With Michael Johnson back in the fold at defensive end, the Bengals attain more leeway in the early rounds of the draft.
The Cincinnati Bengals have focused on re-signing its own core of players in free agency. Instead of making a huge splash on big-name free agents, Cincinnati has brought back key players from 2012.
Cincinnati has addressed needs on special teams as well as on defense so far after the first week of free agency.
Also, news recently surfaced that the Bengals are close to re-signing Rey Maualuga and Adam Jones (via Bengals.com). The same report states that the team is also keeping the re-singing of Terence Newman as a high priority.
One big question left is that of right tackle Andre Smith. His asking price of $9 million per year has not found him any suitors. This could bring the Bengals back in play once Smith lowers his price tag.
It appears that the Bengals have solidified the defensive end position and are beginning to shore up the cornerback position as well.
Questions still remain about the right tackle and linebacker positions. However, these look like they can still be solved through free agency.
It looks like the safety position will remain a need heading into the draft. The Bengals were also unable to sign a running back and should be looking at the position early in the draft as well.
Let's take a look at what the Bengals' 2013 NFL Draft could potentially look like after assessing team needs during the free agency period.
All prospect combine information courtesy of CBSSports.com.
Matt Elam would be supplanted as the starter at the safety position for the Bengals.
So far, the Bengals have not filled the safety position . With Bengals defensive backs coach Mark Carrier running drills at Florida's pro day, this would be a great place to begin.
The Bengals fill a major need here. A true strong safety, Matt Elam would start immediately alongside free safety Reggie Nelson.
Elam would bring a huge amount of physicality to the Bengals defense. At 5'10", 208 pounds, Elam uses all of his frame to deliver a lights-out hit.
Versatility is a word generally used to describe Elam. He is no stranger to walking up to the box in run support, dropping back to single-high safety coverage or sliding up to cover slot receivers.
Also with a big motor, Elam is a high-effort player with great explosiveness to be a sideline-to-sideline player. He has also been a great special teams player as well during his collegiate years.
Johnthan Banks would immediately improve the depth of younger cornerbacks on the Bengals roster and bolster the position for years.
Even with the Bengals looking to bring back both Jones and Newman in free agency this year, the cornerback position has an ongoing need for youth and talent.
Johnthan Banks could very well slide to the beginning of the second round which would be a stellar pickup for the Bengals. At 6'2", 185 pounds, Banks has the perfect build for a corner at the NFL level.
Being very lanky and agile, Banks is very good at redirecting himself into better position to cover a wide receiver. He is also known as a ballhawk and has great hands to pluck the ball out of the air. Banks is very good in run support as well and does not avoid contact.
With last year's first round draft selection Dre Kirkpatrick still adjusting to the NFL and only playing in five games last season, corner still becomes a glaring need.
If Banks and Kirkpatrick could develop together, they could form one of the better cornerback duos in the NFL.
Joseph Randle is exactly what the Bengals offense needs. An explosive back that can complement the hard-running BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
One position that the Bengals kicked the tires on in free agency is running back. There was interest from Cincinnati in several free-agent running backs this offseason. However, none of those prospects panned out.
This leaves the Bengals searching to fill this need via the draft. With the Bengals latter second round selection, Joseph Randle should be ripe for the picking.
Randle, at 6'0", 204 pounds, is exactly the explosive running back that Cincinnati has been lacking for quite some time.
He has great straight-line speed which makes it very difficult to catch him from behind in the open field. Randle has a narrow frame, but is a workout warrior and has added bulk in the weight room.
A complete running back, Randle can lower his pads to run over defenders just as well as he can run past them. He always finished his run by keeping good pad level and momentum on his side. He will constantly keep his legs churning for extra yardage after contact.
One great attribute for Randle is that he is also a great receiver out of the backfield. He has soft hands and can be relied upon to make difficult catches in coverage.
Randle would make a perfect complement to BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the Bengals backfield. This would certainly be a very dynamic pairing that would serve the purpose of keeping the offense balance and defenses guessing.
Maliciah Goodman would be yet another great addition for the rotation at the defensive end position.
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is known for his thirst for pass rushers. Even with the re-signings of Gilberry and Geathers as well as the franchise tagging of Johnson, the need and want for this rotation will still be there during the draft.
Malliciah Goodman—6'4", 276 pounds—would fit in perfectly at the left defensive end rotation on the Bengals defensive line. He will be a slight project at first due to his raw-yet-unrefined talent. Once Goodman can learn the proper technique of hand placement for defensive ends, he could be a giant force on the line.
Goodman is very comparable to Michael Johnson when looking at physique. He possesses broad shoulders, long arms (36") and huge hands (11"). He plays with a fiery attitude and can attack with a great first step.
He has a knack for using his big arms to shed blockers and strip the football from ball carriers. He is also great in run support—he sets the edge nicely and is known for holding contain.
With the addition of Goodman, the Bengals would be able to make easier decisions about a potential long-term deal for Johnson and the contract extension of Carlos Dunlap.
