Cincinnati Bengals 2010 record: 4-12, fourth place AFC North
2011 draft rundown - Eight total picks (round): 4 (1); 35 (2); 66 (3); 101 (4); 134 (5); 167 (6); 207 (7); 246 (7)
Quarterback: With Carson Palmer stating that he is done playing in Cincinnati, the Bengals have to address the position early. Jordan Palmer and Dan LeFevour are on the roster but they have thrown a combined 15 passes in regular-season games and are not the long-term answer. Whoever they draft, it won't be a situation like 2003 where Carson Palmer got to sit for a year and learn the offense. He will be expected to play immediately.
Wide receiver: Cincinnati needs to draft a young playmaker who can stretch the field because Chad Ochocinco, Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell are all entering the final year of their contracts. With Ochocinco's production declining the past three years and scheduled to make $6 million this year, the odds of him being on the opening-day roster are slim. The Bengals haven't drafted a receiver in the first round since 2000 but they have squandered nearly $25 million in free agency the last two years in trying to find someone to line up opposite Ochocinco.
Safety: The Bengals could go into the season with Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson as the starters (Roy Williams is an unrestricted free agent), but could get caught short for the third straight year due to injuries. They could find a safety or two in the middle rounds but Lewis has already said that the quality in this year's class is not good.
Offensive line: Guard is an immediate need with Bobbie Williams entering the final year of his contract and Nate Livings inconsistent. Depending on if Andre Smith can come back from his third foot surgery since being drafted two years ago, there could also be a need at right tackle. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander has done a solid job developing linemen, but those have been mostly undrafted players.
First-round focus 4th overall -- Like the Buffalo Bills picking immediately before them, the Bengals are in the unenviable position of reading the tea-leaves with their current quarterback. Should the Bengals take Carson Palmer at his word and believe that he will never play for them again, they'll feel the pressure to select either Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton, should either be available to them at No. 4. If neither is, the Bengals are expected to select Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green with the fourth pick. Not only would he help the Bengals' passing game (and potentially help convince Palmer to come back), he also would provide Cincinnati with some flexibility at the receiver position -- something they need desperately considering the precarious status of their current receiving corps. Alabama's Julio Jones is a more physical blocker and ran faster at the Combine. He is viewed by some as a better in the West Coast Offense due to his size and strength, but isn't nearly as consistent as Jones in the all-important categories of route-running and catching passes with his hands. Though the Bengals have rarely moved on draft day (they've been apart of only three first round trades since 1992), this could be the year to do it. There will be plenty of interest in Green and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, as well as Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller should he still be on the board. The Bengals may be forced to trade back into the late portion of the first round if they're unable to trade back from No. 4 as they desperately need a quarterback -- and potentially one who could contribute immediately. Most view Florida State's Christian Ponder and TCU's Andy Dalton as the most pro-ready quarterbacks of this year's draft. There is no guarantee that either will be available when the Bengals select in the second round (No. 35 overall).
Five names on Bengals' board:
QB Cam Newton, Auburn
QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
WR A.J. Green, Georgia
WR Julio Jones, Alabama
CB Patrick Peterson, LSU