What if the Bengals focused primarily on getting one side of the ball right with their first five picks and then shifted to the other side?
Obviously, in real life they would be open to taking players on both sides of the ball at any time, but these mock drafts were run just to see how much improvement they could make by focusing their early picks on one side of the ball.
The Bengals have 11 picks in the upcoming draft. The methodology is this: in one draft the Bengals spend their first five picks on offense and their last five picks on defense, and in the other draft they spend their first five picks on defense and their last five picks on defense. Obviously drafting a quarterback early would make the offense-first draft stand out (positively for some and negatively for others). To avoid this, in both drafts Bengals the middle pick (183rd overall) is used on Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew. Minshew was selected as someone who is likely to be available and who is pretty unobjectionable overall.
Without further ado, here we go.
Round 1 - 11th overall pick - T.J. Hockenson - Tight End - Iowa
The Bengals re-signed Tyler Eifert, but his health cannot be relied on. C.J. Uzomah is a talented player, but not the same dynamic threat in the passing game. The Bengals lost their best blocking tight end Tyler Kroft in free agency. Hockenson would be the best blocker in the group from day one and would compete with Eifert as the best option in the pass game. He would be a great piece to add to this offense, improving both the run and the pass game and shoring up the tight end position long term. It would allow them to use Eifert sparingly to preserve his health.
Round 2 - 42nd overall pick - Greg Little - Offensive Tackle - Ole Miss
Little gets a lot of negative press, but that is largely do to his early projection as a first-round pick. Little is a bit of a project who has not even come close to reaching his potential. He is a big, strong athlete with a wide base. He gets movement in the run game and has a good initial pass set. As a second round pick, he would not be pushed on the field immediately. He could be developed as an eventual replacement for Bobby Hart at right tackle and may be able to become the swing tackle in the meantime.
Round 3 - 72nd overall pick - David Edwards - Offensive Tackle - Wisconsin
In general, you can’t go wrong taking an offensive lineman from Wisconsin. This is the school that developed former Bengals guard Kevin Zeitler, former Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas, and many more over the years. Edwards has excellent feet as a pass protector. Much like Little, he could afford to improve his strength overall. Edwards has the potential to develop into a very good starting offensive tackle in the NFL.
Round 4 - 110th overall pick - Darius Slayton - Wide Receiver - Auburn
Slayton has an excellent combination of size and speed. He makes good adjustments to the ball and has very good hands. He excels as a deep threat as well as running after the catch on short passes where he demonstrates a surprising ability to break tackles. Slayton could be the teams’ fourth wide receiver and possibly push for John Ross’ spot.
Round 5 - 149th overall pick - Devin Singletary - Running Back - Florida Atlantic
Singletary is a dynamic player who makes great reads and has an excellent burst. He is the type of rusher who will find a crease just when you think he is about to be tackled in the backfield and the next thing you know, he is 35 yards down field. Singletary would be an excellent compliment to Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard.
Round 6 - 183rd overall pick - Gardner Minshew - Quarterback - Washington State
Coming to Washington State as a graduate transfer after 2 years starting for East Carolina, Minshew saw a huge spike in his production. In only one season with the Cougars, Minshew threw for 38 touchdowns, 4,479 yards and completed over 70% of his passes. Minshew has excellent accuracy and knows how to read a defense. He also has a sweet mustache.
Round 6 - 198th overall pick - Ulysees Gilbert III - Linebacker - Akron
Gilbert saw a drop off in production in 2018 after totally 261 tackles in 2016 and 2017. While Gilbert can stuff the run, he is noted for his excellent pass defense. He is excellent at reading the quarterback and breaking on the ball in zone defense. He also has the athletic ability to matchup with running backs in man. Basically, he is everything that the Bengals linebackers weren’t in 2018.
Round 6 - 210th overall pick - Deshaun Davis - Linebacker - Auburn
Davis showed steady improvement in his time at Auburn and finished his career on a high note. As a senior he had 112 tackles including 15 for a loss. Davis is a tough and intelligent player who was a leader for the Auburn defense in 2018. He is a tad undersized but is a strong and physical tackler.
Round 6 - 211th overall pick - Jonathan Ledbetter - Defensive End - Georgia
Ledbetter was a good edge player for the Georgia defense over the past few seasons. He can hold the edge in the run game, but has limited ability to rush the passer. Weighing in at 280 pounds, he could shift to the inside on passing downs while adding bulk to the edge on early downs.
