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15 sleeper picks on offense the Bengals could target in the NFL Draft

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Cincinnati could use some help on offense, both in terms of overall depth and shoring up the future of some starting positions.

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On paper, the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense is loaded with talent. Despite one’s opinion on Andy Dalton, the team has a future Hall of Fame receiver in A.J. Green, another who cracked 1,000 yards last year in Tyler Boyd, and a couple of talented running backs. Throw in a couple of pass-catching tight ends for good measure, and things aren’t as bleak as the straight seasons of losing records would indicate.

Still, there are questions on the viability of the offensive line, as well as contingency plans if injuries strike at critical areas once again in 2019. We also aren’t quite sure just how committed Zac Taylor is to Andy Dalton and/or Jeff Driskel, so all options are probably on the table in a couple of weeks.

Here are some under-the-radar players who could help the Bengals beyond the first couple of rounds.

Offensive line

The Bengals re-signed and/or tendered a bunch of offensive linemen this offseason, bringing both chagrin and delight to the fan base. Between the moves over the past two springs, the Bengals head into the draft seemingly content with their starting corps.

Still, there is room for improvement along the line. Long-term questions at both tackle spots, as well as needing an eventual heir for Clint Boling are all areas that could be addressed this year.

Chuma Edoga, offensive tackle, USC: This guy may be more known to Bengals fans over others, but Edoga is a guy in the second-tier of offensive tackles. If the Bengals opt to go with linebacker, quarterback or something else in the first two rounds while forgoing offensive line help, Edoga could be a great developmental option in the third or fourth round.

Many believe he is a solid run-blocker, but needs work as a pass-protector, although both of those facets were inconsistent for the Trojans as a team last year. So, he flashed both good and bad in both areas—just with a few more positives in the ground game. This fits the mold of some other Bengals’ offensive linemen, but Edoga could be an eventual effective starter for a team like the Bengals.

Ryan Pope, offensive tackle, San Diego State: Staying on the West Coast, Pope is a raw prospect with immense size. At 6’7” and 320 pounds, as well as having huge hands and arms, Pope gives NFL coaches a lot to work with at the next level.

Most reports say he has the tools to be an early-round player, but he never fully put things together in college. He’ll need great pro coaching to ever make a noticeable impact on a roster, but if things click, look out.

Hjalte Froholdt, guard, Arkansas: The kid from Denmark truly resembles a Viking of old, in terms of build and appearance. There are weaknesses in his game, but potential continued growth and the versatility to play both guard and center brings intrigue to clubs.

He’ll either be a late-round pick, or go undrafted, but he’s a guy who could bring long-term depth as a backup guy, or spot starter. He could be molded into a potential starter, but technique and footwork need to be refined before that happens. For now, he could be a Trey Hopkins kind of guy for a team like Cincinnati.

Martez Ivey, guard/tackle, Florida: Ivey’s teammate Jawaan Taylor is getting the glut of draft attention, and rightfully so, but this kid has some skills as well. Ivey was once a five-star recruit, but he never truly lived up to the hype with the Gators.

Many draftniks note his issues, but it’s agreed that his pass-protecting prowess as a college tackle will make him desirable as an interior NFL option. That positional versatility should serve him well in the years ahead.

Tight ends

Cincinnati re-signed both C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Eifert, but both have had some injury issues in their respective careers. Furthermore, there are other vacancies left by Matt Lengel and Tyler Kroft, and Zac Taylor may want to get another option in his offense.

Here are a couple of guys who won’t take high draft capital to get, but could be another nice option for Andy Dalton and Co.

Foster Moreau, LSU: Lost in the wake of the two studs from Iowa this year (T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant) is Moreau, who has a solid skill set. While he only notched six touchdowns with the Tigers, he started turning heads with a nice outing at the Combine.

Moreau is a guy who will put his nose in to block at a high level, but he doesn’t always create separation in the passing game. Still, he should be an effective “B option” at his position in the pros.

Kahale Warring, San Diego State: Warring is an interesting guy who has been coming on folks’ radars recently. His stats aren’t eye-popping (just eight touchdown receptions in four collegiate seasons), but football is a sport that has been somewhat new to him, respectively.

He was a star in other sports like basketball and water polo, which, interestingly enough, actually help in a tight ends skill set. It’s that athleticism and approach of Warring’s “getting it” as he enters the NFL that has teams drooling.

He’s more of an in-line blocker over a flex-type option, but still has some decent wheels with a 4.67 40-yard dash at 255 pounds. Think of Tyler Kroft, but with both higher upside and risk, depending on where he’s picked.

Running back

Unfortunately, it seems as if the Bengals will need to spend another day three pick at this position for the second year in a row. Cincinnati used a fourth-round selection on Mark Walton in 2018, but he was recently waived after three arrests in as many months this year.

While it isn’t an overly-pressing need, the team will explore options on the final rounds to get a trustworthy player to place behind Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard. The good news is that there appears to be some good options for the draft capital they will probably use.

Bryce Love, Stanford: The speedy kid from The Cardinal has a lot of tools NFL scouts covet. Love’s former head coach, David Shaw, compared him to Jamaal Charles, who had a great pro career himself.

