CINCINNATI -- With the NFL draft now five days away, the first part of this weekend's Cincinnati Bengals' mailbag has a decidedly draft-focused tone.
Every question below pertains to the selection process and what the Bengals may do when put on the clock in Chicago on Thursday. The second part of the mailbag that will go live Sunday will touch on other, broader team issues and themes.
Let's get to it then, shall we?
@ColeyHarvey. I've said this before, and I'll say it again: the Bengals won't be drafting by position this year. Often you hear NFL coaches and personnel directors harp on taking the "best player available." In most years, the Bengals probably adhere to that mantra more than most. Don't expect that to change this year. In fact, with a nearly complete starting lineup returning, the Bengals don't much need to concern themselves with immediate-impact players early. If a savvy skill player is available when they pick, however, don't be surprised if they take him.
For months, I've been pegging the Bengals to go with an offensive tackle at No. 21 because it seems they have the best chance of taking a good edge blocker at that point in the round who best fits their system. But depending upon how the draft shakes out ahead of the Bengals, the tackles on Cincinnati's board may be gone. Defensive tackle then could be a Round 1 option. So, too, could receiver. It's completely dependent, though, upon which players on the Bengals' draft board get taken in the first 20 picks.
@ColeyHarvey have you zeroed in on #21 yet?How many spots are realistically available on Dline given who they already have?I see 1 at most— The wanderer (@thewanderer2020) April 24, 2015
@ColeyHarvey. I've got a few names in mind, wanderer. You'll hear more about them early next week as NFL Nation's draft coverage ramps up online and on TV ahead of Thursday. As far as the defensive line is concerned, I'm told the Bengals technically don't have spots open on the defensive line. The signings of Pat Sims and Michael Johnson last month essentially filled any openings. Still, the team hasn't closed the door on getting linemen, especially if it can get really good value picks at the position. At that point, it's all about competition on the interior, and insurance on the outside. If the Bengals draft a tackle in the first round, that player would be expected to compete in training camp for the final interior job with Devon Still and Sims. That player likely would have a better shot of winning the job than the other two. If the Bengals take an end in the first round, it's more likely that player will be a base-defense outside linebacker who could drop down to the line in third-down or nickel situations.
It's worth watching where Danny Shelton, Malcolm Brown, Jordan Phillips, Vic Beasley, Dante Fowler, Randy Gregory and Bud Dupree go. If any of those players are around at 21, I anticipate the Bengals will have a long discussion about taking them, especially if their offensive tackle targets are gone.
@ColeyHarvey if malcom brown, Landon Collins, ereck flowers, and Andrus peat are all available at 21, who should the bengals take?— James Lee (@AsianHeat1) April 24, 2015
@ColeyHarvey. Man, James. If all of those players are still on the board at 21 when the Bengals pick, 20 talent evaluators might be looking for new jobs by Friday. It's really hard seeing that whole crew being around when it's time for Cincinnati's pick. But, to answer your question, I'd go with Flowers. As I mentioned earlier, I've pegged the Bengals for taking an offensive tackle all offseason with Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith set to be free agents next year. Of the group you listed, it appears the Bengals have the most interest in him. Although he probably projects more as a right tackle in the NFL, he has a measure of versatility where he could play multiple offensive line positions if needed. He also has time to learn the left tackle spot, especially with Whitworth playing well enough lately to likely earn a new short-term contract next year.
Flowers also plays with a bit of an edge; a mean streak, if you will. You have to imagine offensive coordinator Hue Jackson would like having a player like that. After all, he's been on a mission the last two years to get a little more nastiness out of his offensive players. Regardless, you still can't discount what Peat could provide as an athletic tackle. Brown is arguably one of the best defensive tackles in the draft. Collins, is the top-rated safety and would fill another need considering George Iloka and Reggie Nelson are entering their final contract years.
@ColeyHarvey. I am right in agreement with you, Andy. Lockett has long been one of the receivers in this draft class that has had my attention. He's a real burner, posting a 4.4 40-yard time, although it seems like he plays even faster. He's a reliable receiver, as his 106 catches last season indicate. As an added bonus, he can return kicks and punts. In 2014, he had two punt-return touchdowns. To me, he'd be the perfect second-round selection for Cincinnati if he's still available when they pick at 53rd overall. I could see him drafted there if the Bengals don't take a receiver in the first round, and if other potential targets -- like Southern Cal's Nelson Agholor, for instance -- are already off the board.