THE BENGALS NEED TO DRAFT A CORNERBACK (I apologize for yelling). The current cornerback corps includes Leon Hall, undoubtedly the best corner on the team. However, he is no longer one of the best up-and-coming corners in the league. Instead, he is a 29-year-old coming off of back-to-back season ending Achilles injuries. Although he played well before his second injury, Achilles injuries are notoriously difficult to overcome and the odds are stacked against him returning to his previous Pro-Bowl level form. The next most reliable corners are Adam Jones and Terence Newman. Jones is 30 and Newman is 35. This means that the top three corners on the team are all 29-years-old or older, not exactly promising for the future.
The other three corners on the roster are Dre Kirkpatrick (24), Chris Lewis-Harris (25), and Ontario McCalebb (24). Of the three, only Kirkpatrick has shown any real promise and there are still many questions regarding whether or not he can ever be a true starting corner in the league. If he lives up to his potential, he could become a starter this season. He has all the physical tools but has serious problems in coverage, quite a liability given that the primary job of a corner is to shut down opposing receivers. While his play improved dramatically over the past two seasons, it is still unknown whether or not he will develop into a reliabe defensive back. Meanwhile, Lewis-Harris has played in a total of 8 games over 2 seasons with the team and McCalebb is entering his second season after converting from a running back/wide receiver hybrid from his time at Auburn. Although a tremendous athlete, he is undersized and a long-term project. To summarize, the Bengals best three corners are over 30-years-old (I’ll include Hall in that group considering he just tore his Achilles twice in back-to-back seasons), while the other three corners are incredibly inexperienced.
Many national draft pundits have said the Bengals have no real holes to fill but have the team drafting a corner in the first round due to the combination of a deep corner class/pick the best player available logic. I agree with picking a corner in the first round but for different reasons. Given that the top three corners on the team are on or close to the wrong side of thirty, and that of the younger group only Kirkpatrick has shown any promise on the field, it seems more like the Bengals need to draft a corner in the first round for competitive purposes rather than simply drafting the best player available. The modern NFL game has placed a premium on the corner position and a team cannot have too many quality corners. With an aging secondary and relatively few flashes of brilliance from the younger group, the Bengals should take the best corner available for their first round and consider picking up another in a later round. The league is won and lost via the passing game, and a modern NFL team needs as many talented defensive backs as it can get.