2012 NFL Draft: Positional Needs for the Cincinnati Bengals

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 29, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Positional Needs for the Cincinnati Bengals

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    Despite making the playoffs in 2011, the Cincinnati Bengals have major holes to fill. With nine picks in the NFL draft, including two in the first round, the Bengals have an opportunity to do just that.

    Here are the biggest positional needs for Cincinnati in each round and the player who would be the preferred selection.

Round 1: Cornerback and Safety

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    The Bengals could easily go with a guard here, either David DeCastro or Cordy Glenn. Cincinnati obviously needs help on the interior line, but it would make more sense to wait to draft a guard.

    You can find a lot of talent at the position much deeper in the draft.

    That's why the Bengals should shore up the secondary in the first round and draft a corner and safety. They need a partner for Leon Hall. Safety is a major concern as well.

    With NFL rules slanted in favor of the passing game, it's vital that Cincinnati has a great pass defense

    Preferred Players

    17: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

    21: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

Round 2: Wide Receiver

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    Andy Dalton and A.J. Green look to be the next great quarterback-wide receiver combo in Cincinnati, following in the footsteps of Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco.

    There's a good crop of free agents at the position this year, but wide receiver is still something the Bengals should address in the draft.

    With the talented receivers available in the free-agent class, Cincinnati doesn't need to worry about selecting a wideout in the first round. They can definitely wait until the second, third or even fourth round.

    But drafting a receiver in the second round would give them the best chance to get a player who can have an impact next season.

    Preferred Player

    Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

Round 3: Running Back

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    Cedric Benson appears to be on his way out of Cincinnati.

    Even had he stayed, it's likely the Bengals would have drafted a running back. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has intimated that he prefers the running-back-by-committee approach.

    It's doubtful that Trent Richardson will fall to the Bengals at No. 17, and the need isn't so glaring that they should trade up to get him. Lamar Miller also has been mentioned as a possible first-round choice.

    But the best solution is to sign a free agent like Michael Bush and draft a running back here.

    Preferred Player

    LaMichael James, RB, Oregon

Round 4: Offensive Guard

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    Now would be the time to shore up the interior offensive line.

    According to Football Outsiders, Cincinnati had one of the worst interior run-blocking units in the NFL last season.

    It's obviously a serious need.

    However, by waiting to draft a guard, the Bengals are able to fill other positional needs while still getting a possible starter at guard.

    There are plenty of examples of Pro Bowl guards who were drafted in the later rounds.

    Preferred Player

    Lucas Nix, OG, Pittsburgh

Round 5: Middle Linebacker and Center

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    The Bengals aren't in desperate need of a middle linebacker, but they definitely need depth.

    You might be able to raise questions about whether Rey Maualuga can be consistent enough at inside linebacker, but no one disagrees that the Bengals can't go into the season with Dan Skuta as the back-up.

    Drafting a middle linebacker here opens up the competition a little bit.

    With the other pick, the Bengals can look to upgrade or at least add depth to the interior line.

    Having already gone after a guard, center is the target.

    Preferred Players

    17: Chris Galippo, MLB, USC

    21: David Molk, C, Michigan

Round 6: Defensive Tackle

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    Some mock drafts have the Bengals taking a defensive tackle in the first round, but they can live with what they've got if they can re-sign Pat Sims.

    Sims and Domata Peko aren't the best combination in the NFL, but they are good enough.

    Much like inside linebacker, the team does need to add depth.

    Nick Hayden can't be relied on should Peko or Sims go down.

    If the Bengals can't or choose not to re-sign Sims, then defensive tackle should immediately shoot up their list of draft needs.

    Preferred Player

    Jaye Howard, DT, Florida

Round 7: Outside Linebacker

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    With Round 7, you're more than likely not going to get much.

    Going back to 2007, here are  the players drafted by Cincinnati in the seventh round: Dan Santucci, Chinedum Ndukwe, Angelo Craig, Mario Urrutia, Fui Vakapuna, Clinton McDonald, Freddie Brown, Reggie Stephens, Korey Lindsey and Jay Finley.

    Only Ndukwe ever spent significant time on the field for Cincinnati.

    Manny Lawson is a free agent, and even if the Bengals re-sign him, they should look to draft an outside linebacker here.

    Preferred Player

    Tank Carder, OLB, TCU