After two straight trips to the AFC Championship game, it’s pretty clear that these are not your father’s Cincinnati Bengals.
That being the case, I decided to try something totally un-Bengals-like in my first version of the 2023 NFL Mock Draft.
Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
A trade—but not just any trade. This one is something of a blockbuster, and totally unexpected, at least for the Bengals.
We all know how much Cincinnati needs help along the offensive line, especially at the tackle positions. So why not go to the draft to get it, where you can control salaries for four years. Unfortunately, this year’s draft is a little thin at starter-ready tackles. Hence, the trade.
The Bengals trade their first and second-round picks, along with their second-round selection in the 2024 Draft to the Tennessee Titans for the No. 11 pick.
With the 11th pick, Cincinnati takes offensive tackle Peter Skoronski of Northwestern, giving the Bengals a blindside protector with a pedigree like no other. His grandfather, Bob Skoronski, played 11 seasons for the Green Bay Packers and won five NFL Championships, including Super Bowls I and II.
They also get a seasoned performer who was among the best at his position throughout his college career. Skoronski started at left tackle for Northwestern University over the past three seasons and got better every year.
As a true freshman, Skoronski started nine games, allowed two sacks, four quarterback hits and 11 hurries. He would follow that up with similar production as a sophomore, This past season, Skoronski was voted All-Big Ten First Team after surrendering just one sack, two quarterback hits and three hurries. He also won the Big Ten’s Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year.
Zach Harrison, Edge, Ohio State
Cincinnati turns to defense in the third round with its selection of Zach Harrison, an edge rusher from Ohio State.
At 6-foot-6 and 272 pounds, Harrison has an ideal blend of explosiveness, size and strength to develop into an impact starter. He is a very athletic, explosive player who uses his length well. Harrison has a great closing burst and defends well against the run. He also has the ability to get his hands into the passing lanes.
Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane
With the 131st pick, the Cincinnati Bengals select running back Tyjae Spears.
Although he got minimal playing time his first two years, Spears put it all together as a junior and finished with 863 yards on only 129 carries (an average of 6.7 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns. He really dazzled as a senior, though, when he ran for 1,581 yards on 229 carries (6.9 yard per carry) and scored 19 touchdowns. He added 22 receptions for 256 yards and two scores.
Despite being somewhat undersized at 5-10 and 209 pounds, Spears showed off his skills as a blocker at the Senior Bowl and shows good ball security, having fumbled only three times in his career. He also recorded just four drops while compiling 48 career receptions.
Cameron Latu, TE, Alabama
Former Alabama tight end Cameron Latu took over the starting job as a junior and responded with 26 receptions for 410 yards and eight touchdowns. His production dropped off a little bit last year, but he still managed 30 catches for 377 yards and four scores.
Latu is a good route runner and has the explosiveness to create separation on shorter routes. He is not much of a pass blocker, though.
Mohamoud Diabate, LB, Utah
With pick No. 206 in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select Utah linebacker Mohamoud Diabate.
Diabate began his college career at the University of Florida as an edge rusher but, at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, it quickly became obvious that he was better suited as an off-ball linebacker.
Upon transferring to Utah for his senior season, Diabate recorded 58 total tackles, including 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. In the Pac-12 Championship game against USC, Diabate finished with eight tackles (three tackles for loss and two sacks), a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry.
Kei’Trel Clark, CB, Louisville
At 5-foot-10 and 177 pounds, former Louisville cornerback Kei’Trel Clark might be considered a little undersized, but he doesn’t play like it. Clark began his career at Liberty before transferring to Louisville, where he stepped right into a starting role. As a sophomore, Clark allowed just 19 completions on 39 attempts for a single score and recorded an interception and seven passes defended. He struggled the past two seasons, but still managed another four interceptions and 11 passes defended.
Would this be a good draft for the Bengals? Let us know what you think in the comments!