CINCINNATI -- While Cincinnati Bengals coaches insist they are open to using their first-round draft pick on virtually any position this year, ESPN draft insider Todd McShay shares the same thought that most outside of Paul Brown Stadium have.
To McShay and many others, the Bengals will begin their draft May 8 by taking a cornerback.
As it currently stands on McShay's series of mock drafts, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller would be packing his bags for Cincinnati later this spring, taken with the 24th overall pick. A good-sized cornerback, the 6-foot Fuller would give the Bengals height that they wouldn't get from other corners who could be available that late in the first round.
Fuller is a bit of a departure for McShay, who previously listed the 5-foot-8 Lamarcus Joyner as his selection for a Bengals corner in his mock draft 2.0. The Florida State defensive back played both corner and safety in college and could be a good fit at nickel corner for Cincinnati. He had a strong showing at the combine in Indianapolis last month. So did Fuller.
Touted for playing with good instincts, as well as his ability to help in run support, Fuller has started climbing up the draft boards. Lately he has been sneaking into the first round on projections like McShay's. With veterans like Adam Jones, Leon Hall and Terence Newman all now over 30 and having battled in recent years through their share of injuries, the Bengals could use a physical corner like Fuller as they start shoring up depth behind the starters. Newman's contract expires after the 2014 season. Hall and Jones will be up for new deals the following year.
The biggest question marks surrounding Fuller before the draft dealt with his speed and durability, McShay said. From what he's been told, though, the durability is no longer an issue. After Fuller's 4.49 40-yard time, speed doesn't appear to be, too.
Fuller's selection in McShay's mock came after Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert and Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard were selected by teams ahead of the Bengals. TCU product Jason Verrett, another potential Bengals target built much in the same mold as Joyner, was claimed one spot after Cincinnati in the mock. McShay has him going to San Diego.
Joyner went unpicked in McShay's first round but remained on his board as one of the best available.
During the combine, Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther made it clear that he and the rest of the staff weren't just looking at cornerbacks for the first overall pick. There might be a need at defensive end with unrestricted free agent Michael Johnson possibly on his way out. Outside linebackers could be part of the equation after a lack of depth there rocked the position last season. Safeties could be an area of need depending upon what happens in free agency, too.
Still, it's my contention the Bengals would be best served picking a cornerback with their first-round pick. The pool of defensive backs is so deep this season that it might be in the Bengals' best interest to grab one of the best as early as they can, and then focus on the rest of their draft needs in later rounds. Because of their versatility of being able to play in the slot, as well as outside, Joyner and Verrett seem to be the better options for Cincinnati, in my opinion.
Either way, whichever team ends up picking Fuller -- first round or not -- will not regret the decision.