When the NFL Draft begins selections in Arlington, Tex., April 26, the Cincinnati Bengals have the No. 21 pick in the first round.
Here is an in-depth look at the team’s needs, offseason changes, potential best fit and the selections by NFLDraftScout.com’s experts.
Who would you pick and why?
TOP 5 NEEDS
- Offensive line: Despite the Cordy Glenn trade, the line still needs to be beefed up. It’s still the No. 1 priority as they come off the worst rushing production in franchise history.
- Run stuffer: They need some beef to put next to six-time Pro Bowl three-technique Geno Atkins. They are hopeful that 2016 fourth-rounder Andrew Billings, a nose tackle, rebounds even more in his third year after a knee injury wiped out his rookie season. Last year’s fourth-rounder, Ryan Glasgow, proved he will be a blue-collar contributor at both nose and behind Atkins in a rotation. But they need some size. Billings is 6-foot-1 and Glasgow goes about 300 pounds. They could use some more height and weight.
- Centerfielder: They need a safety that can pick off the ball. Cornerback Darqueze Dennard, with two, was the only Bengal with multiple interceptions last season, when their 11 interceptions were the fewest in 15 seasons under head coach Marvin Lewis.
- Pass rusher: Why not? The Bengals had great success in grabbing two last year. Fourth-rounder Carl Lawson finished one shy of Carlos Dunlap’s team rookie record with 8.5 sacks as a nickel rusher and third-rounder Jordan Willis showed he’s ready to supplant Michael Johnson as the starting right end. Dunlap’s deal is up after this season and the Bengals plan to extend him. But you can never have enough.
- Linebacker: With Will linebacker Vontaze Burfict beginning the season with a four-game suspension for PEDs, they could use some depth here.
–BEST FIT: Da’Ron Payne, DT Alabama. Great complement for Geno Atkins. No under-sized guy here. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Payne has the big-time experience they crave (35 games in three seasons) and he’s monstrously strong with a famous 545-pound bench press and 635-pound squat followed up by jacking up 225 pounds 27 times at the Combine and a rather rapid 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds. It’s time. Payne would be the first D-lineman they’ve taken in the first round since Missouri defensive end Justin Smith went No. 4 in 2001 and he would be the first D-tackle to go in the first round since Ohio State’s Dan Wilkinson went No. 1 overall in the 1994 draft. The only knock on him is he’s not a pass rusher. No problem. They’ve got Ryan Glasgow and Michael Johnson they can team with Atkins on third down.
–Rob Rang: James Daniels, C, Iowa. The Bengals allowed last year’s starting center Russell Bodine to leave, leaving this position to be filled either via the draft or perhaps asking incumbent right guard Trey Hopkins to slide over. With the agility and length to project as a starter at any of the three interior line roles, Daniels would fill a need and provide terrific value to the Bengals here.
Dane Brugler: James Daniels, G/C, Iowa. Arguably the best center prospect since Alex Mack, Daniels, who won’t turn 21 years old until Week 2 of the NFL season, can play center or guard and upgrades the Bengals’ interior from the get-go.
FANS ON THE CLOCK, ON THE RECORD
OK, it’s your turn. Tell us in the comments section who you would pick and why. Check out top 1,000 players rated by NFLDraftScout.com, including combine and pro day workouts, biographies, scouting reports.