You know it's the NFL offseason when all that there's really left to talk about is mock drafts. The Cincinnati Bengals hold the 28th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and the good news is that this team has set themselves up to simply select the best player available.
The bad news is that the "best player available" varies for every team so the Bengals might not make the best possible selection for their team. They have some glaring weaknesses but nothing is so bad that people won't riot if the team passes on a position in the first round.
I took a peak at three different mock drafts and they all had the Bengals going in totally different directions. Oddly enough, none of them had the team addressing the offensive line or the tight end position, which have been two popular positions for the team to look into upgrading this offseason.
The last time I did this activity, two of the three mocks had Cincinnati selecting safeties and the other linked them to an offensive tackle. So, who do the Bengals select in these mock drafts then?
Bengals mock draft roundup
NFL Mock Draft 2023: Raiders find Derek Carr's replacement; Bears stay at No. 1 and go defense [Garrett Podell, CBS Sports]
Podell linked the Bengals to Felix Anudike-Uzomah, an EDGE rusher out of Kansas State. The Wildcat pass-rusher had eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss during his 2022 season. He also forced two fumbles and had 46 tackles on the year.
"Pairing Anudike-Uzomah with Trey Hendrickson gives Cincy the ability to pressure without needing to blitz as frequently against Mahomes, a situation where he thrives. The Kansas State product has a high ceiling, as evidenced by his four-sack game against TCU in 2021. This is a player who could develop considerably in Lou Anarumo's defense."- Garrett Podell
It's no secret that the Bengals need to upgrade their pass rush and Anudike-Uzomah would bolster the unit. As Podell mentioned, Lou Anarumo would love having this guy in his defense. It feels like a match made in heaven.
2023 NFL Mock Draft: Path To The Super Bowl [Keith Sanchez, The Draft Network]
Sanchez mocked Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs to Cincinnati with the 29th pick (even though they have the 28th pick due to the Dolphins' first-rounder being forfeited) and I don't love the idea of taking a running back in the first round. Running backs are a dime a dozen and it's not difficult to find talented options later on in the draft.
The Chiefs are a team to look at from both aspects here. They spent a first-round pick on Clyde Edwards-Helaire in 2020 and he went on to majorly disappoint for Kansas City. Meanwhile, their seventh-round rookie Isaiah Pacheco was a stud for them.
There's no debating that Gibbs is talented but I'm not sure the Bengals should pull the trigger on a running back in round one.
"It’s safe to say that the Bengals have a team that will be AFC contenders for the next decade. But there is clearly another level that they have to reach to consistently knock off the Chiefs. I believe the Bengals make the decision to add more offensive firepower and draft Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs. Drafting Gibbs does not mean moving on from Joe Mixon because Gibbs has such a versatile skill set that he can play on the field with Mixon and be used as a receiver out of the backfield."- Keith Sanchez
I disagree with the "not moving on from Joe Mixon" aspect because the Bengals need to shed cap space and releasing Mixon is an easy way to do that. Also, you're not keeping Mixon around and then taking a running back in round one. That makes little sense for this team with so many other needs.
NFL mock draft 2023: Race for quarterbacks is on with four passers in top 10 picks [Nate Davis, USA Today]
Davis ties the Bengals to Texas A&M safety Antonio Johnson and this makes sense considering the team could potentially lose both Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell this offseason. I'd be surprised if they did end up losing both players but it is a possibility.
"The All-SEC performer can line up just about anywhere, including the slot, and is an effective defender in coverage and coming up to shut down the run. His 6-3 frame would come in handy in a division with TEs like Baltimore's Mark Andrews and Pittsburgh's Pat Freiermuth. "- Nate Davis
Johnson put up 71 tackles, five tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, one defended pass, and one sack in nine games last season. As Davis notes in the blurb above, Johnson is able to line up in multiple places and is good in coverage and against the run. Lou Anarumo would love having this guy in his secondary.
It's interesting seeing how many different directions the Bengals went in these mock drafts. They're linked to an EDGE rusher in one, a running back in another, and a safety in a different one. Talk about a team in an intriguing spot this offseason.