We're just over two weeks away from beginning of the 2015 NFL Draft.
After a productive offseason, the Bengals don't have any glaring holes on their roster that need addressing, and they could go a variety of directions with their first-round pick. The ESPN Insiders are doing guides for all 32 teams to analyze their biggest needs, the top prospect targets and predictions on how everything will play out during the draft.
For their Bengals preview, they had offensive tackle as the team's biggest need, and they could address it with Stanford's Andrus Peat in the first round:
Whitworth is getting up there in age, and is entering a contract year, making Peat a viable option in terms of fit and value. Peat can improve his balance, and will have problems handling power when playing with high pad level, but he has the tools to become a good starting left tackle and would have a year to develop and be groomed as Whitworth's potential replacement.
Another first-round target is Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead, who could play tackle or end in the NFL, but likely needs a year to develop and find a true position:
Armstead is one the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in the class. He has freakish measurables along with raw athleticism and excellent hands, but needs to show more consistency. Cincinnati is one of the few teams with a strong enough roster to take the chance on Armstead, who would bring good value in the second half of the first round.
As for the latter rounds, Rutgers tight end Tyler Kroft is someone to watch for as a potential Jermaine Gresham replacement:
Kroft is an under-the-radar prospect who has above-average athleticism, a wide catch radius and a very quick transition after the catch. The Bengals could look to target Kroft somewhere on the second day as a replacement for Jermaine Gresham, and this would continue to give Dalton two viable pass-catching tight ends, as he'd be paired with Tyler Eifert.
The Bengals have previously met with Kroft, so it's easy to see that match. Even if they end up re-signing Gresham, they'll probably add a tight end on Day 3 to compete for the No. 2 role next to Tyler Eifert in 2016. It's unlikely Gresham will be brought back on anything more than a one-year 'prove it' deal.
Lewis doesn't want 1st-rounder to play much in '15
If Marvin Lewis has his way, this year's first-rounder won't be playing much in 2015.
As for the predictions, Coley Harvey thinks the Bengals' first-round pick won't play this year, as Marvin Lewis previously stated.
The 21st pick won't play: Coach Marvin Lewis has said he doesn't want a first-round pick who will be playing right away. Believe him. Most of this draft is about creating depth for the Bengals' future. Cincinnati's first-round pick will get treated much like cornerback Darqueze Dennard last year. The rookie took just 58 defensive snaps after getting picked 24th overall.
Harvey also thinks the Bengals will draft a wide receiver early this year, and possibly even two throughout the draft, despite the re-signing of Brandon Tate and signing of Denarius Moore.
Brandon Tate's re-signing won't affect receiver emphasis: Cincinnati re-signed Tate several weeks into the start of free agency, meaning the Bengals will at least take to training camp a fifth receiver who has kick-return ability. Still, the Bengals want to draft an additional receiver (and possibly two) who has home run-threat speed and wiggle, and who can be a long-term kick returner.
I agree with both points. The Bengals love redshirting players as rookies, only to have them take on a starting role within the next two seasons. Depending on injuries, they may play significant snaps as rookies, but the hope is they will only play at the end of blowouts.
As for receiver, it wouldn't shock me if the Bengals take a receiver in the first round if the right guy falls to them. It's also possible a drafted WR won't play much either behind A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in 2015, but then gets a starting job in 2016 if either Sanu or Jones aren't re-signed.