We’re ever so close to the Bengals’ first draft class of the Zac Taylor regime. As he and his staff gear up for their haul of promising rookies, fan questions are growing louder.
Of course, the top question is if the Bengals will go the sensible/safe route and address their most pressing needs, or if they will opt for a splashy, unexpected path.
Even though they brought back Preston Brown in free agency, the Bengals still have glaring issues at linebacker. Cincinnati made the tough but wise decision to let Vontaze Burfict go, and the bodies that comprise the rest of the group leave a lot of questions.
So, naturally, LSU’s Devin White and Michigan’s Devin Bush are atop of many fans’ wish list as the team looks to go on the clock with the 11th overall pick. But, what if both are off of the board, for some reason?
That’s one of the questions we received from a caller on a recent episode of The Orange and Black Insider. What is the best course of action, should this take place?
Obviously, a variety of factors play into a decision in this potential scenario. Namely, who is left after White and Bush are gone.
If this unlikely sequence of events does play out, that likely means that the Bengals will have their pick of the offensive linemen litter. There isn’t a top-five pick as a lineman in this year’s class, but there are plenty of options who could fill long-term needs up front.
Names like Oklahoma’s Cody Ford, Alabama’s Jonah Williams and a myriad of others should be available in the wake of a linebacker run. Clouding the likelihood of an offensive line pick, though, is the team’s activity at those spots in free agency.
While it doesn’t necessarily blow fans’ hair back, the team brought in John Miller to start at right guard, as well as Bobby Hart to line up at right tackle. They also tendered Alex Redmond a restricted free agent offer to shore up depth. Throw in the acquisition of two other starters last year in Cordy Glenn and Billy Price, and we could envision a war room debate about the need of more high capital used up front.
Not that I agree with the “anti side” of that particular debate, but I digress.
The other sensical route would be for Cincinnati to go with defensive line. There is a glut of interior and edge talent in this class, so the Bengals could opt for an heir apparent for the likes of Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and/or Michael Johnson. A couple of Clemson linemen could immediately help what was a porous defense in 2018, while Ed Oliver might be “the fall guy” who lands in Cincinnati’s lap.
Then, there are the possibilities at quarterback. Common knowledge has the Bengals grabbing one by the conclusion of night two, with an outside chance that No. 11 could be used on “the future”.
There is more talent at the position coming up in 2020 and 2021, but, as we’ve said on our show before, Taylor may view this draft as the one to make his mark. And, if “the Devin’s” are gone, that might mean a quarterback like Dwayne Haskins falls in their lap.
It comes down to if the Bengals want to rebuild for a year and set up their next quarterback nicely, or if they want to immediately turn the page. But, will they even be able to execute the former strategy without White or Bush at their reach?
They could move up for a premium player, but Cincinnati rarely ever does that. Moving back to collect picks in this scenario could make sense, as they won’t want to reach for anybody this year. Still, we’ve seen enough of moving back for lesser talents over the years.
If you’re asking me now about this scenario, I’d say they go with defensive line. Between their inactivity in free agency at those spots and their putrid performance last year, that would seem to make the most sense.
Are you sick of hearing about the Cleveland Browns yet?
In a matter of less than 12 months, the Cleveland Browns have become the media darlings of the NFL. It’s not without good reason, given their No. 1 overall pick who shined at quarterback, as well as their acquisitions of wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr. in consecutive offseasons.
It’s not like their on-field performance last year didn’t lead to high expectations for the club, either. They finished the last half of the season with a 6-2 record, including two wins over the Bengals and another near-victory against Baltimore in the finale.
And, unlike previous promising teams the Browns have fielded since their 1999 NFL re-inception, the 20-year anniversary squad has some major swagger. Whether it’s from OBJ and “Juice”, or the insanely confident Baker Mayfield, the Dawgs aren’t backing down from many opponents this year.
Remember 2003-2007 in Cincinnati, though? Under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals had arrived and continued to sniff greatness. A combination of young, confident talent along with some “bad boys” gave the early Lewis squads some serious smack to talk.
What did it lead to? One playoff berth in those five seasons without a single postseason win.
While what transpired across the state around 15 years ago doesn’t necessarily translate to this year’s Browns, there are similarities. Like the fact that both the Bengals and Browns have the reputation of management instability/incompetence.
Furthermore, Cleveland has just one playoff berth over the past 20 years and are coming off of a 2018 season where they notched a losing record. They also have a first-time head coach in his inaugural season. This is the team that most outlets are projecting to win 12 games this year?
Look, good for Cleveland, I suppose. They’ve been kicked around for so long, Bengals fans can associate with the Dawg Pound on the immense heartbreak that often comes with professional football in Ohio. And, logic tells us that the Bengals and Steelers could be down this year, with questions also surrounding the Ravens’ long-term viability.
The door is definitely open.
Still, this Browns team is being lauded so greatly, they are being set up for a gigantic fall. After a quality first two seasons, Jameis Winston hasn’t been anywhere near the same guy he was back in 2015-2016. Mayfield may very well be on his way to superstardom, but we’ve seen even the most promising quarterbacks crumble when immense expectations get placed on their shoulders.
The bottom line? Cleveland will probably sniff the playoffs this year and could win the division? However, if their “heritage” rears its ugly head once again in 2019, they could be in for one of the most disappointing campaigns in recent NFL history, if they don’t make a run.
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