Maybe I'm just suffering from stimulus saturation after too many mock drafts (the real thing can't get here soon enough!) or just had an epiphany that no one should rightfully care who Joe Public thinks the team should draft or what wonderful results he got from his stint as GM for a day. Whatever the motivation, I thought it might be more interesting to walk a mile in Duke Tobin's shoes and try to predict how the draft might unfold.
My methodology was imperfect, but simple. I used the PFF Mock Draft Simulator with the default settings, aside from one simple change: to introduce a more realistic element of uncertainty, I changed the settings so that they were evenly balanced between PFF's board and the public board. I also limited the number of trades that I made, only making a trade if I felt the Bengals would've also chosen to trade out of the pick. As far as the specific picks, I based them on a combination of perceived BPA, known prospect visits, and my opinion of what the team was looking for and which positions they might prioritize (based on consensus team needs and what was suggested by the prospect visits [i.e., were they inviting only likely third-day picks or were earlier-round targets represented]).
Here's how the picks unfolded:
Round 1 Trade with Seattle, receiving picks 40, 41, and 229 in exchange for 31 and 63. Rationale: All the first-round targets linked to the Bengals were off the board, including Andrew Booth Jr. While I personally prefer Kaiar Elam, I felt Duke would prefer to pick up two Day 2 picks, which would give him a better shot at two impact players since the players linked to the team (e.g. Salyer, McBride, and Winfrey among others) may or may not be there at 63.
Round 2 Pick 40: Jaquan Brisker S Penn State. This was the only safety on the board worthy of the pick. I felt that the second tier (e.g. Joseph, Cross, and Cook) were unlikely to be there at 95. As neither Jessie Bates nor Von Bell are under contract for 2023, I think safety will be a priority (I'm also unconvinced the Bengals are williing to shell out $13-15 Mil a year AAV for what they've typically viewed as a low-priority position).
Round 2 Pick 41: Kyler Gordon CB Washington. Gordon doesn't have the long speed of some of the more heralded CBs in this class, but his instincts and ball skills make him a great fit for Anarumo's predominantly zone-based scheme. While Gordon hasn't visited the Bengals, the fact that they kicked the tires on Booth Jr. suggests to me that upgrading from Eli Apple will be a priority. With his hip fluidity and short-area quickness, Gordon should also be able to slide into the slot if Hilton were to miss any time.
Round 3 Pick 95: Nicholas Petit-Frere OT Ohio State. I felt that the Salyer and Ryan visits indicated the team was seriously considering spending a Day 2 pick on a tackle. However, the flip side of the trade with Seattle was that two prospects the team liked were already off the board. With Jonah Williams's fifth-year option coming up, it makes sense to have some insurance. Additionally, with D'Ante Smith and Isaiah Prince as the first two tackles off the bench, some healthy competition at swing tackle doesn't hurt.
Round 4 Pick 124: Justyn Ross WR Clemson. While I personally think it makes more sense to retain Higgins when the time comes and let an aging 30 year-old Boyd walk, judging from the prospect visits, the team appears to either be looking to fill Auden Tate's red-zone role or wants insurance in case they can't come to terms with Higgins. Ross has the tools to be special but was hampered by injuries. Since Higgins played with him at Clemson, I'm sure he's on Duke's radar.
Round 5 Pick 174: Isaiah Thomas DE/DT Oklahoma. Thomas, who the Bengals hosted for a visit, has the versatility the Bengals covet in a rotational lineman, with experience playing both 3-tech and 5-tech. He can line up outside and be moved inside in obvious passing situations. He's also a high-character guy who works hard and has the athletic traits to develop into an impact pass rushing specialist.
Round 6 Pick 209 Vederian Lowe OT Illinois. Lowe, another prospect the Bengals hosted, is a developmental prospect with a high ceiling. While he played tackle in college, he has the strength to move to guard, which is where I see the Bengals primarily using him.
Round 7 Pick 226 Matt Araiza P San Diego State. While the Bengals haven't invited any punters for a visit or expressed an interest in drafting one, I've got to think if Araiza's still on the board by the seventh round, they would pounce and entertain the thought of a competition with the aging Huber (if he doesn't decide to retire) and on/off practice-squad member Chrisman. However, as I don't see a generational talent like him lasting past the fourth round, this eventuality seems remote at best.
Round 7 Pick 252 Isaiah Weston WR Northern Iowa. As there wasn't a lot left on the board by this point, the choice came down to doubling down at CB with slot specialist Mykael Wright or doubling down at WR with Weston (something the team has frequently done in the past). Since the Bengals have hosted Weston and he fits the bill as a developmental prospect with a high ceiling, I went this route even though he fills the same X receiver role as Ross (of course, not everyone works out). While I personally would've like to have drafted a slot receiver, the board didn't fall that way.
Let me know what you think, just keep in mind that this isn't who I would've picked personally but rather who I think Duke Tobin would pick (please no comments about a lack of realism. I didn't invent the PFF Mock Draft tool).