The Cincinnati Bengals were supposed to compete for the AFC North and make a deep run in the playoffs after a promising 2009 season saw them get back into postseason action.
That was before the team imploded, everyone discovered (or finally admitted) Carson Palmer couldn't hack it, and the defense let teams do as they pleased.
Marvin Lewis is back again, despite only making the playoffs twice in his long tenure, while never getting out of the first round. Regardless, Lewis gets another crack at making it right in Cincy, and his goal to re-shape his team into a contender undoubtedly begins with a stellar 2011 NFL Draft.
The Bengals have several issues on both sides of the ball, so let's get right into it. Here's a close look at what Cincinnati should do in the first four rounds, along with some analysis:
Round One (Pick 4) - Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
It's not a complex idea. The Bengals would love to draft any of the other guys that are likely to go before Gabbert, but with Palmer trying to leave town, they need an answer at quarterback. Gabbert could be gone by this pick, but if he's there, it should be a no-brainer.
Round Two (Pick 35) - Deunta Williams, FS, North Carolina
What should Cincy do with their first pick?
Again, Cincy clearly has some other major problem areas, but adding some real talent at free safety and upgrading a sore spot in the secondary would go a long way in taking pressure off of the corners and helping the pass rush. Williams as a great talent that could start immediately.
Round Three (Pick 66) - Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
I'm still not sure if Taylor drops this far, although this early in the third round is not impossible. There has been talk of him late in the first round, while some experts have him going in the third. If he does make it this far, he stops in Ciny. The Bengals need another body inside to either take over or to at least give them a good rotation. Taylor is a beast that could step in and help stop the run right away.
Round Four (Pick 100) - Allen Bailey, DE, Miami
Bailey is raw and probably needs some work, but with the right coaching, he could be an absolute beast at the next level. His athleticism and versatility will be welcomed additions on a defensive line that needs some youth and another body to rotate in and out.
Other possibilities: Ronald Johnson, Jeff Maehl, Orlando Franklin
The Bengals could really go in several different directions. However, with Palmer clearly wanting out, they have to go after a franchise quarterback in the first round. Gabbert looks like the most polished passer in this class, and the Benglas will be extremely fortunate if Carolina, Denver and Buffalo all don't see it.
After quarterback, both lines can really use some work, and some pass-rushing talent could be in order. However, safety is a major problem area in pass coverage, so upgrading that department is key in aiding their reasonably solid secondary. Taylor and Bailey offer some great talent and depth on the line, with the late rounds being used for a receiver, offensive lineman, and possibly a pass-rushing specialist.
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