Who Are the Experts Predicting to Cincinnati in Round 1 of the NFL Draft?
Over the last few seasons, the Cincinnati Bengals have drafted surprisingly well—and I say surprisingly because it's no secret that the Bengals aren't historically good at such things.
Nonetheless, the time is fast approaching to go through the NFL draft once again. Speculation has already begun to fly about who will go where and, naturally, most opinions are different.
Round 1 for Cincinnati will be interesting because there aren't really many positions where Cincinnati is in drastic trouble. However, based on some of the potential picks I've come across, it seems that there is one position in particular everyone is focusing on.
Who is projected to be in the Queen City after day one of the draft this May?
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
This pick, given by Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports, is interesting. Cincinnati lost star defensive end Michael Johnson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers via free agency, so it's clear there's a void there. Despite depth at the position with Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry and incoming second-year player Margus Hunt, Kirwan is of the opinion that the Bengals will further upgrade.
Ealy has good length and great burst, so he can definitely work his way around some of the bigger offensive tackles in the league. He finished a strong 2013 season with the Tigers with 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and was named to the All-SEC squad.
Furthermore, where he lacks in attack against the run, he makes up for with the ability to drop back into coverage.
While these are all great, I don't see the Bengals going this direction in Round 1. There aren't insanely pressing needs at the moment but to continue to build a huge wall of defensive ends doesn't bode well for positions that could use upgrades. I think Gilberry, Hunt and Dunlap can handle the load with backup from Robert Geathers.
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
And here we have the position that seems to be the most prominent in terms of speculation for the Bengals in the first round. Todd McShay of ESPN (subscription required) seems to think that Kyle Fuller is the cornerback of choice for Cincinnati.
The Bengals have an aging corps of cornerbacks, and Dre Kirkpatrick is still a question mark. Fuller lacks top-notch speed, but he's incredibly physical and can blitz at a high level. Additionally, the three-time all-ACC athlete has good length to attack passes in the air.
Where Fuller struggles is that he's not very bulky—he has a lean build and that can make him undersized against the likes of Calvin Johnson, should he ever come across him. He's also been known to be overaggressive on passes, so he struggles to find that solid medium of aggressiveness.
It seems that Fuller can bring Adam Jones-like attitude to the team, and by that, I mean he seems like the type of player that will do anything to make a stop, even if that means he does too much. He certainly wouldn't be detrimental to the Bengals' defense, but I don't think he's the perfect fit.
Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
Like Pat Kirwan, Rob Rang of CBS Sports thinks the Bengals would do well to consider adding another defensive end to replace Michael Johnson. However, Rang chooses to give them Dee Ford of the Auburn Tigers.
At only 6'2" and 243 pounds, the first thing you can say about Ford is that he's not going to win the battle in the trenches. Yes, it's possible that his ability to burst off the snap will get him around opposing defenders, but he won't win many head-to-head battles with big tackles and guards.
Ford, who ran a decent 4.61 40-yard dash (not bad for a DE), is also able to drop back into coverage. This could benefit the Bengals because they have a God-awful pass defender in Rey Maualuga, the team's middle linebacker. Ford could help the team in this area.
Don't let any of this make you forget that he can blitz if he gets around the edges. He went for 8.5 sacks in 2013, earning him a spot as an all-SEC player.
I would be more in favor of this pick if the Bengals should go DE instead of Kony Ealy, and he could be the guy if the Bengals are in "best available" mode. However, there are better options to come.
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Going a little off the radar, Steve Serby of the New York Post suggests that Ohio State standout corner Bradley Roby will be in Cincinnati.
Roby, a Thorpe award semifinalist in 2012 who led the nation in passes defended, has incredible speed, blazing a 4.39 40 at the Combine. This is speed that can keep up with Torrey Smith and Josh Gordon in the AFC North. Plus, and in Cincinnati it's always a good thing, he's been known to have a good attitude about him.
The problem with Roby is that he's undersized and could be outmatched in most man coverage situations.
While Roby was fantastic at Ohio State, I'm not convinced he's the guy who can take over for Leon Hall in the coming years. In short, I can't be sold on Roby just yet.
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
The man that seems to know it all, Mel Kiper of ESPN (subscription required), made this prediction for Cincinnati to take a different Buckeye, Ryan Shazier. Shazier, who recorded 115+ tackles in two consecutive seasons at Ohio State, stands to be very successful with the Bengals.
Cincinnati has solidified starters in Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga, but the third linebacker seems to be in the air. Vincent Rey re-signed in Cincinnati and Jayson DiManche will also be an option. I'm a huge fan of both, but Shazier brings fantastic speed to the position (4.38 40-yard dash) and an excellent blitzing ability.
He was a multiple time all-Big Ten performer and is known to have good character.
This could be a million-dollar pick for Cincinnati. I'm a big fan of Rey, and I think he'll still get plenty of playing time. But gaining a speedy linebacker that can hit hard would certainly help sure up the middle of the defense in Cincinnati.
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
This would be huge for the Bengals. He seems to be a great fit for the team, outside of his questionable size—he stands only 5'10" and weights 176 pounds. However, the co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year brings a lot to the table, his training under defensive guru Gary Patterson not withstanding.
Verrett is incredibly fast and very agile, able to redirect his body to adjust to routes. Additionally, he's able to make quick reads and jump in front of passes.
Finally, he's like velcro to receivers. He's so quick and aggressive, receivers may have a rough time escaping the grasp of the speedy Verrett.
If I had my choice, the Horned Frog would be a Bengal in 2014.