Previewing What Cincinnati Bengals Will Be Looking for at the Scouting Combine
The Cincinnati Bengals head to the 2014 Scouting Combine with luxury on the mind.
With the team so deep at most spots, Marvin Lewis and his staff could go any number of positions in the opening round of the draft. This notion holds true when one simply looks at the 2013 class, where tight end Tyler Eifert was the selection in the first round.
No immediate needs come to mind, but the staff's continued forward-looking approach to the draft is sure to once again be on display. As is the case every year, impressions of prospects will be shaped at the Scouting Combine both on the field and off in interviews.
The following slideshow will detail, in no particular order, what the Bengals will look for at the big event.
Note: The full list of prospects who have received invites can be found at NFL.com.
Injuries rocked Cincinnati's offensive line last season. With Anthony Collins all but gone in free agency after a stellar showing at left tackle, the Bengals will hit draft season with offensive line on the mind.
A priority is likely offensive tackle, regardless of whether or not Collins returns. Andrew Whitworth is getting up there in age, and the Bengals are in a position to use a high pick to insulate themselves from injuries and the inevitable decline.
Notre Dame's Zack Martin is one intriguing name who will be in attendance. His versatility to play guard or tackle would be a welcome addition in Cincinnati, and he figures to last on the board until the Bengals pick.
Morgan Moses out of Virginia Tech is a name who has seen his stock rocket upward as of late. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller confirmed as much in late January:
One thing I heard a lot this week: Morgan Moses is gonna go late 1st in May.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 25, 2014
Judging by film, Moses looks to be an instant starter and can do much to solidify his first-round status at the combine.
All things considered, the Bengals do not go to the event necessarily in search of an immediate starter, but at least one with major upside who can be groomed to start in a few years.
Center is an interesting position for the Cincinnati Bengals going into draft season.
While not a huge need, the Bengals could still seize the opportunity to upgrade at a position that was clearly the weak point on a very, very good unit in 2013.
If the Bengals want to grab an immediate starter, Arkansas' Travis Swanson is the only viable option in this year's class. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller concurs once more:
@davidbry123 Travis Swanson from Arkansas is.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) December 21, 2013
Swanson is an athletic mauler who may not last long in the second round, so Cincinnati would have to strike fast.
Other names the Bengals will likely keep a close eye on at the combine will be Florida State's Bryan Stork and Oklahoma's Gabe Ikard, but neither are starter material right off the bat.
Either way, the selection of a center at some point should not shock fans, but another year of Kyle Cook will not doom the Bengals.
Outside of offensive tackle, corner is the other glaring need for the Cincinnati Bengals as they hit the Scouting Combine.
While veterans Leon Hall, Terence Newman and Adam Jones make for a sound starting trio, injuries the past few seasons have put a serious strain on the roster's depth. Brandon Ghee's impending free agency will not help matters, either.
Another full offseason of work for Dre Kirkpatrick will do some good, but adding a talented player who can contribute now when injuries occur and eventually start on every down seems like a move the staff would make.
At the combine, the potential fits are endless. TCU's Jason Verrett and Ohio State's Bradley Roby will be in attendance and likely fall in the first.
Mid-round talents such as Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Pierre Desir out of Lindenwood will also get a look from the staff thanks to their physicality and measurements, as both come in at more than 6-feet tall.
The potential here is truly endless for Cincinnati, and more than one corner may be selected when the draft rolls around.
Defensive end is a key cog in the Cincinnati Bengals defense, as the unit for years has relied on a deep rotation to keep rushers fresh and apply consistent pressure on quarterbacks.
With Michael Johnson on his way to free agency and no true hope of him sticking around once the market drives his price up, the Bengals will keep a watchful eye on the position at the combine.
While it would be unwise to rule out a pass-rusher in the early rounds, especially if a guy like Kony Ealy falls, it is hard to imagine the Bengals invest in the position so high again after taking Margus Hunt in the second last year.
That said, some intriguing names will be at the combine. A guy like West Virginia's Will Clarke is almost a clone of Johnson and will be available in the mid-rounds. Another guy with loads of potential is South Florida's Aaron Lynch, who would thrive in a rotation.
With Hunt, Wallace Gilberry, Robert Geathers and Carlos Dunlap still around, the Bengals will be on the prowl for complementary rushers with tremendous upside. The combine will provide plenty.
Want a real sleeper in the first round for the Cincinnati Bengals?
Look no further than the defensive tackle position.
With Domata Peko's contract expiring after the 2014 season and nobody having stepped up next to Geno Atkins yet as a replacement, the Bengals could very well find themselves in a position to draft a top tackle in the first.
While it may be a long shot, Notre Dame's Louis Nix, who comes in at north of 340 pounds, would be the perfect complement to Atkins on the interior of the line.
There are other options such as Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson, but tackle has the look of a situation where the best player available falls in the Bengals' lap early and they pull the trigger. The combine will give the staff a great idea of how to shape their board in order to be prepared for such an instance.
There are not a large amount of options for the Cincinnati Bengals in the draft when it comes to immediate contributors or rookies who would steal a roster spot from a guy like George Iloka.
That said, Cincinnati will certainly keep an eye on the position with Taylor Mays headed to free agency.
In a perfect world, Louisville's Calvin Pryor falls and Cincinnati finally pulls the trigger to shore up a safety spot for years. Unfortunately, the Bengals have not placed a premium on the spot across from Reggie Nelson and will likely continue this trend.
But it takes one strong performance (and impression at the combine) from a Dion Bailey or Craig Loston to entice the Bengals into a selection in the mid-rounds.
Believe it or not, the Cincinnati Bengals may look to add another running back via the 2014 draft.
With BenJarvus Green-Ellis on his way to free agency after the 2014 season, the Bengals may want to invest in another bruiser if they are married to the idea of Giovani Bernard continuing to be part of a committee approach.
In that vein, the Bengals could look at a guy like Andre Williams, James Wilder or Tyler Gaffney to add and groom in the next year or so.
While far from the biggest need, the Bengals have the depth to invest if they like what they see at the combine and the board falls their way.
Here is where things get fun.
The Cincinnati Bengals are not replacing Andy Dalton. He has one year left on his deal and an opportunity to take the proverbial next step.
But the staff in the Queen City have clearly had an eye on the future when it comes to drafting, and a potential successor to Dalton is not out of the question for them in the 2014 draft.
The list of potential selections who will not cost the Bengals a first-round pick (at least going into the combine, where players can improve their stock) is a lengthy one. Names such as David Fales, Jimmy Garoppolo, AJ McCarron, Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray all have suitable skill sets that suggest strong upside if given time to develop.
That is the key for the Bengals—find a prospect they like at the combine, grab him as insurance in a favorable spot and add another quarterback next offseason if Dalton fails. The best franchises insulate themselves from future mistakes at critical positions, and the Bengals must approach the combine with this mindset.