I tried to approach this draft with the Bengals' needs firmly in mind. Since with the exodus in starters over free agency, it's simply not possible to fill all the holes in one fell swoop, I applied my take on which positions the team would prioritize. In short, I believe they're likely to hold off addressing a position if they spent a first or second day pick on a player in order to give the player every opportunity to succeed.
While I'm not a huge fan of PFN, as PFF is now charging you for their mock draft simulator, this was one of the better free choices available.
Here's my assessment of positional needs and the likelihood of the team addressing them in the draft:
QB: Since Allen hasn't been resigned, I wouldn't be surprised if they draft a back-up in the later rounds.
RB: As Katie Blackburn has been noticeably non-commital about Mixon's future with the team, I fully expect them to draft a workhorse back at some point in this draft, and it wouldn't surprise me if the team picked one early rather than late. From the comments Zac has made about Traveon Williams, I think they'd like to give him more opportunities so don't expect them to double-dip to replace Perine. If Elliott is signed, all bets are off on an early-round workhorse although it wouldn't surprise me if they still address the position late.
WR: While the team could spend a mid-round pick on Boyd's future replacement, I fully expect them to let TB play out his contract, which may push the agenda back another year.
TE: Due to Irv Smith's injury history, I expect them to target a pass-catching TE early. Possible that they double dip with a blocking TE in later rounds, but with all the other needs, it's more likely we see Sample or Wilcox return.
OT: While I personally would be in favor of spending a Round 1 or 2 pick on a RT (no guarantee either Jonah or Carmen are successful switching to the right side) if for no other reason than to bolster depth, which probably cost the team a Super Bowl last year), I think the team is still holding out hopes that Jackson Carmen can be a starter in this league and doesn't see this as a priority.
OG: Once again, while I wouldn't mind adding competition at LG and improving the depth, I think the team is content to ride with Volson.
C: While I'd love to upgrade the backup (Hill), there are just too many needs and not enough picks. Would certainly address this though with a UDFA.
DE: While another rotational DE with pass-rush skills would be nice, there are other more pressing needs and Sample and especially Ossai have shown promise. I think the team will probably stand pat here unless a really talented player falls into their lap.
DT: The team really missed the pressure Larry O brought last year. I won't be at all surprised if they draft a 3T in one of the first 3 rounds. As I doubt they'll have the cap space to bring Reader back after his contract expires next year (as he'll also be 30, they may also not want to sign someone that age to a multi-year deal), they'll need to find an heir apparent soon. However, with all the other needs, I don't see this happening until at least the mid-to-late rounds, if at all.
LB: Pretty set here. Unlikely unless a real gem falls to them.
CB: With Awuzie's contract set to expire and the risk that his production falls off due to the ACL and HIlton's skills starting to erode, I think CB may be a priority and can see them drafting a boundary corner on day 1 or 2 and perhaps even a slot in the later rounds. I'm sure the FO sees CTB as Apple's heir apparent at CB2.
S: As they wouldn't have given Scott a 3-year deal if they weren't counting on him as a starter, I think they'll be content to roll into the season with the starting tandem of Hill and Scott. Unless a player they really like falls, I won't be surprised if they fail to address the position.
K - Set (McPherson)
LS - Set (Adomitis)
P - I could possibly see them drafting a P in the 6th or 7th round, but more than likely they'll just sign a UDFA.
Here are my picks along with a brief explanation of the thinking behind them:
Round 1 (Pick 28): Darnell Wright OT Tennessee.
While I expect the Bengals aren't willing to cut bait yet on Carmen (who showed some promise in the playoffs), I couldn't help but run to the podium when Wright, one ot the top tackles on many draft boards, fell down to 28. It helps that he has the positional flexibility the team covets. He has enough sand in his pants for RT and has played on both sides during his college career. If injuries strike yet again, it's reassuring that he could move to LT if needed.
Round 2 (Pick 60): Luke Musgrave TE Oregon St.
This pick fills an immediate need. With Smith Jr.'s injury history, it's not certain he can be counted on to stay healthy throughout the season. Most of the top TEs were gone by this point. Musgrave is a little raw but has the speed and agility to stretch defenses.
