Last week Mocking the Draft said that the Cincinnati Bengals needed to draft a defensive end, in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft. They tabbed Kentucky defensive end Alvin Dupree.
This week, it's Alabama safety Landon Collins.
The Bengals have a solid pair of safeties in Reggie Nelson and George Iloka. But both are free agents after next season and Nelson will be 32. Collins is unquestionably the draft's best safety and has shown he can be very good coming up and playing in the box. He's not a perfect coverage safety by any means, but he's also not a big liability.
In one respect, I get the argument. We'd be floored if the Bengals let Iloka leave for free agency after next season but Nelson could encourage a bidding war that Cincinnati may want to avoid... especially involving someone who would surpass their mid-30s by the end of his next contract (assuming a four-year deal). Draft a safety today to develop for tomorrow. Makes sense. They've been doing that at cornerback and defensive end over the last 3-4 years.
On the other hand, it's an argument made for argument's sake.
Let's go back to our position review from Sunday:
Nelson finished the season first on the team in interceptions (four) and second in tackles (91) and passes defensed (12). Opposing quarterbacks attempted 48 passes against Nelson, completing 29 for 292 yards receiving. Nelson allowed one touchdown and generated an opposing quarterback rating of 46.8. In discussions asking who the best safety is in the game, Nelson won't get consideration. He shouldn't... he's not one of the best in the game. However, he's a staple of this team's defense and routinely makes plays for Cincinnati.
Pro Football Focus graded George Iloka as the team's top-performing defensive player with an overall grade of +9.4. He also ranked second in run defense (+3.6) and pass coverage (+3.9). Opposing quarterbacks targeted Iloka's assignments 33 times this season, completing only 44 passes (42.4 percent) for 257 yards and only 67 YAC. Iloka didn't allow a touchdown during the regular season in 2014 and opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 42.1.
There's no reason to believe that their production will slip within the next 2-3 years, which is more than enough time to address the position at a later date.