- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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It has been said a lot this offseason, but bears repeating. Compared to most teams, the Cincinnati Bengals have relatively minor draft needs.
As it currently stands, due to Michael Johnson's signing with Tampa Bay and Kyle Cook getting cut, the Bengals will only be without two starters off last year's team. The rest of Cincinnati's starting lineup will return, meaning the Bengals won't be in the market in May to draft too many immediate impact players.
Cornerback remains an area of concern with veterans Terence Newman, Leon Hall and Adam Jones all now in their 30s. With each of their contracts set to expire in the next two years, and with injuries and age beginning to catch up to them, it would be in the Bengals' best interest to start looking into replacing them. The good news is that this draft is chock-full of secondary talent.
Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, Ohio State's Bradley Roby, Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner, TCU's Jason Verrett and Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller are among the group of elite corners who could be available when the Bengals make their first-round pick at No. 24. Since so many teams have already made moves in free agency to bring in cornerbacks, it's possible that those with defensive back needs who pick before the Bengals will end up bypassing some of these players. If that happens, the odds of Gilbert or Dennard falling to 24th might increase.
Cincinnati's draft mantra in recent years has been to take the best available player. Coaches contend that will continue this year, and that's not a certainty that they will be using their first pick on a cornerback. As they look to start creating depth at multiple spots, the Bengals also have needs at outside linebacker, defensive end, center and safety. They also could draft a quarterback to help back up Andy Dalton, and a running back to aid in their efforts of employing a more physical offense this season.
Mel Kiper's latest mock draft.