by Andy “Bull” Barch
In a season where you lose 10 consecutive games, the only thing that you really have to look forward to is the NFL draft. The Bengals entered the 2010 season with expectations so incredibly high, and the results delivered, have been extremely underwhelming. Where the team goes from here, from a coaching standpoint, a player personnel standpoint, is anybody’s guess.
Taking a look at a few things that have plagued the men in stripes, certainly takes a while, especially when you consider just how awful they’ve been in almost every conceivable category. First and foremost, the lack of a pass rush has exposed this team tremendously. The Bengals have recorded just 18 sacks, tied with Denver for the fewest in the league. Against the run, they aren’t much better, as they’ve allowed an average of 124.8 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 24th in the NFL. The defensive line I think is the first place that needs an upgrade.
There are other areas of concern as well. I will get to those, as I take a look at five prospects that the Bengals should consider with their first pick. Here is a list of players that are (or should be) near the top of Cincinnati’s wish list. Get ready to sit back, enjoy our beverage of choice, and watch these guys in one of the 26578 bowl games that will be played over the next month.
(In no particular order)
1. Da’Quan Bowers, DE Clemson: He’s been discussed on the show before, and could be a major difference maker on the Bengals’ defensive front. Bowers is a 6-foot-4, 280 pound defensive end that is strong enough to hold up at the point of attack against the run, and the possesses the kind of quickness that allows him to get to quarterbacks consistently. I mentioned the lack of sacks for the Bengals, this season…if you pair Bowers and Carlos Dunlap, you’ve got yourself a nice pass rushing combination. If I’m picking for Cincy, this is probably the first guy I’d consider. You can catch Bowers at Noon on December 31st in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
2. Julio Jones, WR Alabama: Jones has all of the things you look for in a big play receiver. He’s got great size (6-foot-4, 211 pounds), great speed, runs good routes, and he plays in a conservative offense, which requires him to block out on the edge quite a bit. The latter is an ability most big play receivers lack, which I think puts him at the top of the WR list. With the uncertainty of Terrell Owens and Ocho Cinco next season, Jones is a guy that could very easily step in and fill the void, should one of, or both of the aforementioned pro bowlers go elsewhere. Jones and the Crimson Tide are in action on New Year’s Day at 1 PM in the Capital One Bowl.
3. Adrian Clayborn, DE Iowa: I know he probably doesn’t have the pass rushing ability of some of the other defensive linemen in this draft, and there may be some others that are better against the run, but Clayborn is the kind of player that does all things well. He’s very similar to Bowers in terms of size (6-foot-3, 285 lbs.), but he doesn’t have the same kind of athleticism, which is why he’s down here. Scott Wright of www.nfldraftcountdown.com, talks about Clayborn’s incredible motor, and that’s the kind of thing this defense could use. They need a guy like Clayborn who brings some energy to the table. Clayborn can be seen at the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28, at 10 PM.
4. A.J. Green, WR Georgia: Production dropped off in his senior season due to off the field issues. I still like A.J. Green a lot, although I like Julio Jones just a little more. Green and Jones will be looked at as 1-A and 1-B on most draft boards at this position, and I really don’t think you can go wrong with either one. Some say Green is faster, has better leaping ability, and is more of a playmaker than Jones. Both play in the same kind of offense, which is to their benefit, because it makes the learning curve from the college game to the pros a little easier. Green will play in the Autozone Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31 at 3:30 PM.
Here comes the wildcard…
5. Jake Locker, QB Washington: I certainly don’t think it will happen, but there are lot of people calling for it. The 2010 season has been awful for Carson Palmer. There’s TONS of talent at the skill positions in the Queen City, but Palmer failed to make the most of it this season. He’s under contract until 2014, but Sport s Illustrated’s Peter King did mention that he believes it’s a possibility that Palmer gets traded in the off-season. I put Locker on here, because Luck will be gone by the time the Bengals pick, and I really think Locker’s stock will improve between now and April. You can see Locker in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30, at 10 PM.
Again, these are in no particular order, but just five names to keep an eye on going into the college bowl season. Who do you think the Bengals should go after? Please send us your thoughts on Facebook and at firstname.lastname@example.org.