From historic symmetry to hometown taste to positional have to schematic match, there couldn’t be a extra excellent choose for the Bengals than Michael Mayer. Dane Brugler pegged the Notre Dame tight finish from Covington Catholic High School as Cincinnati’s choice at No. 23 in his first 2023 mock draft.


Dane Brugler’s NFL mock draft, 1.0: Can an elite group of defenders break up the QB run?

Brugler pointed to the Bengals taking one other Fighting Irish tight finish 10 years in the past after they chosen Tyler Eifert within the first spherical, however the distinction is, Mayer is a a lot better match below the circumstances. The Eifert choose in 2013 was a shock. They already had Jermaine Gresham, whom they took with the twenty first choose in 2010, and there have been extra apparent positions of want.

As issues stand as we speak, there isn’t any higher place of want for the Bengals, who don’t have a decent finish signed past 2022. That may change by draft day, however there’s no probability the Bengals go get an elite starter in free company, not with quarterback Joe Burrow about to signal what might be the most important contract in NFL historical past and extensive receiver Tee Higgins and linebacker Logan Wilson additionally eligible to signal huge extensions.

The offense has been among the many league’s finest with mid-tier tight ends resembling C.J. Uzomah in 2021 and Hayden Hurst this 12 months, so the thought of including a man like Mayer with instruments to change into among the best within the league, and doing so on a rookie deal, ought to scare the headsets off defensive coordinators across the league.

Mayer may most likely leap proper in and be the highest receiving weapon for a lesser offense. Throw him as choice three or 4 behind Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd and Higgins, and Burrow and the Bengals might be unstoppable.

Imagine including a 6-5, sure-handed tight finish as an choice within the crimson zone, the place the Bengals already rank because the league’s second-best crew.

Even if the Bengals had been to re-sign Hurst, it doubtless wouldn’t be a protracted deal they usually wouldn’t hesitate to draft Mayer as a longer-term reply.

Whether he’s really nonetheless sitting there at 21 is the important thing variable. We’ve seen tight ends resembling Kyle Pitts and T.J. Hockenson go within the prime 10 in recent times, so the most important query received’t be whether or not Mayer can be a match, however whether or not he’s really nonetheless obtainable.

Another huge query Dane’s draft poses is whether or not the Bengals really will probably be choosing within the 23 vary, or nearer to 31 once more.

Other choices

Secondary: Starting safeties Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell will probably be free brokers, as will beginning cornerback Eli Apple. The crew’s prime nook, Chidobe Awuzie, will probably be getting into the ultimate 12 months of his contract and coming off an ACL harm, and there isn’t any confirmed depth at both nook or security. The Bengals drafted security Dax Hill within the first spherical this 12 months to be Bates’ substitute following a contentious offseason the place Bates sat out OTAs and most of camp after being franchise-tagged, however Hill has barely performed this 12 months.

Beefing up the roster by signing starters in free company simply isn’t going to be an choice this offseason the way in which it has been the previous few years, so you could possibly argue that the secondary is the higher place of want, whereas Mayer can be extra of a luxurious given all of the offensive weapons surrounding Burrow.

Offensive line: The Bengals picked up the fifth-year choice on 2019 first-round choose Jonah Williams, however he hasn’t come near proving he needs to be the beginning left sort out past 2023.

And whereas proper sort out La’el Collins is below contract via 2024, he’ll be 30 when coaching camp begins and he’s already taking each Wednesday off as a vet day. The Bengals have some younger guys on the inside of the road they nonetheless imagine can become starters, however there’s no long-term imaginative and prescient for any of the backup tackles. It’s arduous to think about a situation the place they don’t draft a sort out by the tip of Day 2, and taking one within the first spherical isn’t out of the query.

Defensive line: Immediacy is just not a difficulty at edge rusher as Trey Hendrickson has two extra years left on his deal and Sam Hubbard is signed via 2025, however there are quite a lot of questions in terms of the depth behind them. It’s not a scarcity of our bodies, only a lack of confirmed expertise.

The similar is true on the inside of the road, the place DJ Reader is signed via 2023 and B.J. Hill via 2025, however nobody behind them initiatives as a future starter.

The Bengals haven’t drafted a defensive lineman within the first spherical since 2000, however the franchise has been bucking traits at each flip the previous few years, which is an enormous purpose for its resurgence. Looking at Brugler’s draft, there are seven defensive linemen within the first 17 picks. The probabilities of a few them sliding to 23 are fairly excessive.

The urgency is larger within the secondary, but when the Bengals can re-sign Bell and pair him with Hill as their beginning safeties, focusing on an edge rusher or 3-technique defensive sort out completely can be in play.

(Photo: Michael Reaves / Getty Images)

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