The 2023 NFL Draft is almost here.
On this, the final Monday before the draft, I take a crack at a predictive mock draft for the Cincinnati Bengals. This is my attempt to predict who might be available and who the team will select.
Round 1 - Pick 28 - Emmanuel Forbes - Cornerback - Mississippi State - 6’ - 166
Here’s the skinny on Forbes’s issues and why he will fall to pick 28. He’s skinny. That’s it. It’s not really something that impacts his game. He can tackle and has not had injury issues, so who really cares about his weight?
Forbes has 14 interceptions in three seasons, including an NCAA record six pick-sixes. This guy is a playmaker, which is something the Bengals need. He’s not a gambler. He’s incredibly smart and makes fast reads. If you want to let Joe Burrow cook, get a defensive player who can get the ball back in Burrow’s hands.
Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes has the FBS record for pick sixes and it’s not hard to figure out why… he’s always looking to make a play.— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) April 18, 2023
Size is a huge concern but his instincts, ball skills, and explosiveness will have him going early Day 2 in the 2023 NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/NNOj8dqoPP
Round 2 - Pick 60 - Tucker Kraft - Tight End - South Dakota State University - 6’5” 254
“Don’t tell him he’s from a smaller school. That really pisses him off.” That’s what Bengals tight ends coach James Casey told Dave Lapham about Kraft on the In the Trenches podcast. Casey raved about not just Kraft’s size and speed, but his demeanor and confidence.
Kraft was under-recruited, having played 9-man running back in high school, but after proving himself with the Jackrabbits, he had massive NIL offers to transfer to schools such as Alabama. He stayed at South Dakota State and won a National Championship.
He is an excellent pass-catcher who can dominate in the seams at any level. Kraft has been comped to another South Dakota State tight end, Dallas Goedert. Their testing is remarkably similar, but I think Kraft is a much better blocker coming out of college than Goedert was. Kraft would be a great fit for the Bengals offense and the best tight end they have had in years.
South Dakota St. TE Tucker Kraft— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) April 21, 2023
Catch and run ability. Plays through contact. pic.twitter.com/g2x116Fy4K
Round 3 - Pick 92 - Zach Harrison - Defensive End - Ohio State - 6’5” - 274
The Bengals love taking defensive linemen in the 3rd Round, and the last one from Ohio State panned out pretty well. Like Sam Hubbard, Harrison has the versatility to play inside and outside.
His 85.5-inch wingspan was second only to Dawand Jones at this year’s NFL Combine. This combined with his quickness will give Bengals defensive line coach Marion Hobby a lot to work with.
Harrison has not put up impressive sack numbers, but he consistently pressures the quarterback and has a knack for knocking down passes. As you might expect with an athlete of his size, he is not particularly bendy, but that is not something that the Bengals have valued in the past. Harrison would be an excellent fit and could develop into a force at a marquee position.
Ohio State ED Zach Harrison was a menace versus Iowa last week.— Full-Time Dame (@DP_NFL) October 27, 2022
On 8 pass rush snaps, he compiled 2 hurries, 2 hits, & a sack! He’s expected to test very well before the draft.
6060–272…4.5-4.6 forty ? I love what he’s done so far this szn! pic.twitter.com/nr2z3xWqLU
Round 4 - Pick 131 - Israel Abanikanda - Running Back - Pittsburgh - 5’10” - 216
The Bengals have stated they wanted to get more explosive at running back, and you can’t get much more explosive than Abanikanda. He ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash and more importantly a 1.5 10-yard split at 216 pounds.
He was very productive, running for 1,431 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, but only carried the ball 390 times in his collegiate career. So he isn’t coming into the league with extremely high mileage. He has had some success catching balls out of the backfield and has the frame and vision to develop as a pass protector.
The main concern with him, and why he may slip, is his contact balance. He averaged only 2.67 yards after contact last season. After watching several games on him, I believe I know why, and the good news is, it’s a fixable problem.
His gift is also his curse. Abanikanda has fantastic vision and does a great job of seeing cutbacks. I think he leans into this ability too much and is constantly looking for a cutback instead of understanding when he should power through a defender. This is something that can improve with coaching.
Even if I’m wrong, and he doesn’t improve in this area, his speed alone makes him a tremendous asset to the Bengals offense.
Round 5 - Pick 163 - Adam Korsak - Punter - Rutgers- 6’ 191
Oh, I went there.
If the Bengals really value a specific punter, they can’t wait until Round 7. History shows us that when they draft a specialist, they do it around pick 150 (Kevin Huber was pick 142, Jake Elliott was pick 153, and Evan McPherson was pick 149). 163 is as close as I could get without simulating a trade. Trust me, when you see this Aussie punt, you’ll get on board pretty quickly.
Korsak has a massive leg and averaged 44 yards per punt last season, while only having two touchbacks. Rutgers’s punt unit led the NCAA allowing an unbelievable -11 yards on 75 returns.
This was actually a down year for Korsak, believe it or not. In 2021, he averaged 45.8 yards per punt. He punted the ball 120 times in 2020 and 2021 combined and had no touchbacks. Zero.
Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons will be ecstatic to have Korsak in the building.
Round 6 - Pick 206 - Atonio Mafi - Offensive Guard - UCLA - 6’3” 329
Mafi is a mauler who definitely fits the glass-eater profile that offensive line coach Frank Pollack is looking for.
His strong hands and quick feet will serve him well in the Bengals’ gap-scheme run game. His stout frame gives him an excellent anchor in pass protection. He has only played offensive line for two seasons, so he has a lot of room left to grow. Mafi would be an excellent depth and development pick who could challenge for a starting role sooner than you think.
Just watch Atonio Mafi (#56) and behold the power— Full-Time Dame (@DP_NFL) March 29, 2023
Round 7 - Pick 246 - Ronnie Bell - Wide Receiver - Michigan - 5’11” 191
At 5’11”, Bell comes up short — no pun intended — of what the Bengals usually look for in the position, but he makes up for that by bringing a lot of what Cincinnati loves to his game.
First, he is an excellent blocker who takes pride in that part of his game. He is also a leader, who served as captain for two seasons, and when he was injured for nearly all of the 2021 season, he stayed active with the team and helped his teammates improve their games, Finally, he was extremely productive, leading the team in receiving three times and compiling 2,269 yards in his career with the Wolverines.
Bell does a great job of keeping his feet in bounds to make sideline catches, and is surprisingly good in contested situations for a player of his size. His size, quickness, and blocking ability project him well to a slot role in the NFL.