It’s that time of the year again. In fact, it’s probably already past that time of the year.
But, now that the dust has settled and the Cincinnati Bengals have finished plugging some massive holes in their offensive line, most of you are probably wondering where they go from here.
Barring any surprises (like signing defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi to a team-friendly, one-year contract) Cincinnati’s next opportunity to improve itself will probably come during the 2022 NFL Draft.
And, with the way things stand right now, I have a pretty good idea where the Bengals might be looking.
Pick No. 31
With Cincinnati’s first selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Bengals select Florida Gators cornerback Kaiir Elam.
Elam, who measures 6-foot-1.5 and 191 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.39 seconds, is just the kind of defender Cincinnati defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo loves. He is long and athletic and capable of slotting in anywhere in the defensive backfield.
Fast enough to run downfield with most wide receivers, Elam has lined up outside on both the left and right sides and has even played some slot corner. He has experience in man-to-man, off-man and zone coverages and does not allow himself to get bullied by bigger receivers.
He is physical and aggressive and has the closing burst to run down most receivers. He is also a willing tackler and does not shy away from contact.
Pick No. 63
Offensive tackle Darian Kinnard of the Kentucky Wildcats is a robust 6-foot-5, 345-pound behemoth who would be the ideal choice at this spot. Kinnard is big enough to play either guard or tackle in the NFL and impressed as both a run and pass blocker.
Kinnard earned better than an 89 run-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus in each of his three years with the Wildcats and is an accomplished pass blocker, as well. He probably has the greatest upside of any tackle in the draft but will need some coaching to become a reliable starter.
Pick No. 95
When the Bengals gobbled up free-agent tight end Hayden Hurst, a former first-round selection of the Baltimore Ravens, they shored up their biggest remaining offensive position of need outside of the offensive line. And it also allowed them to take something of a gamble on a small-school phenom.
Isaiah Likely, a 6-foot-4, 241-pound tight end from Coastal Carolina, chalked up 912 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns on 59 catches last year, earning him a selection to the 2021 Football Writers Association of America All-American second team. He was also named to the Walter Camp Football Foundation All-American second team.
And Likely is no flash in the pan. As a junior in 2020, he came up with 30 catches for 601 yards and five touchdowns and was selected to the 2020 Pro Football Focus All-America second team. Oh, and, by the way, he ran a 4.68 40-yard dash at the 2022 NFL Combine.
Let me know what you think of this haul.