Analysis: Way-too-early 2025 mock draft that has Bengals taking a WR in first round

Will the Bengals take a WR in the first round next year?
Ole Miss v Tulane
Ole Miss v Tulane / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

Even prior to the news of Tee Higgins signing his franchise tag tender with the Cincinnati Bengals for the 2024 NFL season, speculation about his departure next offseason was widespread. Chris McGlynn, our colleague at With the First Pick, recently released his 2025 NFL mock draft based on ESPN’s FPI predictions

McGlynn gives us insight into ESPN’s view of the Bengals’ chances for the 2024 season and what the outside world thinks the primary need for the team might be heading into the 2025 draft cycle.

Higgins likely taking the route out of Cincinnati next year makes the wide receiver a popular choice for way-too-early 2025 draft predictions. 

Will the Bengals take a receiver in the first round next year?

This is the case with McGlynn, who predicts that with the 25th overall pick in the 2025 draft, Cincinnati will select Ole Miss wideout, Tre Harris. Here'w what he had to say about the pick:

"Hanging onto Tee Higgins is a good place to start for this season, but unless the Bengals work out a long-term deal, this team is going to have a dire need at receiver in 2025. Harris does not have the exact same skill set as Higgins, but there are some similarities. The Ole Miss senior excels in contested catch situations and is a vertical threat. Cincinnati getting a cap-friendly starting receiver opposite Ja'Marr Chase would be a great pick.”

McGlynn is correct in suggesting that the team will seek a cap-friendly option in 2025, knowing that Ja’Marr Chase will likely demand a contract similar to that of his former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson. Nevertheless, a first-round pick for Harris might be a bit high. 

Do we believe that the Bengals could draft a wide receiver in the first round of the 2025 NFL draft? Yes. However, it would be a disappointment. The hope is that guys like Jermaine Burton, Andrei Iosivas, and Charlie Jones will show in 2024 why they should be lining up opposite Chase after the potential loss of Higgins. 

Names to monitor

Missouri’s Luther Burden III and Arizona’s Tetairoa McMillan will also be high on Cincinnati’s draft board. However, that will likely be the case for several teams across the league's landscape, which makes it unlikely that the Bengals will be able to land either, as they will be (hopefully) picking later in the first round.

Emeka Egbuka will be a popular prediction among Bengals fans who know the Brown family has a propensity for taking Ohio State players when availability and need meet draft grades.

Eric Ayomanor’s youth, hands, and contested catch ability reminiscent of Higgins will make him an enticing receiver prospect while needing to spend less draft capital for the pass catcher from Stanford. Also, smaller yet more explosive options, such as Oklahoma’s Deion Burks, should be available on day 2. 

Ultimately, Bengals fans should hope that the receiver position won’t be a Day-1 need for the team. The best-case scenario from a fans’ perspective is that Higgins gets a long-term contract to stay in the Queen City. If not, Cincinnati boasts an immensely talented receiving corps that will battle to fill Higgins’ shoes if leaves via free agency next offseason. 

Jones, Burton, and Iosivas are recent draft picks who will relish the opportunity to become a starter opposite Chase. Cincinnati also has talented current and former undrafted rookie free agents waiting for an opportunity.

If first-round wideouts are the discussion once the 2025 offseason rolls around, something will have gone drastically wrong with the season and Chase’s contract negotiations. It would also indicate that the other receivers have not developed enough to forego the need for a first-round type of pick at the position.

And if, for whatever reason, wide receiver becomes a priority, don’t bet on Tre Harris for the Bengals over the other players mentioned here. He will be a first-round selection, but Cincinnati will likely look elsewhere.