With the NFL draft a day away, hopes are equally high for playoff teams and basement dwellers. One of those teams, namely the Bengals, appeared to be in freefall for a while as the Bengals had to wait until after the Super Bowl to hire their new head coach. Now with Zac Taylor at the helm, the Bengals draft needs to fuel the progression from old to new. Here are some ways to allow the Bengals to move forward and reclaim their past dominance of the AFC North.
Find a franchise QB
The Bengals draft needs to be centered around the future and there are certainly many solid options to replace Andy Dalton. The Luxury of having Dalton under contract means you can take a bit of a risk on a player that may need some development. If coach Taylor is going to install his McVay-inspired offense, he needs a quarterback to implement that offense. Dalton simply is not the type of player with which to begin implementing a new system. Often new head coaches don’t stick with a player from the past regime unless that player is clearly a top 5 quarterback like Aaron Rodgers (who ironically enough is also playing for a new coach). One exception to this trend is Jared Goff, but it became clear after one season with an offensive-minded coach that he was mishandled and not given enough opportunity to develop. In the case of Dalton, he is nearing the end of his prime and his ceiling has been reached.
Find value along the offensive line
After drafting a QB the Bengals will need to reload and fortify one of the worst offensive lines in the league. For the Bengals draft to be a success they need to come away with a career starter on the O-Line and one or two other solid contributors. Finding a franchise lineman in the 2nd round (presumably using their 1st round selection on a QB) is easier said than done but with the bevy of defensive players that are going to be in high demand during the first round there should be a decent amount of 1st round talent available at 42nd overall. If the plan is to stick with Dalton for a while, then the Bengals need to select premier lineman to facilitate Dalton’s success. His most productive years came with a stellar cast of lineman protecting him and his not-so-stellar years were partially due to poor protection.
Create a new culture
One thing that Owner/General Manager Mike Brown has done over the past few decades is value talent over culture. Now, that isn’t to say that some of his gambles haven’t paid off on the field as he has drafted many pro-bowlers and often times been able to find talent others didn’t. However, some of the players that have been acquired (via draft and free agency) have had character or off-field issues surrounding them which enabled Brown to take the risk and hope it works out. Lately, the Bengals have been bogged down by (and arguably lost a playoff game due to) players who are bigger than the team or who think that they are more important. Obviously, talent matters and should come first but not at the cost of the team culture. Environments matter. It is why Google and Amazon spend so much time trying to create good environments for their employees because it is directly correlated with performance. Let’s hope that the Bengals cutting Vontaze Burfict is a sign that this priority has been installed.
Also here are the picks that Cincinnati is working with:
First round: 11th pick.
Second round: 10th pick, 42nd overall.
Third round: 8th pick, 72nd overall.
Fourth round: 8th pick, 110th overall.
Fifth round: 11th pick, 149th overall.
Sixth round: 10th pick, 183rd overall.
Sixth round: 25th pick, 198th overall (via trade with Cowboys)
Sixth round: 37th pick, 210th overall (compensatory pick).
Sixth round: 38th pick, 211th overall (compensatory pick).
Sixth round: 40th pick, 213th overall (compensatory pick).
Seventh round: 9th pick, 223rd overall.