The NFL Draft is nearly a month away, so it is no surprise that some of the bigger draft analysts are getting another mock draft out there. The Cincinnati Bengals are at an interesting spot in the draft at No. 28 and several routes they could go as of now.
Here is what ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has the Bengals taking in his latest mock draft.
Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia Bulldogs
This makes seven pass-catchers (four receivers, three tight ends) in a nine-pick span. There absolutely could be a run on them in the 20s. The tight end group as a whole is spectacular at the top, but Washington might have the highest ceiling. He wasn’t used a ton in the pass game for the Bulldogs, as he had just 45 catches and three scores over three seasons. At 6-foot-7, 264 pounds, he ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash at the combine, impressing NFL scouts, who think he could be much better at the next level. With Hayden Hurst gone in free agency, this is a clear need area for Cincinnati.
Washington’s biggest question mark is how well he will do as a pass catcher at the NFL level. The reason that is such an unknown is that he’s as A+ of a blocker as you can get. He is probably a better run blocker than a lot of tackles in this class, but he also has the speed to make crucial blocks out in space that has the ability to turn an open-field play from a modest gain to a big one.
We saw glimpses of Washington making outstanding catches away from his body with his hands, but that is still very much n unknown. Luckily, even if he ends up just being an average-level playmaker, his ability as a blocker would be more utilized in the Bengals’ current offense, which is littered with talented receivers. Washington just needs the ability to win the occasional one-on-one assignment.
It is very tempting to add a playmaker here like running back Bijan Robinson or fellow tight ends Michael Mayer and Dalton Kincaid. Unfortunately, all of those players were off the board in this mock draft.
That leaves the question of if Washington is that much higher on the board than other tight ends that could and would certainly be there later in the draft. This tight end class has to be one of the deepest in years, so maybe dipping in on defense early with a player like defensive tackle Calijah Kancey or edge rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah, who both could boost the pass rush for a defense going through some serious change in the secondary.
Still, Washington would be a cheap and long-term solution to a position that seems to be quickly becoming a turnstile for Cincinnati.