Here is your complete primer for the Bengals' 2014 draft, including a position-by-position big board, a breakdown of their round-by-round priorities and a few of the players they could be targeting, and a roundup of the players they are rumored to be interested in.
Giovani Bernard was the Bengals' 2013 second-round draft pick.
The Cincinnati Bengals have nine picks in the 2014 NFL draft. Here's how they break down:
Even for the most stacked teams in the NFL, no position is off-limits in the draft. All areas of the roster can benefit from young additions. Here are some of the best fits for the Bengals in the 2014 draft class, at each position, in practically any round.
Tom Savage, Pitt
Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Connor Shaw, South Carolina
Stephen Morris, Miami (Fla.)
Charles Sims, West Virginia
Bishop Sankey, Washington
Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
Damien Williams, Oklahoma
Jarvis Landry, LSU
Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
Shaq Evans, UCLA
Tevin Reese, Baylor
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
Arthur Lynch, Georgia
Jordan Najvar, Baylor
OT Morgan Moses, Virginia
OT Joel Bitonio, Nevada
OG Kenarious Gates, Georgia
OT/OG/C Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
DE Michael Sam, Missouri
DT Khyri Thornton, Southern Mississippi
Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Christian Jones, Florida State
Lamin Barrow, LSU
Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA
Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
Jason Verrett, TCU
Chris Davis, Auburn
Antone Exum, Virginia Tech
SS Deone Bucannon, Washington State
SS Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama
FS Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
FS Tre Porter, Texas Tech
TCU corner Jason Verrett could be the Bengals' Round 1 selection.
Team Needs: CB, OT, SS, OG
The first round of the NFL draft is generally where teams hope to find instant contributors, if not first-year starters. It's not the place for the Bengals to find depth defensive linemen or a third-string quarterback.
This year, the two positions that they are most likely to address in Round 1 are cornerback and offensive line, particularly tackle. However, depending on who is still on the board, taking the best player available might be their direction.
At cornerback, Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller or TCU's Jason Verrett could be first-round targets. CBS Sports' Dane Brugler and Pete Prisco both see the Bengals taking Verrett in the first round.
Charles Davis and Brian Baldinger of NFL.com, on the other hand, have the Bengals going with a cornerback as well, but Davis has Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard falling to Cincinnati, while Baldinger believes Ohio State's Bradley Roby is the pick.
The Bengals could also concentrate on offensive line in Round 1, especially if the team isn't sold on Marshall Newhouse replacing Anthony Collins at left tackle. They could find themselves in position to draft Notre Dame's Zack Martin or Michigan's Taylor Lewan, depending on what happens in the preceding 23 picks.
Two CBS Sports analysts have the Bengals taking the best player available on defense in Round 1, with Pat Kirwan choosing Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier and Will Brinson going with Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy. It would not be surprising if the Bengals take this route if the cornerback that they covet most is off the board.
OT Morgan Moses could be one of the Bengals' second-round targets.
Team Needs: OT, S, CB, DE
If the Bengals succeed with a needs-based approach in Round 1, they should have managed to find the starting-caliber cornerback they wanted, whether that is Kyle Fuller, Jason Verrett, Darqueze Dennard or someone else. In that case, their focus in Round 2 will be the offensive line.
The Bengals have a strong amount of depth at both guard and tackle, but they might want to upgrade the left tackle position. After losing Anthony Collins in free agency, the team brought on Marshall Newhouse, quarterback Andy Dalton's former left tackle at TCU. However, Newhouse played just 261 snaps for Green Bay in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and they may want someone to compete with him.
Enter Morgan Moses from Virginia. He is a right tackle who could also play guard in the NFL. However, should the Bengals draft him, he could potentially start on the right, allowing Andrew Whitworth to move back to left tackle and leaving Newhouse in a reserve role.
Because of a poor scouting combine performance and injury concerns, the Bengals could also find themselves in position to add a true left tackle in Round 2—Cyrus Kouandjio from Alabama. Nevada's Joel Bitonio can play either guard or tackle and could also be of interest to the Bengals in the second round.
Other Round 2 options include safety—Washington State's Deone Bucannon or Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward could each be on the table at strong and free safety, respectively. The team could also opt to build out its defensive line depth or take advantage of a deep receiver class and add an intriguing prospect early. If LSU's Jarvis Landry falls, the Bengals might not be able to pass him up.
Kareem Martin could join the next generation of Bengals' rotational defensive linemen.
Team Needs: S, DE, LB
The Bengals have four safeties on the roster—Reggie Nelson, George Iloka, Taylor Mays and Shawn Williams. They don't need a starter presently, but depth is necessary, and if that player can develop into a starter in a year or two, they'll have chosen wisely.
