No one has a better pulse on the Cincinnati Bengals’ draft plans than Dave Lapham. The Bengals’ radio analyst has predicted several of the team’s recent first-round picks, including a few second and third-round selections as well.
Despite Cincinnati not having a pick until the 31st spot (at the earliest), Lapham did his best to give a prediction on the latest Bengals Booth Podcast.
“My first [choice] would be Andrew Booth if he’s there, and then Kaiir Elam if Andrew Booth’s not. If they’re both gone, I don’t know what I’d do at that point. I’m not sure I’d stay with the corner position at that time. I think I might move on.”
Booth and Elam are two of the top cornerbacks in this year’s NFL Draft. While Elam is ranked for most just outside the top 30 players, Booth has maintained a late-first round projection throughout the process despite not performing at the Scouting Combine or his pro day due to injury.
It’s no coincidence Lapham believes cornerback to be the position the Bengals will target first. They have a history of investing in that position in the first round, and they need—at the very least—a long-term replacement for Eli Apple. Finding someone who can start over Apple immediately would be a bonus.
“I think it’s very likely,” Lapham said about the probability a corner is taken at 31. “If the Bengals attack one side of the football in free agency, they attack the other side in the Draft. The last two Drafts were offensive in orientation because the defense was addressed so heavily in free agency. Offense was addressed heavily in free agency [this year]. Hayden Hurst, the three linemen, that’s a big, big expenditure and and a big, big focus for the on improving up front for the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense.”
Booth and Elam aren’t the guys that Lapham believes are at the very top of the board, but he believes George Karloftis might be. Lapham believes the Bengals would rush to the podium for the former Purdue pass-rusher.
“For me, it’s Karloftis,” Lapham said. “He’s basically in a lot of people’s estimation the fifth edge rush guy, and I can understand from an athletics standpoint, but he is athletic. He’s not a freaky athlete like some of these edge guys are, but he’s very well put together. ... This guy plays so damn hard. Every single play you watch on tape he’s emptying the old effort bucket.”
Karloftis has been rumored to be sliding down draft boards of late, but that usually means the media is just now picking up on where teams have placed him for a while. It’s possible experts and analysts have overrated him compared to where the league sees him, but he has first-round production and athletic traits.
Lapham also mentioned he thinks a trade back is likely as well, citing the number of players they’d feel comfortable taking at 31 could be big enough to make a move back into the second round.
Booth and Elam have been popular names when it comes to the Bengals and other cornerback-needy teams at the end of the first round. We’ll see if the Bengals call one of their names on Thursday night, or if they’re the team to stop Karloftis from “sliding” out of the first round altogether.