Zaviar Gooden is one of the fastest prospects at the linebacker position this year. He is raw, but has great athletic ability and a high ceiling.
There is no doubt that linebacker remains a huge concern for the Bengals heading into the 2013 season. Even with the potential re-signing of Maualuga, the Bengals lack serious depth at the position.
It just may happen that the Bengals do not have a linebacker as their best player available until the middle rounds of the draft. This may not turn out to be a bad thing—the Bengals have been great at finding mid-round gems in previous drafts.
This year could possible have a mid-round gem at the linebacker position in Missouri's Zaviar Gooden.
Gooden weighs in at 6'2", 234 pounds and should be a weak side linebacker at the NFL level due to his long, athletic frame.
He has shown that he is not afraid to get physical at the line and will fight off blockers to get to the ball carrier. He will also close down gaps nicely and stay in position without over pursuing a ball carrier.
After having unspectacular seasons as a starter in Missouri's linebacker corps, Gooden broke out with amazing combine workouts. He ran a 4.47 40-yard dash which is among the fastest of all of this year's linebacker class. At his pro day his vertical reached 38"—4" better than his combine attempt.
It is fairly difficult where to project Gooden right now because each team will have him valued differently. He should not slide past the fourth round, but could be considered to be a third-round prospect by other teams.
If he does go in the fourth round where he is currently projected, he could be the steal of the draft for the Bengals.
Aaron Mellette will add nice depth to the wide receiver corps once he develops into the NFL level.
Last year, the Bengals spent two draft picks on wide receivers. They drafted Mohamed Sanu in the third round and Marvin Jones in the fifth. Both players saw playing time last season and both look to have bright futures with the club.
This still does not mean that the Bengals are set at wide receiver. Adding depth to a skill position is never a bad idea. Especially after the release of Armon Binns last season and allowing Brandon Tate to hit the free-agent market this season.
Aaron Mellette stands at 6'3" and weighs 217 pounds. He is not a burner, but did run a 4.54 40-yard dash at the combine. He has yet to work out during his pro day.
One thing that really stood out about Mellette during the combine workouts is that he proved to be a natural hands catcher. While running the gauntlet drill, Mellette was able to catch everything that came his way. The slapping sound of the football hitting his hands is a sound that only a natural hands-catching receiver could make.
During game-play, Mellette uses his big frame to block out defensive backs and position himself between the defender and the football. Mellette is also no stranger to go over the middle for the football and does not shy away from contact. He is also used as a very valuable red-zone target due to his size.
Mellette would not come in and push Sanu or Jones for their jobs, but he would certainly be another weapon for the Bengals aerial attack when used in the right instances.
Ricky Wagner is a force while run blocking. He needs to work on his pass protection to be an all-around tackle. He could make a solid backup at the right tackle position.
The Bengals currently have two offensive tackles on the free-agent market—Andre Smith and Dennis Roland. There is no telling how things will shake up in free agency at the position, so the Bengals could do good by drafting a prospect—even in the later rounds.
One prospect in the later rounds that could come with some nice value is Wisconsin's Ricky Wagner. At the NFL level, Wager would benefit at the right tackle position which is the side the Bengals are currently lacking.
Wager has great size for the position at 6'6" and 308 pounds. His stature continues to impress with his 34" arms which are long enough to fight off lankier defensive ends.
Known as a great run blocker but average in pass protection, Wager has been a solid starter throughout his years at Wisconsin.
At the NFL level, he will need to work on his technique as a pass protector if he were ever to break into a starting lineup. At this point, he would be a tremendous pick as a backup right tackle.
The Bengals would be able to coach Wager up to see exactly what his ceiling may be while he works behind a starter at the position.
Filling a need—even as a backup at the position—is a great draft strategy for the Bengals in the later rounds.
Sean Renfree has all the physical ability to be successful at the NFL level and was mentored in college by the same mind that developed the Manning brothers.
So far in free agency, the Bengals have lost former backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since then, they had veteran Josh Johnson in for a workout being that he is familiar with Jay Gruden's offensive scheme from his days in Tampa Bay.
However, Johnson came and went from Cincinnati without a contract and no rumors of one since. This means that the Bengals will deploy their scouts to find a suitable pro-level quarterback that can back up Andy Dalton via the draft.
With the Bengals final pick in this year's draft, they may have their guy in Duke quarterback Sean Renfree.
Renfree has great size and build to play quarterback at the NFL level—he stands at 6'3" and weighs 219 pounds. He has a very tall, filled-out frame typical of NFL passers.
A traditional drop-back passer, Renfree would do very well in the West Coast scheme of the Bengals. He has the ability to progress through his reads very nicely and has a very strong arm as well. This will allow him to take chances by squeezing a ball into tight coverage.
Renfree does not seem to play the quarterback position with any fear and has all the tools that could make him very capable at the NFL level. Developing Renfree behind Dalton could do wonders for this young prospect.