Hobson's Choice: Issues And Answers Bouncing In Bengals' Draft Winds

Last year the Bengals drafted NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja'Marr Chase.
Last year the Bengals drafted NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja'Marr Chase.

Geoff, What's the highest priority hole to fill in the draft to elevate this exciting D? Cornerback (to start, or minimum push Apple). Defensive 3T who can rush middle. Edge Rusher (beyond hoping Ossai brings what they expect) William Jacob, Salem, MA

WILLIAM: Good to hear from North Washington Square and Pickering Wharf.

To me, no question, has to be cornerback. The last draft helps you backing up the three technique (Cam Sample) and edge (Joseph Ossai). But what if Chidobe Awuzie or Eli Apple go down on the outside corner? Tre Flowers should be able to step in and play some, but they need numbers there. This could be a cornerback draft like 2020 was their linebacker draft.

Geoff, I'm likely to have several beers in me by the time the Bengals are finally on the clock, so spin me a drunken fan's fantasy. Give me 3 players who could take an Aaron Rodgers-like tumble and miraculously end up in Stripes. Who Dey! Phoebe Ravencraft, Columbus, OH

PHOEBE: Great question! Looking at last week's Bengals.com Media Mock Draft and other mocks, how wild do you want to get? Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum is a consensus late first-round pick and is ticketed to the Bengals at No. 31 in many mocks. So that wouldn't even be a mild surprise and neither would Boston College guard Zion Johnson or Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green.

But if it's fantasy you want, how about Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis? Walter Football has him going No. 13 to Houston, but we had him going No. 23 to Arizona. He's a three-down guy that can go inside, outside, stand up, sit down and, according to Pro Football Focus, played at least 49 snaps in all but one game this past season, when the web site gave him a 90.6 on the pass rush.

Or what about Georgia defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt? We've got him going No. 20 to the Steelers, but Pete Prisco at CBS Sports has him at No. 27 to Tampa Bay. This guy can be a dominant three technique. At least he was at the Senior Bowl and that's a measuring stick the Bengals like.

Or what about Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam? He's tantalizingly rated close to No. 31, but never seems to get to the Bengals. We've got him going the pick before to Kansas City. So does Prisco. PFF has him going to the Cards at No. 23.

A guy such as Clemson's Andrew Booth, Jr., is ranked a tad lower (although PFF has him going No. 21 to New England) and wouldn't be as big of a surprise as Elam getting to No. 31. I mean, Elam's media scouting report is first-round stuff. He's physical, the pundits say, he's nearly 6-2 and went against the best receivers in the country allowing 19 catches last year on 36 targets with just seven penalties, according to PFF.

But here's The-Eye-of-the-Beholder thing. What is a slide to some is a reach for others. Scouts, Inc., has Elam rated No. 47. Where he is on the Bengals board, who knows? So who's an A-Rod slide and who isn't?

If you really want to go nuts and start doing shots, what about Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams? We haven't seen a mock where he lasts past No. 17, which is ridiculously low for this guy's talent. The only reason he's there is because he tore his ACL in the national title game. Even if he fell to No. 31, which would eclipse the A-Rod swan dive, would the Bengals even take Williams after grabbing two of the best receivers in the last two drafts?

Hey Geoff, long time reader who has really enjoyed what the Bengals have done so far this offseason. I know people will ask "who are the Bengals gonna draft?" so I'll instead ask what positions and athletic profiles they might target in R1? Brian Gleason, Seattle, WA

BRIAN: Thanks for reading and for checking in.

The best player available thing is really legit at No. 31. Anything but quarterback, it would seem, is on the table. The problem at No. 31 is its doubtful there is going to be one guy standing out, which is why a trade out of the first round is so attractive. If there's a guy who is standing out that much, you have to take him even if it's a receiver. (Now is a good time to recall in 2020 the Bengals had wide receiver Tee Higgins graded mid-first round, making him a must to take at No. 33.

And the problem with a trade is you need outside help in the form of a run on one position or you need one team to be locked on one guy.

You figure the quarterback run is going to start a lot earlier than the end of the first round. And if there's a run on cornerbacks there, which often times there is (last year three corners went between 26 and 33), well, the Bengals are in the market for one. The other problem with a trade is the teams behind them early in the second round that need receivers, like the Jets at 35 and Texans at 37, have two first-round picks.

So cornerback is clearly a position of interest. So is safety, the edge, D-tackle and the offensive line if you're reading straight off the depth chart.

They've been pretty consistent with the profile of their most recent draft classes. They like guys who have played a lot of ball, know the game, have been voted captains, have NFL-physical traits and bring some versatility.

That profile is one of the reasons we gave the Bengals Penn State edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie at No. 31 in the Bengals.com Media Mock Draft. Certainly a position of need and he's got a pro-long sleeve at 34 ½ inches. Plus, he picked up the Penn State scheme quickly enough this year for 9.5 sacks following his transfer from three seasons at Temple. Smart guy who has 3-4 rush-and-drop versatility that fits into defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo's playbook. He's just 256 pounds, but PFF calls him "an explosive speed rusher."

Bengal greats like Ken Anderson and Ken Riley have been snubbed for NFL HOF induction due to the overall lack of sustained organizational success. Will such future success with Burrow help get these two deserving greats in the NFL HOF? Chris Ramsey , Lebanon, OH

CHRIS: I'd debate your assertion that they're not in the Hall of Fame because of a lack of sustained organizational success. Their best chances at making it have come in the last dozen years or so, a stretch when they've won four division titles and been to the playoffs seven times.

The major reason they're not in the Hall of Fame, particularly quarterback Ken Anderson, is because their 1981 Bengals didn't win the Super Bowl. That's a huge factor working against Anderson, which is sad. The Bengals won the AFC title because Anderson had an MVP year, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame senior committee has seemingly penalized him for not having a ring and ignored his numbers that are better than many of the quarterbacks already in Canton.

