1. Jaxson Kirkland
While the Pittsburgh Steelers were drafting an offensive lineman in the first round, the Bengals got a first-round caliber offensive lineman as an undrafted free agent. Non-Bengals fans may read this as nonsense, but it is decidedly anything but.
Former Washington Huskies guard Jaxson Kirkland was considered a surefire first-rounder a season ago. However, injuries and Covid changed his trajectory.
However, last season the former Huskies guard’s performance showed he was still worth spending a draft pick on. Kirkland played well as a run blocker and pass protector. Pro Football Focus credited him with allowing zero sacks and seven hurries on 491 pass block attempts. The film from last season also shows he deserved to be selected in the draft.
With Cincinnati set at every spot along the offensive line except for right tackle, don’t look for Kirkland to start this year. However, expect him to make the final 53-man roster as the primary backup at the left guard position.
As with most UDFAs, Kirkland was overlooked by the scouts and coaches. But that overlooking is a gift for Cincinnati as the now Bengals guard should be considered one of the team’s best-kept secrets.
It is hard to keep talented players under wraps in the NFL. That is, unless your team’s roster is stacked with talent expected to be in championship contention come February.
For the Bengals, there are several best-kept secrets on their roster. Let’s hope for them and the team these overlooked players can perform at the highest levels once they get their opportunity to show and prove what they are capable of.