The Cincinnati Bengals are approaching a crucial 2013 NFL draft with a solid foundation already in place on the roster. How each round plays out next April will determine whether or not the team will remain competitive for the long run.
There is a lot to like in Cincinnati already. The past few drafts have been home runs, but the team appears to need one more before it can make a serious postseason run.
Cincinnati has a few specific needs on both sides of the football that must be addressed in 2013. Luckily for the Bengals, the impending draft class is littered with talented prospects at each position.
Keep in mind that the Bengals have made a variety of trades that impact the draft order in 2013. It obtained extra second and sixth round picks from the Oakland Raiders (Carson Palmer) and New England Patriots (Chad Johnson), respectively. Cincinnati also traded away its seventh-round pick for safety Taylor Mays.
With that said, let's take a look at a prospect the Bengals should consider with each pick come April.
The Bengals currently have a developing problem at the defensive end position. Both Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson have been great this season, but Johnson is a free agent when the offseason rolls around.
Cincinnati lacks a third pass rusher that can have a rotational impact on every game. That's where Dion Jordan comes in for the Bengals.
With the most talented defensive ends gone early in the first round, Jordan is the most talented left on the board by a mile. At 6'7" 240 pounds, Jordan needs some more bulk to play every down, but we've heard that before with Johnson.
Jordan can rush the passer efficiently from the defensive end spot, or wreak havoc from a linebacker position—exactly what the Bengals are missing defensively.
Things are looking horrible for the Oakland Raiders this year, which is nothing but a good thing for the Bengals' second-round pick.
Oakland's mediocrity could translate into the Bengals having a shot at Giovani Bernard, arguably the best running back available in the draft.
Bernard is a 5'10", 210-pound versatile threat that fits the Cincinnati offense perfectly. He's a strong runner that is shockingly elusive in the open field and is outstanding at catching passes out of the backfield. He also has experience returning kicks.
Cincinnati needs a back like Bernard and must pull the trigger if he is available here.
Before Bengals fans let out a collective groan at the thought of another USC safety, rest easy knowing that T.J. McDonald is no Taylor Mays.
McDonald lacks the elite speed Mays possesses, which helps him because he won't overpursue in the insane way Mays does. He is also much better in coverage and naturally has an ability to play man or zone.
While he played free safety at USC, McDonald would fit in well with the Bengals at strong safety. Nate Clements is aging fast, and the Mays experiment should be all but over.
McDonald is just as physical as Mays, and at times makes some of the same mistakes. That can be alleviated by asking him to cover less when switched.
McDonald is of great value here, and the Bengals have to consider him.
The Bengals need to find a weakside linebacker in the draft, and Sean Porter fits that bill. While Vontaze Burfict has played great this season, picking up a natural will allow Burfict to slide inside or contribute elsewhere.
At one time, Porter was a talented pass rusher, but that changed when Texas A&M switched to a 4-3. The change worked out, however, in that Porter proved he was an effective all-around player suited for the position.
With the linebacking prowess of the Bengals coaching staff, Porter could start as a rookie if the team needs him to, and in the third round he has ridiculous value.
Marc Anthony is an under-appreciated cornerback for California, which should allow him to slip into the fourth round.
At 6'0" and 200 pounds, Anthony is as physical as they come at the position. He is still improving against the pass, but is athletic enough despite his size to adjust to most passes.
For Cincinnati, Anthony makes sense as a depth pick and special teams contributor with the position aging fast. Anthony may never find a starting role, but he's a great depth pickup that will reinforce an at-times questionable position.
The Cincinnati coaching staff absolutely loves massive offensive linemen, so Travis Bond would be an ideal fit. At 6'7" and 340 pounds, Bond could be critical depth along the offensive line.
Bond is a mammoth that terrorizes defenses in the running game. He makes sense for the organization with both Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler starting, with no real effective backup in place.
It's hard to tell how well Bond will develop, but for a team that doesn't have many needs, he's a safe pick in a late round that will do nothing but reinforce an already stellar unit.
The Bengals have a history of taking players with past problems, and Mathieu is not an exception to that rule. While there is an outside chance Mathieu could be selected higher by one courageous team, if Vontaze Burfict could fall this far, so too can Mathieu.
Mathieu is an electric special teams player, which is what Cincinnati could use him for at this point. He doesn't offer much of anything at the cornerback position given his 5'9" stature.
Yet another reclamation project for Marvin Lewis, who has done pretty well at those recently.
Bruce Taylor falls this far directly as a result of a serious foot injury, but at his point he is an outstanding gamble to be taking.
Taylor was a productive inside linebacker at Virginia Tech, and all signs point to him being a productive pro if he can stay healthy.
Rey Maualuga has been playing much better as of late and Vontaze Burfict could still take the inside slot, but it never hurts to have a talented backup like Taylor waiting in the wings should one falter or be injured.