Cincinnati Bengals Needs: Pre-Draft
Cincinnati Bengals Team Needs
The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC North last year with a record of 12-4, but their division rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, cut their playoff stint short. Battling in the AFC North, the Bengals will need to make the right moves to stay atop the division. With the NFL draft right around the corner, here are some of Cincinnati’s biggest needs.
1. Wide Receiver Depth
Two of Cincinnati’s biggest losses this offseason were both wide receivers. The Bengals lost both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency this offseason. Jones, who accounted for 816 yards and four touchdowns on 65 receptions last season, signed with the Detroit Lions. Sanu hauled in 33 receptions for 394 yards in 2015, but he is now with the Atlanta Falcons.
The Bengals have started to patch up their receiving corp by signing Brandon LaFell from the New England Patriots. LaFell played in 11 games last year, tallying up 515 yards on 37 receptions. His best season came in 2014, when he had 953 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
Even though Cincinnati brought in LaFell, the Bengals still need to add receiving depth. A.J. Green is the clear number one receiver, but there is no other top-notch receiver on the roster. The trio of Green, LaFell and a first-round receiver in this year’s draft is an appealing thought.
2. Defensive Line Depth
Both Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap represented the Bengals’ defensive line in the Pro Bowl. This position group is not the biggest need, but it is a need. Dunlap and Atkins led Cincinnati in sacks, with 13.5 and 11, respectively. These two held down the line expertly, but there were no stand out players behind them.
Michael Johnson and Domata Peko were the Bengals’ two other starting defensive linemen, and they each had decent years. Each of them had five sacks last year, but neither of them had more than 42 tackles. Johnson is expected to be a starter for Cincinnati next year. Peko is in the tail end of his career and he is in a contract year, so it may be wise to draft his successor. It is also not a bad idea to draft a rotation guy to supplement with Johnson and Dunlap at the defensive end positions.
Another huge loss by the Bengals this offseason was when Reggie Nelson signed with the Oakland Raiders. Nelson tied for the league-lead in interceptions, coming down with eight on the season. He also added 77 tackles, two fumble recoveries and 14 passes defended against. Cincinnati now needs to try and replace his production.
Shawn Williams is currently slated to start in the place of Nelson, alongside George Iloka, who re-signed with the Bengals this offseason. Williams accounted for 32 tackles and two interceptions in 2015, so he is familiar with the defense. It is up to the Bengals to decide if they think Williams is a starting caliber safety, or if they want to bring in someone through the draft.
Erick Starkey is a Staff Writer for the AFC North News Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @estark22