Assigning Odds to Every Potential Cincinnati Bengals 1st-Round Pick
The Cincinnati Bengals are looking to the draft to bolster an already-strong roster in effort to make a fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs.
Rest assured, Marvin Lewis and Co. are doing their due diligence to ensure another strong draft in 2014.
Building through the draft remains essential for every NFL franchise, and the Bengals have been one of the league's best teams in doing so.
Obtaining the right prospect in the first round is key, as this player will be viewed as one of the team's cornerstones going forward.
So, which prospect is most likely to be drafted by Cincinnati with the 24th overall selection?
Let's break down five prospects and give the odds as whether they will be wearing stripes next season.
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: 3-1 Odds
Cornerback Jason Verrett looks to be the most likely candidate at the moment.
The former TCU standout isn't the biggest corner in the draft; however, he makes up for his lack of ideal size with shiftiness, speed and versatility.
These are key attributes for the Bengals defense right now.
Terence Newman and Adam Jones are in their 30s. Leon Hall continues to deal with injuries. Dre Kirkpatrick—while showing glimpses of prowess in a small sample size—is still highly unproven.
There's no telling if the Bengals will need additional help on the outside or in the slot. That's what makes Verrett so coveted. He can play either position, as he has the speed to keep up with faster receivers on the outside and is agile enough to play slot corner.
Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame: 5-1 Odds
Zack Martin is a very interesting prospect at No. 24 overall in the NFL draft.
Like the aforementioned Verrett, Martin showcases a versatility that will likely make him a coveted target for the Bengals.
After losing Anthony Collins in free agency, and with left tackle Andrew Whitworth getting a bit long in the tooth, the Bengals need to inject youth and depth into their offensive line.
Martin played tackle at Notre Dame at a high level. Still, he doesn't have the ideal length and reach you'd like to see in an offensive tackle, so some teams have him pegged as a guard. That's not a bad thing.
The former Fighting Irish standout has the ability to play tackle and both guard spots, which gives Cincinnati plenty of options on how to deploy him.
Other offensive tackles such as Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan will be long gone by the time the Bengals are on the board, making Martin the top choice among offensive line prospects at No. 24.
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri: 10-1 Odds
It's no secret the Bengals defensive prowess has come from a fantastic rotation along the defensive line.
Unfortunately, after losing end Michael Johnson in free agency, that rotation has become rather thin.
Cincinnati still has Carlos Dunlap on one end, and at this time, it appears as though Wallace Gilberry will complement him on the other side. But, where's the depth?
Robert Geathers is more of a run-stuffer than anything, and Margus Hunt is continuing to find his footing in the NFL—it may take at least one more season for him to become acclimated.
Addressing the defensive line's rotation early in the draft seems like a plausible scenario for Cincinnati.
Ealy has a huge motor and is quick off the snap. He has a nose for the backfield, and his burst and speed make it difficult for less-athletic tackles to contain him on the edge.
He should be able to come in and contribute in this rotation immediately, ensuring the continued success of the Bengals' dangerous pass rush.
Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State: 15-1 Odds
The Bengals continue to look for a starting trio of linebackers.
Obviously, Vontaze Burfict is cemented in the starting lineup due to his brilliant emergence as one of the league's most dominant linebackers.
Although, Rey Maualuga continues to flounder his way through football games and struggles with reliability. Vincent Rey was a revelation last season. However, he appears to be better suited as a rotational piece. The remaining linebackers on the roster remain unproven.
Ryan Shazier is an Ohio State product who has a great burst and tremendous acceleration. His range allows him to cover a great chunk of field quickly. He has a high level of football intelligence and puts himself in the right positions to make plays.
His athleticism allows him to contribute as a pass-rusher, run defender and in coverage. A natural leader, he can step up and take command of the defense.
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: 25-1 Odds
This one's a bit of a longshot.
Yes, the Bengals need a cornerback for the aforementioned reasons, and Dennard would fit the billing perfectly.
A physical corner, Dennard thrives in press coverage, using his strength to reroute receivers. He excels in man coverage, and can flourish on an island, allowing to the rest of the secondary to focus attention elsewhere.
Dennard's skill set is a perfect fit for the aggressive style of defense the Bengals demand.
This is where it gets tricky.
Dennard was originally seen as one of the draft's top prospects and No. 1 cornerback. Lately, he's been falling down draft boards with the likes of Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert surpassing him.
There are plenty of cornerback-needy teams picking ahead of the Bengals in this year's draft, and Dennard could certainly be gone before the 24th overall pick.
Although, if he's still there, expect the Bengals to rush to the podium to acquire his services.