2 perfect fits at tight end for Bengals at opposite ends of 2023 NFL Draft
By Glenn Adams
Brayden Willis, Oklahoma
If Cincinnati misses out on Washington or decides to take another route, position-wise, there is another tight end who they should give strong consideration to at the end of the draft.
Brayden Willis is a great option for the Bengals near the end of the draft. If you are someone who is looking for a “steal” or an “underrated player” at a position of need, look no further than the former Sooner tight end.
Willis is a relentless run blocker. If these following clips were from offensive linemen, you would not stop hearing about how great he is.
While at Oklahoma, Willis he showed off his versatility by lining up out wide, inline, as a wing, and fullback. This, along with his ability to run block, pass block, and catch the ball makes him the type of versatile player that teams claim they love. He does not seem like the type of player that should be a seventh-round pick, let alone an un-drafted free agent.
At 6’4 and 241 pounds, there are concerns about Willis’ ability to hold up as a blocker in the NFL. Those are concerns voiced by those who concentrate strictly on numbers and not what they see on the field.
Willis is strong and smart enough to hold up well in pass protection when lined up in line. He is quick and savvy enough to block safeties, linebackers, and defensive backs on the edge. All film studies done on Willis should quickly assuage any angst when it comes to his ability to block.
As a receiver, Willis is a lot like Washington. He is not as prolific as Mayer or Kincaid. However, that is not because he can’t do it. It is more a product of a lack of opportunities.
Willis finished last year with 39 catches, 514 yards, and seven touchdowns. His 13.2 yards per reception, while not as impressive as Washington’s 16.2, is better than projected first-rounders Mayer and Kincaid.
Currently, PFF has Willis at 269th. NFL Mockdraft Database puts his overall ranking at 296th. ESPN is a lot kinder with their ranking of 228 overall.
If for some odd, inexplicable reason Willis is still on the board at the end of the sixth or seventh round, the Bengals should take a long look at the former Sooner tight end. If Cincinnati has yet to address the tight end position at all or has done so but not with Washington, Willis should be a no-brainer near the end of the draft.
Other tight ends will fall between Washington and Willis who could fit nicely with what the Bengals like to do on offense. But Washington and Willis are the perfect players for what Cincinnati needs from that position. They just happen to be on opposite sides of the scouts’ rankings.
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