The lead-up to the 2022 NFL Draft has been a very weird and unfamiliar experience for Bengals fans. In recent years, we’ve started looking deeply at the draft by mid-November or earlier. What’s the point in waiting when they have virtually no chance to make the playoffs? Back in the day we usually got to wait until at least December or early January, but having to wait until February this year left a lot of us playing catch up. The Bengals’ scouting department has had to play catch-up too due to a short offseason.
Now, we’ve all had roughly two months to play catch-up to this draft class. The Bengals did an excellent job addressing most of their needs in free agency, so they can have the luxury of focusing on quality prospects rather than needs. They’re still hoping to address minor holes like CB2, TE2, offensive line depth, wide receiver depth, and defensive line depth. But, the nice thing is there are no glaringly obvious holes like they’ve had to address the last few years. You can thank their success in free agency and the draft over the last few years for that.
My original plan for doing a 7-round mock for the Bengals ahead of tonight’s draft was to do it on my YouTube channel. Unfortunately, a particularly noisy fridge is destroying any hope of great audio quality, so we’re going to break down my selections as I imagine myself in the position of Bengals’ general manager. The following picks are made in the spirit of the Bengals’ particular need vs BPA ratio that they tend to follow. But, the final say is entirely what I think would be the best for the team. Think of it as an educated wish list.
I also plan on releasing a full first-round mock of what I think all 32 teams will do later today. You might want to check that out too because it’s quite possible I will have a different selection for the Bengals in that article than in this one. But, without rambling any further, lets jump into these selections.
Using Pro Football Focus’s 7-round mock draft simulator as a basis for these selections, here is what we’re looking at initially.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like PFF’s simulation was terribly kind to me as Tyler Linderbaum went two picks ahead of us at 29 to the Chiefs. They, of course, received that pick from the Dolphins for Tyreek Hill. I was also hoping to get guys like Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam and Zion Johnson, who are also gone. According to PFF, the best prospects available are wide receiver Skyy Moore, safety Lewis Cine and nose tackle Travis Jones. This would be a classic situation where trading down would be in the Bengals best interest. But, will they? I doubt it. I kind of like guys like Arnold Ebiketie, Nik Bonitto, and David Ojabo here. But, I can’t lie. I already know who I’m going with.
I know he didn’t test particularly well at the combine, and I’m sure most of you reading can figure out who I’m talking about based on that alone. Personally, I’m enamored with Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon. PFF has him ranked as the 58th best prospect in this draft. But, the way I see it, he has shown everything you need to succeed at the cornerback position.
Sure, he might need a bit of time to adjust to NFL speed. Luckily, the Bengals have a great No. 1 corner in Chidobe Awuzie and a serviceable No. 2 option in Eli Apple. Don’t get me wrong, picking Gordon at No. 31 comes with the intention of him taking Apple’s spot this season. However, it doesn’t HAVE to be Week 1. For that reason, I’m cool with betting on the upside. He won’t be available when we pick again at 63. So, ideally, we’d trade down. But, in this scenario I’m just going to take him.
Moving along to pick 63 in the second round, I’m still having pretty terrible luck with who is available.
I was definitely hoping to see someone like EDGE Nik Bonitto, tight end Trey McBride, or defensive lineman Logan Hall. Nope. They’re all gone. Yikes. The two remaining players I’m interested in are Kingsley Enagbare, the pass rusher from South Carolina and Dylan Parham, the interior lineman from Memphis. I’m really of a split mind on this one but I think I’m going to go with the guy who can bolster the Bengals’ pass rush.
I’m really confident in Joseph Ossai going forward. But, you can never have enough pass rushers, and Enagbare was one of the best in the country at that particular role. My issue with Parham is I feel he’s a bit of a project and after taking Jackson Carman last year I’d rather not risk Joe Burrow third season to more speculation on the offensive line. Not to mention, I like the depth that exists at interior OL more than I do the depth at edge. So, I’m taking Enagbare with pick 63.
Now we’re moving along to pick 96 and, would you look at that! There wasn’t a massive run on players I’m looking for!
Kentucky’s Wan’Dale Robinson did go to the Titans at 90. But, to be honest there’s another Kentucky prospect I’m eyeballing with this pick. I’m tempted to go with Virginia tight end Jelani Woods here because he has so much upside. At some point, I’m hoping to find a tight end to compliment Hayden Hurst because I REALLY don’t want to rely on Drew Sample, if possible. But, I think finishing the rebuild of this offensive line is imperative… especially going into Joe Burrow’s third season.
I’m picking up Luke Fortner here because, quite frankly, I’ve heard him described as a poor man’s Tyler Linderbaum. As a Kentucky fan, I can vouch for his consistency at the position. Personally, I’m 100 percent into the idea of taking a chance on him. If he’s ready to start right away, great! If not, Ted Karras can hold down the center position for now and Quinton Spain is still available to come back and solidify that left guard spot.
We’re moving along to the depths of the fourth round now and, once again, we’re back to slim pickings.
After losing Auden Tate to the Falcons, I think the Bengals could really use a really good fourth option at wide receiver. Perhaps I’m weird in thinking that Stanley Morgan Jr might actually be able to step into that role quite nicely. But, it might also be worth adding some talent. That’s why I’m looking at Velus Jones Jr from Tennessee.
