After another disappointing season in Cincinnati, fans are starting to get edgy. The Bengals have made four straight playoff appearances now; but due to quarterback Andy Dalton and his poor performances year after year, the Bengals have been unable to advance past the Wild Card Round.
This season the Bengals seemed underrated all season, but in the end they pulled out the top Wild Card slot in the AFC. The Bengals Super Bowl dreams were quickly smashed by the Indianapolis Colts, who would eventually end up in the AFC Championship Game losing to the New England Patriots.
The Bengals are a bit of an oddity. The team as a whole works pretty well together; however, when you start to break it down they lack talent at some of the most important positions in the NFL. If the Bengals want to really step up and play with the big boys in the AFC they have some important moves to make in the 2015 NFL Draft. Here’s a list of some of the positions the Cincinnati Bengals really need to focus on in this coming draft:
Quarterback: Let’s start with the obvious—Andy Dalton is not the future of this franchise or any other team in the NFL for that matter. Dalton is an above average backup quarterback at best. After multiple disasters in the playoffs the fans in Cincinnati wanted Dalton’s head on a silver platter, but instead the team gave him a multi-million dollar contract. Makes sense right? Dalton is a quarterback who is only as good as his team—that is, Dalton himself does nothing to make the team better, and instead he just relies on A.J. Green and the others to do it all. Here’s the problem though: Dalton would be an extremely expensive benchwarmer. The Bengals cannot simply bench him, instead they will need to trade him before the draft. If that doesn’t happen, Bengal fans can expect another year of playoff disappointment.
Tight End: The tight end is starting to become the most important position on the offense. Most of the NFL’s teams and quarterbacks boast a great tight end—Drew Brees has Jimmy Graham, the Patriots have Rob Gronkowski, and the Seattle Seahawks have Luke Wilson. The Bengals have Jermaine Gresham. Sure, Gresham is a consistent player overall, but he doesn’t have the explosive ability that the elites do. Gresham also stays healthy, so at least they’ll still have him; but drafting a tight end with a mid-round pick could do wonders for the team. After all, most of the NFL’s best tight ends were drafted in the 4th round or later, or in some cases completely undrafted.
Linebacker: This is probably the Bengals biggest need this offseason, though it might come as a bit of a surprise. Vontaze Burfict is arguably the most talented linebacker in the NFL today. That being said, he is also extremely injury prone because of the way he tends to tackle. Burfict leads the team, and some seasons the entire NFL, in tackles; but this is more of a shot at the rest of the linebacking core than it is a compliment for Burfict. Really, outside of him there is no talent (most Bengals fans I know are tired of Rey Maualuga, so I’m sure they won’t have a problem with me saying that). Linebacker is also a very difficult position to fill. In order to find a good athlete that will be able to do well in both pass rushing and slot coverage they will need to spend a first round pick. Actually, the Bengals have the 21st selection in this year’s draft; so moving up a few slots won’t hurt either. The Bengals would be smart to move up and take the best linebacker possible off the board.