In the National Football League, priority number one is making sure that you can win your division, because you play those three teams twice a year, making up over a third of your schedule, and there’s no better route to the postseason than winning more games than your rivals.
While there are many facets to building a football team, there is none more significant than talent acquisition, and the NFL Draft is the biggest arms race there is in terms of constructing a roster.
With the 2015 NFL Draft now passed, it’s time to take a look at the AFC North and see how the Pittsburgh Steelers’ division rivals fared, continuing with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Round 1, Pick 21 (21): OT Cedric Ogbuehi
With Andrew Whitworth nearing the end of his career, and both he and Andre Smith in the final year of their contracts, the Bengals turned to the offensive tackle position early to set themselves up for the future. Ogbuehi is recovering from an ACL injury, but he will have time to recover.
Round 2, Pick 21 (53): OT Jake Fisher
With Jake Fisher still on the board, the Bengals didn’t pass up on the value, adding back-to-back highly rated tackles, this one more oriented to their zone blocking scheme. Cincinnati truly has a spoil of riches at tackle right now, and Whitworth could slide inside if one of these young players emerges early.
Round 3, Pick 21 (85): TE Tyler Kroft
Jermaine Gresham is a free agent and is facing a recovery from surgery. Tyler Eifert, too, is healing from injury, and the Bengals don’t have much else at tight end. Tyler Kroft can at least come in immediately and block.
Round 3, Pick 35 (99): ILB Paul Dawson
The Bengals have hit the linebacker depth hard this offseason with the uncertainty surrounding Vontaze Burfict. In the case of Dawson, he was good value at this spot. Great tape, but lacking measureables.
Round 4, Pick 21 (120): CB Josh Shaw
The Bengals have enough cornerbacks, but two of them are in the final years of their contracts. Josh Shaw could also has versatility as a safety as well.
Round 4, Pick 36 (135): DT Marcus Hardison
Cincinnati knows that the performance of its defensive line from a year ago was well below par. They spent the offseason addressing it, though, and they add one more piece to the puzzle with Marcus Hardison, who should play inside for the Bengals at 6’3”.
Round 5, Pick 21 (157): TE C.J. Uzomah
Everybody in the AFC North except the Steelers wound up taking two tight ends. Uzomah is a player that Pittsburgh actually brought in for a pre-draft visit, but they seem happy with the player they picked up three spots after the Bengals got their second. Uzomah is not an in-line blocker, at least yet, but he has some receiving skills.
Round 6, Pick 21 (197): FS Derron Smith
Derron Smith could be a nice find late in the draft as a quality roving free safety who may have scared off some teams following a sports hernia surgery. Depth at the safety position was needed anyway.
Round 7, Pick 21 (238): WR Mario Alford
The Bengals have some big-bodied receivers, and Mario Alford at 5’8” and with his solid speed could offer a different kind of look for Andy Dalton and opposing defenses. He should compete for kick return reps.