Until free agency has come and gone, it's going to be hard to project certain teams' biggest needs in the NFL draft.
The Bengals are a great example of this as they have talent and depth at just about every position on the roster, but that could change dramatically once free agency begins. Depending on what guys like Marvin Jones, Reggie Nelson, Adam Jones and George Iloka do, you could go with 3-5 different positions ending up as the biggest need in the draft.
If both Nelson and Iloka leave, safety should get strong consideration in the first round, which may explain why NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah has them going with one of the draft's top defensive backs with the 24th pick. His latest mock has Ohio State Buckeyes free safety Vonn Bell going there, adding, "Bell lacks ideal size, but he's very instinctive and he gets his hands on a lot of footballs."
That sounds like a perfect description for Nelson, who tied for the NFL lead with eight interceptions in 2015, despite standing at just 5'11". Bell is the same height and plays similarly with his ball-hawking ability to go with his hard hits. He accumulated 176 total tackles and nine interceptions during his college career, and he may be someone the Bengals consider with their first pick this year.
But if the Bengals lose Marvin Jones and fellow receiver Mohamed Sanu, wide receiver suddenly becomes the biggest need. That's why CBS Sports' Rob Rang pegged Baylor Bears receiver Corey Coleman to the Bengals with the 24th pick in his latest mock.
The Bengals locked up A.J. Green to a huge extension prior to the season but virtually every other receiver on the roster is a pending free agent, including Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu. Coleman - the Biletnikoff Award winner who scored 20 touchdowns over the regular season - offers a different level of playmaking ability than Jones or Sanu, making him potentially the perfect addition to complement Green.
Sticking to the receiver theme, SB Nation's Dan Kadar gave tabbed Ohio State's Michael Thomas to Cincinnati with the 24th pick.
The Ohio State run continues. Both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are free agents for the Bengals, and if both leave that leaves Cincinnati with little more than A.J. Green. He's obviously a high-end No. 1 target, but more is needed. Whether it's Thomas or someone like Corey Coleman of Baylor, the Bengals could strike gold with a wide receiver at No. 24.
Another position that quietly may become a loud need this offseason is linebacker if both Vincent Rey and Emmanuel Lamur depart in free agency. That explains why Yahoo's Eric Edholm has Ohio State's Darron Lee being the Bengals' first pick.
Great as he is, Vontaze Burfict is meeting with Roger Goodell to discuss his repeated flagrant flags, and the Bengals have to be concerned about Burfict’s long-term viability. There are two years left on his current deal, and the Bengals have done a nice job in recent years to draft a year ahead of time for pending needs. Lee offers a burst of speed to the Bengals’ linebacking unit and is a playmaker who could be a stout starter for years.
Defensive tackle is another area that may need addressing with Domata Peko aging and Brandon Thompson and Pat Sims having the potential to leave in free agency. That's the position Cincinnati ended up addressing in Walter Football's latest mock draft, which has Alabama Crimson Tide tackle Jarran Reed being the pick.
The Bengals need to bolster the interior of their defensive line, as Domata Peko is no longer the same player he once was. There should be a couple of defensive tackles to choose from toward the end of the first round.
Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings is another name that's been mocked to the Bengals often this offseason. That's who Bleacher Report's Justis Mosqueda has landing in Cincinnati for his latest mock draft.
Domata Peko is over the 30-year-old mark and could use a replacement in the recent future. Keeping 3-technique Geno Atkins clean should be how the Bengals defense is structured, and that starts at nose tackle.
Andrew Billings is a good option in this situation. The Baylor tackle is only 19 years old and is as strong as an ox. He doesn't have great penetration skills, but with Atkins on the roster, Cincinnati won't ask him to do much work in the backfield. Instead, his assignments will be to anchor in the run game, where he thrives.
We're still at least a month away from knowing what the Bengals' biggest need(s) in the draft will be in addition to who the realistic targets are. The Scouting Combine, Pro Days and possible off-the-field incidents will cause some prospects' stock to rise to the point the Bengals won't have a shot at them, while others will slip enough where Cincinnati may be able to land them, or may want nothing to do with them.
Which of the above mentioned prospects excites you the most?