Cincinnati Bengals 2014 Mock Draft with Player Scouting Profiles
Last year's draft was a preview of what the Bengals are set to mostly do this year—grab talent for the future that does not necessarily have to contribute right away (although it never hurts).
For example, the team selected Margus Hunt last season with the understanding that franchise player Michael Johnson was likely to walk this offseason.
That sort of foresight is what has allowed the Bengals to build the current roster, and it is one that will be heavily in play this year.
The following slideshow is a seven-round mock based on Cincinnati's biggest needs, the understanding that Lewis and Co. will likely take the best player on the board at a given point and it comes complete with a prospect breakdown video of each selection.
Round 1: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
While many project Zack Martin as an offensive guard at the next level, that happens to be a bit of a problem area for the Cincinnati Bengals, too.
As NFL Network's Mike Mayock illustrates, via NFL.com on Twitter, Martin is certainly not a bad long-term solution at the spot:
The idea for Cincinnati is simple—there is a strong chance Anthony Collins leaves in free agency, which leaves a void on the edges of the line. Martin can come in and start right away in place of Clint Boling at left guard with the potential to move to the outside should the Bengals need him to do so in the coming years.
If not, a top-tier interior lineman in the first with Andy Dalton needing as much protection as possible is not a horrible idea.
Round 2: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Cornerback is an obvious area of need, but as is the theme with this mock, it's not necessarily an immediate one.
With Terence Newman, Leon Hall and Adam Jones still under contract and Dre Kirkpatrick still developing, there is not a lot of room to breathe for a new prospect.
Bradley Roby certainly needs that time to develop and learn from veterans after a collegiate season that saw his stock wildly dip.
Roby has jaw-dropping speed and fits what the Bengals do well. Outside of coverage ability, he also shows strong in run support. Give him a few years, and he may be able to pair with Kirkpatrick and form a starting duo.
Round 3: Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
There was a time when Missouri's Michael Sam was widely hailed as a first-round pick, but Kony Ealy has since taken his spot as the favorite Tigers' lineman to come off the board early.
As NFL.com points out, Sam did not do himself any favors at the Senior Bowl, where he was asked to work as a linebacker:
While a tad undersized to play on the line in a 4-3 scheme, the Cincinnati Bengals could use another rotational pass-rusher with strong upside. Sam can put on more mass in the coming years and potentially move into a starting role, and if not, he is still a strong value here as a situational player.
Round 4: David Fales, QB, San Jose State
David Fales is a prospect who could very well work his way into the first round of the 2014 draft if he remains on his current path.
Fales grabbed the attention of the football world to close the collegiate season with a jaw-dropping line against Fresno State, as CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman details:
David Fales: 27-32, 451 yards, 6 TD passes. It's still the FIRST HALF! On @CBSSportsNet— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) November 29, 2013
Fales then followed that up with a strong performance in the Senior Bowl, where he looked much better than big names such as Tajh Boyd and Derek Carr.
The Cincinnati Bengals need a sound backup behind Andy Dalton, so it's better to grab one with huge upside here than to continue wasting time with Josh Johnson (especially now with Jay Gruden gone).
While he will by no means take Dalton's job, Fales is a nice insurance policy should Dalton not work out in the final year of his deal. His presence by no means prohibits the Bengals from taking a quarterback in the 2015 draft, but his upside gives the team flexibility on how to address the most important position of all.
Round 5: De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
Big names such as Johnny Manziel get all the credit for being "polarizing" this year, but perhaps no prospect is a better example of the word than Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas.
Simply put, no one can get a read on how the NFL feels about the versatile Thomas, who projects to be a running back of the Dexter McCluster mold in his ability to rush or split out wide and create mismatches against linebackers.
Should Thomas not be valued highly by the NFL and take a tumble thanks to his inadequate size, the Cincinnati Bengals would be wise to scoop him up.
Make no mistake: The Bengals offense is crowded. But versatility is the name of the game this late, and with returner Brandon Tate on his way to free agency, the Bengals could use an electric, cheaper replacement.
Thomas can take over after Tate's departure and perhaps be one of the NFL's better returners. In a few years, if and when more talent leaves the roster (Perhaps Andrew Hawkins leaves soon?), Thomas will have learned the offense by then and will be able to step right in as a contributor.
Round 6: Antone Exum, DB, Virginia Tech
The annual joke in Cincinnati as of late is when veteran safety Chris Crocker will make his return to the Bengals via free agency.
That has to end, and a good way to do so is by grabbing a versatile defensive back like Antone Exum, who can double as a safety or a corner when asked.
While George Iloka looked solid last year after a few early season gaffes, the Bengals in recent years have consistently hit the middle of the season or a bit after and found themselves in a precarious injury situation at the back end of the defense.
Exum is a player who can help to mitigate these issues and provide some depth. His versatility, the key with these picks, makes the annual "sign Chris Crocker" event a thing of the past.
Round 7: Denicos Allen, LB/SS, Michigan State
The Cincinnati Bengals love their versatile defensive backs, and as they showed last year with Taylor Mays, they like a safety who can play back in coverage or come in as a linebacker in certain situations to stop the run.
Well, Mays is headed to free agency, and Denicos Allen will be available in the late parts of the draft.
Allen looks more like a safety than a strong side linebacker considering he stands at 5'11", so he can fill this vacant hybrid role well in the near future.
Linebacker is far from a need in Cincinnati with the likes of Emmanuel Lamur and Sean Porter set to return, as well as strong backups like J.K. Schaffer and Vincent Rey still around, but Allen is a developmental prospect who can fill multiple roles.
That is all a team can really ask for in the late rounds.