It’s that time of the year again: time to break out the old crystal ball, time to try to out-think the think tank that is de facto general manager Duke Tobin and company.
The top three needs for the Cincinnati Bengals going into the 2024 NFL Draft would seem to be, in no particular order, offensive tackle, defensive tackle, and running back (the wide receiver situation will likely resolve itself for 2024).
Without any further ado, let’s jump right into our prognostication of what the first three rounds of that draft might look like.
Round 1, Pick No. 18: Jer’Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois
The Bengals need an offensive tackle to replace Jonah Williams, who is likely going the way of free agency. But offensive tackle is one of the deepest positions in the draft, and there will be a good one left on the board when Cincinnati picks in round two. Remember Andrew Whitworth?
At 6-foot-2 and 295 pounds, Newton is on the smaller side for defensive tackles, but so were Aaron Donald and Geno Atkins. Newton is strong and physical at the point of attack and has the upper body strength that allows him to fight off blocks.
In 12 games with the Illini last year, Newton registered 52 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, two passes defended, one fumble recovery, and one forced fumble. He was named a consensus All-American, was the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year, and was named the Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Round 2, Pick No. 49: Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma
After shoring up the defensive side of the trenches, the offense is next up with the Bengals looking to find Jonah Williams’ replacement.
6-foot-7. 327 pounds. 5.10 in the 40. “Is effective when asked to pull, showing the agility, speed, and overall range to get out as a lead blocker.”
If Guyton is still on the board when the Bengals’ number is called, this one is pretty much a no-brainer. As a senior, Guyton played in 10 games for the Sooners and allowed no sacks in 355 pass block sets, three hits, and nine hurries. He has experience at both right and left tackle to go with the size and attitude Cincinnati covets.
Round 3, Pick No. 80: Trey Benson, RB, Florida State
It is pretty clear that Joe Mixon’s time in Cincinnati is nearing its end, and this year would be the perfect time to draft his replacement. The Bengals already have former Illinois standout Chase Brown in the fold, but a successful ground game requires a pair of game-breakers.
Benson certainly fits the mold. At 6-foot-1 and 223 pounds, he runs a 4.37 40 and has the ability to cut on a dime. And he has plenty of gas left in the tank.
As a junior for the Seminoles, Benson gained 905 yards on just 156 carries (an average of 5.8 yards per carry) and scored 14 touchdowns. As a sophomore, he gained 990 yards on 154 attempts (6.4 yards per) with nine touchdowns.
Should Benson be off the board, Cincinnati might opt for Michigan Wolverines running back Blake Corum, who was the Offensive MVP of the 2023 College Football Playoff Championship game and a two-time All-American.
Corum, whose only knock is his height at 5-foot-8, ran for 1,463 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior, then tacked on another 1,245 yards and 27 scores as a senior.
How do you like these picks? Let us know in the comments section!