Bengals pass over offensive line in latest ESPN mock draft

Kyler Gordon #2 of the Washington Huskies. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
Kyler Gordon #2 of the Washington Huskies. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

This April, the Cincinnati Bengals could take an unconventional road and forgo upgrading their offensive line for their secondary in the 2022 draft.

Nearly every NFL analyst has the Bengals picking up an O-line prospect in the draft for obvious reasons: 70 sacks. The Super Bowl loss. Overall concern for Joe Burrow’s health.

Yet one black sheep has strayed from the pack and believes the Bengals shouldn’t “force” it to improve the trenches.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper released his latest mock draft in which Cincinnati builds its defense, rather than its offensive line, with its first pick.

Kiper said:

"Why no offensive linemen here? Because the Bengals shouldn’t force it to try to fill their biggest need. In this scenario, I didn’t have another lineman with a a Round 1 grade; Daniel Faalele (Minnesota) and Tyler Smith (Tulsa) are more likely to go in the first 15 picks in the second round. Cincinnati, which has salary-cap space, could also address the position in free agency."

Cincinnati Bengals go for a corner, not an offensive lineman, in 2022 mock draft

Kiper has the Bengals drafting Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon instead, who is a highly skilled athlete and potential starting-caliber defender. Gordon could make an immediate impact in Year 1 if Cincy release Eli Apple, but the Bengals’ secondary isn’t the team’s fatal flaw. The offensive line is.

Kiper does make a fair point that the Bengals shouldn’t necessarily “force” trying to fill their biggest need, but their other options for building the offensive line just aren’t there in 2022. Rarely do elite offensive linemen suddenly appear in free agency, and if they do, they’ll be highly sought out by all teams. Terron Armstead and Bradley Bozeman present two elite options this offseason, but it’s impossible to tell where each will land. Cincy’s promise of another Super Bowl run may not be enough as money, individual player preferences, and several other factors will come into play.

With the 31st overall pick, the Bengals won’t get the most impressive offensive line prospects, but they can find at the very least a solid rotational or depth piece in the trenches.

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When it comes to the offensive line, the Bengals wouldn’t be reaching with their first pick of the draft. They would be directly addressing their biggest need, and no one can fault them for that.