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Filed under: projects a TE at pick No. 28

Geoff Hobson makes his pick for the Bengals in this mock draft featuring beat reporters from each team.

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals’ official team site has featured articles from Geoff Hobson for quite some time. He has become one of the biggest names among reporters to follow for Cincinnati during that time.

Hobson’s words carry some weight considering how close he has worked with the organization over the years. He isn’t in the war room or anything, but he knows how this front office operates after following them for years.

This week, Hobson made his pick for the Bengals at No. 28 in the first 2023 Media Mock Draft. This is where he has beat reporters from each other team selecting prior to the Bengals making a pick with a reason to give Hobson a reasonable look at what Cincinnati could be looking at come draft day. He ended up with one of the top tight ends of this draft class.

28. BENGALS _ TE Darnell Washington, Georgia

But the imposing 6-7, 265-pound Washington has a lot of things the Bengals have chosen in Duke Tobin’s draft room during the Roaring ‘20s. He’s big (some publications think he could eventually play tackle), athletic (he played high school basketball in Las Vegas) and is fast with a 4.6 40-yard dash. They also love players from winning programs and Washington has one more national title than Burrow, Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase. And production. Yes, just 45 catches. But he got them in 27 games for 17.2 yards per catch.

This draft is lining up to be a pretty weird one for Cincinnati. The two positions they arguably need long-term answers at the most are tight end and cornerback. This draft is unusually deep at both of those positions. Washington is an incredibly unique talent, but how far off is he from other tight ends who will be around at 60?

Admittedly, Washington could do some real damage in this offense. As a blocker, he may be even better than some of the tackles in this draft, but his measurables also make him a huge mismatch against defenders. He wasn’t used much in the passing game, but he showed off some really strong hands and the ability to use his incredible catch radius. He is able to box out pretty much any defender a defense could throw at him, and he will likely see almost exclusively 1-on-1 coverage given the other weapons.

My dream is still to have him as a lead blocker for a quick swing route. His speed and power make him a devastating blocker in those situations, and against a light box, it would be easy yards.

You won’t find another blocker like him in this draft, but you can find starting tight ends going all the way to the fourth round of this draft. There are just so many guys who given a year to sit behind Irv Smith Jr. for a season could be reliable starters for this team.

It leads to the question then, “If not Washington, then what does Cincinnati do?”

With the way the picks unfolded in front of them, they could make a few different calls. Pittsburgh Panthers defensive tackle Calijah Kancey gives them an interior pass rusher that this team desperately needs after Larry Ogunjobi’s departure hurt sack totals more than some may have expected, going from 42 in 2021 to 30 in 2022.

The thing that would probably be the best move, start fielding calls. There are corners, tight ends, and defensive linemen worth that No. 28 overall pick, but they aren’t exactly worlds above the players Cincinnati could still see on the second or even beginning of the third day.

This is a draft where the Bengals would love to double-dip at a few positions. The best way to fulfill that is by gathering more picks. If they move back once or even twice, they likely still will have the picks to land future starters at tackle, corner, and tight end early on with the ability to take another one later in the draft.

Unless they have a guy there they feel is an absolute can’t-miss player, they should trade back and load up with some extra picks in the meat of this draft.