Next up are the guys in the trenches. Probably the most important positions on each side of the ball.
The team will return the anchor of the Offense Andrew Whitworth (2015) at LT, both starting guards in Clint Boling (2014) and Kevin Zeitler (2015) and both players that started at C last year in Kyle Cook (2015) and Trevor Robinson (2014). Anthony Collins (2013) is a swing backup who may have to start at RT this year and the team also re-signed Dennis Roland (2013). 2012 FA addition Travelle Wharton (2014) and 2013 addition Mike Pollack (2013) both provide depth at guard. Rounding out the roster is Dan Knapp (2014) who was added to the offseason roster after spending the last five games on the practice squad. Although unsigned Andre Smith is a key piece here as well.
Jason:O-line is a tough call. I do think depth on the right side is a need regardless of what happens with Andre. I'm just not impressed with Roland, and I'd like a backup mauler RG behind Zeitler. I could see a guy who can play both RT and RG as a late round pick.
As for starting RT my preference would be to re-sign Andre or bring in one of the free agents, but if we don't re-sign Andre prior to Thursday, RT has to be a consideration in the first couple rounds.
I could see Fluker or Watson at pick 21.
I could see Armstead at 37.
Pugh or Long at 53.
I would love to get Reid Fragel in 4 or 5. I think he could eventually step in at LT when Whit hangs it up.
Xavier Nixon or Chris Faulk later in the draft as RG/RT guys would also be good picks.
Frankly I do not see them drafting a center at all, or a guard early unless someone like Cooper or Warmack slides down the board.
Akili: Drafting Andre's replacement in round 1 is an absolute worst case scenario for me. Fluker and Watson are both HUGE downgrades. Fluker is a great run blocker but god awful pass blocker. Watson looks like a soccer player learning to play football. Completely lost. Wildly inconsistent. I'd rather re-sign Smith, sign an outside free agent or just roll with Collins/Wharton. If we do draft an offensive tackle, the only one I really like is Kyle Long from Oregon with the 37th pick. He's big, athletic and can play every position except center.
If Cooper or Warmack drop to 21 (they won't) you have to give serious consideration to taking them. I don't see guard as a need at all but they are very good and very highly rated prospects. I think we always take a guard/tackle type of guy in the latter rounds hoping to strike gold. Great lineman can be found in the late rounds every season.
At center I think we are perfectly fine with Cook as the solid vet and Robinson as the future. I wouldn't take a center before the latter rounds and he better be able to play guard or tackle too.
MW: Follow up. 1 guy that I like is Ricky Wagner from Wisconsin. He stands out to me because those Wisconsin lines are full of studs and he played LT and is projected at RT
Akili: I'd take Wagner because he is big, strong, versatile and played for Wisconsin. He'd fit the guard/tackle hybrid in the late rounds.
The other side of the line will likely the Bengals biggest strength. The team returns its entire rotation at DE with stars Carlos Dunlap (2013) and Micheal Johnson (2013) leading the way. Robert Geathers (2013) returns to his left end spot and last years surprise Wallace Gillberry (2015) adds another threat. Jamaal Anderson (2013) and DeQuin Evans (2014) round out the roster. Anderson was a non factor last year even when healthy and Evans keeps hanging on with the team in some shape and form. Inside the team returns both starters in star tackle Geno Atkins (2013) and team leader Domato Peko (2014). Second year backups Devon Still (2015) and Brandon Thompson (2015) will look to fill the void left by the departure of Pat Sims.
Akili: Defensive tackle is set with Atkins, Peko, Still and Thompson. I see no reason to draft one before the later rounds as a practice squad guy.
DE is a little different. The only guys locked up long term are Geathers and Gilberry, both on 3 year deals. The starters, Dunlap and Johnson, will be free agents next season. It's very possible they take an end high anticipating not being able to come to a deal with Dunlap or Johnson. The highest d-lineman drafted by the team is Dunlap though who was a 2nd round pick. The team is very good at finding talent on the line in the 2nd-4th rounds. Here's who I think they'd target:
21 - Werner, Datone Jones
37 - Carradine, Damontre Moore
53 - Hunt, Okafor, Montgomery
84 - Cornelius Washington, Lavar Edwards
118 - Michael Buchanon, Malliciah Goodman
156 - David Baas, Mike Catapano, Devin Taylor
Jason: The single most pressing need on defense this off season is to lock up Geno Atkins long term. He makes the rest of the defense better. As for the rest of the DT position, I agree with Akili. It is not a need, and I am happy with what we have, and unless someone slides to the point you would be stupid not to take him, I don't see a DT before round 6.
Defensive end is not a "need" per se, but I agree with Akili that the contract status of Johnson and Dunlap means DE is not off the table at any point if he is the best player available. And I would not be at all surprised to see them take one anywhere, and kind of expect a mid-round pick to be used for one unless someone falls into their lap in 1 or 2.
My list is not all that different either, except I like Hunt a little more than Moore. And call me a homer if you must, I would add John Simon to the list at 84. His measurables are not great, but he is very strong, and has a relentless motor. He will be a good player for a long time for someone.
MW: I am a BG Grad and therefore biased but I love Chris Jones. What do you think about him? Any chance he becomes an Atkins type? He has very good strength and produced a ton.
Jason and Akili: Crickets
MW: My bias sneaks through again