Washington State's Deone Bucannon would be a great pickup in Round 3, should he still be available. He had 114 tackles in 2013, along with six interceptions, three forced fumbles and a pass breakup. At 6'1" and 211 pounds, he is "physically intimidating," and a hard-hitting, prototypical strong safety, per Bleacher Report's Ian Wharton's scouting report.
Strong safety has been a shaky position for the Bengals, who haven't yet found the one player to take ownership of the starting job. Bucannon could push Mays and Iloka in 2014 and surpass them in a year's time.
The Bengals could also use Round 3 to add depth in the front seven. North Carolina defensive end Kareem Martin might be a good choice at 88th overall. He had 82 combined tackles in 2013, including 21.5 tackles for a loss. He also had 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and three pass breakups.
Though he has ideal size, speed and athleticism to play 4-3 defensive end, Darren Page of Bleacher Report notes that he's very raw in his technique. This could cause him to fall to the third round, where the Bengals could find another defensive lineman who is worth their developmental effort. His versatility would fit right in with the team.
Florida State's Christian Jones could fall into the fourth round and the Bengals' hands.
Team Needs: LB, QB, OL, DE
The Bengals aren't desperately lacking at many positions this year, which means the draft can be a source of depth rather than immediate starters. This will allow them to get creative in the middle and later rounds, focusing less on needs and more on the best available players.
One option in this round is to add additional depth to the front seven with Florida State linebacker Christian Jones. He had 56 tackles in 2013, including 7.5 tackles for a loss, one interception and two sacks. He played out of position at defensive end, and that may cause him to fall far enough for the Bengals to pick him up in Round 4.
He isn't a pure pass-rusher; he does more of the edge-contain type of responsibilities that are required of the 4-3 linebacker position, though he can certainly disrupt quarterbacks. Bleacher Report's Darren Page compares him to Manny Lawson, who spent two seasons with the Bengals.
The Bengals could also opt to get younger at the backup quarterback position with this pick. Pitt's Tom Savage, with his big arm, could have been a good pick, but his rising draft stock seems to indicate he won't be there in Round 4. Nevertheless, they could be willing to take other quarterbacks instead.
The best bet would be a fairly mobile quarterback, like Clemson's Tajh Boyd, South Carolina's Connor Shaw or Miami's Stephen Morris. This wouldn't be about finding Andy Dalton's eventual replacement but rather a young quarterback who could serve as a long-term backup in a system he knows well.
The Bengals have the perfect type of defense for Michael Sam to shine.
Team Needs: DE, OL, Skill Positions
As the draft reaches the later rounds, teams are looking for diamonds in the rough, but they'll also be satisfied by finding viable depth components or eventual, even marginal contributors. The Bengals could thus use their fifth-round pick on locating developmental prospects for their front seven or adding more offensive line depth.
Should the former be more their speed, Missouri's Michael Sam might be a solid pickup. He is a linebacker-defensive end tweener, with seemingly no natural position in the NFL. That would explain why he could drop into the fifth round of the draft and why he'd be a good fit for the Bengals.
WalterFootball.com pegs him as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but the reality is likely more in line with Bleacher Report's Darren Page, who sees Sam as "depth at end or a rotational rusher for third downs," two traits that the Bengals look for in prospective defensive linemen. His weaknesses can easily be downplayed by him playing a specialist role.
The Bengals could also look to expand their roster of offensive linemen in Round 5. Vanderbilt's Wesley Johnson would be a good target for the team at 164th overall. He played guard, center and tackle in college, finishing his career as a left tackle. Though guard might be his natural position in the NFL, his versatility along the line makes him a high-value selection in the fifth round.
The Bengals could get a sixth-round steal in Auburn cornerback Chris Davis.
Team Needs: OL, CB, Skill Positions
If the Bengals opt for Michael Sam or another addition to their front seven in Round 5, then Vanderbilt's do-it-all lineman Wesley Johnson could still be in play in Round 6. If not, there are other options such as Michigan's Michael Schofield or Georgia's Kenarious Gates.
Later-round offensive linemen need to be versatile. Schofield was a right tackle and guard in college but will likely be a guard in the NFL. Gates was a left tackle at Vanderbilt, taking over for Cordy Glenn, but he could easily play left or right tackle as well as guard as a professional.
The Bengals could also add a bit more depth to the secondary and take a cornerback in Round 6. The key here will be to find developmental prospects who can make an immediate impact on special teams. Two options are Auburn's Chris Davis and Purdue's Ricardo Allen.
Allen had 50 tackles, four tackles for a loss, six interceptions and three pass breakups in 2013. He has been a starter since his true freshman season and could be an effective slot or nickel corner in the NFL. He has short-term upside too, having played special teams in college.
Davis was also a special teamer, averaging 20 yards per punt return in 2013 and returning one for a touchdown. He had 46 tackles in 2013 and three pass breakups. Per Sports on Earth's Russ Lande, Davis, with his "muscular build, athleticism, explosiveness and physical playing style...plays like a future starting cornerback." However, he does warn that Davis could go in the first three rounds when his return skills are also factored in.
