Cincinnati Bengals Team Needs: Draft Wrap Up
Cincinnati Bengals Team Needs: Draft Wrap Up
After sticking true to their draft board and keeping all of their original picks, the Cincinnati Bengals finished the 2016 NFL Draft weekend by adding seven new players to the team. As one of very few teams to do this, the Bengals were not only able to fill needs at key positions, but they were also fortunate enough to get some early-round talent to fall to them in the later rounds.
However, there are still a few areas where this playoff-caliber team can look to bolster itself to prepare for a deep postseason run.
An already big need for the Bengals become an even more glaring hole for the team, as the front office and coaching staff failed to address the safety position until the seventh round of the draft, when they selected former Illinois defensive back Clayton Fejedelem. It is unlikely that Fejedelem sees extended time anywhere outside of special teams as a rookie, meaning the loss of Reggie Nelson in free agency has only become more magnified.
Nelson was a big-time playmaker in the back-end of the Cincinnati secondary last season, as the veteran tied for the league lead in interceptions (eight), while also adding 77 tackles, 14 passes defended, and two fumble recoveries. Now, with just four years of NFL experience between Nelson's two likeliest replacements - Shawn Williams and Derron Smith - the Bengals may have to get creative to find a companion for newly re-signed George Iloka in the secondary.
Luckily for Cincinnati, there is a ton of youth at both the cornerback and safety position, as seven players in the secondary have been drafted since 2012. While there is a good chance one of these young guns can fill a huge need, the void left by Nelson could also be this team's achilles heal.
2. Wide Receiver
Arguably the team's biggest pre-draft need remains an area of concern for the Bengals, as they continue to look for ways to replace Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu - two of the team's biggest playmakers from a season ago. The team added free agent veteran Brandon LaFell and addressed the position in the second round of the draft, selecting former Pittsburgh receiver Tyler Boyd, and the sixth round, by selecting former Mississippi receiver Cody Core.
While the coaching staff will certainly hope Boyd can help fill the void(s) left by the departures of Jones and Sanu, this area of need is still not satisfied. Boyd should step right in and play in the slot, acting as a solid possession option for quarterback Andy Dalton, but question marks outside of Boyd and star receiver A.J. Green remain.
Calling LaFell's season last year in Foxborough with the Patriots a disaster would be an understatement, as he totaled his second-fewest career receiving yards, finished tied for seventh in the NFL in dropped passes - dropping over 8 percent of his targets - and failed to reach the end zone. Core is more of a developmental project, and outside of Brandon Tate, who is primary used as a return specialist, the Bengals have next to nothing as far as NFL production at the receiver position.
Green, Boyd and tight end Tyler Eifert should see plenty of targets in this new revamped offense, but the lack of a weapon opposite Green on the outside could lead to more double coverage for the perennial Pro Bowl wideout. Cincinnati should not be satisfied with the current state of the team's receiving corps.
3. Defensive Line
Outside of the previous two positions, it takes some serious knit-picking to label the Bengals' defensive line as an area of need. However, football is won in the trenches, and after Cincinnati put for a ton of effort into building up the offensive line - five selections since 2012 - the defense line could still use a little depth.
The team did a fantastic job of maximizing on talent when the drafted former Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings, who was widely thought to go on either Day 1 or Day 2 of the draft, in the fourth round. However, there is always the opportunity to add more depth.
Cincinnati lost defense end Wallace Gilbery to the Detroit Lions in free agency and also has two players who are expected to be key parts of the defensive tackle rotation - next to All-Pro Geno Atkins - over the age of 30: Domata Peko and Pat Sims. On the outside, opposite Pro Bowl defensive end Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson had just five sacks last season.
While the Bengals' defensive line should still produce at an solid level this season, there should always be an opportunity to look to add depth in the trenches.
Ryan Landolph is a Featured Analyst for Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter at @Ryan_Landolph or contact him by email at email@example.com.