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Who the Bengals should and shouldn’t target in Round 1

The Dream, the reach, and the fit.

Who should the Cincinnati Bengals take in Round 1?

The debate has raged on for several weeks. Some fans argue for top players who have little chance of falling to 28. That’s “the dream.”

Others talk about players who may be top 50 talents but aren’t worth a first-round pick. That’s “the reach.”

Then there are players who probably shouldn’t be there, but for one reason or another they just might be. That’s “the fit.”

Here are the dream, the reach, and the fit for six different positions.

Tight End

The Dream

We always talk about letting Joe Burrow cook, well drafting Utah’s Dalton Kincaid would be the way to do it. Kincaid isn’t much of a blocker, but he brings a dynamic to the pass game that is unmatched in this class. In fact, he’s been compared to Travis Kelce. Of course, with that kind of hype, it’s hard to see him lasting to the 28th pick, so you are dreaming if think he gets to the Bengals.

The Reach

Luke Musgrave is an impressive athlete, but the production has just not been there. In four years at Oregon State, he only found the end zone twice. In 2021, he started nine games and only hauled in 22 receptions. Last year was supposed to be his breakout season, and it started off well. He caught 11 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown in two games, but that was where his season ended due to a knee injury. He can run up the seam, but just about everything else needs to be developed. Musgrave has a ton of potential, but I don’t know how you could justify using a first round pick on him based on what he’s put on tape.

The Fit

I honestly think Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer is a bit of a reach based on his testing, but he has a lot of positives going for him that would make this a solid pick.

First, his production is through the roof. Mayer eclipsed 800 yards receiving in each of the last two seasons and lit up the scoreboard with 16 touchdowns over that time span. He also broke Tyler Eifert’s record for most career receptions by a Notre Dame tight end. Mayer is the best blocking tight end you will find in the early stages of the draft. (Yes, I have seen Darnell Washington push a sled. No, I was not impressed.) Like Kincaid, he might not slip to pick 28, but he would be a good pick if he did.

Offensive Tackle

The Dream

Tennessee right tackle Darnell Wright was once seen as a real possibility for the Bengals at pick 28, but he has flown up draft boards over the past few weeks. It now seems highly unlikely that he makes it that far. Wright does some nice things on film, particularly in the passing game, but if he makes it to the end of the first round it will be because of anti-right tackle bias. We can dream, but that may be all we can do.

The Reach

The Bengals signed one massive offensive tackle in Orlando Brown Jr. and could have a chance to draft another in the 6’8” 374 Ohio State Buckeye Dawand Jones. Weight can be an asset to an offensive lineman, but it can also be a concern. They have to stay in shape and stay healthy. Jones’s failure to work out or even weigh in at his pro day is a big red flag. Jones could potentially be in play for the Bengals in Round 2, but pick 28 is too rich for my blood.

The Fit

Punt. That’s the best option. It is unlikely that a tackle worth the pick will be available at 28.

If there is a fit, it’s Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison, but honestly, I think this is a little early for him too. Harrison is a work in progress who benefited from the Sooners’ offensive scheme. He played left tackle, and the Bengals need someone who can play right tackle. In short, he’s just not ready to come in and take the job in year one. He could be a good pro, but this is too soon to take him. If you have to take an offensive tackle, I guess he’s the one, but that’s the wrong way to look at the draft. They should just draft a defensive player.


The Dream

Maryland’s Deonte Banks can flat-out play. He was a shutdown cornerback for the Terps and a physical force against the run. Fortunately for him and unfortunately for the Bengals, his performance at the NFL Combine made it unlikely that he slides to the end of Round 1. He is going to be a fantastic player, but probably not for the Bengals.

The Reach

Keelee Ringo can fly, but apparently, no one told him that. The Georgia cornerback plays conservatively like he is afraid of getting beat deep. He turns his hips and runs long before the receiver breaks his cushion. This makes it impossible for him to make a read and break on the ball. Ringo has talent, but he needs a lot of work and is not worth a first round pick at this point in his development.

The Fit

The Bengals’ cornerbacks have not been very good at hauling in interceptions. Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes, on the other hand, has 14 career interceptions and returned six of them for touchdowns. That’s an FBS record.

Forbes is an extremely intelligent player who clearly does his homework in the film room. He is rail-thin, but that doesn’t stop him from making tackles. Forbes would be an incredible addition to the Bengals’ secondary.