And while Anderson would be a slam dunk if they won in Detroit that day, cornerback Ken Riley would probably be in, too. A Super Bowl ring seems to be a tiebreaker for many voters. What also hurts Riley with them is he didn't make a Pro Bowl while the cornerback on the Bengals' other side during the prime of Riley's career, Lemar Parrish, went to six.

What the senior committee has failed to recognize is that Riley's 65 career interceptions are more than all but four people who ever played the game and that everyone ahead of him and around him on the league's all-time interception list is in the Hall. Plus, Parrish, one of the league's great returners, got a spot on Pro Bowl teams, in part, because they didn't have a spot for returners.

That said, Parrish should be a Hall-of-Famer, too. The senior committee was formed to right history's many wrongs. Riley never making a Pro Bowl has to be up there. His No. 5 spot on the all-time picks list makes him arguably the most glaring Hall omission. Right with Anderson's four NFL passing titles.

But you make a good point. It will be interesting to see if in the first senior committee meeting since the Bengals went to the Super Bowl they get more buzz. My sense is it helps, but it's not going to put them over the top. Unfortunately, the Super Bowl that carries the most weight with the voters when it comes to Riley and Anderson is Super Bowl XVI and it is weighted far too much.

Fan since 1968. What's the delay/hold up on signing Kevin Huber?

Steve Hilgeman Savannah, GA

STEVE: They're still talking, so I'm assuming it's simply about taking time to get a deal.

Geoff, going into the draft I still think that we need to address the OL, but if a high rated corner is on the board I think we need to address the secondary because I feel we have no depth, what do you think, love your thoughts. Thanks Greg Slonaker, Groveport, OH

GREG: Thanks for asking. Yeah, I think they've done plenty to upgrade the offensive line. Last month they signed three starters in free agency. Last year they drafted three linemen. They need to keep upgrading, but not on the first two days of the draft.

No question the more urgent positions in the draft are cornerback and safety. Please let there be a quality cornerback at No. 31 and maybe No. 63. Behind Awuzie and Apple is Flowers, a guy that played just 152 snaps last year in a niche third-down role. Which is fine, but there's no experience behind him.

Geoff thank you so much for taking the time around this time of the year to answer fans questions. My question to you is as crazy as this sounds could you see the Bengals taking a wide receiver as early as round 2? Possibly Alec Pierce? Greg Luther, Cincinnati, OH

GREG: Thank you for asking. It's not crazy at all. If they think a guy is clearly the best player when they're picking, I could see them taking a receiver as early No. 31. It's not likely that high, but you can't rule it out. Look, you could make the argument that they're as thin at backup wide receiver as they are at backup cornerback. They do have Mike Thomas, though, a solid No. 4 receiver, but after that, not so much.

Not crazy. Not likely, but not crazy. The other thing, too, is the way the salaries of wide receivers are escalating, don't look a gifted rookie receiver in the mouth.

If you were picking for the Bengals, what are the top 5 guys you would want? Would you consider a trade back if those guys weren't there? If so, how far back would you be comfortable with? Thanks Man! Mark Bartruff, Fort Wright, KY

MARK: It depends what their board says and how much of a gap they see from No. 33 to, say, No. 75. If it's small, trade back as far as you want and get three players instead of one. But that's not usually the way it goes. Hard to see them moving back more than five or six slots. Usually at that point in the draft, that's about how many guys you've got ranked in the same area.

So here are five guys, and maybe you can get two of them in the first 64: I've already stated the case on Elam, but there's also Baylor safety Jalen Pitre, a seasoned, smart sort who can also play nickel. So can Michigan safety Daxton Hill. Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum is an interesting discussion. Hard to see any of those guys available past 40. At 64, the last pick in the second round, Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon would be a great get there. Illinois safety Kerby Joseph, with a 6-foot-8 wingspan, is interesting there, too. If you get that early third-rounder in a trade, maybe you look at a guy like University of Cincinnati wide receiver Alec Pierce and his 13 PFF deep balls.

So you come out of the top 75 or so really attacking your depth in your thinnest spots. But, who knows? What the pundits are saying is, like last year, the guts of this draft is in rounds two to four. That's why director of player personnel Duke Tobin went for two extra fourths trading down from the high second round, which is basically where they are now. But are the players I like who they like? I don't know. They never say.

Ted Karas is signed to play center; however if he were to get injured, Trey Hill is the backup and he was not ready last year! My question do the Bengals feel THAT comfortable with Hill or is that another reason to pick Linderbaum if there Greg Hutchinson, Port St. Lucie, FL

GREG: Yes, the Bengals feel comfortable enough with 2021 sixth-rounder Trey Hill that they feel like he can be a starting NFL center. You're right, he had ups and downs as a rookie but the coaches believe his arrow is aiming up and that he will be a reliable player this year. Plus, he has a true NFL body with above average size, so folks feel good about Trey Hill. I don't think that eliminates Linderbaum, but I think it means he's not a given if he's on the board (Linderbaum is 25 pounds lighter than Hill and Hill is 22 years old this year), so there will be a decision if there's a comparable pass rusher or cornerback there as well.

Do you expect Joe burrow to want a similar contract structure that the browns recently gave deshaun Watson? Dan Jones, Cincinnati, OH

DAN: I would think any NFL player would want an entire contract guaranteed. But Burrow and Watson are in different situations. Burrow is on a rookie deal and Watson's contract was part of a trade involving his second contract. Not exactly apples to apples. One thing I don't doubt, though, is the Bengals getting an extension with Burrow after next season. That's just in the franchise's DNA.

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