The Cincinnati Bengals have landed their first big free agent signing of the 2023 season in left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., and with that need out of the way, PFF’s Trevor Sikkema has the Bengals filling out a couple of other needs in his latest mock draft.
With the No. 28 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Sikkema has the Bengals selecting Georgia tight end Darnell Washington.
The Bengals could be looking for some offensive line help at the back end of Round 1, but they’ll also need to address the tight end position with Hayden Hurst now out of Cincinnati. They can touch on both needs with the selection of Darnell Washington, a massive 6-foot-7, 270-pound tight end who is a rare athlete for his size and almost like a sixth offensive lineman on the end of the line of scrimmage.
The Bengals lost their starting tight end from 2022, Hayden Hurst, in free agency when he signed a three-year deal with the Carolina Panthers, and the offense, already filled to the brim with star power from the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and, of course, Joe Burrow, would be almost unstoppable with an athletic freak like Washington at tight end.
Washington finished the 2022 season with 454 yards and two touchdowns with the Georgia Bulldogs and backed up fellow tight end Brock Bowers. He wasn’t used as a receiving threat as much as Bowers and was used more often as an extra blocker, but he still flashed rare athleticism for someone his size.
In the NFL, he could be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses while in the red zone and still has the speed (4.64 40 time at the combine) to threaten in the middle of the field. Washington is the first tight end off the board in this particular mock draft as Dalton Kincaid fell to the Chiefs and Michael Mayer fell to the Texans in the second round.
Speaking of the second round, Sikkema has the Bengals selecting Kansas State cornerback Julius Brents with the No. 60 overall pick. Brents was a first-team All-Big-12 selection in 2022 with four interceptions, four pass breakups, and 45 tackles, 3.5 of which were for a loss. He finished the season with an overall grade of 74.9 from PFF.
Chidobe Awuzie is coming off a season-ending injury and is also entering the final year of his contract with the Bengals. On the other side of the field is Cam Taylor-Britt, who solidified his starting status after stepping in for Awuzie when he was injured. Finally, Mike Hilton will reprise his role as the team’s slot corner, but he’s also 29 years old. Selecting Brents would inject some youth and add some much-needed depth to the position. He’s a tall cornerback, standing at 6-foot-3, and according to Lance Zierlein, could make the transition to safety if need be.
Finally, Sikkema predicts the Bengals will use their third-round pick on safety Ji’Ayir Brown out of Penn State. Brown was voted as the Nittany Lions' most valuable player in 2022, garnering third-team All Big10 honors. He finished the season with a team-high 74 tackles, including 7 for a loss, 4.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 3 forced fumbles. He was also named the defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl in Penn State’s victory over Utah in which he ended with 8 tackles, 1.5 sacks and an interception.
The Bengals lost both of their safeties in free agency as Jessie Bates III signed a monster deal with the Atlanta Falcons and Vonn Bell signed a multi-year deal with the Carolina Panthers. The Bengals drafted Michigan’s Dax Hill in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft in preparation for Bates’ departure but could use Brown as their strong safety or at least as depth at the position. The Bengals do have Tycen Anderson, also drafted in 2022, on the roster, and the recently re-signed safety Michael Thomas.
With offensive tackle taken care of in free agency, the additions of a tight end, cornerback, and safety in the first three rounds of the draft would go a long way to ensure the Bengals get back into the Super Bowl.
How would you feel if the draft went down this way?
Would you be happy if the draft went this way for the Bengals?
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Yes, I would love it!
Eh, it’s okay.
Right positions, wrong players.
No, I hate it!