Team draft needs (In no particular order):
- Defensive End
With the 24th pick over all what are their most likely options?:
- Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
- Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
- Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
- Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
- Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
- Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech:
The Cincinnati Bengals will go defense in the first round as quality gap between defensive players gets wider heading into the second. Although to see Ryan Shazier in a Bengals uniform is highly appealing even if he is available at no. 24, the position of top priority seems to be cornerback. Bradley Roby, Jason Verrett and Kyle Fuller should all be in play by the time the Bengals are on the clock. Fuller, however, is arguably the best fit for the Bengals defense. Fuller is a physical corner with exceptional ball skills. In an AFC North division filled with the likes of Antonio Brown, Torrey Smith and Josh Gordon, a shutdown corner is a must and Fuller fits the bill. His versatility gives him an advantage over his peers and he isn’t afraid to get in on the running game. In his last season in Virginia Tech he tactically played outside linebacker almost the entire game against Georgia Tech. He is by far my top choice for the Bengals.
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU:
The big knock on Jason Verrett is his small size as a few scouts believe that if he was just a couple of inches taller he would be the number 1 back selected. I find myself in that bias position as well, but you know who doesn’t? The Bengals don’t. Their current top corners are all under 6′ including Adam Jones, Leon Hall and Terrence Newman. Verrett comes with speed and the physical tools to play cornerback. The need in the secondary for the Bengals is clear as the have suffered devastating injuries. In my opinion, due to his size, Jason Verrett can step in as the number 2 CB for the Bengals but will most likely find himself limited to playing the slot. If Kyle Fuller is off the board, however, Verrett is hands down my number two option here. He is still a hard-nosed corner and plays taller than he is, not to mention he has the ability to knock the cleats off a ball carrier.
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State:
With the potential of the top 5 cornerbacks in the draft to be gone by the time the Bengals are on the clock, going after another position for a defensive playmaker is a given. Shazier is arguably one of the most athletic defensive prospects of the 2014 draft. In his pro-day he ran an unbelievable 4.36 40 and he rocketed up the draft boards. Much like Jason Verrett, concerns about his size is his only drawback. But, the Cincinnati Bengals already have two run stoppers in Vontze Burfict and Rey Maualuga, so getting a player that can basically do it all while adding speed in space will be a nice asset to have. Linebacker is certainly not the top need for the Bengals but if Shazier is available after the top corners are off the board, the speed upgrade to the Bengals defense will be unquestionable.
If my top three choices are already off the board (Unlikely but yet possible) the Bengals will need to step into plan B mode. Plan B players are the ones that don’t necessarily fit the defensive scheme built into the team and/or talent but have the potential to grow very well into the role.
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State:
In 2013, the Cincinnati defense was one of the better ones in the NFL and they carried the team into the playoffs. The only thing that really held them back was the secondary and just because the top corners are off the board it doesn’t mean it still shouldn’t be addressed. If Darqueze Dennard can do something better than the rest is playing the deep ball. In his last season at Michigan State, he only allowed 3 completions in total to 31 attempts of 15 + yard passes. He is an adequate tackler with good body control that with a bit of experience in the NFL could conceivably become a shutdown corner. Like Fuller he doesn’t have the ideal size, but unlike Fuller he doesn’t play bigger than he is. Another team might reach even as high as 12 to select Dennard as the draft is always unpredictable, but i wouldn’t be surprised if he somehow falls down the board on draft day.
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri:
Not much to say about Kony Ealy here that hasn’t already been said but he is still my choice for the second option of the “plan B” for the Bengals. The defensive line for the Bengals is really not that bad and a clear need is not high but it is still there. With the loss of DE Michael Johnson and the series back injury to Geno Atkins, Ealy should be on the big board for Cincinnati. Kony Ealy can play either DT next to Atkins or opposite of Carlos Dunlap as DE. Defensive line versatility and consistency in rotation is a must for any top defense, so selecting Kony Ealy at 24th is a high possibility.
Calvin Pryor, S, Louisvlle:
No matter which way you look at it, the secondary has to be the top priority for the Bengals regardless who has already come off the draft board. Calvin Pryor is the safe bet here even though Dee Ford might still be an option. Calvin Pryor is explosive and as hard hitting as they come. If Kyle Fuller and Ryan Shazier are no longer available then the obvious choice will be Pryor as i am convinced the Bengals are truly focused on fixing their secondary.
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State:
Here is my last option for the Bengals. lets say all my other choices are gone, some would think that filling the void left by Michael Johnson would be the priority and adding a pass rusher will be a must, but no. Bradley Roby is highly underrated even though his stop fell due to a poor season and a terrible game again Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis. He is still an elite physical specimen that can easily become a top corner in the NFL with a bit of coaching. When properly motivated he is the type of corner that excels in man coverage and is the aggressive type that will fight to the whistle. After this list there really aren’t many left worth a first round grade but the Bengals will live this guy as they will feel confident they can maximize his potential. He is by far the best in terms of scheme fit for the Bengals.