Defensive Tackle

The Dream

Pittsburgh’s Caljah Kancey has an insane burst and lives in the offense’s backfield. He is extremely disruptive and has been the draft darling of Twitter all offseason. How could he fall to 28?

The Reach

Kancey is an outlier in a not-so-good way as well. He is not only short, but he also has unprecedentedly short arms. Those who have comped him to Aaron Donald due to his alma mater and size did not consider that Kancey’s arms are two inches shorter than Donald’s. He is also more likely to penetrate the protection than be an immovable object versus the run, which isn’t a great fit for the Bengals defense. All in all, there are a lot of concerns that make Kancey a bit of a reach.

The Fit

Having said that, he is also an extremely intriguing prospect with unique athleticism. Kancey could definitely fall for the above-mentioned reasons, but if the Bengals are unperturbed, they could get an incredible player. Kancey is truly an enigma, landing him squarely in all three categories.

Edge Rushers

The Dream

Georgia’s Nolan Smith does not exactly fit the profile the Bengals look for in a defensive end, He lacks length and only weighs 240, but even at that size running a 4.39-second 40-yard dash as a defensive end will turn some heads. The Bengals met with Smith, but I think he gets swept up before they have a chance to consider him.

The Reach

Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey has all the physical tools the Bengals look for in a defensive end. At 6’5” 264, and sporting 34-inch arms, he has the bulk and length to hold the edge in the run game, but he didn’t do that consistently enough in college. He also has the burst off the line to make an impact as an edge rusher, but despite having 11 sacks in each of the last two seasons, his pass-rush moves are underdeveloped. He is a team captain and brings the hustle and grind that the Bengals look for, but this is too high to pick him based on his development.

The Fit

Many see Northwestern’s Adetomiwa Adebawore as a defensive tackle, but I don’t think that’s where he fits with the Bengals, at least not initially. Although he is only 6’1” his arms are 33 7/8 inches long. He has the length to hold the edge and play the run. He does not have a well-developed pass rush repertoire, but Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo loves to put defensive linemen on the move with twists and stunts, and Adebawore excels when he is on the move.

Like Sam Hubbard before him, I believe Adetomiwa could make an impact as an edge run defender and an interior pass rusher. He may or may not develop into the long-term answer at three-technique, but he could definitely play a valuable role for the Bengals defense.

Running Back

The Dream

Texas’ Bijan Robinson is an incredible playmaker and perhaps the most well-rounded running back prospect I’ve ever seen. He is a great runner, an excellent receiver, and a fantastic pass-protector. He’s a triple threat. Even with all the “running backs don’t matter” chatter, there is no way he gets all the way to Cincinnati at 28.

The Reach

Jahmyr Gibbs will be the next running back off the board. He is an exciting prospect with crazy speed that can get around the edge and eliminate pursuit angles. The Alabama running back is also a skilled receiver who can create big plays on free-release routes or check downs. Gibbs would add an exciting component to this offense, there is no doubt about that, but he has some limitations.

First, he isn’t very good in pass protection, which doesn’t mesh well with being a valuable check-down receiver. Also, if he and Joe Mixon are your two top running backs, who is going to pass block? Second, he’s 201 pounds, so you’ve got to question how much of a load he can take as a running back. He will absolutely make some big plays, but is he worth a first round pick? Probably not for this team.

The Fit

Punt. The Day 2 options are much more attractive. Robinson’s Texas teammate Roschon Johnson is another name to look for. Like Robinson, he is versatile and has excellent pass-protection skills. Johnson has a lot lower mileage, having shared a backfield with Robinson, and plays faster than his timed speed.

UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet does not have the speed that Robinson and Gibbs possess, but he is a powerful runner with vision who can protect the quarterback and make plays in the passing game.

Keandre Miller got hurt in TCU’s playoff game and has not tested, so drafting him is a bit of a risky proposition, but he has the ability to make guys miss and the size to develop as a blocker.

Pitt’s Israel Abanikanda has been criticized for his lack of yards after contact, but they’ve got to make contact first, and that’s not easy with his speed.

A better name for Auburn’s Tank Bigsby would be Bull because his running style is like a bull in a China shop. He has speed and power but seems to lack vision. Any of these five options on Day 2 would make more sense than taking a running back in Round 1.