Friday and only two were quarterbacks -- Raiders took Derek Carr and the Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo. The players that Cincinnati could be targeting includes Zach Mettenberger (LSU), A.J. McCarron (Alabama), Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech), Tom Savage (Pittsburgh) and Tajh Boyd (Clemson). The general belief is that there will be a run on quarterbacks in the fourth round.
The long-held belief has been that Cincinnati will address quarterback to develop a long-term backup solution. With contract negotiations and the belief that the team isn't content with Andy Dalton's play, the belief mutated into drafting a quarterback to replace him. Either way, deciding to draft running back and defensive end on Friday wasn't a casualty of war as the team's opportunities to draft a quality quarterback still exists.
Reading the tea leaves: When the Bengals were asked about Jeremy Hill's character questions, Lewis said that "We have a lot of confidence in people we know inside the LSU program. From Steve Kragthorpe to head coach Les Miles, to running back coach Frank Wilson, to Cam Cameron. There’s a bunch of people in the LSU program that many of us in the building have very strong relationships with."
Cam Cameron... Zach Mettenberger's quarterback's coach last year. Just saying.
Offensive Line. Cincinnati will draft an offensive lineman or two. I believe that they nearly went with someone in the second round, but had their hand played for them. Joel Bitonio, Cyrus Kouandjio, and Weston Richburg were picked early in the second. Morgan Moses and Marcus Martin likely had third-round scores on their board. So when Tennessee began the second-round run on running backs, Cincinnati capitalized on Jeremy Hill. It's a weak theory because it suggests that Cincinnati's emotions overruled their philosophy but they clearly like Hill a lot and it worked out for them.
There are still options out there, such as offensive tackles Antonio Richardson (Tennessee) and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, or interior players like guard David Yankey (Stanford), Cyril Richardson (Baylor) or even Rich Groy -- all of whom scored better scouting grades than many of the third-round selections that went on Friday. But I'm starting to feel that Cincinnati will look more at an interior player than tackle -- or at least a tackle that's versatile to play every position on the line.
Wide Receiver: Cincinnati lost Andrew Hawkins in free agency so there are openings. A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are locked in. Brandon Tate re-signed and Dane Sanzenbacher should be safe for now. Last year's sixth-rounder Cobi Hamilton will have his opportunities against Ryan Whalen (who the team practically forces on the roster in each of the past two seasons). That being said, we wouldn't be surprised with a receiver early on Saturday.
Linebacker: Will the Bengals go with a linebacker early on Saturday? Once you get past Vontaze Burfict, Emmanuel Lamur, Rey Maualuga and Vincent Rey, you have several openings. However, last year's fourth-round linebacker Sean Porter, who spent the entire season on IR with a torn labrum (training camp), will be like having another pick. Will Cincinnati grab a linebacker or two to compete with J.K. Schaffer, Brandon Joiner, and Jayson DiManche? Why not. Based on their history though, we're thinking that they'll find more luck with college free agents.
Defensive Line: If we're projecting our 53-man roster, Cincinnati has four defensive tackles and five defensive ends locked in -- including third-rounder Will Clarke. There are other players on the roster that Cincinnati likes, such as defensive tackle Larry Black but there could be more coming. We're not expecting a big-name at this stage nor someone that will be guaranteed a spot during the regular season. Would it be surprising if Cincinnati takes a defensive linemen late? No. They want and encourage competition and the best way to make that happen is to remind everyone that there are no guarantees.
Full Back. Yep. I believe fullback is now in play -- especially in the late rounds. We're looking at players like Trey Millard (Oklahoma), Ryan Hewitt (Stanford), Jay Prosch (Auburn) and even former Jeremy Hill teammate, J.C. Copeland. On the other hand, like running back, the more ideal acquisition may happen through free agency after the NFL Draft. You don't spend the entire offseason promoting a sick obsession about running the football without an adequate lead-blocker when all you have is Orson Charles as the hybrid H-Back.
Defensive back: We're putting cornerback back on the table for later rounds after removing the position from Friday's possibilities. Cincinnati will want to fillout the roster and find quality special teams players -- if not future replacements when Terence Newman retires/leaves (plus Adam Jones' will become a free agent in '16). Safety is absolutely on the board, but for the same reasons -- depth and special teams.
Running Back. With Jeremy Hill selected in the second round, the team has a roster that includes Giovani Bernard, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cedric Peerman, and Rex Burkhead. It wouldn't be surprising if the team went with a late-round selection to build competition at the bottom of Cincinnati's roster. However, the more ideal bet might be a college free agent signing or two.
Tight End. Low priority at this point, but Cincinnati may seek a blocking specialist at tight end at some point.