Many mock drafts from all corners of the Internet have the Cincinnati Bengals selecting an offensive tackle in the first round, but ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said he doesn’t see it playing out that way.
Speaking with reporters during a 90-minute conference call Wednesday afternoon, Kiper said he expects the Bengals to re-sign free agent tackle Andre Smith and look at defensive options with their early-round picks.
“If Smith is back at right tackle, then you’re looking at maybe an Alec Ogletree,” Kiper Jr. said, referring to the linebacker from the University of Georgia, a school the Bengals know well with six former Bulldogs on the current roster.
“Then in the second-round area they could look at a corner,” Kiper added. “I like Jonathan Banks of Mississippi State. Then you could go safety with the 37th pick. Maybe Shamarko Thomas from Syracuse.”
Another need the Bengals have is at running back, where BenJarvus Green-Ellis logged career highs in attempts and yards last year but was unable to finish off longer runs after breaking through the line. Finding a younger, quicker back who can share the load for a season or two before replacing Green-Ellis would seem a priority.
Kiper said Alabama running back Eddie Lacy “played like a first-round pick all year,” and could go to Green Bay at 26. If that doesn’t happen, he said the Bengals would have to take a long look at Lacy with their first pick in the second round, the one they got in the Carson Palmer trade.
Even if Lacy is off the board, Kiper said he wouldn’t rule out the Bengals taking a running back with their second pick.
“If Montee Ball (Wisconsin) is available at 37, they could go running back there and hope that a safety is available with that second second-round pick,” he said.
Should the Bengals wait until the third round to get their running back, Kiper said he sees UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin or North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard as likely targets.
“Linebacker, safety, running back – that’s the three big areas,” Kiper Jr. said.
Preseason path: The Bengals will open the preseason with an ESPN game at Atlanta at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8 Following a home game against Tennessee the weekend of Aug. 15-19, Cincinnati will make its first trip to the new Cowboys Stadium (Aug. 22-26) before wrapping the preseason slate at home against Indianapolis on Aug. 29.
The exact dates and times for the final three games will be announced later.