With the 24th overall pick of the draft, the Bengals will have to wait a long time in their war room before making their first draft selection. Plenty of talent will be available in the first round, but only a handful of the league's top prospects will be available when Cincinnati is finally on the clock.
This offseason, the Bengals will posses the 24th overall pick for the fourth time in franchise history. The most recent two times Cincinnati had the 24th pick, it took a cornerback. The first time the Bengals had the 24th pick, in 1976, Cincinnati selected Ohio State running back Archie Griffin.
In the 2014 NFL Draft, the Bengals selected Darqueze Dennard, who still looks to be a promising young player. Dennard was the third corner selected in the 2014 draft, behind Justin Gilbert and Kyle Fuller. Two more corners were selected in the first round: Jason Verrett, a Pro Bowler with the Chargers was selected with the 25th pick, and Bradley Roby, a Super Bowl champion with the Broncos, was selected 31st overall.
In the 2006 NFL Draft, Cincinnati nabbed South Carolina corner Jonathan Joseph, who would eventually become a Pro Bowler. Like Dennard, Joseph was also the third corner selected in his draft, behind Tye Hill and Antonio Cromartie. The Seahawks took Kelly Jennings with the 31st pick of the draft, so only four corners were selected in the first round in 2014.
Way back in 1976, the Bengals drafted Archie Griffin with the 24th overall pick. Griffin was the sixth running back taken in the draft, and he never seemed to pan out for Cincinnati, with less than 5,000 career scrimmage yards in seven NFL seasons.
So who will the Bengals take with the 24th overall pick? According to ESPN's Todd McShay's 2016 prospect rankings, several outstanding prospects and even a few rare prospects could be on the board when it's Cincinnati's time to make a pick.
And with one of the biggest draft needs being at defensive line, the Bengals are in luck. Rare prospects Robert Nkemdiche (DT, Mississippi) and Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson) could both be on the board if things swing in Cincinnati's favor. If not, outstanding prospects Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor) and Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech) could also be options. Of the four, 19-year-old Billings looks to be the best fit for the Bengals. He has the size and strength to fill in at nose tackle and could be an immediate impact player, taking some snaps in place of Domata Peko as the veteran's playing time decreases.
While the Bengals are pretty set at quarterback, tight end and offensive tackle, three blue chip players could be on the board when it's Cincinnati's turn to make a selection. If the Bengals can play it right, they could trade down in the first round and add some future picks from a team desperate for a solution at one of these positions. Hunter Henry (TE, Arkansas -- ranked 20 by McShay), Taylor Decker (OT, Ohio State -- ranked as the 21st best prospect by McShay) and Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis -- McShay's 22nd ranked prospect) all look like they can become solid starters. If the Broncos can't re-sign Brock Osweiler, the Patriots, Panthers or Seahawks want to trade up for Decker or the Cardinals want Henry, Cincinnati could trade down and acquire an early-round pick in next year's draft or a late round pick in this year's draft.
Other players ranked by McShay near the 24th pick include Ohio State products Eli Apple (CB) and Darron Lee (OLB), who could immediately make an impact as role players in Cincinnati, and if the Bengals choose to go out-of state, Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson) or Leonard Floyd (OLB, Georgia) could be options as well.
The Bengals will have plenty of options, sitting at 24th overall. Whether they are able to swing a trade, land a blue chip player or accomplish something in between has yet to be determined, but there's a lot to be excited about. Cincinnati's seven first round selections since 2010 have made a combined nine Pro Bowl appearances, and five of those seven players are currently starters for the team.