The Cincinnati Bengals need long-term answers at the cornerback position. Chidobe Awuzie provided a solid campaign last year for the team, but he has two years left on his deal, with the final being an opt-out season.
Cincinnati also re-signed Eli Apple to another one-year rental deal this offseason after he played some of the best football of his professional career. Still, with his contract up after this season, Trae Waynes being released and Darius Phillips going to the Raiders, the Bengals need cornerback help.
One of the most intriguing options in this year’s class is Kyler Gordon of Washington. Part of a Huskies defensive back duo that could sport two first-round picks this year, Gordon offers both a lot of upside and a couple of questions.
Age: 22 (23 in December 2022)
Year: Redshirt Junior
Projected Round: Mid-First to Mid-Second
Gordon came to Washington as a relatively-highly-ranked high school cornerback in 2018 (25th corner in rivals.com). A combination of previous roster depth, the COVID-19 pandemic and Gordon’s own inconsistencies led to him playing just 21 games in his first three years (five starts; had a redshirt season as a freshman).
Even with the limited games and starts those first three campaigns, Gordon received Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 nominations in 2019-2020. But, it was last season wherein he gained a lot of draft momentum.
Playing both as a slot corner and outside, Gordon logged two interceptions and seven passes defended (team lead), en route to a First-Team All-Pac-12 nomination. Hi immense athleticism teamed up extremely well with Trent McDuffie to create one of the best defensive back tandems in the country.
Fluidity and athleticism are two of Gordon’s biggest assets. While his 40-yard dash time doesn’t wow folks, the rest of his athletic profile should.
If concerns about a blase resume dating before 2021 is concerning, the RAS numbers from Kent Lee Platte should quell some of those. Solid size and outstanding movement skills from a corner prospect? Yes, please.
And, the versatility gene is something that will have teams intrigued. As mentioned above, Gordon effectively played both inside and outside last year, which is now a coveted skill at the NFL level.
If there are questions about Gordon contributing right away as a boundary corner (there are), the ability to potentially contribute as a slot corner early in his NFL career helps add to his pedigree. To boot, the Huskies have been a bit of a defensive back factory, putting out talents like the Trufant brothers, Marcus Peters, Kevin King and even former Bengals player and coach, Ray Horton.
As John Sheeran noted in a recent Orange and Black Insider Bengals podcast episode, there are some concerns with Gordon falling victim to double-moves. That’s a concerning enough issue on its face, as these are part-and-parcel of NFL offenses. Add in a sub-optimal 40-yard dash time (4.52) to this concern and a perceived lack of recovery speed has to linger in scouts’ minds.
Now, look: a 4.52 40-yard dash isn’t “slow” for the position per se, but when other prospects like Kaiir Elam are running 4.39 in the same drill, people take notice. It’s not a big difference, mind you, but in the vein of recovering from getting beat, it’s worth noting.
And, when it comes to the benefits of the aforementioned versatility, a premium pick on a player who may not be able to immediately play a prominent role—particularly as a boundary corner—teams may shy away from selecting him on Night 1.
Gordon is a little bit of a wild card in this year’s class, but a lot of the tired cliches apply. “Upside”, “high-end athleticism”, “scheme diverse” and other adjectives can be applied with the Huskies defensive back.
“One year wonder” is another, though it’s not totally accurate. Like some of the other prospects we’ve looked at for the Bengals, Gordon seems to be an ascending player, who got better with a higher-profile role last year.
If the RAS numbers above didn’t impress you, then perhaps an 89.6 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus last year might. The kid can play.
The issue is in how immediate an extensive role could come and if he’ll reach the ceiling. In one odd way, a lack of immediate playing time could resemble the early career arc of another former first round Bengals cornerback in Dre Kirkpatrick (though the RAS scores are VASTLY different).
However, in another odd turn, the slot/boundary versatility and RAS profile resemble yet another Cincinnati first-round corner in Leon Hall.