Most analysts had tight end high on the list of priorities for the Bengals heading into the 2023 NFL Draft. Of course, the draft came and went without the Bengals adding a tight end to the roster, cementing Irv Smith Jr.’s place atop the depth chart. However, according to “USA Today’s” Chris Roling, had things gone a little differently, head coach Zac Taylor said the Bengals could have selected one of two tight ends that were high on their boards.
“There were certainly some tight ends that we had some regard for that got picked up pretty soon,” Taylor said. “Those first two, we really liked and you know they went with the 26th pick and 35th pick to Detroit. Those were really good players who I think would’ve helped us. But again, we’re happy to not reach because we felt good about the group we had.”
With the 26th pick, the Dallas Cowboys selected defensive tackle Mazi Smith, so Taylor was referring to the 25th pick, which was Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid, who was selected by the Buffalo Bills. The 35th pick was Michael Mayer, but he was selected by the Oakland Raiders. The Detroit Lions selected Sam LaPorta, the former Iowa tight end, with the No. 34 overall pick.
It’s not surprising that the Bengals would have had LaPorta and Kincaid higher on their list than Mayer considering the two were largely considered more of a down-field receiving threat than the former Notre Dame tight end. The Bengals obviously wanted more of a receiving tight end than an extra blocker that had potential to stretch the field heading into the 2023 season, and while Smith has potential to do that, he has struggled with injuries through his career. The only season he played all 16 games was his rookie year in 2019. He missed three games in 2020, the entire 2021 season and he only played in eight games in 2022. Had the Bengals been able to land LaPorta or Kincaid, they would, at a minimum, have had an insurance policy if Smith were to be injured again. Right now that insurance policy is Drew Sample.
Since Kincaid was gone when the Bengals went on the clock at No. 28, and since they didn’t have Mayer as high on their board, they went with Myles Murphy, the edge rusher out of Clemson. Then, since LaPorta was gone when the Bengals were picking at No. 60, they filled another need by selected Michigan cornerback DJ Turner II.
With Smith on the roster, the Bengals felt they didn’t need to reach for a different tight end when Kincaid and LaPorta were both selected. Things worked out well for the Bengals. They added a talented edge rusher, added depth to the secondary and then added some offensive weapons on day three. They got high grades across the board for what they did in the draft. Maybe their year to select a tight end in the draft will be in 2024.