If the season ended right now, the Cincinnati Bengals would hold the No. 26 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Some fans would be pushing for them to draft an offensive tackle but honestly, at that spot, it'd be a reach for them to do so unless some names drop significantly.
With that in mind, the Bengals don't go with an offensive tackle in the first round of my recent mock draft but they do end up adding one.
I put this mock draft together courtesy of NFL Mock Draft Database, which is cool because it grades the picks you make. Out of all of my draft choices, only one got below an A and I'll be sure to note which one that was.
If Cincinnati didn't go with an offensive tackle in this mock, what direction did they go in? Let's kick things off, shall we?
Round 1: Pick 26 - Brian Branch, S (Alabama)
"Brian Branch is a versatile defensive back that can play the slot and also play as a nickel linebacker in subpackage situations. Branch appears to be an instinctive and fearless player, which allows him to roam around the box even though he is undersized as a box player. "- Keith Sanchez, The Draft Network
For the second straight year, the Bengals go with a safety in the first round of the draft and it makes sense as to why considering who they could lose in the offseason to free agency.
Both Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates are going to be free agents in March and while the Bengals could theoretically get both of them back, it feels unlikely. They drafted Dax Hill in the first round last year because they probably knew Bates was going to sign elsewhere this offseason and if they feel that Bell could also leave, Brian Branch could make a lot of sense to bring in.
If Lou Anarumo is back as the Bengals' defensive coordinator next year (a head coaching job could absolutely be in his future) then he'd love to have a player like Branch in his defense. This could be an excellent fit for both sides.