For the Cincinnati Bengals, less than three months removed from only their second playoff appearance under Head Coach Marvin Lewis, things are only looking up. Not only did they make the playoffs, but as a result of the trade they made halfway through the 2011 season with the Oakland Raiders, they now own two first round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft in two weeks. As far as needs go, the biggest concerns in Cincy have to be at running back, where they chose not to re-sign Cedric Benson, plus defensive back, where age and injuries seemed to play a toll on the unit, and offensive line. The Bengals have also made it clear they are looking for another wide receiver to complement last year's No. 1 pick, AJ Green.
Thus far in free agency the Bengals have looked to shore up at least a couple of those needs by signing free agent running back BenJarvus Green Ellis(formerly of the New England Patriots) and cornerback Terence Newman (formerly of the Dallas Cowboys). Despite these signings, there are many that say RB and CB are still positions of need, as Green Ellis is not considered to be an every-down back, and Newman himself has been in the league for some time.
So, then, what exactly will the Cincinnati Bengals do with the 17th and 21st picks overall in this month's Draft? The following is a list of possible scenarios that could play out:
Trade up to obtain Alabama running back Trent Richardson
: This would more than likely mean that Cincinnati would have to make a deal with Minnesota, who has the third pick overall. The rationale here is that Cleveland, at No. 4, has also been eyeing Richardson, and the Bengals would have to leapfrog their pesky AFC North rival in order to get the Crimson Tide standout. The Bengals would more than likely not only have to give up their two first round picks, but probably an additional second-round pick to obtain the rights to Minnesota's picks
Odds of this actually happening: Very slim.
The Bengals have not been particularly fortunate drafting running backs early in the first round (see KiJana Carter), and there is a good chance they would have to give up four picks to get Minnesota's first-rounder. That is too hefty a price for a team that is on the verge of being a contender.
Draft a cornerback, such as Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick or South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore, with the 17th pick, and then select an offensive lineman such as Stanford's David Decastro or Georgia's Cordy Glenn with the 21st pick
. There is a good chance that neither Kirkpatrick or Gilmore will be available when it is the Bengals' turn to pick, and there is the possibility they could consider the problem child Janoris Jenkis of North Alabama at No. 17 as well.
Odds of this actually happening: 50/50 T
he Bengals added depth by signing Newman, but can always afford to get younger at the position. Newman will be starting his eighth season in the fall and Nate Clements, the free agent corner they signed last offseason, is 32. If they pick a corner at No. 17, then it is a good bet they will go offensive line at No. 21
Trade up to obtain Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd
: This would require that not only the Bengals trade away both of their first round picks, but also that they fall on a bit of luck as well. As of right now it is believed that Floyd will go within the top 10 picks; the Bengals are probably not willing to give up the extra picks required to move into the top 10 at this point. Potential trade partners could include the New York Jets at No. 16 or the Dallas Cowboys at No. 14
Odds of this actually happening: 30/70
While the Bengals would certainly love to pair Floyd with second-year receiver AJ Green, they would probably be more inclined to select him with the 17th pick overall if he's still available (he won't be) rather than trade away the exta pick. If the Bengals are to select a wide receiver at No. 17, look for them to select someone such as Baylor's Kendall Wright.
A final scenario has the Bengals drafting one of the aforementioned linemen at 17 and then selecting someone such as Courtney Upshaw or Dont'a Hightower
with the 21st pick. Hightower or Upshaw would be the perfect replacement for the departed Keith Rivers, who was signed by the New York Giants.
Odds of this happening: As good as any.
The Bengals do return linebackers Manny Lawson and Rey Maualuga this season, but adding an impact player such as Upshaw or Hightower could put them over the top in the AFC North, so don't put it past them.
At the end of the day, only those within the Bengals' inner circle know what they're going to do come the 26th of this month. For Bengals fans, though, having two first round picks makes it fun to think about the possibilities.