CINCINNATI (AP) The Cincinnati Bengals aren’t used to this, picking so late in the NFL Draft.
They had early picks in the last two drafts, and the stakes were high. Not so much this time.
As a Super Bowl finalist, Cincinnati has the 31st pick. His first-round selection this time won’t be headline news like taking Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow with the 2020 first overall pick and then getting former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick in 2021. They were the team’s top two players last season, with receiver Chase being named Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The Bengals, who rode a stunning run to their first Super Bowl in 33 years, still have unmet needs for free agency, but the holes are less gaping than in the recent past.
“I think the universe expands a bit when you (draft) later,” Cincinnati director of player personnel Duke Tobin said. “So maybe there’s a bit more of a large pool to choose from, the guys who are available late as opposed to the small universe of guys who are really worth the top of the draft. We are pleased with our ability to quickly analyze available people and their impact on our team.
The Bengals wasted no time in addressing their greatest need when they removed three offensive linemen from the free agent pool – guard/center Ted Karras, right guard Alex Cappa and right tackle La ‘el Collins – with the hope that a revamped line can keep Terrier straight and healthy.
Burrow was sacked 70 times in 20 games last season and his body showed it when Los Angeles Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald took down Burrow in the team’s final Super Bowl offensive play .
DEFENSE COULD BE A PRIORITY
With three new veteran starters on the O line, the Bengals could look to the draft for some defensive depth after offseason moves left them a few positions thin.
“It’s a good-bad problem to have, to pick so late,” said Mark Dominik, former NFL executive and SiriusXM analyst. “I think with the Bengals, it’s new territory for them, and they see it as almost a second-round pick instead of a first-round pick.”
Dominick thinks the Bengals will focus on defense.
“D-line, I think that’s a real possibility for them, I think cornerback is a real possibility for them,” he said. “It would make a lot of sense to me when you pick 31 and where that draft class is. I think it’s going to be that guy on the defensive line that makes the most sense to them in this draft class.
WELCOME TO CORNERBACKS
The Bengals cut often-injured cornerback Trae Waynes and re-signed Eli Apple, who had great moments last year but was also inconsistent. They are looking for someone to compete with Apple for a starting job and play alongside Chidobe Awuzie. Late first-round possibilities include Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr., Washington’s Kyler Gordon and Florida’s Kaiir Elam.
Todd McShay, an NFL Draft analyst at ESPN, said he expects Booth to be gone by the time Cincinnati is on the board, so the likeliest candidate is Gordon.
“He can play slots, and he can play outdoors, and I think that’s where he’ll be picked, end first, start second,” McShay said.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
McShay thinks the Bengals should grab Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum with their top pick if he’s still available at 31. Linderbaum won the Rimington Trophy last season as the best center in college football, and McShay thinks he could come in and beat veteran Karras for the starting job. It would also allow Karras to return to guard.
“He’s going to step in and be a top center from day one, technically strong, great athlete, great range of pull-ups and traps, second-level blocks,” McShay said of Linderbaum. “And also, he has power in his game and is a poor finisher. I think he would be an upgrade (for the Bengals) at center.
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