For much of this offseason, the talk around the Cincinnati Bengals has been about their need for a long-term solution at tight end, even after the team signed Irv Smith Jr. to a one-year deal.
What the Bengals should really be focusing on is finding a long-term No. 3 pass-catcher to pair alongside Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase for the foreseeable future. The team is working hard to extend Higgins this offseason and will do so with Chase next year. If those deals get done, Tyler Boyd is pretty much a goner after 2023 since he’s slated to hit unrestricted free agency in 2024.
While Chase and Higgins rightfully get most of the attention, Boyd has been one of the NFL’s best slot receivers since breaking out in 2018. And the Bengals got really lucky when they signed him to a four-year extension in 2019 through the 2023 season, then landed Higgins and Chase over the next two years. That’s the kind of luck you need to have a trio this good, and what better way to replace Boyd than with a first-round pick who will be under contract for five seasons if the fifth-year option is picked up?
That’s the Bengals’ best hope of continuing to have the NFL’s best pass-catching trio for the foreseeable future if they can extend Higgins and Chase. That’s where a tight end like Utah’s Dalton Kincaid or Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer comes into play.
And in this projection, Kincaid was still on the board, making this an easy selection for the Bengals.
Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
The 6’4, 246-pound Kincaid is arguably the best in this year’s loaded tight end class, though a lingering back injury kept him from working out at the NFL Combine and has led to concern he may fall to the Bengals and possibly out of Round 1.
Thankfully, Kincaid passed his most recent physical and is cleared for next season, so he should be ready to roll when training camp begins.
When healthy, there’s no question Kincaid is an NFL tight end. He’s coming off one of the most dominant seasons by a college tight end in recent memory, hauling in 70 passes for 890 yards and eight touchdowns for a Utah team that won the Pac-12.
Kincaid’s NFL.com pro comparison is Zach Ertz, one of the NFL’s best tight ends of the last decade. Ironically, Ertz helped the Philadelphia Eagles win their first Super Bowl, and Kincaid certainly has the potential to help the Bengals claim their first Lombardi Trophy.
The oddsmakers at DraftKings Sportsbook agree that tight end is the direction the Bengals will go with this pick, with +125 odds on tight end as the most likely first-round pick for Cincinnati. The next-closest odds are +250 for cornerback.
As far as realistic prospects that could be there at pick No. 28 go, Kincaid may be the best-case scenario for Cincinnati.
Imagine what the 2023 Bengals offense would do with Higgins, Chase, Boyd, and Kincaid catching passes from Joe Burrow.