The Cincinnati Bengals are on their bye week, which makes it a little easier for us to take a look at some improvements this team can make in the offseason. It just happens to coincide with mock draft season really starting to kick into gear for most outlets.
Sports Illustrated just putout a mock that has Cincinnati ending up adding one of the top centers in next year’s draft:
Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
The Bengals line has been better in 2021, but not good. Trey Hopkins has been the weakest chain in the link and is currently graded as the worst center in the NFL by PFF. Linderbaum is a zone-specific and center-specific prospect but arguably a top ten overall talent in this class. Linderbaum has exceptionally rare movement skills, is exceptionally refined for a former defensive tackle and has the physical strength to pin Tristan Wirfs in a wrestling match. Even at 6’3” 290-pounds, Linderbaum is a no-brainer pick here with all-pro upside in the near future. Best-player-available fills the biggest need.
Linderbaum could easily slide in and make an impact on this offensive line. Trey Hendrickson has had a rough season after returning from an ACL injury to end the season last year, and the Bengals could use a replacement/improvement at that position. The Iowa Hawkeye product fits the bill there, and would be a nice value pick if the Bengals are picking towards the second half of the draft.
Some fans may be wondering about adding a tackle or other interior offensive line position. However, the plan seems to be to eventually have Jackson Carman move to right tackle.
Also, with Hakeem Adeniji taking the starting right guard spot, it appears he may be in line for that role in the future. Trey Hill is also a nice prospect who can play center, but with how this mock played out Linderbaum is simply the best value that also fills a need.
Cincinnati appears to have three needs going into the offseason at interior offensive line, pass rusher and cornerback. Joseph Ossai returning next year from injury will help, but they can’t keep playing one injury away from not having enough depth. You could also see them try adding an interior pass rusher to pair next to D.J. Reader for the long-term.
The Bengals picked 22nd in this mock. They saw five pass rushers and five cornerbacks go off the board in front of them, which makes this pick make even more sense. It seems like Cincinnati will at least be picking in the teens at the very least, so position could change strategy quite a bit. Not to mention if they add a veteran center in free agency that pretty much would eliminate this pick.
There are obviously plenty of “what ifs” left before the 2022 draft. However, if we fast forwarded to it right now, you wouldn’t see many fans complaining about this selection.