As the Bengals prepare for the upcoming NFL Draft a lot of people out in Bengaldom are trying to guess just who they will pick with the #9 overall spot. Unfortunately for the Bengals, it looks like the handful of blue chip prospects who would match our need will be long gone when we pick. Virtually every mock draft and "guru" out there agrees that Chris Long (DE), Vernon Gholston (DE), Glen Dorsey (DT), and Sedrick Ellis (DT) will get snatched up before we pick. So the natural inclination might be to take the "best available" on the board, regardless of position. This could be potentially disastrous for the Orange and Black when you consider both last year's performance and the likely outcome of free agency.
Consider this: the Bengals finished DEAD LAST in team sacks last year with just 22--a full 16 of those coming against the powerhouse teams of the Ravens (4), Chiefs (5), Jets (2), 49ers (2), and Cardinals (3). Not good. Just how important is getting the the QB? The top two teams in total sacks last year were the Giants (53) and the Patriots (47)--but they only went to the Super Bowl.
Add to those sad, sad statistics the fact that our "high-motor" RDE Justin "Bustin" Smith is gone via free agency, and it's safe to say our D-Line has problems (not the least of which is finishing 27th in total defense). Overall, Marvin Lewis--whose one-time moniker of "defensive genius" is now just a punchline--has simply never gotten the job done on defense in his tenure with the Bengals. This is unacceptable, and it's really the at the crux of why we here at whodeyrevolution are up in arms with this squad.
When the NFL Draft rolls around on April 26th, we would like to see the Bengals brass do something out of the ordinary: make some gutsy calls. Now, personally, I don't equate taking a RB in the 1st round with being gutsy. What I'd like to see is a little imagination, in much the same way as the Browns got their guys last year and the way Dallas seems to get their guys every year. If we are unable to trade up to grab a solid defensive lineman, why not trade down out of the #9 spot and go after several players in the late first and early second round?
According to the infamous NFL Draft Value Chart, where picks are assigned a number value, a #9 pick is worth 1400 points. That is equivalent to (generally) a low 1st round pick plus a high second and low third round pick. (Example: pick #24 plus pick #37 plus pick # 95 = 740+540+120 = 1400). With an abundance of players below the first tier who fit the Bengals' needs, this could be a great option.
Now of course, you could argue that these players are not likely to make an impact. Well, no draft pick is a sure thing (ahem, Kijana, Big Daddy, Akili...). But, getting guys a little lower in the draft can be a good way to protect the salary cap and keep your team afloat in the coming years. As bad as the Bengals have been at the top of the draft, they have generally been able to find value in the middle rounds. Why not play to your strengths and go after three or four guys instead of banking on one or two?
There appear to be a lot of guys who can provide value on the D-line, including a few big run-stuffer/nose tackle types like Pat Sims of Auburn, Frank Okam of Texas, and Dre Moore of Maryland. Then there are a host of speed-rusher type guys like Quentin Groves of Auburn and Cliff Avril of Purdue. Even if one or two of these guys doesn't pan out, you're still spreading things around a bit and giving more guys a chance to emerge rather than (supposedly) playing it safe and putting up huge money for a guy who might not be able to stay healthy long enough for us to realize he sucks...use your imagination on that one.
I leave you with this thought, for those who still think we could select a TE or OT in the first round: last year, TJ Houshmandzadeh finished the season with more tackles (8) than our starting MLB Ahmad Brooks (6). If you don't think it's time to change things up, you probably still think we'll find WMD's in Iraq.