Zac Taylor’s first offseason as the Bengals’ head coach has been mainly a mixed bag. The retention of veterans C.J. Uzomah, Bobby Hart, Preston Brown, Tyler Eifert and Darqueze Dennard to go with the additions of B.W. Webb, John Miller and Kerry Wynn make up the Bengals’ free agency period, but there’s more work to be done in improving the roster.
With the NFL Draft inching closer and closer, let’s take a look at the five biggest needs remaining for Cincinnati.
1. A starting linebacker
Nick Vigil played well in 2018, but struggled staying healthy and is only one of two linebackers the Bengals really need for 2019. This is the position that the Bengals would be best off at least partially addressing via a trade. There are two former first-round linebackers who are reportedly on the trade block in Darron Lee and Haason Reddick. Neither of these players have lived up to their billing, but they have shown a lot of potential in the NFL and would definitely be an upgrade over Hardy Nickerson.
The Bengals of course can address it with their first pick in the draft with Devin Bush or Devin White, or their second pick with someone like Vosean Joseph.
2. A quality starting offensive tackle
The Bengals extended one of the worst offensive tackles in the league in Bobby Hart, but they should not stop looking. Hart is not a good player and the Bengals should be thinking at the very least depth at the position to eventually replace him down the road.
It seems unlikely that the Bengals will address offensive tackle early in the draft after re-signing Hart to a multi-year deal, but their depth at the position is on par with Hart’s ability: poor. On top of that Cordy Glenn has had health issues and is getting up there in age. The Bengals need to make a lot of additions on their offensive line and they should be considering all options throughout the draft.
3. Better wide receiver depth
The Bengals have a starting trio with great potential in their wide receiver room. However, two of those starters in A.J. Green and John Ross have both struggled with injuries and their absences greatly impacts the offense as a whole. On top of that, it is unlikely all three will be able to be kept long-term if Ross continues developing into a great player, but the front office will try to begin that process this offseason.
Behind Ross there resides a lot of unproven talent grouped with middling contributors. Josh Malone has barely played, Cody Core is not good, Alex Erickson is a slot receiver with little explosiveness, and Auden Tate barely contributed when he got a chance. The Bengals would be wise to target a wide receiver somewhere around the fourth round in a draft deep with wide receivers. A player like Parris Campbell, Miles Boykin, or Emmanuel Hall should be available in that range.
4. Young talent at tight end
The Bengals have 2 good players at tight end. What Tyler Eifert lacks in durability, he makes up for in athletic ability — and C.J. Uzomah is essentially the contrast of that.
The Bengals need to continue injecting the position group with young talent to see if they can find a dynamic player who can offer a little more than Uzomah. Because of this, it would not be completely shocking for the Bengals to take either T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant in the first round. With Uzomah’s under contract for three more years, drafting a tight end of the future now would make sense.
5. Any at all running back depth
In the last draft, one of the Bengals’ most surprising picks was running back Mark Walton. Now, Walton has gotten himself into legal trouble and subsequently off of the Bengals’ roster.
Like with wide receiver. this draft is weak at the top for running backs, but it is deep with solid players. A guy like Rodney Anderson would be perfect, as someone who will likely fall due to injuries, he is more than talented enough to go on the second day of the draft and the Bengals could be getting a steal. With Mixon in the fold, Anderson would never be relied on or expected to take a full load, which should help him stay healthy.