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2017 NFL Draft, Cincinnati Bengals: Top needs, suggested picks, current outlook

2017 NFL Draft Reset: Bengals bid adieu to big names

By
Frank Cooney, NFLDraftScout.com
Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth (77) signals to Bengals fans as he walks off the field. File photo by John Sommers II/UPI
Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth (77) signals to Bengals fans as he walks off the field. File photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis stopped short of calling it a rebuild, but his team's roster went through significant turnover this offseason with the departures of several key veterans.

The biggest name to leave was veteran tackle Andrew Whitworth, who made 164 starts during his 11 seasons. Whitworth signed a free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Rams, a move that caught some by surprise.

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Guard Kevin Zeitler was another casualty of free agency with the five-year veteran moving to AFC North rival Cleveland.

There was also the departure in free agency of defensive tackle Domata Peko (to Denver) and linebacker Rey Maualuga, who was released.

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The impact of this overhaul remains to be seen, although one could argue the Bengals offensive line couldn't be any worse than last year when the running game was stifled and quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked 41 times.

Here is a closer look at where the Bengals are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft, No. 9 overall.

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THE BREAKDOWN

2016 finish: 3rd AFC North (6-9-1)

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STATISTICS

TOTAL OFFENSE: 356.9 (13th)

RUSHING: 110.6 (13th)

PASSING: 246.4 (15th)

TOTAL DEFENSE: 350.8 (17th)

RUSHING: 113.3 (21st)

PASSING: 237.5 (11th)

TEAM NEEDS

1. Offensive line: This area gained importance following the free-agent departures of tackle Andrew Whitworth and guard Kevin Zeitler. The signing of former Bengal Andre Smith will help, but former No. 1 draft choice Cedric Ogbuehi struggled last year and it won't hurt to add some depth.

2. Running back: The Bengals will need to add some depth here so the debate over whether the team would take a flyer on embattled Oklahoma back Joe Mixon has heated up. Jeremy Hill was inconsistent at best the past two seasons and with Rex Burkhead leaving in free agency, the Bengals could use a back.

3. Kicker: Head coach Marvin Lewis expects there to be competition at kicker in training camp. The Bengals released veteran Mike Nugent during the season and signed journeyman Randy Bullock, who was re-signed in January.

KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 5)

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PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

DE Wallace Gilberry: UFA; terms unknown.

C T.J. Johnson: RFA tendered at $1.797M with seventh-round pick as compensation); 2 yrs, terms unknown.

CB Dre Kirkpatrick: UFA; $52.5M/5 yrs, $7M SB/$12M guaranteed.

WR Brandon LaFell: Potential UFA; $9M/3 yrs, $3.3M guaranteed.

RB Cedric Peerman: UFA; terms unknown.

T Eric Winston: UFA; $1.08M/1 yr, $80K SB.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

CB Bene' Benwikere: FA; terms unknown.

LB Kevin Minter: UFA Cardinals; $4.25M/1 yr, $2.1M SB/$1,1M WO.

T Andre Smith: UFA Vikings; $3.25M/1 yr, $1.55M SB.

PLAYERS LOST

RB Rex Burkhead: UFA Patriots; $3.15M/1 yr, $1.1M SB.

LB Karlos Dansby: UFA Cardinals; $2M/1 yr, $700K guaranteed.

LB Margus Hunt: UFA Colts; $4.1M/2 yrs, $500K guaranteed.

LB Rey Maualuga (released).

DT Domata Peko: UFA Broncos; $7.5M/2 yrs, $1M SB/$3.8M guaranteed.

T Andrew Whitworth: UFA Rams; $33.75M/3 yrs, $5M SB/$15M guaranteed.

WR James Wright (released).

G Kevin Zeitler: UFA Browns; $60M/5 yrs, $12M SB/$31.5M guaranteed, $5M injury only at time of signing.

MOCK DRAFT

NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 9 overall)

Rob Rang:

Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan. Adding a young pass rusher to complement veterans Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap is expected to be among the Bengals' top draft-day priorities. Charlton may lack polish as just a one-year starter, but scouts are enamored with the 6-foot-6, 277 pounder's burst and bend off the edge. General manager Mike Brown has consistently drafted players based on upside rather than just college production, relying upon Marvin Lewis and his coaching staff to develop the talent brought in.

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Dane Brugler:

Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU. Veteran Jonathan Stewart averaged only 3.8 yards per rush and reached the 100-yard mark in only one game last season, his ninth in the NFL. Fournette is a freak talent who would instantly add juice to the Panthers' offense.

Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?

Based on the team's current status, those are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate see NFLDraftScout.com's full mocks and ratings.

--Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. TSX team insiders contributed to this article.

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