Cincinnati Bengals beat writer Jay Morrison offers his thoughts on how the first round of the NFL Draft will play out April 25 with his mock draft:
1. Kansas City
Luke Joeckel, offensive tackle, Texas A&M
Not on obvious overall top pick, but a smart one with the uncertainty around left tackle Branden Albert.
Dion Jordan, outside linebacker, Oregon
The Jaguars have plenty of needs, and improving the league’s worst pass rush is at the top of the list.
Sharrif Floyd, defensive tackle, Florida
Yes, the Raiders signed a pair of free agent defensive tackles, including former Bengal Pat Sims, but what their struggling defense needs is a dynamic young DT with a huge upside.
Eric Fisher, offensive tackle, Central Michigan
He may not be the best player available, but Fisher would fill a huge need for the Eagles, who released one tackle, let another walk in free agency and still have questions about how healthy Jason Peters will be after Achilles surgery
Ezekiel Ansah, defensive end, BYU
The Lions lost defensive ends Cliff Avril to free agency and cut Kyle Vanden Bosch, so an upgrade at that spot is a must.
Dee Milliner, cornerback, Alabama
Still think the Browns are likely to trade down, possibly with the Jets, but if they don’t Milliner would be a great complement to Joe Haden in their secondary.
Lane Johnson, offensive tackle, Oklahoma
Can’t imagine any scenario where the Cardinals don’t look to improve an awful offensive line in order to protect new quarterback Carson Palmer.
Geno Smith, quarterback, West Virginia
The Bills may elect to go with Smith’s college teammate in wide receiver Tavon Austin instead, but a franchise quarterback seems to be a little higher on their list of needs.
9. New York Jets
Barkevious Mingo, outside linebacker, LSU
This means LSU teammate Sam Montgomery will be paying Mingo $5,000 to honor the bet they have as to whom will be drafted higher, a bet Montgomery is likely to lose no matter when Mingo goes.
Chance Warmack, offensive guard, Alabama
There is a reason Titans RB Chris Johnson went from gaining 2,000 yards and averaging 5.6 per carry back three years ago to struggling to make 4 per attempt of late, and drafting Warmack will help fix that reason.
11. San Diego
Jonathan Cooper, offensive guard, North Carolina
Ideally the Chargers would like to land a tackle, but with all of the best ones already gone, Cooper is a solid Plan B.
Xavier Rhodes, cornerback, Florida State
The Dolpins are another prime candidate to trade up and find a replacement for tackle Jake Long, but if they stay put Rhodes would be a nice piece to add to a young, emerging defense.
13. Tampa Bay
Star Lotulelei, defensive tackle, Utah
Thought to be a top-five pick before his heart scare at the Combine, Lotulelei has been medically cleared and could end up being one of the steals of the drafts.
Sheldon Richardson, defensive tackle, Missouri
Linebacker and Cincinnati native Luke Kuechly had a tremendous rookie season in 2012, and he’ll only get better with someone like Richardson taking on blockers ahead of him.
15. New Orleans
Jarvis Jones, outside linebacker, Alabama
A perfect match as Jones led the nation in sacks last year, and the Saints had a woeful pass rush.
16. St. Louis
Tavon Austin, wide receiver, West Virginia
The Rams will go into the draft expecting to take the best wide receiver not named Austin and will be thrilled to find him still available.
Kenny Vaccaro, safety, Texas
Could be two years in a row the Steelers land the player many Bengals fans are hoping to get a few picks later – remember David DeCastro?
D.J. Fluker, offensive tackle, Alabama
The Cowboys just invested $108 million in quarterback Tony Romo, so they better get him some protection.
19. New York Giants
Bjoern Werner, defensive end, Florida State
Werner’s stock has fallen since a poor showing at the Combine, and the Giants have a history of pouncing on falling prospects and benefiting from it.
Tyler Eifert, tight end, Notre Dame
Eifert is a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses and a dream come true for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and new coach Marc Trestman.
Alec Ogletree, linebacker, Georgia
Safety is the more pressing need, but the next best guy on the board – Florida’s Matt Elam – would be a reach at this point. And the abundance of former Bulldogs on the Bengals roster is more than a coincidence.
22. St. Louis
Eddie Lacy, running back, Alabama
Might be a bit of a stretch to take Lacy this early, but with the Rams owning three picks in the top 46, this is a risk they can take.
Sylvester Williams, defensive tackle, North Carolina
The Vikings pick at 23 and 25, so they can afford to target a future guy like Williams to be groomed by the aging Jared Allen.
Desmond Trufant, cornerback, Washington
Upgrading the secondary is the primary need for a young Colts team on the rise.
Cordarrelle Patterson, wide receiver, Tennessee
Patterson is the perfect replacement for Percy Harvin, whom the Vikings traded to Seattle, with his talent as a deep threat and his ability to make people miss in space.
26. Green Bay
Montee Ball, running back, Wisconsin
Like Lacy at 22, Ball is a reach at 26, but the Packers need to find some semblance of a running game to give quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the offense more balance.
Robert Woods, wide receiver, USC
Similar to the situation the Bengals passing game is in, the Texans have to find someone who can take some pressure off No. 1 wide receiver Andre Johnson.
Tank Carradine, defensive end, Florida State
The Broncos certainly didn’t expect this to be a position of need, but the late-fax screw up that led to Elvis Dumervil going to Baltimore changed that.
29. New England
Margus Hunt, defensive end, SMU
Extremely athletic for his size, Hunt is a perfect fit for a Patriots defense that employs multiple fronts.
Jamar Taylor, cornerback, Boise State
Taylor fills one of the few needs the Falcons have and becomes Boise State’s third first-round pick in the last two years
31. San Francisco
Zach Ertz, tight end, Stanford
The 49ers already have a star tight end in Vernon Davis, who is under contract through 2015, but the more weapons they can give QB Colin Kaepernick, the better.
Matt Elam, safety, Florida
The Ravens could go with a linebacker to replace Ray Lewis (possibly Manti Te’o), but filling the void left by Ed Reed at safety would seem to be the more pressing need.
The Cincinnati Bengals have the 21st overall pick in the April 25-27 NFL Draft, a selection that could prove to be a challenge based on recent history. The last 10 players to be selected 21st overall is not exactly a who’s who of Pro Bowlers, but it does include three current or former Bengals. The number of Pro Bowl selections for each player is listed in parenthesis.
2012 – Chandler Jones, DE, New England Patriots (0)
2011 – Phil Taylor, DT, Cleveland Browns (0)
2010 – Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cincinnati Bengals (2)
2009 – Alex Mack, C, Cleveland Browns (1)
2008 – Sam Baker, OT, Atlanta Falcons (0)
2007 – Reggie Nelson, S, Jacksonville Jaguars (0)
2006 – Laurence Maroney, RB, New England Patriots (0)
2005 – Matt Jones, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (0)
2004 – Vince Wilfork, DT, New England Patriots (5)
2003 – Jeff Faine, C, Cleveland Browns (0)