Now that the 2012 draft is in the books and the Bengals seem to have had a good one, it's time to look to 2013. It's impossible to predict who will work out in this year's draft, but the Bengals seem to have loaded up on interior D Line depth, drafted a starting Guard, a number 2 WR, and a starting CB for at least the next few years. Most draft pundits are giving the Bengals an A for their draft and lets hope they're right. They also landed Vontaze Burfict, a LB, who many thought would be a 1st round pick before the 2011 season. Due to character concerns he went undrafted, lets hope that humbled him and he turns it around and becomes a star at LB for the Bengals.
There's almost a full year until next year's draft so a lot can and probably will change between now and then. For now though it looks like the biggest needs heading into next off season will be a SS, RB, LB, and DE in that order. Also possibly another starting Guard depending on how Wharton, the free agent from Carolina, plays out. As far as the roster sits right now there are more than servicable players at those positions and some intruiging prospects so there aren't going to be "pressing needs." That said upgrades and depth are never a bad thing and it once again looks like the Bengals will be able to go with pretty much the best player available and add talent to the roster. Here's a look at some of the prospects the Bengals may be looking at heading into 2013.
Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma- Jefferson is a big hitter who has played some LB, been moved to Safety and is a punishing run defender. He can also hold his own in coverage and isn't a liability in the back end. The Bengals usually like their Safeties big though and he is only 5'9".
Tyrann Mathieu, LSU- I know Matthieu is listed as a CB, but some see him playing Safety in the NFL. He can play both and that versatility could make him more valuable. He is also only 5'9" and the Bengals like their Safeties big, but this guy can hit and make huge plays in pass coverage as well as the return game. I think Earl Thomas of the Seahawks, from Texas when I see Mathieu. This guy is just flat out a football player and a big time, game changing playmaker.
Eric Reid, LSU- Reid has the protypical size for a SS and is a big hitter which the Bengals will like. He'll likely be the 2nd from the LSU defensive backfield to be drafted in the 1st round. Was an imposing force in the middle of that vaunted LSU defense and came up big with a big interception in the first game vs Alabama. Finished tied for the team lead in tackles in 2011.
TJ McDonald, USC- Heading into his 3rd year as a starter at USC. McDonald is 6'3" and 210 lbs so he has the size. He has 6 career interceptions so the ball skills are there and he finished 3rd on the team in tackles. McDonald is the total package as a run stuffer and a pass defender and could very well end up being taken in the 1st round.
Robert Lester, Alabama- Lester isn't as heralded as teammate Mark Barron was in this year's draft, but if he continues to progress could be one of five Safeties that have a shot to be taken in the first round. After 2 down years as far as Safeties go, it could be a good draft to find an upgrade at the position. Many have graded Lester's ball skills better than that of teammate Barron but he has to become more forceful against the run to become a complete Safety worthy of a 1st round pick.
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina- Could be the only RB taken in the 1st round in a league where the position has been devalued. Lattimore has the total package to be a 3 down back. He has good size, speed, power, and agility. He can catch the ball out of the backfield as well as pass protect. Not as highly rated as Trent Richardson or Adrian Peterson so it's unlikely he goes in that top 5-10 range. Also is coming off a devestating ACL injury. All that being said he could be an elite RB in the NFL and if the Bengals took Chris Perry in the 1st this guy is way better than Perry.
Montee Ball, Wisconsin- Ball has great size, power, quickness and vision. As of now he probably projects to go in the early 2nd round area. Could be available right in that range of our 2nd round pick from Oakland if they struggle this season. Ball scored a ton of TD's and comes from a line of Wisconsin backs where you don't know if it's the line or the back or a combination of both. Lots of busts have come from the Wisconsin backfield because scouts thought they were better than they really were due to that powerful line.
Knile Davis, Arkansas- Has good speed for his size at 6'0" 220 lbs. Would like to see Davis have another good season as he's only had one good year so far and has had some issues with consistency. Good fit for the AFC North though as he is a good runner between the tackles. If he has another good year I'd feel comfortable with the Bengals using a 2nd round pick on him over Ball as he plays in the tougher SEC and though Arkansas has a good line you don't see RB's being a product of the line there as much as Wisconsin.
Manti Te'o, Notre Dame- If Rey Maualuga struggles again this season it may be time to think about moving him back to SAM LB or making a switch. Te'o is a dominant interior run defender who likely would've been a 1st round pick this year. Has been starting at ND since he was a freshman. Has great instincts, the speed to chase down ball carriers in open space, and the strength to hold up inside. If he continues to play at a high level he could be a top ten pick.
Jarvis Jones, Georgia- Teams with a 3-4 defense will probably be drooling over Jones due to his ability to rush the passer, but he has the size and speed to play in a 4-3. Jones has great athleticism and constantly plays in the backfield. May be a top ten pick like Te'o, but would be a great addition at WILL LB for the Bengals. Would bring an extra dimension of an elite pass rusher from the LB spot who can also cover RB's and TE's and plays the run very well.
Shayne Skov, Stanford- Word is that he plays with big time intensity and had 1st round grades for this year, but that was derailed due to a knee injury. If he can stay healthy he could be a mid to late 1st rounder in 2012. Skov is an excellent run defender and would be an upgrade to the Bengals LB core who didn't do a very good job tackling in 2011.
Kevin Reddick, North Carolina- Lots of draft experts thought Reddick was coming out in 2012 and had him pegged as a 2nd rounder. His stock could go up or down, but I like his game. He's a LB who does everything well he can play the run, drop and cover both RB's and TE's, and can blitz a little bit. Will be a solid addition to any team as he's a consistent player who doesn't make many mistakes but isn't flashy. The kind of player every team needs to be champions.
Arthur Brown, Kansas State- Brown was a transfer from Miami (FL) and just came onto the scene last season. He had an excellent 2011 and has gotten comparisons to Ray Lewis due to his size and style of play. Has to show he's not a one year wonder though to get 1st round consideration but may be a steal in the 2nd or later.
Sam Montgomery, LSU- For now Montgomery is thought to be a top 5 pick heading into next season. If the Bengals are picking high enough to get him I'll be disappointed. Montgomery has everything you look for in a DE he has that quick first step, explodes up the field, and can change direction instantly rushing the passer and can also stuff the run. If the Bengals want to become an elite defense they need to add that elite edge pass rusher and Montgomery would do that.
Barkevious Mingo, LSU- May need to add some bulk to play DE in a 4-3 but is ideal for a 3-4 OLB pass rushing off the edge. Could be a pass rusher in a 4-3 at his current size but not an every down player. Mingo has the frame to add the bulk though and will only be a junior at LSU. LSU could have the first two DE's off the board.
Alex Okafor, Texas- Okafor is in the same boat as Mingo as far as an elite pass rusher but needs to add bulk to be a 3 down DE in a 4-3. With the Bengals depth and rotation on the D Line both he and Mingo could fit in as a pass rushing specialist as the Bengals run an 8 man rotation on the line.
Devin Taylor, South Carolina- Taylor made the right decision going back to school. He had an excellent 2010 and was thought to be a 1st round pick heading into 2011 but didn't have a good season. If Taylor comes back strong in 2012 he could find himself being taken in the 1st he has all the tools to be a complete DE with his pass rushing ability and ability to stuff the run.