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Saturday, April 26, 2014
Bengals position draft needs: Offensive line

By Coley Harvey

A day-by-day look this week at five position groups where the Cincinnati Bengals have draft needs. We started with quarterbacks, then looked at defensive endsoutside linebackersrunning backs and defensive backs. Now, a weekend bonus: offensive linemen.

Offensive linemen lost: OT Anthony Collins, signed with Tampa Bay in March. C Kyle Cook, cut in March.

Offensive linemen added: OT Marshall Newhouse, signed in free agency in March.

Draft likelihood: High.

Rounds drafted? Any.

Analysis: OK, we spent the first five days this week looking at a few of the more glamorous positions on a football team and the Bengals' draft-weekend needs at them. But we couldn't let this exercise disappear without taking a look at the one unit that most specifically dictates a team's offensive success and identity. One of the unwritten rules of the game goes something like this: You can never have too many offensive linemen.

Games are won and lost in the trenches. It's where offenses fight for first downs on the ground and have to scrap and claw in order to keep their quarterbacks standing upright long enough to deliver passes downfield. The Bengals have long known that. Like most teams, they've tried to keep centers, guards and tackles part of their annual drafting rotation. Cincinnati has drafted at least one offensive lineman every year since 2001.

While they seem to have adequate depth after adding Newhouse and re-signing Mike Pollak last month, the Bengals still would like to take at least one more lineman into training camp with them. It's possible they could spend any one of their nine picks on a lineman. Guards would probably top that list seeing as how the Bengals still never really addressed finding an alternative backup for left guard Clint Boling. Pro Bowl tackle Andrew Whitworth played for Boling at the end of last season after Boling was lost for the year with an ACL injury. The guard believes he'll be back to 100 percent in time for the start of the season. Beyond just bringing in an additional guard, the Bengals are looking at players who can be versatile -- linemen who can play some combination of tackle, guard and center. There is a thought that they could add a true center, but Pollak, for now, appears to be the front-runner to start at the position following Cook's release.

The draft hopefuls the Bengals could be looking at span the gamut. If he's there (and because of legal issues, he could fall to late in the first round or into the second), Michigan's Taylor Lewan could be a decent fit at tackle. As could Virginia's Morgan Moses. Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama) has generated some buzz as a second-round option at tackle, while Stanford's Cameron Fleming has turned heads since the combine. At guard, Clemson's Brandon Thomas is an interesting study following his ACL tear suffered at a private pre-draft workout earlier this month. Even though he won't be able to compete for several months, he could slip into the third round or later, where he would be a veritable steal for whichever team took him and got him healthy in time for 2015.

Also worth watching, Penn State's John Urschel and Baylor's Cyril Richardson.

Potential picks: Taylor Lewan (Michigan), Morgan Moses (Virginia), Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama), Cameron Fleming (Stanford), Brandon Thomas (Clemson), John Urschel (Penn State), Cyril Richardson (Baylor).