The Cincinnati Bengals did some up-close scouting at the Senior Bowl last month, but this week they get a chance to do a little more – and with a larger pool of players.
Team executives and coaches from around the league will be on hand at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, as events are already underway leading up to workouts Thursday through Sunday. The Combine is the largest scouting event before the April draft.
The Bengals will be keeping an eye on some positions more than others, so here is a look at what their current needs are from this year’s draft (free agency for current NFL players begins March 18):
Andy Dalton was fine when given the right protection and weapons around him, but the past few years he hasn’t had the help he needed and now the Bengals are ready to move on to someone who could potentially rise above the circumstances around him.
That means all eyes are on the quarterbacks this week, Heisman Trophy winner and LSU product Joe Burrow specifically. Burrow and others will speak to the media Tuesday morning, and quarterback workouts begin Thursday.
The Bengals will do their due diligence with Burrow and other prospects. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert are two other top quarterbacks to watch.
2. Offensive linemen
The Bengals are hoping 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams, who missed all of last season due to injury, provides the much-needed upgrade at left tackle but inconsistency across the line has hurt them and they need better depth overall.
Fortunately, this draft class is deep at offensive tackle and there are some good guards who could play tackle as well. Louisville offensive tackle (6-foot-7, 340 pounds) Mekhi Becton would be a solid choice if he happens to fall to the second round, assuming the Bengals are taking Burrow at No. 1, or USC tackle Austin Jackson is one of those players that could start out at guard if needed. One guard that could fall to the third round, if the Bengals decide to wait, is Georgia’s Solomon Kindley.
Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr., Georgia’s Andrew Thomas and Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs are considered the top linemen on CBSSports.com’s position rankings.
The Bengals might be best suited to look at players who have enough versatility to play guard or tackle, as the team could use players at both spots.
3. Wide receiver
It’s still unclear what the Bengals want to do with A.J. Green and regardless of whether he’s back long-term, the Bengals still have needs at the receiver spot and there are a lot of good ones in this class. John Ross hasn’t been able to stay healthy and is coming into the final year of his contract (though he has a fifth-year option), so that could be two holes opening up in 2021 if the Bengals use a franchise tag to extend Green this year and decide not to pull the trigger on a longer deal.
Minnesota’s Tyler Johnson is one that some could see falling to the Bengals in the third round. Top receivers in the class include Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, Clemson’s Tee Higgins and Colorado’s Laviska Shenault.
The Bengals took Germaine Pratt in the third round last year but had the right player fallen into their hands at No. 11, they might have taken a linebacker sooner. The position still remains an area of need even with Pratt taking steps with increased playing time at the end of 2019.
Cincinnati released Preston Brown midseason and Nick Vigil and LaRoy Reynolds are entering free agency.
Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons is considered by many to be the top linebacker prospect, but if Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray or LSU’s Patrick Queen fall to the second round, either might be an option at No. 33 for the Bengals. Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks also could be available and would be one to watch.
The Bengals always can use edge rushers but it seems the cornerback spot could be an area of greater concern right now. Will Jackson has been inconsistent, Dre Kirkpatrick hasn’t been performing to the level of his salary and nickel corner Darqueze Dennard is a pending free agent.
Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah, LSU’s Kristian Fulton, Alabama’s Trevon Diggs and Florida’s C.J. Henderson are among the top prospects at cornerback. Ohio State’ Damon Arnette might be one to watch as a third- or fourth-round pick if he falls.
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