Round 6 - 213th overall pick - Wyatt Ray - Defensive End - Boston College
At 6-3 255 pounds, Ray doesn’t have the size of teammate Zach Allen, but he could develop into a productive pass rusher in the NFL. Ray has a great burst off the edge and has demonstrated excellent use of pass rush moves. He played for a very good Boston College defense where he had nine sacks in 2018.
Round 7 - 223rd overall pick - Jah’Shawn Johnson - Safety - Texas Tech
Johnson has excellent range and always seems to be around the ball. He has a great burst and very good ball skills. He can also play man to man. Johnson would add depth to the Bengals secondary.
Overall Needs Filled
The offense certainly improves in this draft by adding Hockinson. With Little and Edwards, they add two excellent developmental prospects at offensive tackle. The big issue is waiting to add a linebacker. That would hurt as the Bengals desperately need to find at least one starter at the position in this draft.
Round 1 - 11th overall pick - Devin Bush - Linebacker - Michigan
Bush is a talented linebacker who played for college football’s best defensive coordinator Don Brown. Bush has great speed and defends both the run and pass effectively. The Bengals have a major need at running back that they have kicked along to the next season for years. Bush would finally give them an athletic upgrade at the position.
Round 2 - 42nd overall pick - Jachai Polite - Defensive End - Florida
Polite gets a bit of a bad rap and tested poorly, but he is an absolute beast on film. He is very good against both the run and the pass. Polite has some similarities to Carl Lawson and could be an excellent addition to the Bengals pass rush. Both have a great first step and burst off of the edge.
Round 3 - 72nd overall pick - Khalen Saunders - Defensive Tackle - Western Illinois
Saunders is 320 pounds and can do a back flip. He has an incredible combination of size and speed. Saunders has a ton of potential to develop into an excellent defensive tackle in the NFL. His athletic ability would make him a great change up to Andrew Billings.
Round 4 - 110th overall pick - Germaine Pratt - Linebacker - NC State
Pratt is an incredibly underrated player. He has the size and speed to play all three linebacker positions. He has the range to run sideline to sideline from the MIKE linebacker position and is an excellent tackler. Pratt moves well in his pass drops and has the ability to cover tight ends in the pass game as well. He would be a great addition for the Bengals and should be able to push for time right away.
Round 5 - 149th overall pick - Mike Edwards - Safety - Kentucky
Edwards is a ball-hawk and the best defensive back on the Wildcats’s defense. He is a superb athlete with excellent change of direction and phenomenal range. With 10 career interceptions, he is the type of play-maker the Bengals need on their defense.
Round 6 - 183rd overall pick - Gardner Minshew - Quarterback - Washington State
Did I mention he’s got a sweet mustache?
Round 6 - 198th overall pick - Tommy Sweeney - Tight End - Boston College
The Bengals may have re-signed Eifert and Uzomah, but they lost their best blocking tight end in Kroft. Sweeney can fill that void. He is a very good blocking tight end who could help open holes for Mixon in the running game.
Round 6 - 210th overall pick - Anthony Johnson - Wide Receiver - Buffalo
Johnson runs great routes and is very good at adjusting to the ball in the air. He has good size and enough speed to have success in the NFL. He would challenge for the 4th wide receiver slot with the Bengals.
Round 6 - 211th overall pick - Ethan Greenidge - Offensive Tackle - Villanova
At only 6-4 Greenidge is a bit undersized for a tackle and comes from a smaller school in Villanova. These are the negatives, but there are a lot of positives on his film. He is a people mover who gets some serious push in the run game.
Round 6 - 213th overall pick - Damian Prince - Offensive Guard - Maryland
Prince is a big strong guy who can get movement in the run game. He is also a good athlete for a 320 pounder and effective pulling. He could compete for a position and perhaps develop into a starter with time.
Round 7 - 223rd overall pick - Bruce Anderson - Running Back - North Dakota State
Anderson was very productive for the North Dakota State Bison over the last couple of seasons. He showed at the Senior Bowl that he can compete with the big boys as both a rusher and a receiver out of the backfield. Anderson could replace Mark Walton as the Bengals third-string running back.
Overall Needs Filled
In this draft the Bengals got the help they need at the linebacker position adding two potential starters in Bush and Pratt. Waiting as long as they did to take an offensive tackle will hurt though, The Bengals’ lack of depth at the position is bound to catch up with them if they don’t add a tackle in the first four rounds.
Which draft would you prefer the Bengals try to emulate?