We have listed the roster needs for the Bengals a number of times: corner, guard, safety, running back, wide receiver, and a D-lineman. Successfully navigating free agency and the draft could allow the Bengals to move into the front seat in the sedan of the AFC North.
As I was reading some articles about some of the guys at the Combine who might interest the Bengals, primarily running backs, a thought hit me. The strategy that the front office adopts in filling the need at running back may be the biggest factor in how this draft goes for the Bengals.
If you are like me, you consider the biggest needs to fill to be at corner and guard. That would mean that, unless they make a move in free agency, those positions are the most likely to be targeted with the two first round picks, right?
If Trent Richardson should slip all the way to #17 (and Nate reports that the likelihood of that has increased), he would be a greater overall value than a guard, which might bump taking an O-lineman a round or two. [Then again, given the Bengals' long, inglorious track record with RBs taken high and knee injuries, you might be inclined to avoid TR now.]
The Bengals were also reported to be very excited about Doug Martin. Could he throw our draft expectations for a loop in the first round?
Another strategy — one I prefer, given that I doubt that TR gets past the Jets at #16 — would be to target a RB in the second round. Between Doug Martin, Lamar Miller and David Wilson, one of these guys should still be on the board at #53 when the Bengals pick again. None of these guys are the perfect back, but all could make an impact sharing time with Bernard Scott.
Yet another strategy would be to wait until the third round to take the locally popular Isaiah Pead. While Pead knocked it out of the park at the Senior Bowl, his size may limit how much he can be used in a game before risking his durability. He, or any guy in this range, will need a heavier rotation with another back. But if you want to move to a tandem of RBs in the backfield, that isn’t a big negative.
And then again, there is always the strategy of grabbing a free agent RB instead.
The decision of how to fill this vital role will be a big factor in how the rest of the draft shakes out.