The AFC North is home to reigning AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, but every team in the division has holes on the depth chart that could keep them from competing for a championship in 2011.
The Browns and Bengals are rebuilding but could surprise if they can find enough diamonds in the draft. This year’s draft should be even more interesting as the uncertainty of labor negotiations will affect free agency and player contracts.
After winning the AFC North in 2010, the Bengals were the worst in 2011. The Bengals tried to load up on offensive talent to put them over the hump and deep in to the playoffs. The team fell apart at times as they abandoned a running game that was strong in 2010, in order to give their franchise quarterback and two Pro Bowl receivers as many chances to touch the ball as possible.
Carson Palmer is threatening to retire if not traded and the team will likely part with both receivers. Rebuilding is an understatement when it comes to Cincy, as they will need to build their offense from scratch and try to establish a dominant defense.
The Carson Palmer show is getting pretty good these days, I recommend you set it on your DVR. Palmer hasn’t backed down on his threat to retire if not traded even putting his house up for sale. The Bengals are refusing to give in to his demands because they don’t want Palmer to start a trend for other players stuck in Cincinnati.
If Palmer does retire that would leave Brother Jordan Palmer as the starter—AWKWARD! The Bengals are forced to take a quarterback in the first two rounds. The question will now be whether they go with Cam Newton/Blaine Gabbert in Round 1 or Ryan Mallett/Christian Ponder in Round 2. (9/9)
Everyone thinks the Bengals need to add receiving help and get a top-notch quarterback to improve their team, and although there are obvious needs for upgrade just about everywhere, I think the Bengals need to address the running back position early on.
Two years ago the Bengals had a formidable running attack with Cedric Benson, but lost in the playoffs and everyone blamed the receiving corps. In the offseason the Bengals picked up TO and went after receivers in the draft while ignoring the running game, and this year they will be picking fourth.
There isn’t a running back worth taking that high in the first round, but there are some solid running backs falling out of the first round that could be a solid pick in early Round 2. That guarantees a quarterback picked at fourth overall, however. (9/9)
I don’t buy the need for a top-notch receiver this year in Cincy. The Bengals will be losing their top two receiving threats in TO and, likely, Chad Ochocinco in the offseason, but have some receivers on the depth chart that can make plays.
Don’t take this as me saying that Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell or Jordan Shipley will be the next TO or Ochocinco, but they do have the skills to make some big plays in the NFL. The Bengals have a lot of areas to address; and when you are forced to rebuild, I just don’t think receiver should be that high of a priority when you don’t have a quarterback, running back and your defense has holes. (4/9)
Jermaine Gresham looked to be a breakout candidate for the Bengals in the preseason and then rarely lived up to the hype during the season. He may be the most skilled set of hands on offense though, and that gives the Bengals one area they don’t need to address in the draft. (1/9)
The Bengals won’t be dropping back to pass as often as they have in the recent past with a new offensive coordinator and likely a new quarterback. The Bengals have a relatively young offensive line, it just isn’t very good.
The Bengals could use an upgrade at each tackle position and Bobbie Williams isn’t getting any younger at RG. Much like the defensive line, I expect the Bengals to add depth and size in the middle and later rounds of the draft. (7/9)
The Bengals need a defensive tackle in a major way, so they actually benefit from having a high pick in such a DL heavy draft. Although I don’t think the Bengals will draft a defensive tackle with their first round pick, I do expect them to invest the majority of their picks in the defensive line because of the position’s strength in this year’s draft. (6/9)
When Ray Maualuga was drafted he was drafted as a MLB but has played outside so far in his young NFL career. This year there is word that Ray will take over at middle linebacker in place of Dhani Jones. This should be an exciting development for Bengals fans that have seen some bright spots from Maualuga as an OLB but will see his true potential at his actual position.
That still leaves an open linebacker spot. The Bengals do have Roddrick Muckelroy as a backup MLB and he could surprise, leaving Ray at the outside. The Bengals will have to add some depth either via free agency or the draft, if it is the later I expect in rounds five through seven. (5/9)
The Bengals have two solid cornerbacks in Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph, although they didn’t play their best in 2010. The Bengals need a nickel corner worth naming, however, as there isn’t one of those on the roster.
The safety position is also in need of an upgrade. Reggie Nelson and Roy Williams were once formidable safeties but have lost their edge. There are many positions in need of upgrades but only so many picks, although the Bengals will add some secondary help it won’t be until the fifth round at the earliest. (7/9)
It’s hard to justify spending a draft pick on a kicker when you have this many needs, but the Bengals could use an upgrade over Clint Stitser at kicker, but it should be via free agency. (2/9)
Nick Sero is a contributor for TheSportsCannon.com, a fantasy sports website specializing in football and baseball. Quit sitting at the bottom of your league’s leaderboard and load up with information from the Sports Cannon.