3 positions Bengals could take in first round of 2024 NFL Draft (and 2 to avoid)

  • Focus on: OT, WR, DL
  • Avoid: IOL, RB

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Take: Interior Defensive Linemen

If there's one thing we learned from this season, it's that there is no pass rush without Trey Hendrickson. When he's inactive or simply having an off day, it's like the pass rush can't get anywhere near the quarterback.

Hendrickson makes and breaks that pass rush unit, and that needs to be addressed. Sam Hubbard is solid on the other end, but he hasn't shown he can be relied on when Hendrickson is hurt or simply being shut down by the opposing team.

However, instead of an edge rusher, the Bengals should look to upgrade the interior D-line. While B.J. Hill and D.J. Reader have had some moments as pass rushers, their ability as run stoppers (especially for Reader) is what they're really known for. Not to mention, Myles Murphy was just selected in the first round in 2023, and I doubt they want to bury him deeper in the depth chart by drafting another edge rusher this year.

The Bengals should look for someone they can rotate in on the interior to generate a pass rush. And one name that sticks out to me, and has been linked to the Bengals through many mock drafts and hopeful fans, is Jer'Zhan Newton out of Illinois. He's projected to be a mid-first-round pick and could be just what Cincinnati needs to generate more pressure from the interior, rather than relying mostly on Trey Hendrickson and, to a lesser extent, Sam Hubbard.

In his last year at Illinois, Newton recorded 7.5 sacks in 12 games. Those are very solid numbers and, paired with Hendrickson at the edge, could turn a pass rush unit that is teetering on the lower end of the league into a nightmare group for opposing quarterbacks.

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