We are less than two weeks away from the NFL Draft taking center stage in Las Vegas, as the Cincinnati Bengals will be the second to last team on the clock on April 28. For the second consecutive week, many draft experts are expecting the same offensive lineman to come off the board when the Bengals select at 31. Here's a look at who draft gurus anticipate the Bengals select with the team's first pick.
Tyler Linderbaum – C, Iowa
I know, I know. The Bengals added three key pieces already this offseason on the offensive line. The idea of using a premium resource for a fourth seems unlikely. But Linderbaum might be too good to pass up. Load up on blocking talent and sort it out in training camp.
The Bengals simply can't pass on Linderbaum at No. 31. He's the center of the future for this club.
The Bengals added three starting-caliber offensive linemen in free agency. They should also jump at the opportunity to draft Linderbaum here. You can never have enough quality offensive linemen, and Cincinnati can plug in the Iowa standout at center and not have to worry about the position for years to come.
The Bengals have gone a long way toward rebuilding their offensive line this offseason with the Alex Cappa, Ted Karras, and La'el Collins acquisitions. That doesn't mean they should stop there, though. Linderbaum is widely regarded as one of the best overall players in this draft class but is being pushed down boards because he's viewed as a "center only" who is best suited in a zone scheme. He earned 80-plus PFF grades in three consecutive seasons at Iowa with 90.0-plus grades in each of the last two years. You're not going to find too many better football players available this late in the draft. His slide could open the door for the Bengals to solidify another spot on their offensive line (center) while kicking Karras over to left guard, where he played well for the Patriots in 2021.
Linderbaum is arguably a top-10 prospect, but the problem is that there's not a pressing need for a starting center across the league, especially within zone offenses where the Iowa product best fits. Cincinnati could certainly use Linderbaum's services, even after signing three new offensive linemen in free agency. The Bengals signed free agent Ted Karras to play center, but he can easily stick at left guard, where he played in 2021 for the Patriots. Linderbaum may be undersized, but he's an ultra-athlete who plays bigger than his size suggests. He was a top-five-graded center in all three years starting at the position, including in 2021 when he broke the single-season grading record for a center.
Kyler Gordon – CB, Washington
With offensive line addressed via free agency, the Bengals add a talented but inconsistent cornerback with tremendous upside to help slow down the quarterbacks of the AFC.
It looks like Trent McDuffie, his teammate at Washington, will go earlier, but Gordon might be the better NFL player. With Eli Apple on a one-year deal, they need to get a young corner.
Kaiir Elam – CB, Florida
**Trade with NYJ to pick #35
Cornerback is the position the Bengals should target if they keep the No. 31 pick, and they should be thrilled with Elam here. He locked down receivers for the Gators and then ran a 4.39 40 at the combine. He could be a Day 1 starter for Cincinnati.
The Bengals re-upped Eli Apple for another season but isn't much depth at outside corner. Elam is a long, physical CB who is coming off a strong season for the Gators. He needs to get better in run support but he has the size and speed to be successful in the league.
Andrew Booth – CB, Clemson
Cornerback is a big position of need for Cincinnati. It did well to add some veterans last year to stop the bleeding, but it had to be addressed long-term. Booth has exposure to man and zone coverage schemes but is one of the few with the size and speed capable of becoming that lockdown cornerback in the NFL.
The AFC champs can actually look to improve other areas of their roster after getting three new offensive linemen for QB Joe Burrow in free agency. An All-ACC performer in 2021, Booth (6 feet, 200 pounds) could immediately push to replace Eli Apple as a starter for Cincy's defense ... which couldn't slow down the Rams' passing game in the pivotal moments of Super Bowl 56.
Daxton Hill – S, Michigan
The Bengals have all of the offensive weapons they need, and they did a good job of addressing the offensive line issues. So with this pick, they decide to start improving the other side of the football. I know they have an elite safety in Jessie Bates III, but Daxton Hill provides a different skill set that will only complement Bates and make this one of the best tandems in the NFL.
Devonte Wyatt – DT, Georgia
Wyatt could go much higher come April 28, but in this scenario, the Bengals would pinch themselves if a stud three-technique was available to take over for free agent Larry Ogunjobi.
Lewis Cine – S, Georgia
Even with the acquisitions of Alex Cappa, La'el Collins and Ted Karras in free agency, I still view offensive line as a need for the Bengals. They couldn't go wrong by taking the best available offensive lineman as they attempt to build a fortress around Joe Burrow. Even if linebacker is a bigger need, I'd expect a few other names like Quay Walker, Christian Harris and Chad Muma to come off the board before Smith. That said, safety may not be a huge need, with Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell teaming up to form one of the most dynamic duos at that position in the NFL. But you'd love to provide depth and amplify a position of strength here with PFF's best available player.