Player visits are a huge deal when it comes to Draft season. Most teams, the Bengals included, want to at least have a feel for players they're selecting in the Draft. In the case of the Bengals, it's relatively rare for the team to select a player in the first two rounds without having met face-to-face with the prospect. Based on their draft history, the Bengals are very likely to select a first or second round prospect they've visited with or met prior to the Draft.
In 2015, Cincinnati selected Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher in the first and second rounds, respectively. Prior to the Draft, the Bengals had expressed growing interest in both prospects, and they ended up being able to land both players in the first two rounds of the draft. They also had visits with Marcus Hardison, who the team selected at the end of the fourth round, as well as Jake Kumerow, Tom Obarski and Terrell Watson, who all landed on the practice squad.
In 2014, the Bengals took Darqueze Dennard in the first round and Jeremy Hill in the second round. And to no surprise, Cincinnati had met both players prior to the draft. The Bengals also had a visit with AJ McCarron, who the team selected in the fifth round.
2013 was an interesting year for the Bengals. Prior to one of the most exciting seasons in the Dalton era, the team shocked everyone with the selection of tight end Tyler Eifert, despite having selected tight end Jermaine Gresham in the first round of the 2010 Draft. What was more surprising about the selection was that Cincinnati hadn't even visited with the tight end prior to the Draft. In the second round, the Bengals selected Giovani Bernard, and to no surprise, they'd visited with him prior to taking him off the board. The Bengals also visited Sam Montgomery, who was eventually drafted by the Texans. But after Montgomery was released from two teams, Cincinnati eventually signed him to a contract in 2014, eventually placing him on the practice squad. Montgomery was later released, but the Bengals' signing of Montgomery just goes to show how the team constantly has its eyes on players it has visited with in the past.
In 2012, the Bengals selected Dre Kirkpatrick, Kevin Zeitler and Devon Still in the first two rounds of the Draft. Of the three players, the Bengals had only visited with Kirkpatrick prior to picking him. However, the team visited with Mohamed Sanu and eventually selected him in the third round. Though, the Bengals may have met with some of these players, the meetings were simply not reported.
The Dalton era started in 2011, when the Bengals selected A.J. Green and Andy Dalton in the first two rounds of the Draft. And of course, Cincinnati met with both players prior to selecting the two guys who would eventually help turn around the franchise.
So what does all of this mean? Barring a top-10 prospect falling into the Bengals' clutches, the team will more than likely select a player in the first round who they have previously met with. The Bengals have met with dozens of players so far, but here's a list of the players they could be more likely to select in the first round:
- Mackensie Alexander
- William Jackson III
- Emmanuel Ogbah
- Vernon Butler
- Chris Jones
- Karl Joseph
- Corey Coleman
- Josh Doctson
- Laquon Treadwell
There's always a chance the Bengals could surprise, and I'd expect them to surprise if a guy like Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Vernon Hargreaves III, Myles Jack or Jalen Ramsey falls to pick 24. And there's still a decent chance the Bengals pick someone who hasn't officially visited with the team. Ultimately, this is just a warning that Cincinnati will not select a prospect that 100 percent of its fanbase agrees with, and that's okay. Because more often than not, the Bengals do a great job finding players who fit their system well and stay out of trouble off the field.
To me, the most important aspect to take out of this is that if a prospect who the Bengals have visited with, and see as a first or second round prospect, falls to the second round, there's a high chance the team takes that player in the second round, perhaps even if it means double-dipping. Cincinnati has taken a player it has visited with in the second round in each of the past three drafts. Knowing how intelligent the Bengals' front office is, there's a good chance one of these aforementioned players falls to the Bengals in Round 2, or that the Bengals swing some sort of trade to land a prospect they like.
But at the end of the day, the Draft is the Draft, and to me, the Bengals are the most unpredictable team in football when April comes around. Whatever the Bengals end up doing in the Draft, I'll remain optimistic about the players they select.