Of course, when he made that comparison, Love was in the middle of a Heisman-like 2017 campaign where he rushed for 2,118 yards. His stock fell this year because of injuries, and he only racked up about a third of that total on the ground in 2018 (731) and 12 total touchdowns. He had 19 rushing scores a year ago.

Love will probably be a day three pick, and someone is going to get a steal. He needs to work on his receiving skills, but could initially find his way as a third down threat.

Kerrith Whyte, Jr., Florida Atlantic: When it comes to FAU backs, most people are familiar with Devin Singletary. However, White shined in a dual role, racking up 866 yards on just 134 carries (6.5 average) and 10 total touchdowns (eight rushing, two receiving).

Whyte entered the draft process as an afterthought to Williams, but when he threw up a 4.37 40-yard dash time, more chatter occurred around his name.

Myles Gaskin, Washington: This kid just plays tougher and more productive than his size (5’10”, 193 pounds) and measurables (4.56 40-yard dash) would indicate. He has averaged 1,330 rushing yards for the Huskies over his four seasons and was a big reason for the program’s recent turnaround under Chris Petersen.

Unfortunately for Gaskin, he had a dip in a couple of important statistical areas last year. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry his first three seasons, but garnered just 4.9 in 2019, while also seeing the third-lowest total in receiving yards (77) for his collegiate career. He has big-play ability, though, as evidenced by his 62 total total touchdowns over the past four seasons.

Quarterback

Even the most casual football fan seems to be familiar with many of the signal-caller names in this year’s class. Be it because of a perceived need, or just the general popularity of the position, there are guys who will be drafted in the first five rounds in which most people will be familiar.

We’re looking a bit beyond those early (Kyler Murray, Drew Lock, Dwayne Haskins) and mid-round names (Tyree Jackson, Jarrett Stidham, Brett Rypien and others) to give a couple of others we’ve come across more recently. The below-mentioned guys may or may not be drafted, but these are developmental guys Cincinnati could look at in a couple of weeks.

Bart Williams, Grand Valley State: To be honest, we were tipped off to Williams by a listener of The Orange and Black Insider Bengals podcast. We looked into the Division II star and there are some things to like.

He only played in eight games last season, but as a redshirt freshman and sophomore, Williams threw 78 of his 123 total touchdown passes. He’ll likely get a shot as an undrafted training camp invitee, but he’ll need to prove to coaches that his production against lesser talent can translate to the NFL.

Taylor Cornelius, Oklahoma State: For those who weren’t fans of Mason Rudolph (Cornelius’ predecessor at Stillwater) in last year’s draft, they probably won’t gravitate to this kid, either. Whether it’s in the non-NFL system the Cowboys run, Cornelius’ sub-60 percent completion percentage in 2018 (59.4, to be exact), or his one year of starting experience, there are reasons why he could go undrafted.

Still, the kid can sling it, as evidenced by his 3,978 passing yards and 32 touchdowns. If on a team with a lot of weapons (which is usually the case at Oklahoma State) and pressed into action, he may surprise some people.

Easton Stick, North Dakota State: Unfortunately for this kid, people are going to automatically compare him to his Bison predecessor, Carson Wentz. It simply isn’t fair, and Stick isn’t going to be Wentz because of both size and arm strength disparities.

Still, this kid is fun to watch with his sometimes “backyard football” style of play and scrambling ability. He could be a guy who comes in for NFL spot starts and is a temporary spark plug for a team. Otherwise, he’s a developmental guy who could become a capable pro backup.

Wide Receiver

This position may wait for day three to be looked at by the Bengals, but it’s a pretty deep class. Common knowledge tells us that Taylor has a blueprint for the differing types of players from his days with the Rams. Will Cincinnati look at the height/weight/speed guys who intrigue, or more of the shiftier slot options to support A.J. Green, John Ross and Tyler Boyd?

Penny Hart, Georgia State: Hart gained notoriety for his work at the Senior Bowl, but the buzz has since cooled off. As it usually goes this time of year, the guys from the bigger schools begin to resurface, which inevitably pushes guys like Hart down mocks.

He’ll be a slot option at the next level, who can also give a team potential kick return abilities. He’s fast and twitchy, but at 5’8”, he’ll need to assure teams that his lack of height won’t overly-affect the quarterback throwing him the ball.

Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Texas: This guy may be close to a household name because of his playing at one of the most storied college programs, as well as having a unique name. Regardless, the kid can play. He notched 86 grabs for 1,176 yards and nine touchdowns last year and presents a size mismatch at 6’4”, 210 pounds.

The problem? He ran poorly with a 4.76 40-yard dash, pointing to the issue of separation at the NFL level. Still, that was a knock on Mohamed Sanu and he turned out alright.

Jalen Hurd, Baylor: Speaking of Sanu, Hurd is looking at a similar career arc, in a way. He started off as an explosive running back at Tennessee, but after asking for a position change because of concussion issues, he transferred to the Bears.

He has a lot of polishing to do, in terms of route-running and the little nuances of the position, but his athleticism should help ease the transition. In the beginning of his career, Hurd could be a “wildcat” or read-option weapon on limited snaps because of his versatility.

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