I’ve rattled through three picks so far with Blaine Gabbert, Patrick Peterson, and Cam Newton coming off the board to the Panthers, Broncos, and Bills respectively. Now it’s time to see what the Bengals are going to do with their No. 4 overall pick come April 28.
Luckily for the Bengals, there are still plenty of good players at need positions for them, so they should be okay with this. I think the Bengals will wind up drafting Nick Fairley with the fourth overall pick.
The big question the Bengals have to get an answer to is whether or not Carson Palmer is going to play for them this year. Palmer has already threatened retirement if they don’t trade or cut him this off-season. Bengals owner Mike Brown isn’t the type of guy to give into that request and in this game of chicken, he’s certainly not going to blink first. And unless the CBA is restored (although I must say it’s looking a lot more optimistic than when I began this exercise a few days ago), that’s not going to happen before the draft. So the Bengals could potentially go into this summer not knowing who their starting quarterback is going to be. And if it’s not Carson Palmer, then they don’t have an answer currently on the roster.
And with all that said, they may be tempted to draft a player like Gabbert or Newton if they are available with this pick. Between the two of them, they would probably prefer Gabbert because he’s a bit more NFL ready. But if the Bengals opt to address other issues and hope their quarterback situation works itself out at a later date, they will have plenty of talent to choose from.
Their biggest need probably is at wide receiver. Terrell Owens isn’t going to be back, and the Bengals will have to decide whether or not Chad Johnson (or is it still Ochocinco?) will return by paying him an option bonus. If not, then they will be a big youth movement at that position. And they could go even younger by drafting Georgia’s A.J. Green. But do they want to invest in another wide receiver? After all, once Owens and Chad were out of the lineup at the end of the season, the team saw good production from Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell, who combined for 35 catches, 547 yards, and 3 touchdowns between them in the final 3 games. Throw in Jordan Shipley, and their need at wide receiver may not be so dire if they believe those guys can/will step up to fill the void in 2011.
If that is the case, then they will probably address their defense. They don’t have any huge needs on that side of the ball, but could certainly use some help up front, as well as in the secondary at safety. For the latter position, corner Patrick Peterson would be a target if available under the pretense of probably moving him to safety.
Up front, they will look at guys like defensive tackles Fairley and Marcell Dareus, as well as defensive ends Da’Quan Bowers and Robert Quinn. The Bengals have a young of defensive linemen, popularly referred to as their “Fisher Price package” which include guys like Geno Atkins, Clinton McDonald, Michael Johnson, and Carlos Dunlap. Throw in Domata Peko, Pat Sims, Frostee Rucker, Antwan Odom, Robert Geathers, and Jonathan Fanene and you have a nice rotation up front, making their defensive line needs not so dire. But they may not be willing to pass up on such premium talent in the draft. Especially with how much injuries ravaged their front last season.
Their pass rush struggled through the first half of the season, until Dunlap surged with 9.5 sacks in 8 games as a situational pass rusher. The team is expected to dump either Geathers or Odom this off-season, and whichever they choose could determine which direction they go in as far as Bowers or Quinn are concerned. Losing Geathers would weaken their run defense, making a bigger end like Bowers a bit more attractive. While dumping Odom could weaken their pass rush, which could be bolstered by adding Quinn.
Inside their isn’t a ton of need, as their top four tackles are all set to return, but none of them have as much upside as Fairley or Dareus have. And Fairley’s ability to get pressure up the middle can certainly aid them as they try to move past the Ravens and Steelers within the division.
In the end, I think the Bengals boil it down between Fairley or Bowers. And I think they go with Fairley, because with Dunlap and Johnson, there is some hope they have a nice pair of defensive ends for the future. Putting Fairley beside Atkins in the middle can give them a strong core of young pass rushers up front.