The Cincinnati Bengals have historically preferred building the team through the NFL Draft. The current team is a good mix of free agents and draft picks.
With the Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, and Ja’Marr Chase contracts coming up, it’s going to be more important than ever that the Bengals hit on their selections. They won’t be able to afford to build so much of the team through free agency as they have in the past couple of years.
With that in mind let’s take a look at some of the prospects the Bengals should have a close eye on at the Combine.
1. Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
A favorite target among Bengals fans and also one of the most important combine performances of the year. A well-rounded player, Mayer’s athleticism is his biggest question mark. Tight end is one of the positions athleticism matters most for, so the Bengals will want to see at least a solid showing by Mayer.
2. Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
At this point, no one would be surprised if the Bengals used their first-round pick on a cornerback, a position they value highly they love using early picks on it because of how important the position is. With Chidobe Awuzie almost assuredly set to miss a decent chunk of the year and is a free agent in 2024, it would be prudent of the Bengals to spend an early-round pick on a potential replacement. Earlier in the year, Ringo was a top 10-projected pick, but throughout the season, his flaws continued to show, and he never took that step forward experts hoped for. However, he is still likely going to be an early-round pick and an aggressive athletic playmaker who needs a bit of development sounds like a good fit for the Bengals’ needs.
3. Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
With La’el Collins also set to miss most of 2023, the Bengals have a clear need at right tackle going into 2023 and beyond that with Collins not even playing that well last year. Wright is a great right tackle prospect who the Bengals would be lucky to grab at the end of the first. At the combine, he is just checking boxes and if he does exceptionally well odds seem low that he is available at the Bengals’ first pick.
4. Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State
Jones is another right tackle prospect and one most Bengals fans should be even more acquainted with. An absolute behemoth of a player, Jones isn’t necessarily looking to have a great combine, but arguably needs to avoid an Orlando Brown Jr. combine performance. Of course, he has worked out and is about to get paid as one of the top tackles in football, but it would be wise of the Bengals to not bet on outliers regardless.
5. Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
Another cornerback who likely won’t sneak into that mid-to-early first group, Banks is a cornerback with great size and what looks like good speed on tape. If he can show good-to-great athleticism, he could, like Wright, climb above the Bengals’ pick, but if he is there he is a great option for the Bengals to add to the room. He can be developed and potentially even be ready to play early on in relief of Awuzie. He has the potential to be a top cornerback in the league, although he has to work on getting his eyes and hands on the ball more often.
Those are the top five guys Bengals fans should keep an eye on at the combine, but of course, there are many more potential picks for the Bengals to make. These positions are key ones for the team along with the defensive line, running back, and wide receiver room, with either cut candidates or soon-to-be free agents at all of those positions.