This is the latest primer in our NFL Draft two-a-days that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit. The draft begins Thursday, May 8.
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Key offseason acquisitions: OT Marshall Newhouse, QB Jason Campbell, SS Danieal Manning.
Key offseason departures: DE Michael Johnson, OT Anthony Collins, OLB James Harrison, WR Andrew Hawkins, C Kyle Cook, OLB Michael Boley, SS Chris Crocker.
Biggest holes: Defensive end, cornerback, offensive tackle.
The Bengals have become the definition of a "regular-season team."
Cincinnati has a winning record in four of the last five seasons, and all four ended in playoff appearances. But each season, it's been just that: a one-game appearance. And it's not a recent thing, either. The Bengals have not made it past the wild card round in any of Marvin Lewis' 11 seasons as head coach, despite the fact that Lewis has guided the team to a 90-85-1 regular-season record and five playoff berths in that timespan.
With an aging defense, it'll be tough for the Bengals to even make the playoffs, much less put one in the win column in January. They can start by replacing defensive end Michael Johnson, who signed a five-year, $43.75-million contract with Tampa Bay. The Bengals do have 2013 second-round pick Margus Hunt waiting in the wings, but last season was just his fifth in organized football, and at times he struggled to learn the finer points of the game.
Auburn's Dee Ford would be a solid pickup at 24. He finished his college career with a bang, racking up two sacks in the BCS national title game and then adding two more in the Senior Bowl en route to game MVP honors. Ford is a speedy edge rusher with an incredible first step and great snap anticipation. He's not the strongest player, but he bends the corner well with his speed. He's a little undersized at 6-2 and 252 pounds, meaning he could end up being a "tweener" at the next level. Still, his pure athleticism and pass-rushing ability make him an attractive option.
Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence also would fit the bill. Lawrence is solid off the edge and has a good set of pass-rushing moves. He uses his 33 3/4-inch arms well and disruptive hands to help him shed blockers. Lawrence did have three one-game suspensions, however, and like Ford, he's a "tweener" type (6-3, 251 pounds). But he has the pass-rushing skills and versatility to be successful.
The Bengals also could stand to get younger in the secondary. Leon Hall will be returning from a torn ACL, so it's tough to tell how he will fare. Terrence Newman will be 35 on Sept. 4, and Adam Jones will be 31 just 26 days later. Dre Kirkpatrick, a 2012 first-rounder, has been so-so. He has three interceptions in 19 games (three starts), with two of them coming in Week 17 last season.
A good pick here would be TCU's Jason Verrett. Verrett is an aggressive ball-hawk (nine interceptions in three seasons) who uses his solid technique to make up for his lack of size (5-9, 189). He's very athletic (4.38 40, 39-inch vertical, 6.69-second three cone drill, 4.00-second 20-yard shuttle) and gets physical with his receiver at the line of scrimmage. If the Bengals can look past his size, he could contribute immediately as a nickel cornerback or on the outside.
Local product Bradley Roby also may be worth considering here. The Ohio State product has great speed (4.39 in the 40 at the Combine), fluid hips and all-around good technique. Roby was inconsistent during his senior season - most notably, he was torched by Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis (a likely third- or fourth-rounder) for 10 catches, 207 yards and a touchdown. He also pleaded guilty to having physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in late April and was suspended for the season opener following a disorderly conduct charge that was eventually dropped.
Could the Bengals take one of the top quarterbacks if they slide this far? It's possible. Andy Dalton has yet to take the leap from good to great, and he's entering a contract year. Of the first-tier QBs, Fresno State's Derek Carr and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater are the ones most likely to be available at No. 24. Bridgewater may be the most pro-ready quarterback in this class, but concerns about his 214-pound frame and an underwhelming Pro Day have him sliding down boards. Carr has an excellent arm and underrated mobility, but he sometimes has issues handling pressure and played in a pass-happy spread offense in college.
Possible second-day or third-day picks include Lindenwood CB Pierre Desir, Clemson CB Bashaud Breeland, Missouri CB E.J. Gaines, Virginia OT Morgan Moses, Nevada OT/OG Joel Bitonio, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger and Georgia QB Aaron Murray.