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A little while removed for the 2022 NFL draft now, it’s clear reviews of how the Cincinnati Bengals performed have been mostly positive.
That’s a credit to the team finding good value while hitting on some notable needs. And that was set up thanks to some major spending in free agency on the offensive line, which freed up the draft resources for a best-player-available approach, especially in the all-important early rounds.
Still, there are always some nitpicks worth highlighting along with the great stuff, so let’s step back and look at a few things to love and question about the team’s trip to the 2022 draft.
Love: The aggressiveness
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Not all aggressiveness is created equal. But the Bengals got smart about picking and choosing their spots to move up for prospects, which is pretty impressive for a front office that doesn’t usually do that. They moved up to get Cam Taylor-Britt in the second round and Tycen Anderson in the fifth. In the process, they didn’t sacrifice anything major. Those extra picks it cost to move up probably don’t make a Super Bowl roster anyway, but the players added after the trade up — at good value and spots of need — could help right away and possibly have long-term starting roles, too.
Question: The LG spot
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Yes, the Bengals did a brilliant job upgrading the offensive line in free agency. But they didn’t touch the left guard spot, presumably leaving it to a competition where 2021 second-rounder Jackson Carman is the headliner. But Carman’s maturity issues and other problems make that a risky gamble. Bringing Quinton Spain back might seem like a good idea, but he struggled a lot last year. Maybe fourth-rounder Cordell Volson helps make this a moot point, but it’s looking like left guard could be an issue.
Love: The value-need combo
(AP Photo/Steve Luciano)
The Bengals put on a clinic in this regard, especially over the first three rounds. Dax Hill in the first round can play corner or safety and was a superb value. Like the Bengals, even the Cowboys had a top-20 grade on him and they got him at No. 31. In the second, Cam Taylor-Britt was the last boundary prospect available and could rotate in right away. In the third, Zachary Carter’s an interior rusher from the 3-technique who will rotate in right away, too. Even fourth-round guard Cordell Volson could compete for a guard job and fifth-rounder Tycen Anderson will, at minimum, have a big presence on special teams.
Question: No weapons
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Without drafting a wideout or tight end, the Bengals are putting the depth to an extreme test. Mike Thomas remains the fourth receiver and the staff is really counting on Hayden Hurst to be a starter at tight end with Drew Sample and Mitchell Wilcox spelling him. There are veterans in free agency and undrafted free agents to consider, but saying no thanks to the positions as a whole is an interesting gamble.
Love: Staying ahead of trends
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
One doesn’t have to look far to find Bengals coaches talking about how they hoped to stay ahead of league trends with this draft. While every team in the league was seemingly trying to copy the Bengals’ wideout approach by gobbling up as many weapons as possible, the team was sitting comfortably with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd as the starting three. Instead, they used a pair of top-60 picks on versatile, 4.3 defensive backs who can play now and have big potential as starters down the road.
Question: Special teams
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Yeah, the undrafted free agent long-snapper is a hit. But the Bengals didn’t end up drafting a punter despite wanting to. They also didn’t prioritize guys who might be able to come in and compete on returns. It’s not the biggest deal in the world, but a notable omission for a unit headed up by Darrin Simmons.
(AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
The Bengals have had a type ever since Zac Taylor arrived and this draft class was full of that again. Dax was a big-time leader at Michigan. CTB was asking for playbooks right after being drafted. Volson went viral for his personality. Tycen Anderson had to correct reporters who thought he was only a two-time captain (three). It goes on and on. From an outsider’s perspective, the Bengals again went all-in on the types of locker room presences who changed the organization and helped lift it to a Super Bowl.