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Final prediction for the Bengals in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft

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While many hail the 2022 NFL draft as the most unpredictable they’ve seen, the truth is that at least 100 percent applies to the Cincinnati Bengals.

So much so, it’s hard for fans to even know what time the team will actually take the podium and make the 31st pick.

Actually predicting the pick is almost as difficult — it could literally be any of the 15 prospects we said we’d love for the Bengals to select.

When it comes time to nail down an actual selection, we have to take into account scheme fit, team preferences, connections, production, value, the overall shape of the board, need and so much more — and in no particular order.

And it all comes back to Purdue defensive lineman George Karlaftis.

Karlaftis has it all. He’s 6’4″ and 266 pounds with a 7.5-sack season and positional versatility under his belt. He’s young with plenty of room to develop further, no major red flags or injury flags and the tape he’s already shown is mightily impressive, never mind the relentless motor the coaches love.

On the Bengals specifically, he fits a nice niche as being able to kick inside and rush the passer, or allowing others to, filling that void left by Larry Ogunjobi’s departure. And he can also rush from the edge, meaning it won’t be “the Trey Hendrickson show” only. He’s also got that upside that suggests he’ll be an every-down starter before long.

As a proverbial cherry on top, Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo coached at Purdue for a while, so he can flex his connections to get the inside scoop. Funnily enough, Cincinnati’s passing attack could have teams scrambling to gobble up defensive backs, which could push Karlaftis down the board, too.

We could talk about a trade back, other linemen like Logan Hall or a falling cornerback such as Clemson’s Andrew Booth. We could even talk about Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum or the longshot, taking a tight end.

But Karlaftis just screams Bengals pick. If he’s there, they won’t pass. And there’s enough depth at other spots, especially when looking at the value and needs for other teams, to think he falls.

Granted, this would be a lucky, best-case scenario sort of thing for the Bengals. But that’s the way things have trended for the last few years for the team now, right?

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Bengals fans make final predictions for team in 2022 NFL draft's first round