The common theme of the upcoming offseasons for the Cincinnati Bengals will be trying to retain as many foundational pieces as possible after quarterback Joe Burrow’s contract extension, and what route they will go in Round 1 while picking near the end.
It’s probably the hardest thing to predict what blue-chip players will actually still be around near the end of the first round. Earlier in the NFL Mock Draft process, it seemed one of the many talented cornerback prospects would fall right in to Cincinnati’s waiting hands. Possibly even a quality offensive tackle prospect that could give them a long-term solution at the position.
In recent mocks, however, the run on those positions is going earlier and earlier. This opens up the question, what will the Bengals do if all these players are already gone?
ESPN’s Todd McShay put out his first mock draft of the offseason, giving an alternate route for the Bengals in this very scenario.
Dalton Kincaid: Tight end, Utah
I wouldn’t count out an offensive lineman here, but think about how a standout tight end could elevate this offense to another level. Joe Burrow threw only 92 passes to tight ends in 2022, sixth fewest in the league, and now Hayden Hurst is off to free agency. Cincinnati could really use a top-tier pass-catcher there to open things up more on the outside for the Bengals’ trio of wideouts, provide a security blanket for Burrow over the middle and stretch the seam for chunk plays. With a big 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame, Kincaid is coming off two straight seasons with 500-plus yards and eight TDs.
Many Bengals fans would love Michael Mayer out of Notre Dame if the team were to take a tight end, but he went in the teens to the Green Bay Packers. While Mayer is the ideal tight end prospect, Kincaid provides a high ceiling.
Right out of Utah, Kincaid is a player you can line up out wide from the offensive line and win some routes as a mismatch. He is far from a complete tight end, though. He’s still learning the position after only playing a single season in high school. His basketball background helped ease the transition as a pass catcher. He learned to run an amazing array of routes at Utah, and he has natural hands that will serve him well.
The issues early on will be Kincaid’s lack of ability to play in-line as a blocker, and you likely can’t even line him up there as he struggles with defenders throwing him off his route. These are mostly fixable issues as he can add some muscle to his frame, but it makes him a situational player his rookie year rather than a plug-and-play.
Some might view this as a luxury pick, but the reality is the Bengals will have to find a long-term solution for a receiver who can be Burrow’s safety blanket over the middle. Tyler Boyd only has one year remaining on his contract, and if the team is focused on paying Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase the next few offseasons along with Burrow, Boyd may be looking to get paid somewhere that can fit him in.
Hayden Hurst will also come to mind. This pick doesn’t exclude Cincinnati from re-signing Hurst or vice versa. Much for the same reasons as Boyd, Hurst has set himself up to be paid a bit more than a low-risk signing. If he puts together another solid season (and can avoid injuries) he may play himself out of the Bengals’ pay range.
All of this is to say, Cincinnati may need to get creative in how they continue to feed weapons to Burrow that are not only talented but affordable. Kincaid will come into a situation he likely won’t be relied on during his rookie season, so he can develop a little before trying to fill those huge shoes that will potentially be left behind.
Plus, imagine how dangerous this offense could be with a player like Kincaid consistently getting one-on-ones inside for Burrow.