Round 3 (Pick 92): Antonio Johnson S Texas A&M
A big safety who packs a punch. Needs work on his coverage skills but has the athleticism to improve in that area. I went BPA here and admittedly didn't see a lot of other good options. This is a pick that I doubt the Bengals would make as I think they feel like they're pretty set at S with Scott and Hill.
Round 4 (Pick 131): Traded for picks 162 and 181
As there wasn't a player on my board who was a good value here and several good options who would probably still be there a round later, I traded down here.
Round 5 (Pick 162): Chandler Zavala OG NC State
This is another pick I doubt the FO would make since they just spent a fourth rounder on the position. However, as I feel like the lack of depth on the O-line cost the team a possible SB, I decided to address this issue. Zavala can compete with Volson for the LG spot and figures, if nothing else, to improve the team's interior depth.
Round 5 (Pick 163): Garrett Williams CB Syracuse
I was very surprised Williams lasted this long as many mocks have him going two rounds earlier. He has the physical tools you look for in a boundary corner and can be groomed to replace Chido if the team is forced to move on for cap reasons in 2024.
Round 6 (Pick 181): Rakim Jarrett WR Maryland
The future replacement for Boyd. While Jarrett's not a burner by any means, he has sure hands, very good route running skills, and excellent short area quickness.
Round 6 (Pick 206): Roschon Johnson RB Texas
Since Johnson was stuck behind Bijan Robinson, he's a little bit of an enigma. He has the size, athleticism, and natural ability to serve as a feature back but lacks the juice to leave defenders in the dust. A punishing runner with good vision, he gets what's blocked for him but isn't particularly good at creating in space (think Perine vs. Mixon). While I don't think he's on the same level as Mixon, he is well-rounded - a solid blocker with pass-catching skills who could serve as a 3-down player.
Round 7 (Pick 246) Traded along with a 2024 7th round pick to SF for Picks 252 and 256
As I had two players firmly in my sights but only one pick, I flipped this to the Niners along with next year's 7th rounder (should be Mr. Irrelevant if everything goes as planned) in exchange for their two picks at the end of the round.
Round 7 (Pick 252): Keondre Coburn DT Texas
Back to the Longhorn state for a DT who had no business still being on the board at this point. Coburn is a bit of an underachiever who got by largely on mass and strength but could serve as a poor man's D.J. Reader if the Bengals decide to move on in 2024. He has the ability to occassionally get some pressure but will need motivation and refinement to succeed at the next level. Should be a solid backup if nothing else.
Round 7 (Pick 256): Marte Mapu LB Sacramento State
Mapu is a tweener from a small school who really opened some eyes at the Senior Bowl. I really like this kid as in interviews, he comes across as humble, intelligent, and eager to improve his game. At 217 pounds, a big leap of faith is required to assume he could bulk up 15-20 pounds without losing any effectiveness. However, he played a variety of positions in high school, including safety, CB, WR, and even QB! As Coach Lou likes players with versatility, I think they could move him around like a human chess piece between S and CB (playing e.g. SS or the Flowers role to defend TEs). It helps of course that Hill has similar positional flexibility.
As is often the case in the real world, you're faced with making trade-offs when you do a mock draft. With a number of solid starters departing this off-season and other positions with aging players nearing the end of their contracts, there simply weren't enough picks to address all the team's needs.
* Add a RT of the future in Wright and improve the depth of the O-line, with a solid OT and OG.
* Add a solid pass-catching TE who can be groomed to replace Smith Jr. if he leaves next year or fill in for injury.
* Improve the depth of the secondary by adding 3 players with starter potential (Williams, Johnson, and Mapu) who also provide insurance in the event Scott fails to impress.
* By waiting until the 6th round to draft a successor, almost need to keep Mixon around another year in spite of the inflated contract (assuming no deal is reached with Elliott or another player). A player like Robinson, Gibbs (maybe a better fit in a zone scheme), or Charbonnet would've allowed the team to part company with Mixon, whereas with a late-rounder like Johnson, who's no sure thing, they'll probably want to see how he performs.
* Failed to address the DT position adequately (there's always next year, I guess) as the top DTs were off the board by the end of the third round.
* No guarantee that a 6th-round WR will pan out as Boyd's successor (once again, maybe address it with a higher pick next year).
Let me know whether you feel like this draft addresses team needs and what you think of the picks (try not to be too condescending, I don't make my living in an NFL front office although I am willing to consider any reasonable offers LOL)!