The Cincinnati Bengals made a nice move by signing Irv Smith Jr. late in free agency, but with three departures in the group (Hayden Hurst, and we’re assuming both Mitchell Wilcox and Drew Sample), the team needs an influx of talent at the group. The consensus is that the team will be drafting one by the conclusion of Night 2, but might they double-dip on the final day?
If so, the University of Cincinnati’s Josh Whyle could be a nice supplemental piece for the Bengals’ offense. He’s got height, length, and yards-after-the-catch skills that would provide Joe Burrow with a nice security blanket.
- Height: 6’6”
- Weight: 248
- Age: 23 (Turns 24 in September)
- Year: Senior (RS)
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.69
- Projected Round: 4-5
- RAS: 8.94
Josh Whyle is a TE prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 8.94 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 113 out of 1060 TE from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/mUVKX1Dupa #RAS pic.twitter.com/Yky7uLfWk2— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 26, 2023
Whyle is a Cincinnati native through and through, graduating from La Salle high school before joining the Bearcats. His first two years at UC were a bit of a wash, as he redshirted as a true freshman and caught only two passes in 2019.
However, Whyle began hitting his stride in 2020, racking up six touchdowns and 353 yards on 28 catches in a COVID-shortened year. He followed that up with another six scores in 2021, and a career-best 32 catches in 2022.
Whyle was First-Team All-ACC in 2022 and Second-Team All-ACC in 2020. His 15 touchdown catches are a school record for a tight end, which is saying something considering Travis Kelce is an alum.
He had a solid workout, putting up a sub-4.7 40-yard dash. Whyle also showed solid explosion with his vertical and broad jump numbers, coupling that with sound splits in his dash.
On tape, Whyle is a yards-after-the-catch machine and has a knack for getting into the end zone. In fact, 17% of all of Whyle’s college catches went for touchdowns.
And, while there was a dip in production from 2021 to 2022, UC’s quarterback situation was far less stable from year to year, as Desmond Ridder went in the draft for Whyle’s final collegiate year.
Whyle was often seen split out wide or in the slot to exploit defensive weaknesses and allow him to make a number of plays. While he’s not the thickest guy, he still shows toughness across the middle and was seen breaking through a number of tackles to turn short plays into solid gains.
Whyle’s height and length make him a valuable red-zone weapon at the next level, too. While Cincinnati improved off of that aspect last year, having multiple big weapons in the shorter areas of the field for six points instead of settling for three.
Blocking is not a strong suit of Whyle’s—particularly in pass protection asks. He does show some capability as an occasionally-effective run blocker, but picking up defensive back blitzes and chipping isn’t necessarily a strong suit.
Also, with his turning 24 by the start of the season, the debate on proximity to his ceiling is prevalent. And, with his sub-250 weight, he’d likely need to put on a few pounds immediately for NFL work, as opposed to incrementally, if he was 21 or 22 years old.
While the production dip is understandable in 2022 because of the quarterback position, his cutting of touchdown catches in half is a little concerning. We mentioned that solid 17% of catches going for scores in his career, but prior to 2022, that number was at 21.5% and fell to about 9.5% this past season.
It’s about draft value and expectations for Whyle at the next level. The sweet spot to select him says that between the Bengals’ picks of No. 131 at the back of the fourth and No. 163 in Round 5 is where the best value resides.
Whyle has long-term potential as a high-producing player by pro TE2 standards—especially with Cincinnati because of the points and stats put up by their quarterback. If Smith, Jr. stays healthy and shines in his role as the primary tight end, pairing him with Whyle could prove really effective in third down and red zone situations.
The Bengals have had productive complementary tight end weapons who have been lower on the depth chart, whether we’re talking about Jim Riggs, Eric Kattus, Tony Stewart, or even the couple of seasons with Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert.
Whyle paired with Smith and/or another high pick at the position could take the Bengals’ offense into yet another stratosphere with Joe Burrow at the helm.
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