Bengals land star Alabama cornerback in this 2024 NFL mock draft

Here's a 5-round look at where the Bengals may try and upgrade in April.
2011 NFL Draft
2011 NFL Draft / Chris Trotman/GettyImages

It's [sigh] officially Mock Draft SZN. Now that the 2023 College Football season has crowned a National Champion, all eyes -- or at least some eyes -- turn to the Senior Bowl, and the Combine, and eventually the actual draft, which for some reason isn't for another four months. There's going to be plenty of conversation about how the Bengals can get back into the postseason next year, even with most of that answer simply being 'keep Joe Burrow on the field.' So, without further ado, here's the first -- and only, if you're brave enough -- Bengals mock draft of the 2024 NFL offseason.

Round 1: Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama CB

The Bengals' secondary was a mess this year. The defense led the league in explosive plays allowed, and the DBs certainly played like one of the youngest position groups in all of football (3rd behind IND and CHI). And even though there's a decent argument to be made that they'll be much better next season, adding some elite talent never hurts. That brings us to McKinstry, who looks like he's next in a long line of Alabama DBs at the next level. Depending on where you look, McKinstry's anywhere between CB1 and CB3, but the general consensus is still that he's a Day 1, plug-and-play type of guy. The Bengals would probably consider themselves lucky if he's still on the board at 18.

Round 2: Patrick Paul, Houston OT

There was a run of tackles in my simulated PFF draft (that's how it goes sometimes) so at pick 49, we're going with Paul, the redshirt junior out of Houston. The good news is that Paul's 6'7 and 308 lbs, which checks out for a professional offensive tackle. The bad news is that he's much less of a 'sure thing' than other tackles in this draft, and the Bengals' offensive line desperately needs dependable talent -- they ranked 27th in ESPN's Pass Block Win Rate (but 5th in run block!) and finished the season as PFF's 24th best unit as a whole. So there's a little bit of a dice roll flavor to this pick, which you don't love in the Top-50, but that's life.

Round 3: Ruke Orhorhoro, Clemson DI

It feels important to point out in this moment that, of all the picks I made as GM of the Benglas, PFF liked this one the most. Despite some lacklust box score production this season (5.5 TFLs, five sacks) people way smarter than me all say that Orhorhoro, who didn't even start playing football until late in his high school years, has all the tools to be a really good pro. He's very much the high-ceiling, wait-and-see prospect you're okay with taking in the 3rd round. And also, for a Bengals group that doesn't have a ton of bonafide talent upfront outside of Trey Hendrickson (who's turning 30 soon), beggars can't be choosers. A unit that ranked 24th in Pass Rush Win Rate and 26th in Run Stop Win Rate could use all the help they can get.

Round 4: Blake Fisher, Notre Dame OT

Since we didn't get one of the premier tackle prospects this year, we're using these middle rounds to take as many fliers as possible. Did you know that, as a freshman, Fisher actually beat out Joe Alt for the starting left tackle spot? A knee injury, and Alt's stellar play, ultimately pushed Fisher over to right tackle, but there's still plenty to like about Fisher's potential. Scouting reports talk about how his pass protection still needs development, and that consistency seems to be the big issue but again, we're in the 4th round, and there's a reason he never got the job back from Alt. Bring him into camp, let him compete, and let's see what happens.

Round 5: Cade Stover, Ohio State TE

Stover came to Ohio State as a pass-rusher, so you know the athleticism is there. With only two years of high-level tight end play under his belt, there are bound to be some hiccups, but that's fine for anyone not named Brock Bowers. Tanner Hudson had a nice year for the Bengals in 2023, but when you're building around Burrow, you're probably not comfortable settling with PFF's 14th-ranked TE (even though that's fine!). He probably won't be productive right away -- TE's rarely are -- but he's an intriguing developmental piece to keep an eye on during the lifespan of whatever extension the Bengals give to Hudson.


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