The NFL season is already over a quarter of the way done and the Cincinnati Bengals are looking like a playoff contender with a record of 3-2. Their schedule does not look to get any easier than it has been up to this point, but there is still reason to be optimistic that Joe Burrow and Zac Taylor can reach the postseason for the first time with the Bengals.
Should they sneak into the playoffs, or even barely miss the playoffs, the Bengals look like they could be just an offseason or two from being legitimate Super Bowl contenders. After two straight successful drafts in a row which brought in players like Burrow, Tee Higgins, Logan Wilson and Ja’Mar Chase, a third straight solid draft could be all the Bengals need.
In the following article, I will take a look at my way-too-early predictions for the Bengals 2022 draft. I will be making these projections as if the Bengals either make the playoffs or narrowly miss, so I’ll act as if they’re picking somewhere between the 17th and 25th picks.
Round 1: Pick 17 – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
The Bengals offensive line has been the team’s main point of outside criticism for the last half decade, dating to the offseason of 2017 when their formally solid offensive line fell apart with the departures of Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler.
In 2021, offensive line coach Frank Pollack has had the Bengals’ line performing at perhaps its highest level since the 2016 season, but it could still use some work.
On the interior of the line, Quinton Spain has been one of the Bengals’ top lineman and has likely earned himself a multi-year contract in Cincinnati. However, the other two spots on the interior have been the team’s biggest weaknesses in protecting Joe Burrow.
Jackson Carman is just a rookie and likely will get another chance in 2022 regardless of how his season ends, and even if he doesn’t, D’Ante Smith will likely get a shot at starting before the team looks elsewhere at guard. Veteran center Trey Hopkins, on the other hand, has been a liability coming off of his ACL injury and could be a candidate for release in the 2022 offseason.
Enter Tyler Linderbaum, center for the Iowa Hawkeyes. The 21-year-old offensive lineman for the Hawkeyes is the only center in College Football with an overall Pro Football Focus grade of 85+. Talent-wise, Linderbaum is potentially a top ten player in the upcoming draft, but due to being a center he could fall to the Bengals in the middle of the first round.
In order to protect their franchise quarterback, the Bengals should run to the podium if Linderbaum is still on the board.
Jonah Williams is developing into a premier left tackle in his third year as a pro, adding Linderbaum to the offensive line could potentially give the Bengals two elite offensive lineman for the foreseeable future.