Bengals Mock Draft: Instant Contributors Cincinnati Can Find in Every Round
But Cincinnati has a good problem on its hands in that each pick cannot come in and contribute right away in a traditional sense. Thanks to what is one of the NFL's deeper rosters, seven rookies won't come in and change the complexion of the roster from day one.
Still, Cincinnati is known for following a best-player-available approach with a hint of need added in for good measure. With the impressive depth of the 2014 class, Marvin Lewis and the front office can find instant contributors in some form or another in every round.
The following is a look at how the Bengals should approach the draft if the intent is to truly grab a contributor in each round.
Note: All free-agency signing info courtesy of ESPN.
Round 1: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
At first glance, a rookie corner will not have a major impact for the Cincinnati Bengals.
With Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick hogging the first four slots on the depth chart, there is not much room for a rookie to see playing time.
But a prospect like Kyle Fuller is different. He has the size to play multiple spots and can make an immediate impact on special teams while he learns from veterans. As an added plus, Fuller can make an even bigger impact if one of the top three on the depth chart once again succumbs to injury.
There are even those, such as CBS Sports' Dane Brugler, who would take Fuller over some of the bigger names in the first round:
Great to see CB Kyle Fuller getting some love, he's deserved it the past few years. Very natural. I'll take him over Justin Gilbert
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 25, 2014
Cincinnati can't go wrong with Fuller, especially when in search of an immediate impact.
Round 2: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
There was a time when Antonio Richardson was considered one of the top tackles in the draft.
At 6'6" and 336 pounds, Richardson still has an imposing frame that will land him in the second round at the latest after he paved the way effectively through the SEC.
Cincinnati brought on Marshall Newhouse in an effort to replace Anthony Collins, but there is no guarantee Newhouse makes it to the 53-man roster—although his ability to play multiple spots and TCU connection with Andy Dalton helps.
Alas, Richardson can do much of the same and perhaps even kick inside to guard and start right away. A backup swing tackle who may have the ability to play guard is very important in Cincinnati, so the Bengals still get an instant contributor in a sense with Richardson.
Round 3: Will Clarke, DE, West Virginia
It's not easy to replace Michael Johnson, but the Cincinnati Bengals already have a guy in Margus Hunt who is supposed to run with the opportunity next year.
Hunt may very well be the answer the staff desires, but his presence won't deter the team from taking another rotational pass-rusher.
Like Hunt, Will Clarke has a frame at 6'6" and 271 pounds that will remind most of Johnson. Also like Johnson, he's quite raw, but with the right coaching—again like Johnson—he has the traits that will allow him to become an every-down starter.
For now, Clarke would be yet another facet of Cincinnati's rotational attack along with Hunt and Wallace Gilberry. It's a scary thought and another forward-looking move in case other options don't pan out at the position.
Round 4: De'Anthony Thomas, OW, Oregon
Losing Andrew Hawkins to the Cleveland Browns stings, but a divisional rival saw an opportunity to both hurt an adversary and pick up a dynamic playmaker in the process.
No matter, as the Cincinnati Bengals can replace Hawkins' production and get a better kick returner with De'Anthony Thomas—should he last until the fourth round.
Thomas has the draft community split on his stock, and it only takes one team in love to make him a second-round pick, but Thomas' size should see him take a tumble.
The Oregon product is an electric returner who would assume that role right away regardless of the fact the Bengals brought Brandon Tate back, and he would still see gadget snaps both as a wideout and out of the backfield.
Round 5: David Fales, QB, San Jose State
The fact the Cincinnati Bengals brought on Jason Campbell to back up Andy Dalton means little in the grand scheme of things.
Cincinnati typically keeps three quarterbacks. The staff may believe that having a backup like Campbell behind Dalton is the missing key for his development, but there is no way it passes on grabbing a good insurance policy.
What a policy David Fales is. As one of the more underrated prospects at the position this year, Fales has the size and starting pro-quarterback traits an NFL team wants to see.
On the Ross Tucker Podcast, via Rotoworld, NFL Films' Greg Cosell described Fales as having "pocket command, decision-making, and ball placement" and went on to say "He's a rhythm player. What happens if that rhythm gets disrupted?" Cosell said some teams may compare him to Dalton.
In the fifth round, a player similar to Dalton is not a horrible get, especially if he can push both quarterbacks on the roster while learning.
Round 6: Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma
Given the depth of the class, it is not unreasonable to see Gabe Ikard sneak into the sixth round.
Cincinnati cut Kyle Cook for good reason, with Trevor Robinson and Mike Pollak quality options to take over the starting gig at center.
But it doesn't hurt for the Bengals to add more talent, and as NFL.com's Gil Brandt notes, Ikard is one of the more athletic centers in the class:
Ikard stood on his numbers from the combine, where he was among the top performers in his position group in the three-cone drill and 20-yard short shuttle. Ikard had a very good on-field workout, looking very athletic and quick. Ikard is a very promising prospect, but because of the nature of his position he is probably a mid-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Ikard sounds like a player who may surprise and start right away in the right offense. That's a possibility in Cincinnati, and the worst-case scenario is he ends up as quality depth as a rookie.
Round 7: James Wilder, Jr., RB, Florida State
With the way the running back position is abused in the NFL, a sound strategy is to draft at least one each year.
The Cincinnati Bengals already have Rex Burkhead in the pipeline as a versatile pass-catching back, but a power runner to back up or eventually replace BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a smart play late in the draft.
James Wilder, Jr. is a violent runner who stands at 6'3" and 232 pounds. If he makes the final roster, he'd be a force on special teams while occasionally taking handoffs should Green-Ellis succumb to an injury.
BJGE's contract is up after the 2014 season anyway, so Wilder is a smart investment so late as a short-yardage back who can stick around and move the chains when necessary.