The Bengals have plenty of needs heading into this pivotal 2018 NFL Draft. However, they addressed their biggest need of the offseason when they moved back from pick 12 to 21 to acquire left tackle Cordy Glenn from the Bills.
This has opened up the Bengals to a world of possibilities in the first round of the draft. Really though, it hasn’t put them in a position to take the best player available at every pick. There are a few positions at which the Bengals have to walk away with playmakers at before the draft is over.
Here’s our ranking of the Bengals’ top six positions of need in the 2018 NFL Draft.
This is more of a business need. The Bengals are set at corner next season with William Jackson, Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard, but Dennard’s contract expires after this season. With Kirpatrick already getting paid and Jackson looking like the team’s best corner, the Bengals may opt to let Dennard get paid elsewhere in free agency. The team also lost depth at the position when they declined Adam Jones’ contract option.
We all know how much the Bengals love first round corners, but they could get by waiting to address this need. They may also try and find a way to sign Dennard on a more reasonable deal. In all likelihood we should see them address this position later in the draft with a corner who may also have some returning capabilities.
5) Offensive tackle
They Bengals did bring in Glenn, yes, but the right tackle spot is still somewhat of a mess. That said, there are bigger immediate needs than offensive tackle, so we’re ranking it at No. 5. The reality is though, the competition at right tackle at this moment doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Jake Fisher is coming off of a major heart issue, and his play hasn’t been consistent. He has shown flashes of being a starting tackle in this league though. The Bengals are also hoping Cedric Ogbuehi won’t be a complete bust, but he hasn’t shown almost any hope of being able to be a starting tackle in this league. Cincinnati also brought in Bobby Hart from the Giants, but he seems like a low risk move that could potentially pay off.
4) Right guard
Clint Boling has the left guard position locked down, but the right spot is up for debate. Trey Hopkins manned that position most of last year when he wasn’t injured. He didn’t really impress though, and he could easily be upgraded. The Bengals also have a couple young guys in Alex Redmond and Christian Westerman who played pretty decently down the stretch last season. Whether they can take that step into becoming a starter remains to be seen.
There are several players on the second and early third days that could be seen as instant upgrades at this position, and the Bengals could see an instant upgrade by taking a guard. There’s also some first and second round options like Isaiah Wynn and Will Hernandez who are in play for the Bengals.
2 and 3) Safety and Linebacker
This need is a bit more complicated than people make it out to be. Obviously the Bengals have George Iloka and Shawn Williams who have done a fine job. The Bengals also brought in linebacker Preston Brown on a one-year deal. However, the Bengals need an athletic guy who can come up and cover elite tight ends and keep up with running backs, or at least a guy who doesn’t routinely get toasted by them.
The Bengals showed an interest into moving toward a more modern direction with their defense when they brought in the safety Eric Reid for a free agent visit. The rumors of the team moving to more of a three safety defense began circulating, and that move would help out their issues. For awhile now, tight ends have given the Bengals issues due to the team’s inability to cover them. Bringing in a hybrid safety or trying move Williams into that role would limit the times an offense can isolate their tight end on one of the linebackers.
The Bengals could also try and just bring in a more athletic linebacker who has sideline-to-sideline capabilities: a guy who can limit a running back’s opportunities to bounce it to the outside for a big gain. There aren’t a lot of linebackers in this draft capable of being that guy. There are even fewer linebackers who are expected to be available at pick 21 or later who can do that.
The Bengals really only need one guy to help fix these issues, but they could very well try to address both positions. The safety position is a far deeper class for this though, and the Bengals may still be willing to bet on young linebackers like Nick Vigil and Jordan Evans. With Vontaze Burfict suspended yet again though, the linebacker position is a big need for Cincinnati.
The most obvious draft need the Bengals have is at center. The team lost out on trying to re-sign Russell Bodine earlier this offseason, but it really didn’t feel like a loss. Of course right now the only real center on the Bengals’ roster is T.J. Johnson so...
The draft has three guys who look like plug and play starters in James Daniels, Frank Ragnow and Bill Price. The opinions on these three are pretty split, but at the end of the day they are all better than Bodine. Daniels is the most athletic, Ragnow is a physical beast and Price has strength and durability on his side. There are also a few prospects after them who the Bengals could get by with next season. However, the Bengals can’t get away with not drafting a center in 2018. They just have to and it very well could be in Round 1.