The Cincinnati Bengals find themselves in an awfully familiar position come the new year: at home, watching the playoffs from the couch.
So familiar, they have enjoyed the same 19 of the last 20 years.
After a year marred with injuries, excuses, and well, a lot of losing, only the most optimistic of optimists, one with, forget a glass half full, but a full glass, and not a negative Nancy in them could pull something positive out of this mess.
But here are the Bengals, sitting pretty with the sixth pick in the NFL Draft.
Huh? Sitting pretty?
Well, yeah, the Bengals 4-3-1 record in the second half of the season was able to save Mike Brown millions of dollars from what could have been a top three pick.
So now, Brown, head coach Marvin Lewis, and general manager, wait, the Bengals don't have one...
Anyways, with the sixth pick, the Bengals have numerous, viable options to take the next step toward building a contender (rebuilding year seven):
Needs: OL, DL
Addressing the needs
1. Andre Smith, OT, Alabama; Height: 6'4" Weight: 330
Andre Smith has been the big man on campus, literally, ever since he arrived at Alabama. As the first ever prospect to win Alabama's Mr. Football award, Smith entered the program with high expectations, but he exceeded them all. Smith has all the abilities to play tackle in the NFL and he is almost unanimously recognized as the best at his position in the draft. Chances are he will go higher than six, but if he is there, the selection will be a no-brainer.
Red flag: discipline (suspended from Sugar Bowl)
2. Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi; Height: 6'6" Weight: 325
Michael Oher came into Mississippi also as a highly regarded prospect, yet not nearly as much as Smith. Oher is extremely durable, as he has started 34 straight games at tackle, after heading into college as a guard. He is an excellent pass blocker, but even clears more holes as a run blocker. He also has incredible strength. Oher has a fantastic story about growing up as one of 13 children to a drug addicted mother.
Red flag: none
3. Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia; Height: 6'5" Weight: 310
Eugene Monroe is the least well known of the tackles in the draft. However, he may be the most talented, when on the field. Monroe has battled injuries his entire career at Virginia, suffering knee injuries in 2006 and 2007. He has exceptional blocking skills and athleticism for a lineman.
Red flag: durability
If he is there, take him
1. Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech; Height: 6'2" Weight: 210
Michael Crabtree is far and away the most talented prospect in the draft class. He has a knack for making big plays. Crabtree has magnets for hands and has excellent abilities to run after the catch. With Chad Johnson a likely trade candidate and T.J. Houshmandzadeh not under contract for next season, the receiver position may be a need for the Bengals. And if Crabtree somehow slips to number six, he must be selected. (Will he get past number one?)
Reach for the stars
1. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri; Height: 6'0" Weight: 200
Jeremy Maclin is an intriguing prospect. He has an amazing combination of speed and quickness. One thing the Bengals lack severely are playmakers, and Maclin is just that. He is dangerous after the catch, and he is also a feared punt returner. Maclin could add another element to Carson Palmer's arsenal.
2. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia; Height: 5'10" Weight: 210
Knowshon Moreno is a very talented running back. Just youtube the highlight of him leaping over defenders. Some think the Bengals found their running back by way of the rejuvenated Cedric Benson. However, Moreno's speed and ability to make people miss makes him an attractive pick.
Are you kidding, Mike Brown?
1. Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State, Height: 6'1" Weight: 235
Beanie Wells is undoubtedly a first round draft choice, and is most certainly the second best back in the draft. However, the Bengals have not had the best experiences selecting Big Ten running backs. After all, few have. However, owner Mike Brown has a soft spot in his heart for the Big Ten, specifically the home state Buckeyes. If Brown wishes to select a running back, one who has battled injuries is not a favorable pick. The Bengals have only seen their last two early round selected running backs skills deteriorate due to injury (Chris Perry, Kenny Irons).
What I would do...
Trade the picks
The best way to rebuild, or to start a new five year plan every year like the Bengals, is to trade picks for picks. Just ask Bill Parcells, who acquired many extra draft picks in last year's draft. Now, his team, the Dolphins, are going to the playoffs.
While most of the aforementioned prospects would fill needs or add elements to the offense, the Bengals need quantity more than anything else.
By the looks of it, the Bengals don't need first round draft picks anyway. Most of their first round draft picks since 2000 are no longer on the team.
Some of their best picks have been made in the second round, or the seventh (Houshmandzadeh).
The Bengals have many needs to fill. But as one looks around the league, the teams who win the battle in the trenches tend to win the most football games.
So, if the Bengals are looking to rebuild, the offensive line is a perfect place to start.
The team ended the season with only two still starting on the offensive line who was there on opening week.
The name of the squad's back-up center sums it all up: Crummey.