We never really know how the draft will actually play out. So many end up looking roughly the same over time, but it only takes one team going in a direction that no one expected to change everything.
ESPN analyst Jordan Reid put together a mock draft with some familiar and new names landing with the Cincinnati Bengals. It also has them going in some directions that may be against common trends that we have been seeing recently. Reid starts us off by finishing something that has been years in the making.
28. Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State
The makeover at offensive tackle for the Bengals continues. After they signed Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency to play on the left side, the hole at right tackle remains. La’el Collins battled injuries and was inconsistent during his first season in Cincinnati, and Jonah Williams has requested a trade. That leaves room for 6-8, 374-pound Jones, who is the sixth offensive tackle in this Round 1 projection. The Bengals like blockers with bigger bodies who can wall off the inside of the pocket and create elongated edges for pass-rushers. This fit makes a lot of sense for them.
It has become fairly obvious that the Bengals are moving towards a new running scheme that better suits Joe Burrow and the offense. This team needs a reliable running game to get over the top and having two giants book-ending your offensive line is a great way to start doing that. Jones may have some growing pain as a rookie going up some of the best pass rushers in the NFL in TJ Watt and likely Myles Garrett as well. However, it really locks in this as the offensive line for at least the next two seasons when Ted Karras’ contract runs out. It gives these guys plenty of time to gel and become a unit that can allow Burrow and the passing game to have time to work.
What may be the most surprising part about this pick is probably the fact that the big three at tight end (Dalton Kincaid, Michael Mayer, and Darnell Washington) were all available here as well. Many are expecting Mayer to be the pick if he ends up falling to the Bengals. In this draft, they still end up with a quality tight end, though.
Reid followed that pickup with Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta falling to Cincinnati at No. 60, which may be the best realistic scenario for the Bengals. If the front office isn’t confident in Jonah Williams taking the field at right tackle then these two picks have secured two big offensive holes for the foreseeable future. LaPorta will come in and has the potential to become the most reliable long-term tight end for this team since Tyler Eifert was viewed as the guy.
We’ll do some broad strokes reactions to the rest of the picks. Here is who Reid finished off this NFL mock draft with:
- No. 92: Isaiah McGuire, Edge, Missouri
- No. 131: Riley Moss, CB, Iowa
- No. 163: Sean Tucker, RB, Syracuse
- No. 206: Dante Stills, IDL, West Virginia
- No. 246: Mohamoud Diabate, LB, Utah
The most surprising pick there may be taking an EDGE player in the third round. The team does need more from its pass rush, and McGuire fits the mold they have been looking for. It just seems early for a pick like that. A run on cornerbacks took that option away. What this pick would really convey is that Joe Mixon is the guy next season. There were still a few quality running backs to select, but they improved depth on the edge.
I’m not sure fans understand how much of a loss Larry Ogunjobi’s production hurt this pass rush. The Bengals went from 41 sacks in 2021 to just 30 in 2022. A big reason for that was the quarterbacks' ability to consistently step up in the pocket. When Ogunjobi and B.J. Hill were in the middle, that wasn’t a common occurrence. Waiting to the sixth round to take an interior lineman leaves a hole they either need to address in free agency or hope a young guy really steps up.
As far as mid-round cornerbacks and running backs go, you can really talk yourself into a lot of them. They will all have some sort of flaw, but luckily it doesn’t look like they will have to come in and be forced into a starting position they aren’t ready for. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see them double dip at corner (especially if the second is a nickel corner) as the mid-rounds have some interesting prospects. There are plenty of guys who would be solid starters as well as low-floor but high-ceiling guys that Lou Anarumo can mold into his system. Expect either corner or tight end to be double-dipped in this draft with relatively good depth at both positions.
How would you feel if this was Cincinnati’s haul after the draft?