The Cincinnati Bengals definitely rank among the top 3 most disappointing teams from the 2010 season. Most people were at least predicting a playoff run – even in a crowded division with Pittsburgh and Baltimore – and back-to-back AFC North titles wasn’t out of the question either. So what did the Bengals deliver? A 4-12 stinker that included 10 straight losses from Week 4 – Week 14.
In one season, the Bengals went from a solid playoff team with high expectations heading into 2010, to an AFC North bottom-feeder with several high-priced free agents likely on their way out. The Bengals have a lot of needs across the board, so let’s try to sort out the mess on the next stop during our mock draft profiles of all 32 NFL teams.
Quarterback - As if the Bengals don’t already have enough draft needs, quarterback just jumped to the top of the list after Carson Palmer’s threats to retire if he’s not traded. Assuming that the Bengals decide to trade Palmer, they’ll seek a first round pick for a guy who is still one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league (provided he has protection). With an extra pick, the Bengals will no doubt choose a QB with one of the two 1st round picks, which will likely be their fourth overall pick. After an impressive workout at Auburn’s pro day, Cam Newton may have erased his poor Combine performance, and shot ahead of Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert as the most talented quarterback in this class. In addition to a good arm, Newton also showed some newfound footwork skills and passing accuracy. Of course, they might opt for another prototypical pocket passer in Gabbert to fill Palmer’s shoes. Keep in mind though that this is all speculation based on what happens with the Palmer situation; in the end, he may retire (leaving the Bengals without an extra first round pick) or he may actually play.
Wide Receiver - The ToCho show wasn’t enough to save the Bengals (mainly due to Chad Johnson’s ineffectiveness), and Terrell Owens will probably sign elsewhere since he figures to make bank after a very good season. Since the Bengals need a weapon on offense badly, they might opt to take Georgia’s A.J. Green with the fourth overall pick instead of a QB. Green is a solid route runner with the best hands in the draft, which would definitely be welcome after all of the balls that Johnson dropped in 2010. If the Bengals don’t take Green, both Maryland’s Torrey Smith and Miami’s Leonard Hankerson should be around when Cincinnati picks in the second round. Smith has 4.4 speed and good hands, but his route running could use some improvement. Hankerson is another speedster who runs a 4.4, but like Torrey, could work on his route running skills.
Defensive End - With all of the Bengals needs, it’s difficult predicting exactly what they will do with that fourth overall pick. Just like their division rival Browns, Cincinnati needs to bolster their pass rush after getting just 27 sacks in 2010. After a successful rookie campaign, Carlos Dunlap (9.5 sacks) seems to have one side of the pass rush covered, but Michael Johnson (2.5 sacks) just isn’t the answer on the other side. The Bengals might go with Da’Quan Bowers out of Clemson if he is available; however, many predict that Bowers will be taken in the top three. That leaves North Carolina’s Robert Quinn as another likely candidate, but since he missed the entire 2010 season because of a suspension, Cincinnati may not take their chances with a guy who hasn’t played in two years. With so much depth in the 2011 defensive end class, it’s not inconceivable to think that the Bengals would wait until the second round to fill this need where Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward or Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan could be waiting.
Running Back - Starting running back and free agent Cedric Benson could be gone next year, and Bernard Scott has never filled an every-down back role, so expect the Bengals to draft a running back in one of the middle rounds. The Bengals could probably land bruising halfback Daniel Thomas out of K-State in the third round if they decide that running back is of enough importance. Thomas isn’t the fastest player, but he had plenty of power, and could even work in a split-back role with Scott. Later possible picks in this shallow class of running backs include Clemson’s Jamie Harper, Syracuse’s Delone Carter, and LSU’s Stevan Ridley.
The Bengals also have serious needs at offensive tackle, guard, inside linebacker, free safety, and strong safety, so it’s safe to say that they’re in rebuilding mode. In the end, trying to predict the Bengals draft choices is like throwing darts blindfolded.