Kyle Phelps: A lot of people are saying that wide receiver is the biggest need on the team right now, but I actually don't think that's true. With the signing of Brandon LaFell and the return of James Wright from injury, I think the team could actually stand to be fairly liberal with this position. That doesn't mean they should ignore the position, but I think the biggest need is at defensive tackle. Geno Atkins is one of the best in the league, but Domata Peko will be 32 in November and there isn't really anyone else on the team who is ready to be a starter. I would say that their biggest needs, in order, are: DT, C, S, WR, DE, CB, OLB.
Rebecca Toback: The Bengals' biggest need in the NFL Draft is wide receiver, but that doesn't necessarily mean their first round pick will be a receiver. To restock their depth, the Bengals have a bunch of holes to fill, many of which are relatively the same size. That means they'll be able to utilize the best player available approach that they typically covet. In order, I see their biggest needs as: WR, S, DT, DE, G, CB, OLB.
Scott Schulze: Because the Bengals typically draft BPA’s, and don’t reach for needs, they usually don’t get into a situation where they have huge holes to fill in any given draft. So, I’m going to take a different approach at this than everybody else. The Bengals rarely seem to draft based solely on what the perceived need is for the immediate season, but for the seasons after that. So taking a look at the roster "beyond the 2016 season", where do they have the biggest vacancies? At running back, they only have Jeremy Hill signed beyond 2016. Even if they use him as a feature back, they will need depth. O-Line seems counter intuitive since they just drafted two tackles last year. But they could lose Zeitler, and Bodine just needs replaced. Dunlap and Johnson are locked up for a while, but they have nothing behind them, and Johnson just doesn’t provide much on passing downs. Granted, the quality behind A.J. Green is lacking, but they do have four wide receivers signed beyond this season. The need at defensive back will depend on the development of Derron Smith and Josh Shaw. If they don’t pan out, the needs will be greater. Draft needs: RB, OL, DE, WR, DB.
Connor Howe: Needs that should be filled in the early rounds, in no particular order
Defensive line: The Bengals don't need a pass-rushing defensive tackle. They do, however, need a run-stuffing nose tackle to eventually replace Domata Peko. The club also needs an edge rusher to fill in for the recently departed Wallace Gilberry in a rotation behind Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson.
Wide receiver: We need a slot guy to play behind A.J. Green and Brandon LaFell, but the team might also go for a boundary guy, as LaFell is only playing on a one-year contract.
Defensive back: Whether it's a corner or safety, Cincinnati has the need. Shawn Williams is still unproven, despite admirably filling in for Reggie Nelson last season, and Derron Smith is even more of an unknown. Behind Adam Jones, the Bengals don't really know what they have at corner. Dre Kirkpatrick has been up-and-down, Darqueze Dennard is coming off injury and Josh Shaw has only played limited snaps. That's not to say that none of these players can contribute, but the team still needs to find another corner.
Needs that should be filled later in the draft, in no particular order:
Defensive back/Defensive line:If the Bengals don't take a guy one or both of these positions early, it might be because they like a guy they believe they can land later in the draft.
Offensive line: The Bengals have visited enough offensive linemen that I believe they'll take one in this year's draft. Who that lineman will be, and what position he played in college, however, is a mystery to me.
Linebacker: Karlos Dansby will play in Cincinnati for a year or two at most. The Bengals need to find a guy they like at linebacker who can play alongside Vontaze Burfict for the next decade.
Running back: Three Bengals running backs are set to hit free agency in 2017. Time for the Bengals to prepare themselves for the potential of losing one, two or even three of those backs, just in case.
Anthony Cosenza: In order of need, I'd say the following:
Wide Receiver: It's easily their biggest need after losing two of their top three players at the position in free agency. They grabbed a band-aid in Brandon LaFell, but caution should be taken there after a sub-par 2015 season with the Patriots. Cincinnati might not grab a receiver in the first round, but they'll get one high for sure.
Interior Offensive Line: Whether you're one of the many who is fed up with Russell Bodine's performance, or someone who wants to see them have another solid player in place if Kevin Zeitler leaves after 2016, a versatile player who can play guard and/or center could be a valuable commodity.
Defensive Tackle: Domata Peko, though coming off of one of his best pro seasons, is in the twilight of his career and the Bengals need an exciting heir apparent as a starter. They did bring back two nice rotational players in Brandon Thompson and Pat Sims this offseason and are still developing Marcus Hardison, so I think this falls down on
the pecking order a littler bit further than most think.
Edge Rusher: I'd like to see Marvin Lewis get an exciting niche edge rusher to complement the big boys up front. And while the starting defensive line appears to be set, either a versatile and more traditional end player to replace Wallace Gilberry, or "'tweener" on the outside should be sought after.
Cornerback/Safety: Though both positions are a bit crowded and I like the unproven youth at both spots (Darqueze Dennard, Josh Shaw, Derron Smith), I think another addition here would be nice. Though they are two different positions, I think they only invest one of their seven picks here and that's why I've lumped them together--likely in a guy who can do a bit of both.
Kick Returner: There isn't necessarily a position of which I'd like to see in this capacity, just someone who can do it. Adam Jones excels at it, but he's the team's No. 1 corner at the moment and the Bengals will be cautious with him. Mario Alford has a lot to prove in an effort to supplant Brandon Tate, who is, well, you know.
Tight End: Yes, I said it. Tyler Eifert's a budding superstar, but he's missed 19 games in the past three seasons (at least one a year). Tyler Kroft showed some nice things at the end of last season and C.J. Uzomah has potential, but if a highly-ranked player at the position falls somewhere in day three, they might want to pull the trigger--particularly for an able blocker.
Kicker: It's probably higher up on the list, but I don't think they'll do much to replace Mike Nugent. The veteran has been an overall solid addition to the team, but he's missed some big kicks and his leg strength is questionable--particularly in a division with poor weather and all outdoor venues.