Matt will be reviewing each team's pre-draft analysis by talking about the draft range of targeted players.
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Cincinnati Bengals (Last Year: 7-9)
Here we are again Bengals fans, looking for help on defense in the first round of the draft. What has hurt the Bengals is how bad they have drafted (Odell Thurman, David Pollack, Frostee Rucker, Chris Perry, etc.)
The Bengals are in a great position in this draft because there are three teams that have defenses that don't have the same needs ahead of them at Nos. 6 (Jets), 7 (Pats), and 8 (Ravens). All those teams need cornerbacks, which isn't a need for Cincinnati. This is a big help to the value of the Bengals position in the first round because some extremely good defensive player could fall to them. Let's look at their range in the first round:
I've seen a few mocks with this pick (Charles Davis) and it doesn't make any sense. They just franchised Stacy Andrews; Levi Jones has a few years left; and Andrew Whitworth is a consistent force on the line (but is a better fit at guard or right tackle). There is no chance the Bengals take Clady.
The consensus best linebacker in the draft would be a great fit for this defense. He brings elite leadership and is a prototype from a size standpoint. The USC product possesses very good speed and solid range in zone coverage. He can play WILL or SAM; I consider him to be among the favorites for the Bengals to draft here.
I'd have a hard time seeing Kansas City pass on him. If he were to fall to Cincinnati, they would draft him in a heartbeat.
Derrick Harvey/Phillip Merling:
Defensive end is a premium position in this league. The Bengals recently signed Antwan Odom from the Titans, and I think he fills a need as a pass rusher coming off the right side and has the versatility to play on the left. Both Merling and Harvey would be a big help to this defense, but in different ways (and I think both should be available at No. 9).
Merling is more of a versatile end. He can play left or right, and he has underrated ability to move past the tackle and get to the quarterback. He is not strictly a run-stuffing defensive end. I consider seven sacks, seven quarterback hurries, and two forced fumbles highly productive for a junior.
If they want to go with a more pass-rushing threat off the right side, then Derrick Harvey would be more of a fit for what they are looking for. He is the best defensive end in this draft in terms of first-step quickness, and he has a high upside with his speed and frame.
OK, so I think it's pretty obvious that the Bengals want to address defense early in the draft, but what will they do in the second round?
Outside linebacker is an area of great concern if they don't take Rivers at No. 9. Erin Henderson, Tavares Gooden, Wesley Woodyard, and Xavier Adibi are all in the Bengals' range at No. 46.
If Sedrick Ellis isn't on the board at No. 9, getting a second-tier defensive tackle would be a great move here. Dre Moore blew up the combine at 6-3, 305, and a blistering 4.88 40. Trevor Laws, Red Bryant, Pat Sims, and Ahtyba Rubin all fit what this scouting department looks for in big, run-plugging tackles.
Lawrence Jackson and Calais Campbell are the only defensive ends in this draft who are worthy of a second round pick, so if the Harvey or Merling aren't drafted at No. 9, Cincinnati could be looking to add a bookend here as well in the No. 46 range.
Safety is also a need with this defense, and I think they might be looking for one in the middle of the draft with the departure of Madieu Williams. Josh Barrett, Thomas DeCoud, Jamar Adams, Craig Steltz, and Marcus Griffin are safeties in that middle range (round 3-5) of the draft that the Bengals could be targeting.
It's a deep running back class as well, so they might go value here late. Kevin Smith, Mike Hart, Steve Slaton, Allen Patrick, Justin Forsett, and Ryan Torain are all tailbacks this team could be looking at in Rounds 5-7.
The Bengals defense has a long way to go before they can get back to the playoffs, and I think a big part of that is how well they do in the 2008 Draft.
Cincinnati Bengals 2008 Offseason Needs
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