With the rush of free agency in the rearview mirror it is time to focus in on the NFL Draft, specifically on team draft needs. In this article we look at the Cincinnati Bengals draft needs for 2016 as we approach the April 28th 1st round from Chicago. The Cincinnati Bengals are the reigning AFC North champions. This division is known for its toughness, unpredictability and the knowledge that every year the winning team will fight and claw their way to the top. The Bengals were arguably the most complete team in football last year, with depth across the board. They managed to stay practically untouched during free agency with no significant losses, or at least it seemed that way. Like every team in the NFL, the Bengals will attempt to strengthen through the draft.
Biggest Need: Wide Receiver
The Bengals team didn’t see much change in free agency, but the biggest change was Wide Receiver. The Bengals still have star man A.J Green, and alongside Tyler Eifert at Tight End they still have some major threats, however what they currently lack is a number 2 receiver. Even with A.J Green and Tyler Eifert combining for 23 touchdowns last year, the Bengals lacked an elite option on the other side. Last year Marvin Jones came close, putting up 816 yards, however he didn’t establish himself enough and his departure in free agency, along with that of Mohamed Sanu, the Bengals lost over 1,300 yards. These losses mean the Bengals need a fully-fledged number 2 receiver for next season, and with the luxury of a deep roster, they can afford to use a pick on a need. With their current receiving threats taking all the coverage, a player could come in and thrive out of the spotlight and get used to the game as a complimentary player.
Other Needs: Centre, Defensive Tackle, Outside Linebacker
The Bengals have the luxury of being able to go after the best player available, however there are certain positions they should aim for. Center is the main need behind receiver as current incumbent Russell Bodine, struggled at times last year. It would be worth using a pick here as best case, they find a elite Center, worse case they find depth for an already strong line. Defensive Tackle and Outside Linebacker are both depth and spot starter picks. Geno Atkins and Domata Peko are both very reliable starting players, however both are beginning to get old and could begin to decline very soon. Although Atkins had an all-pro season last year, and Peko was his usual strong self, the NFL is an ever changing league and history tells us it isn’t always kind to aging players. Depth is always good here and the Bengals can show down the aging process by finding enough depth to implement a strong rotation. Outside Linebacker is a need due to suspension and depth. With Vonteze Burfict starting the season on a suspension, the Bengals will want enough depth at Linebacker to offset the play they will miss without him. Three of the Bengals top five players in tackles last year were Linebackers, with their outside Linebackers combining for a huge 172 tackles. Even though Burfict misses only 3 games, his impact for the defence is clear. The Bengals will also take into account that Burfict was suspended for safety violations, meaning this could happen again, so depth is key.