The Cincinnati Bengals have become one of the best teams in the NFL, but looming contract extensions for stars like Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins put even more weight on the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft.
Cincinnati’s track record in the draft has improved in recent years. While the 2022 class didn’t yield strong returns thus far, standouts from the 2020 and 2019 draft classes have made the Bengals an AFC power.
Because Cincinnati isn’t a team that spends heavily on NFL free agency, it puts more pressure on the front office to find impact talent in the draft. The need for strong draft classes will be enhanced even more in the years to come with Burrow, Chase and Higgins poised to become some of the highest-paid NFL players.
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Keeping all of that in mind, let’s dive into our five Bengals’ preferred targets in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Dalton Kincaid, tight end, Utah
The Bengals value the tight end position, it’s why they signed Hayden Hurst in 2022 and then replaced him this offseason with Irv Smith Jr. However, the offense would be better off moving forward if took a big swing to improve at that spot, rather than bet on one-year deals.
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Dalton Kincaid, one of the best tight ends in the 2023 NFL Draft, would be an offensive weapon at tight end. Drawing NFL comparisons to Zach Ertz from Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, is a high-end athlete who glides through routes and can make plays after the catch.
- Dalton Kincaid stats (career): 107 receptions, 1,414 receiving yards, 16 touchdowns
Kincaid would be a safe bet for 60-plus targets and his work over the middle of the field would be crucial for Cincinnati. With defenses focused on Higgins and Chase occupying the outside, everything underneath opens up for Kincaid and that’s great for Burrow (102.9 passer rating on short throws) and this entire offense.
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Eli Ricks, cornerback, Alabama
Cincinnati has one of the lowest scouting budgets in the NFL and that means players from marquee programs carry more value in the organization’s eyes. A roster that already has 11 players from the SEC would certainly welcome an Alabama cornerback who spent years learning from Nick Saban. Far more importantly, Ricks feels a need in the Bengals’ secondary.
Standing at 6-foot-2, Ricks doesn’t offer prototypical athleticism. What he lacks in speed and twitch, he makes up for with length, physicality and playmaking ability. Ricks might not offer a ton of upside, but he can contribute right away thanks to his size, excellent technique and football IQ. With Chidobe Awuzie recovering from a torn ACL, the Bengals need all the immediate help they can get at cornerback.
Garrett Williams, cornerback, Syracuse
It’s possible that Ricks is off the board late in the second round when Cincinnati is on the clock. If that’s the case, cornerback Garrett Williams stands out as a reasonable alternative who could step in and eventually contribute to Lou Anarumo’s scheme.
Williams, who suffered a torn ACL in October 2022, offers a lot more athleticism than Ricks. Importantly for Anarumo, Syracuse’s 5-foot-10 cornerback thrived on the outside with his ability to consistently shadow top wide receivers and contain them underneath.
There is an element of risk for Cincinnati if it has two cornerbacks heading into the 203 season who are rehabbing a torn ACL. However, Williams projects to develop into an above-average No. 2 corner and he would pair perfectly opposite Awuzie. If the Bengals get the best out of them both, they will have a top-10 pass defense for years to come.
Moro Ojomo, defensive tackle, Texas
The Bengals love being strong on the interior, as evidenced by one of their all-time greats Geno Atkins and the $31.64 million (9th in NFL) they are now investing in defensive tackles. However, it remains a need for Cincinnati heading into the 2023 NFL Draft.
Moro Ojomo should be exactly who the Bengals are looking for, especially if they want to maximize B.J. Hill and DJ Reader next season. Ojomo, 6-foot-3 and 292 pounds, is a space-eater at the line of scrimmage. He knows how to fight through blocks and use his power, making him a positive contributor as a run defender at the next level. Cincinnati can use him alongside Reader on early downs, with Hill rotating in with the rookie.
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Tank Bigsby, running back, Auburn
It’s evident that Joe Mixon isn’t in the Bengals’ long-term plans. Reports surfaced that the Pro Bowl running back could be on the chopping block before his off-field incidents. When you combine the recent headlines with his declining effectiveness and exorbitant salary, it’s obvious why 2023 will be his last season in Cincinnati.
The Bengals could sign Ezekiel Elliott, who would be a serviceable option in short-yardage situations and is a better pass blocker than Mixon. However, the best move for the franchise is to find Mixon’s eventual replacement through the 2023 NFL Draft.
- Tank Bigsby stats (career): 2,903 rushing yards, 5.4 ypc, 448 receiving yards
Tank Bigsby is the ideal third-round target for Cincinnati. The 6-foot-1 running back is a good athlete – 8.27 Relative Athletic Score – who profiles as a dependable workhorse ball-carrier in the NFL. Bigsby moves well for his size and uses his power to break through early contact from defenders at the line of scrimmage.
Cincinnati could use him as its early-down back in 2023, with Mixon playing more of a role on passing downs and staying involved on plays between the 20-yard lines. Bigsby’s downhill running and cutting ability should make him a very impactful rookie with the long-term upside of becoming a full-time starter if his hands and route-running improve.