Baylor's Tevin Reese could be a good developmental slot receiver for Cincinnati.
Team Needs: Skill Positions, FB, CB
The later rounds can provide the Bengals with additional depth to their running backs and receiving corps. They might opt to select an additional wide receiver in an earlier round, but the depth at the position this year makes it possible to find someone who sticks on their roster even in Round 6.
The same goes for running back, although the class is less deep than the receivers. Because running back is becoming less valued, selecting one will generally come in later rounds. Cincinnati could thus add worthwhile depth at the position in Round 6 and/or 7.
At receiver, the team should look at Baylor's Tevin Reese. He had 38 catches for 867 yards and eight touchdowns in an injury-shortened 2013 season. However, that wrist injury shouldn't hinder his production in the NFL as a slot receiver. If he has some special teams value, the Bengals might find him interesting.
Another receiver option in Round 6 is UCLA's Shaq Evans. He had 47 catches for 709 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013, but a higher-quality quarterback like Andy Dalton could draw out his potential. CBS Sports' Dane Brugler uses the word "average" to describe many of Evans' traits, like his route quickness and body control, but he has enough fundamental upside to warrant a later-round selection.
The Bengals could add more speed to their stable of running backs by drafting Oklahoma's Damien Williams.
Team Needs: RB, FB, DL
By Round 7, the Bengals can get a bit more experimental with their picks. Ideally, they'd find a relative unknown and be able to coach that player up to become an eventual starter, but if they don't hit in the final round, it won't be a major fumble.
If they opt to add another running back, Oklahoma's Damien Williams could be an option. He had just 114 carries, but he turned that into 553 yards and seven scores—giving him a very good 4.9 yards-per-carry average. He also had nine receptions for 90 yards. He followed up the season with a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, per NFL.com. The Bengals could develop Williams into a good understudy for Giovani Bernard.
If the Bengals are more interested in finding a young analogue for BenJarvus Green-Ellis, then Syracuse's Jerome Smith might be a good option in Round 7. Smith, like Green-Ellis, lacks speed, but he does make up for it with power. He had 914 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013, but he's not a No. 1 back with his slowness. A committee-style situation like the Bengals' can help hone his very specific skill set.
The Bengals might want to also continue to round out their defensive line depth. If that is the case, two defensive tackles could draw their attention in Round 7: Oklahoma State's Calvin Barnett and Purdue's Bruce Gaston.
Barnett had 32 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks in 2013, while Gaston had 44 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and three sacks on the year. Both are around 300 pounds and 6'2", thus appreciably smaller than recent Bengals draft picks Brandon Thompson and Devon Still but around the same size and weight of Geno Atkins.
Jay Prosch could be just the fullback the Bengals need.
Team Needs: FB, S
In 2013, the Bengals decided that fullback was a position they needed to feature more on their roster. In training camp, a battle ensued between free-agency signing John Conner and in-house tight end Orson Charles. In the end, Charles won the battle.
However, he only played 67 snaps as a fullback in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus and was ranked 48th out of 64 players at the position. In contrast, Conner played 245 snaps with the New York Giants last year and came in fifth among all fullbacks.
With Hue Jackson joining the Bengals as the new offensive coordinator, it's not hard to imagine the team running the ball even more in 2014. Charles was an OK fullback for a team that barely employed one, but this year Cincinnati may need someone who did the job full time in college.
Auburn's Jay Prosch would be a good use of the Bengals' final draft pick in 2014. He is 6'0" and 256 pounds of pure run-blocking power. He also has special teams experience and can run the ball (12 carries, 38 yards and two scores in 2013) and catch it (five catches, 95 yards) when needed.
The Bengals could also decide a developmental safety, like Tre Porter of Texas Tech, could be a good selection with their final pick in the draft. He had 76 combined tackles in 2013, including 1.5 for a loss, two passes defensed and two forced fumbles. He played both cornerback and safety in college and has good speed, running a 4.47-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, per NFL Draft Scout.
Could Tom Savage be Andy Dalton's newest worst nightmare?
Here is the latest draft buzz surrounding the Bengals as the event approaches:
- Pro Football Talk has tracked all of the team's predraft visits, which included cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard and Jason Verrett.
- ESPN.com's Coley Harvey breaks down NFL draft expert Todd McShay's comments on the cornerbacks that most interest the Bengals.
- Could the Bengals make draft-day trades? Bleacher Report's Chris Roling looks at their options.
- Pitt quarterback Tom Savage's visit with the Bengals prompted NFL.com's Bryan Fischer to wonder if the Bengals will draft Savage to push Andy Dalton.
- ESPN's Chris Mortensen, on the other hand, sees the Bengals as serious contenders to draft Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.