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Cincinnati Bengals April Scouting Report
Mark Huber

The NFL Draft is upon us. Did you notice?

Oh my, the number of mock drafts and player projections and blah, blah, blah has been overwhelming this time around it seems. I can’t wait for the Bengals to finally make a pick.

For the fantasy football player, weeding out all that white noise can be challenging.

But it is necessary.

My thinking is this. Put together a tiered ranking of the fantasy relevant players. Then wait for the draft to be over. This ranking would be based on talent, not landing spot in the draft. Then if a major major landing spot situation comes up through the end of the draft, you can adjust your rankings. Only slightly, though. Don’t fall for the Clyde Edwards Helaire trap again.

Talent is more important than situation. Situation should not be discounted but don’t jump any running back over RB Bijan Robinson just because that runner has a better situation.

To me, if a player on your list who is down a ways gets a great situation but doesn’t have great talent, then trade them. Take advantage of that with your fellow team managers. If a talented player gets a seemingly bad situation, trade for them. Their talent will win out eventually. Maybe not right away or even this year but eventually talent wins out.

Okay, back to the Bengals.

In recent years, the Bengals have drafted as well as any team in the league. They position themselves to not be forced in to taking a player at a particular position.

There are positions where needs are greater but as it is right now this team can take the best player available and not be forced to reach for a position.

Something Cincinnati has done also is draft players that are good but fill a need that may be a year away. Last year, the secondary was addressed even though an immediate need wasn’t present. However with the defections this year, last year’s draft picks (Dax Hill and Cam Taylor-Britt) are more important.

WR Tyler Boyd, WR Tee Higgins, DL DJ Reader, LB Logan Wilson, OL Jonah Williams, DB Chidobe Awuzie, DL Trey Hendrickson, RB Joe Mixon are all free agents in 2024.

So any of those positions could be early picks for the Bengals even though none would likely play significant roles in 2023.

Said Bengals general manager Duke Tobin, "Whether we can get them extended beyond (this year) or not, the hope is that we could, but when we go into the draft we're still cognizant of what is important not only this year but two years from now. We're not heavy needs. Like. 'We've got to have a safety in the fifth round.' We don't do that. We let the fifth round come and see what the best players are, and then if there are (comparable) players; and there always are, there always are two or three or four guys that we like, then we can pick the position that maybe best fits us right now or maybe into the future.

"We're not jumping guys ahead of more talented players based on a position. It's just something over the years that we haven't done. I don't think it's a smart philosophy to say we're going to turn down these third-round picks to drop down and take this fourth or fifth- round talent because he fits the positional need that we want. You end up regretting that normally. They don't get better just because you draft them earlier."

Most likely picks for Cincinnati seem to be a tight end, offensive lineman or defensive secondary.

With that in mind, TE Michael Mayer would be the most pro-ready prospect at that position. The Notre Dame product may not start but would see plenty of meaningful snaps. TE Darnell Washington also has been linked to the Bengals. He is more of a blocker, which never hurts, but is athletic enough to have some untapped potential as a receiving threat. Others like TE Dalton Kincaid if the Bengals opt to go that route early.

If it’s offensive line, the most seen names are OL Darnell Wright, OL Anton Harrison, OL Dawand Jones if it’s an early tackle.

As far as the secondary goes, in today’s pass-happy National Football League a team can never have too many good coverage players. CB Emmanuel Forbes, CB Cam Smith, CB Kelee Ringo are the most often mentioned.

But the draft is more than one round. So many good players have been found in the later rounds. The Bengals could fill each of the aforementioned positions with players in rounds 2-4 and take a shocker … RB Bijan Robinson with that first round pick if he was still there. Maybe RB Jahmyr Gibbs falls to the Bengals and he is the pick.

Tobin said the team does not eliminate many positions in the draft, specifically that first round or first pick.

Said Tobin, "So we're open to any position that presents itself they're the best player available. And if they're clearly the best player and they will have a role on our team, we'll certainly consider it. I do probably eliminate specialists from that first-round category, but other than that, it's hard to eliminate and I don't think we'll be taking a quarterback up there but everything else is wide open."

More to come next month!


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