The Cincinnati Bengals have always gone after the best player available rather than addressing specific needs, so there is no reason to expect them to stray from that course in 2018, especially after addressing one of their biggest needs by trading for tackle Cordy Glenn earlier this month .
But while all options other than quarterback will be on the table when the Bengals make the 21st pick, there are some positions they are more likely to target than others.
Here are five of them, listed in no specific order:
Why they will: All three tight ends on the roster – Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah – are in the final year of their contracts after Eifert signed a one-year deal earlier this month.
Why they won’t: It’s not a great tight end class, with Division II’s South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert the leading prospect.
Why they will: Russell Bodine, who started all 64 games the last four years, signed with Buffalo, leaving T.J. Johnson, a seventh-round pick in 2013, as the only other center on the roster.
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Why they won’t: The Bengals haven’t taken a center in the first round since 1983 (Dave Rimington) and have only selected four prior to the fourth round in franchise history. And guards Trey Hopkins and Christian Westerman are viable candidates to battle Johnson for the job, decreasing the urgency to find a starter in the first round.
Why they will: They cannot afford to pass up Mike McGlinchey, who played both left and right tackle at Notre Dame, if he’s still on the board.
Why they won’t: They Bengals were encouraged by the progress Jake Fisher was making before a heart issue ended his 2017 season, and they think new offensive line coach Frank Pollack can help the 2015 second-round pick’s development. Plus with four of five tackles expected to go in the top 20, the Bengals aren’t going to forfeit value and a pick that would be a reach.
Why they will: The Bengals would love to sign both DT Geno Atkins and DE Carlos Dunlap to extensions before the season starts, but there’s some doubt whether they can afford Dunlap after inking Atkins, their top target. Plus, Michael Johnson is at the end of his career and as great as Carl Lawson was last year as a rookie, the question is whether he can be as effective as an every-down player.
Why they won’t: While a need may exist down the road, the Bengals have more pressing needs in 2018. The Bengals found gems in Lawson and Jordan Willis in the middle rounds last year and could look to add depth at end this year by following the same path.
Why they will: New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin puts a premium on guys who can force turnovers – hence the negotiations with Northmont grad Kurt Coleman last month – and starters George Iloka and Shawn Williams have never fit that mold.
Why they won’t: The two safeties with first-round grades, Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and Florida State’s Derwin James, will be long gone by the time the Bengals pick, and anyone else would be a major over-reach.