During mock draft season in the NFL, you can start to see the same names or positions going to a team over and over. The Cincinnati Bengals sitting at No. 28 are a true wild card that will have to be flexible about what falls to them.
Recently, Doug Farrar from Touchdown Wire had a new fresh take on how the draft could fall after the NFL Scouting Combine in his three-round mock draft. It caused a name we haven’t really seen linked to the Bengals to land in Cincinnati.
Darnell Wright, OT Tennessee
In the case of Wright, who has played both left and right tackle for the Volunteers, you need look no further than the two-game stretch in which he faced off against Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. and LSU’s BJ Ojulari — two of the top edge-rushers in this class — and prevented either one of them from getting anywhere near [quarterback] Hendon Hooker.
Wright hasn’t been a common First Round prospect so far, but he could very well be a long-term solution for the Bengals at right tackle (or possibly even left tackle down the road. Having gone against some of the top pass rushers already is a huge plus for him. At this point, it seems if Cincinnati thinks there is a starting caliber offensive tackle there at 28, then they will be selecting them.
What is more interesting is the Bengals passing up names like tight end Michael Mayer out of Notre Dame and tight end Darnell Washington out of Georgia. Cincinnati could easily re-sign Hayden Hurst as their starter, which would open up the opportunity for them to wait on taking a pass-catching tight end until the middle rounds. That is a pretty nice luxury to have in a deep tight end class.
Farrar followed up the first round with Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz at No. 60 and Texas A&M cornerback Jaylon Jones at No. 92.
Getting a corner in this draft is something we all expect. The team will have Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton hitting free agency following the 2023 season. While they could re-sign one or both of them, odds are they won’t be able to match what the open market will be willing to pay both of them. Jones would be a nice safety plan to put across from Cam Taylor-Britt long-term while being a nice depth piece.
Schmitz is where we get into the juicy analysis from this draft. Double-dipping in the first and second round on offensive linemen sends a clear message. It also may be the best way for the team to address the needs along the offensive line as they won’t have the space to sign a top-tier lineman for an extended amount of time.
Some may balk at the idea of taking a center when the team already has Ted Karras. However, Karras can play center or either guard position. The team also has Alex Cappa and Cordell Volson out there, so Schmitz may not be a Day 1 starter, but at the very least he provides a great plan in case of injury. If an interior lineman gets injured, he can step in at center and if the guard position needs covered, Karras can slide over. It also allows Karras to push Volson to retain his starting job.
Depth along the offensive line has been an issue that has kept this team from reaching the top the past two seasons, and they arguably fix that in their first two selections.