Cincinnati Bengals Mock Draft: 7-Round Predictions, Post Combine
The Cincinnati Bengals had a roller-coaster season in 2013. Many things went their way—some didn't. After finishing with an 11-5 record and topping the AFC North, the team still only managed to compete in one playoff game.
Cincinnati still has one of the deepest rosters in the league, and it should be expected to see the team back in the postseason hunt in 2014. There aren't really any glaring needs, but the Bengals could use an injection of youth in certain areas.
Now that the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine has concluded, and we have a better idea of what these prospects can bring to the table, let's take a look at an overview of what the Bengals' draft picks could look like this year.
All combine measurements and results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.
Round 1, Pick 24: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The most important position for the Bengals to upgrade is cornerback. A mix of aging veterans, inexperience and health concerns could prove deadly to this franchise if this unit is not addressed early in the draft.
Terence Newman has been a solid player; however, at 35 years of age, it's easy to speculate that he doesn't have much left in the tank. Adam Jones is 30 years old and won't be around forever, either.
Leon Hall is a fantastic corner; although, injuries continue to plague the veteran, as he has not been able to play a full 16-game season in over two years.
Dre Kirkpatrick shined when given the opportunity last season, but he is still very inexperienced and unproven.
Adding Jason Verrett to this positional unit would bring an injection of youth and physicality that is so important in today's pass-happy NFL.
At 5'9" and 189 pounds, Verrett isn't the largest cornerback in the draft. He does, however, make up for it with a good amount of physical play up on the line. He showcased his speed at the combine, running a 4.38-second 40-yard dash. One of his best attributes is being able to use that speed to shadow receivers and undercut routes.
Verrett has the size, speed and athleticism to add versatility to the back end of the Bengals defense, as he can play either outside or in the slot.
Round 2, Pick 23: Marcus Martin, C, USC
The Bengals need some competition at the center position. With all of the firepower that the team possesses on the offensive side of the ball, pass-protecting and run-blocking in the middle of the line has been atrocious.
To make matters worse, six of the Bengals' 16 games each season are against some very tough AFC North teams that make a living dominating in the trenches.
An upgrade from starting center Kyle Cook—who finished the 2013 season with a negative-4.8 grade from Pro Football Focus (subscribers link)—is necessary.
Marcus Martin has a perfect size and frame for the center position on the NFL level. At 6'3" and 320 pounds, he has the perfect build to stand up to tough divisional defenses.
He is more of a finesse-type center; however, he does have a great amount of strength—the trick will be getting it out of him.
For his size, Martin is athletic and doesn't have trouble getting to the second level quickly to help block for the run. He has a good amount of intelligence and is rarely caught out of position. He could come in and challenge for a starting position right away.
Round 3, Pick 24: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Andy Dalton was impressive at times over the 2013 season. His 4,296 passing yards and 33 touchdown passes were both single-season records for the Bengals. However, his mistakes did not go unnoticed.
Dalton also threw a career-high 20 interceptions during the regular season. He made more crucial mistakes during the playoffs against the San Diego Chargers that essentially took the Bengals out of the game.
Adding Aaron Murray to the roster with a third-round selection wouldn't mean that he is the absolute heir apparent for Dalton. However, he would be able to push Dalton during training camp and perhaps light a fire under the incumbent quarterback that he has been lacking.
Should Dalton struggle, Murray is very well suited for the Bengals' scheme. He is a decisive decision-maker and flourishes by using his quick release on short to intermediate routes—a perfect skill set for a West Coast offense.
At 6'1" and 207 pounds, Murray isn't exactly a huge quarterback; however, he is nimble in the pocket and can show that he can escape pressure when necessary.
Murray did not work at the combine due to his ongoing recovery from an ACL injury.
Round 4, Pick 23: Craig Loston, SS, LSU
Cincinnati has been searching for a safety to pair with Reggie Nelson for a long time—with disappointing results. Last season, George Iloka got the nod; however, he was inconsistent all season. He'd make an occasional fantastic play but follow it up by looking lost on the next one.
The Bengals did draft Shawn Williams in the third round of the 2013 draft; although, the starting role was his to lose during last year's training camp—and he lost it. The jury is still out on whether or not he will be able to contribute down the road.
Craig Loston has extensive experience starting at LSU. He flourished as a junior alongside fellow safety Eric Reid. His production fell off a bit as a senior given that he didn't have much of a supporting cast around him.
Loston stands at 5'11" and weighs 217 pounds. He has a thick, compact frame, which helps him be one of the most physical defensive backs in this year's draft. He plays very well up in the box in run support and quickly crashes the flat when covering a running back out of the backfield.
A vocal leader, Loston would add a good deal of competition to a very talented Bengals defense. He may not start immediately but would give Iloka and Williams a run for their money during training camp.
Round 5, Pick 24: Telvin Smith, OLB, Florida State
The Bengals have shown in years past that they love speedy linebackers (see: Moch, Dontay). They have a need at the outside linebacker position this year and will look to grab another speedster at some point in the draft.
James Harrison only played limited snaps last year in Cincinnati, and it can be assumed that 2014—the final year of his contract—will be his last with the Bengals.
Telvin Smith ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash of any linebacker at the combine with a time of 4.52 seconds. He always showed great instincts while at Florida State, using his speed and nose for the football to quickly wrap up and take down ball-carriers.
At 6'3" and 218 pounds, he will have to bulk up his thin frame a bit to withstand the impact on the NFL level. He would be an instant contributor on special teams, and upon adding some girth, could find himself on the field in certain defensive packages in 2014.
Round 6, Pick 23: Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
This could be the steal of the draft for the Bengals. The need for depth and youth at the cornerback position was already discussed, so let's get down to business here.
Aaron Colvin has the body and technique to become of the NFL's most physical corners. At a stout 5'11" and 177 pounds, Colvin is built to lay down some hard hits while in man coverage and can withstand the heavy contact.
Colvin already possesses NFL-caliber technique and adds a high level of intelligence, along with great instincts, to become a well-rounded cornerback.
So, why could the Bengals grab a player with this skill set in Round 6?
During the Senior Bowl, Colvin suffered a torn ACL—the reason why he didn't work out at the combine. That injury's rehab could possibly linger through training camp and into the regular season. Teams looking for an immediate starter at the position could pass him by.
Simply put, that ill-timed injury could drop his draft status by a full two rounds.
Luckily, Cincinnati has the necessary roster depth to use a late-round draft pick on an injured prospect with a high ceiling.
Round 7, Pick 24: Jay Prosch, FB, Auburn
The Orson Charles experiment at the fullback position failed miserably in 2013. This sends the Bengals back to the drawing board in an effort to find a blocker who can pave the way for running backs Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Former Auburn fullback Jay Prosch is exactly what the Bengals should be looking for in a big backfield body. He isn't extremely fast, but he has a fantastic amount of strength and loves contact.
CBSSports.com calls Prosch a "human sledgehammer," and they are right on point.
He is a hard-hitting weight-room junkie who is constantly shaping his body in an effort to increase his physicality and absorb an abundant amount of contact.
Prosch was one of the unsung heroes in Auburn's devastating running attack that produced a total of 4,596 rushing yards and 48 touchdowns in 2013.
Not known for his ball-carrying skills, Prosch is still serviceable as a receiver out of the backfield. He recorded five receptions for 95 yards and a score in 2013. He would be able to serve as an effective run-blocker, pass-protector and security blanket for Dalton.
If added physicality is what will take the Bengals offense to the next level, then Prosch is their man.