Bengals make a bold first-round move in controversial mock

Arnold Ebiketie #17 of the Penn State Nittany Lions. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Arnold Ebiketie #17 of the Penn State Nittany Lions. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

Two weeks away from the NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals could reasonably go in any number of directions with their No. 31 pick. What about the EDGE?

A new controversial mock draft from Barstool Sports (hence, the controversy) reveals an interesting first-round selection that would help shore up the edge. Barstool Sports writer Matt Fitzgerald prefaces his mock with the guarantee that his draft selections will fuel “dynasty talk,” but we can’t fully get behind his claim.

Fitzgerald has the Bengals nabbing Penn State pass-rusher Arnold Ebiketie with their first-round pick and explains why:

"I went back and forth between Ebiketie and Minnesota’s Boye Mafe, who’s higher on my big board (25 vs. 31). While I still like Mafe’s superior size, versatility and overall skill set, I like taking a flier on Ebiketie here.After playing just 16 games across three seasons at Temple, Ebiketie transferred to Penn State in 2021 and absolutely EXPLODED. He racked up 18 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. You’d think the step up in competition would’ve hindered him. Not the case."

The Bengals selecting Ebiketie would likely mean they don’t have the utmost confidence in Joseph Ossai’s ability to play at a high level in 2022. Ossai, who is currently recovering from injury, was hailed as a third-round gem who could make an immediate impact in the Bengals’ defense, but his consistency and production remains unproven.

Cincinnati Bengals run to the board to take a pass-rusher in the first round in Barstool Sports’ mock

Just in case Ossai underperforms, taking Ebiketie isn’t the worst idea. The Penn State product is listed as a developmental defensive end and could take notes from Trey Hendrickson in Year 1 as he hones his skills.

According to The Draft Network, Ebiketie would thrive the most from starting out as a designated rush specialist, and while he has a lot of room for improvement, he offers “enticing speed and twitch off the edge.”

Yet most would agree the Bengals need cornerback reinforcements the most, and in Fitzgerald’s draft he addresses this major need in the third round with Nebraska’s Cam Taylor-Britt — much too late for a team that will currently start Eli Apple and Chidobe Awuzie in 2022.

If Cincy feels like it can live with that starting duo for the entire year, so be it. Add a promising defensive end to supplement Joseph Ossai and start building an elite pass-rushing unit to usher in this so-called “dynasty” era for the Bengals.

The safer and more logical option, though, points toward improving the secondary, especially since Jessie Bates is playing on a franchise tag and may not be included in the team’s long-term future.

6 options at cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2022 NFL Draft. dark. Next

When it comes to the NFL Draft, there’s often no 100-percent right choice staring teams in the face. We’re just saying some decisions make a little more sense than others.