“You can’t handle the truth.” ~ Col. Jessup
The Bengals have the 21st pick in the 2015 draft.
Andy Dalton will be the Bengals starting quarterback in 2015 barring injury, kidnaping, or retirement. Dalton is a slightly below average quarterback. His Rate+ for the past four seasons has been 94, 103, 103, and 94 (100 is average). In 2014, Dalton passed 105 fewer times than he did in 2013. He also was the 15th highest paid quarterback in the NFL in 2014. The top 8 highest paid QB’s had cap hits twice that of Dalton’s measly $9 million. Next season, Dalton will drop to 18th highest paid at $9.6 mil. But in 2016, his cap hit will be over $13 million.
The good news is that Carson Palmer will still make more money than Dalton in 2016 and Tony Romo will be paid over $27 million in 2015. Dalton has been a pretty good bargain up to this point. Having a good quarterback is important but would you want to be paying Joe Flacco over $28 million in 2016? He does have a Super Bowl win.
This means the Bengals are not likely going to draft a quarterback of any significance. From the Bengals perspective Dalton has been a pretty good investment. There is also AJ McCarron who likely slips into the backup spot next year. McCarron was drafted because he is an affordable option that can do what Dalton can do or come very close.
The Bengals will probably draft a running back in the middle rounds. They let James Wilder Jr. go and will be looking for someone who can take the wear and tear off of Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernanrd. I was never a fan of Wilder, although I saw him play in both high school and college. He may have been a problem off the field. There will be plenty of Jeremy Hill backups to choose from in this year’s draft.
The Bengals top three returning wide receivers, A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, and Marvin Jones will be in the final year of their contracts. The Bengals are probably going to be looking for a receiver early in the draft. By pick 21, Amari Cooper will be gone; but in the second round, maybe they get someone like Auburn’s Sammy Coates (who lit up Alabama for 200 yards). Either way, I think the Bengals take a receiver in the first three rounds.
I think the Bengals will let Gresham walk unless he just has a big cheerleader in the front office somewhere that is advocating for him to be resigned. That means they will be looking for someone to play with Tyler Eifert. Unfortunately, it is a thin tight end draft class. Nobody should ever reach for a tight end and when things are thin, that is the risk. Nick O’leary from Florida State could be a nice surprise but he could be gone before the Bengals think he is worth drafting.
Andre Smith is entering the final year of his contract. Andrew Whitworth is getting old. The Bengals have so many decisions to make on draft day and that’s the conundrum teams that aren’t in rebuilding mode fine themselves. Offensive tackle will be high on the Bengals draft list as they have no other choice. I would not be surprised if they took an O-lineman in the first two rounds.
No way the Bengals spend an early pick on a defensive end unless there is someone they think is an immediate game changer. That game changer is likely not out there. They have two other young defensive ends in Margus Hunt and Will Clarke. The Bengals are too practical lately to give up on their two previous draft picks when they have real depth problems elsewhere. If they think a Shane Ray or somebody can start and be a stud in the NFL in 2015, they may take go that route; but I think this is a position they let slide to a later round.
Despite Guenther’s comments about Atkins this week, Gino and Petko are going to be starting for the Bengals again in 2015. They also have Brandon Thompson and maybe Devon Still can have a more focused offseason. The Bengals will be looking for value later in the draft at DT.
Without Burfict, the Bengals are sorry at linebacker. Maualuga is an unrestricted free agent that the Bengals could probably sign. However, Burfict’s health is unknown. I think if there is stud linebacker available at the 21st pick the Bengals go for it. Marvin loves a good linebacker and I can’t believe he was happy with their play this season. Burfict’s health will play a huge role in how the Bengals look at linebacker on draft day.
The Bengals have 5 first round draft picks in their secondary supply. Dennard will likely move into a starting role and Kirkpatrick will be playing for a big contract. The Bengals will be looking for value and depth but not likely to take anyone early.
Although the Bengals took a step back on defense this season, I don’t think they really believe they are hurting at the defensive line. The injury Atkins had to endure probably takes two seasons to get back to previous levels. I look for the Bengals to go heavy on offense. They are stuck with Dalton because he is too good to look elsewhere and too bad to not fix what is wrong around him. Wide receiver, offensive line, and tight end are just an injury or two away from being really bad and a year away from losing guys to free agency or retirement.