An annual tradition, the PFF pre-NFL Draft rankings for all 32 teams are out, and the Cincinnati Bengals cracked the top five, but barely.
Cincinnati is listed as their fifth-best team heading into the NFL Draft, with a couple of questionable teams in front of them. The Kansas City Chiefs check in as No. 1 on the list and as Super Bowl Champions, that makes sense.
Somehow, the San Francisco 49ers check in at No. 2, a spot ahead of the Super Bowl runners-up, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Granted, San Fran does have Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and one of the best defensive lines in football, but they also have three quarterbacks and don’t seem sold on any of them.
Also ahead of the Bengals are the Buffalo Bills, who the Bengals beat handily in last year’s Divisional Round. Buffalo didn’t have any major players depart, but they didn’t exactly go add top-tier talent in free agency either. Saying their offseason makes them better than the team that knocked them off last year is debatable at best.
As for the Bengals, PFF seems to like the signing of Orlando Brown Jr. a lot, but the losses of Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell may be the reason they fall below Buffalo.
• Biggest loss: S Jessie Bates III
• Biggest gain: T Orlando Brown Jr.
The Bengals made another splash to protect QB Joe Burrow this year, signing Orlando Brown Jr. to a four-year, $64,092,000 contract. While the league has clearly made a statement that they don’t view Brown as an elite left tackle, Cincinnati gets great value on a very good player — Brown has five straight seasons with a pass-block grade of 73.5 or better and has played over 1,000 snaps in four straight years.
However, they also lost two starting safeties in Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell, leaving Nick Scott (54.2 PFF grade in 2022) and Daxton Hill (56.0) penciled in as the top two safeties on the depth chart.
Still, Cincinnati has made smart decisions in terms of the salary cap, as the team has the least dead cap in the league.
Regardless of our opinions of the rankings, having a top-five rated team in the NFL for the second consecutive season is a sign of how times are changing in Cincinnati, and it appears the football world is taking notes.
However, looking up at Buffalo in the rankings may provide this Bengals team with a little extra motivation as we are just weeks away from the beginning of off-season workouts.