He’s likely a developmental slot receiver at the NFL level, but that’s ok for me. Tyler Boyd only has two years left on his contract and this wide receiver room is about to get EXPENSIVE with Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins needing re-upped around that time. Jones could be a limited contributor for now and, perhaps, when the time is right, provide an insurance policy in case Boyd decides to move on in a few years.
All that said, the biggest reason I’m excited for Velus is his prowess as a kick returner. Y’all remember relying on Darius Phillips and Stanley Morgan to return kicks last season? Yeah. Muffs cost us a win against the 49ers. Darius Phillips is gone. Brandon Wilson, while reliable as a returner, doesn’t really add much value to the team at his natural position of safety. Picking Velus in the fourth round might be seen as a bit of a reach but I really don’t feel like he’ll still be there at 174. I’m making an executive decision. Let’s go.
As we move to the fifth round, it’s still looking pretty slim. I wouldn’t call this my ideal mock for the Bengals at all, but it is quite possible the real draft this weekend could play out like this.
Based on the list of available players I’m seeing here, I think most Bengals fans would want me to pick up nose tackle Curtis Brooks from UC. Personally, I don’t really get that. Definitely not in the fifth round. Yeah, sure, he’s athletic and tested very well. But, if the Bengals are going to pick up a defensive tackle I think they would probably be better off targeting a 3-tech rather than nose tackle. They’re pretty set with DJ Reader and Josh Tupou right now. Not to mention, it’s really hard to project what Brooks’ role would be in the NFL. Maybe if we see him again in the sixth round I’ll consider it but I think I’ll pass in the fifth.
I’m actually going to throw a bit of a curve ball here. I’m going to take Brian Robinson Jr, the running back from Alabama. Why? Quite frankly I’m not a fan of Samaje Perine. I love Chris Evans, but Robinson provides a completely different set of skills than Evans. Notably, PFF calls him the best short-yardage bruiser in the draft class. Y’all remember when the Bengals couldn’t pick up one yard on three tries on the last drive of the Super Bowl? Pepperidge farm remembers. And Pepperidge farm ain’t gonna let that happen again. So sue me, I’m taking a running back.
Wouldn’t you know it, the sixth round is actually shaping up the way we want! If only the earlier rounds were like that.
Curtis Brooks is still here! I’m not going to lie though I’m still wondering about the value of taking a nose tackle, especially when the Bengals still need to shore up their offensive line depth. I’ve got my eye on offensive lineman Zachary Thomas here. He can play all five positions as a rotational backup if need be. Is that enough promise to betray all the UC fans who are probably screaming at me to take Curtis Brooks? Yes, I think it is. Sorry guys, I just think nose tackle is the one position we’re set at on the defensive line. Why take the chance with poor offensive line depth again when it literally cost us the Super Bowl? I’m going with Zachary Thomas here.
The Bengals actually have two picks in the seventh round this year and I think a lot of Bengals fans are wanting to use one of those picks on PUNT GOD Matt Ariaza. Unfortunately, it looks like he’s no longer on the board.
Honestly, that’s fine with me. Ariaza might be really good. But, it seems like the Bengals’ coaching staff really likes Drue Christman. We can probably find some solid competition for him in UDFA. Also, Curtis Brooks is gone too. Sorry, UC fans.
Perhaps this is another curveball but I’m actually going to take Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy here. I was also thinking about Miami safety Bubba Bolden here but the Jags took him at the top of the round. The reason I’m thinking Purdy here is because.. let’s face it… Brandon Allen is a limited quarterback. He’s probably the best backup we’ve had since AJ McCarron, but that’s not saying much. He’s solid with his legs but he has accuracy issues and, for that reason, I don’t see any reason he shouldn’t have some real camp competition this year.
Years ago I thought Purdy was going to be a stud of a future NFL Draft prospect. He never quite hit that level, but I still think he’s really talented. I think he’ll adjust to the NFL extremely well and should be the kind of guy who can give you 70 percent of what Joe Burrow gives you in case Burrow has to miss time for any reason.
Finally, we’re moving to the Bengals’ final pick at 252 overall in the seventh round. Essentially, you’re just getting a head start on undrafted free agency here, so let’s see who is left.
I wanted to bring in a piece to compete with Drew Sample earlier in the draft. Unfortunately, the way things shook out, there were other great options available when I had the opportunity to take guys I really wanted like Colorado State’s Trey McBride, Virginia’s Jelani Woods, or Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely. So, how about we go get Iowa State’s Chase Allen? He’s not going to wow you in any particular category but he’s a decent blocker and a decent underneath receiving option. At the very least, as I said, he can give Sample a run for his money. Plus, we can pair him back up with Brock Purdy.
So, there you have it. A full seven-round mock draft for the Bengals. I have no idea what they’re actually going to do for most of the draft. So, maybe it will be fun to go back and compare my mock to the actual results after the draft is completed.
Hopefully I have a less noisy fridge by then and we can take the party back to YouTube. But, for now, this is what we’re working with and these are some of the players I think would make sense for the Bengals in 2022.