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Advertising Media Mock 2.0: How Free Agency Impacted No. 18


For the past ten days, free agency has consumed the NFL, but it barely nudged the second edition of the 2024 Media Mock Draft.

There is barely a blip between this one and the Feb. 25 Media Mock published before the NFL scouting combine and free agency. Before the Bengals pick at No. 18, six teams took the same player they took last month and three who didn't took the same position. And only two players, Illinois defensive tackle Johnny Newton and Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins, are the only players available to the Bengals who weren't there in February.

(The only real response to free agency came at No. 11, when the Vikings reacted to the loss of quarterback Kirk Cousins by taking Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy instead of Wiggins.)

That's a pretty solid universe of 15 players who have a good shot of not being there for the Bengals: Five quarterbacks, three receivers, three offensive tackles, two cornerbacks, an edge rusher, and a tight end.

Here's the breakdown before No. 18 in this Media Mock: Five quarterbacks, four wide receivers, four offensive tackles, two cornerbacks, a tight end, and an edge rusher.

The new players in the top 17 are LSU wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. (to New Orleans at 14) and Washington guard-tackle Troy Fautanu (No. 16 to Seattle). That may set off some alarm bells for the Bengals, clearly perusing one of the best tackle classes in years. And the 6-4, 317-pound Fautanu is one of them, a really intriguing guy who is big enough and athletic enough that he may be able to play any spot on the line.

So how deep does that tackle class go? And do the Bengals even consider a tackle at No. 18 now that they filled out their offensive line earlier this week with the signing of right tackle Trent Brown?

Here's how the Media Mock panel called the run-up to Cincinnati's pick:

1.BEARS: QB Caleb Williams, USC; Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune: They're banking on Williams' drop-back accuracy to go with his playmaking as the inconsistent Justin Fields tries to turn it around with Mike Tomlin and Russell Wilson.

2.COMMANDERS: QB Jayden Daniels, LSU; John Keim, New owner Josh Harris is a process guy. If anything, they'll check all the boxes. Last media mock, it was Drake Maye. Now it is Daniels and his game-changing ability. In two weeks it could be someone else as the process plays out.

3.PATRIOTS: QB Drake Maye, North Carolina; Karen Guregian, They signed Jacoby Brissett as soon as they could in free agency and he would seem to be the obvious bridge guy in what looks to be an obvious move.

4.CARDINALS: WR Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State; Darren Urban, They could trade back as the quarterback sweepstakes heat up, but now that Hollywood Brown is in Kansas City, they may be better off just staying put and getting Kyler Murray the best receiver in the draft.

5.CHARGERS: WR Malik Nabers, LSU; Jeff Miller, The Los Angeles Times: With two long-time franchise receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams gone, this seems to be the only pick.

6.GIANTS: WR Rome Odunze, Washington; Mike Eisen, The Giants are in hot pursuit of that down-the-field threat they've seemingly been lacking since the days of the late, great Homer Jones.

7.TITANS: T Joe Alt, Notre Dame; Turron Davenport, Per Davenport: The Titans offensive line is desperately in need of an overhaul. Adding Alt, the most plug-and-play tackle in the draft, gives Tennessee their left tackle for the next decade beside guard Peter Skoronski, their 2023 No. 1 pick.

8.FALCONS: DE Dallas Turner, Alabama; D. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution:As free agency clears with Cousins at quarterback, DLed is sticking with the edge rusher and first defensive player off the board for new head coach Raheem Morris. Morris, an old defensive coordinator, is probably going to stand him up as an outside backer as he transitions the Falcons to his 3-4.

9.BEARS: T Taliese Fuaga, Oregon State; Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune: With the top three receivers gone, the Bears opt to get a new quarterback the next best thing: A top ten tackle.

10.JETS: T Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Penn State; Rich Cimini, They just signed Tyron Smith, but he's on a one-year deal and has durability issues. So is Morgan Moses and he's 33. Still need O-line help.

11.VIKINGS: QB J.J. McCarthy, Michigan; Mark Craig, Minneapolis Star-Tribune:  Whatever they have to do to come out of it with the successor to Cousins.

12.BRONCOS: QB Bo Nix, Oregon; Mike Klis, 9News: In the last mock, McCarthy was there and Klis picked Nix instead. If he had it to do over, he'd take McCarthy because he thinks the Broncos have liked what  they've seen the last few weeks. He also thinks Nix is head coach Sean Payton's kind of quick-thinking, quick-dealing quarterback.

13.RAIDERS: CB Terrion Arnold, Alabama Vinny Bonsignore, Las Vegas Review-Journal: Raiders complete their three-headed monster on the corner by adding Arnold to Jack Jones and Nate Hobbs.

14.SAINTS: WR Brian Thomas Jr., LSU; Katherine Terrell, Bengals fans know Kat Terrell well from her days she chronicled the last days of the Marvin Lewis Bengals and the first days of the Zac Taylor regime, so they know the LSU grad loves her Tigers. But she insists this one makes sense:

With Trevor Penning still unproven at left tackle and Ryan Ramczyk's long-term future in doubt, a top tackle like Fashanu beckons, but he's gone. So is wide receiver Michael Thomas and they also need a running mate for Chris Olave.

15.COLTS: TE Brock Bowers, Georgia; Stephen Holder, A versatile weapon like Bowers could thrive in head coach Shane Steichen's dynamic offense. In Steichen's last two seasons running the Eagles offense, tight end Dallas Goedert had 111 catches and seven touchdowns.

16.SEAHAWKS: T Troy Fautanu, Washington; John Boyle, Per Boyle: A trade back could make a lot of sense for a team that has only one other pick in the top 100, but if the Seahawks do stay put at 16, addressing the offensive line would make a lot of sense. Fautanu looks like he could stick to tackle at the next level, but he might be even better at guard, where the Seahawks also happen to have a need.

17.JAGUARS: CB Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo; Michael DiRocco, DiRocco took Mitchell last time and he's sticking with it. In the run-up to free agency the Jags cut Darious Williams and they added Ronald Darby, a 10-year man working on his sixth team. With Tyson Campbell in the final year of his deal, getting one of the draft's top cornerbacks here seems to be the move.

Illinois defensive lineman Jer'Zhan Newton rushes the quarterback during an NCAA college football game against Wisconsin Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

18.BENGALS: DT Jer'Zhan (Johnny) Newton, Illinois; Geoff Hobson,

If there's one thing the last ten days has reminded us, it is just how rare and expensive defensive tackles are out there when they hit free agency.  Even rarer are the massive nose tackles such as DJ Reader, the man who filled that role here for four seasons before leaving for Detroit last week.

The Bengals could use a nose tackle for the opener and there doesn't seem to be one early in the draft. But a team that has to face Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, and Najee Harris knows it needs juice up front no matter in what form.

They still need offensive tackle depth, but now that Trent Brown is here at right tackle for a year, what's more urgent? (Hint: Chubb averages five yards per carry and 90 yards per game in his career against the Bengals.)

According to a survey of big boards (Scouts, Inc., Pro Football Focus,, there are top players at other spots lurking at No. 18 in this scenario: Edgers Jared Verse and Laiatu Latu, Wiggins and Iowa cornerback Cooper DeJean, and another wideout, Adonai Mitchell of Texas.

But they've got plenty of young pass rushers, the secondary is so stocked they have to figure out the talent they've got, and when it comes to wide receiver, Tee Higgins is franchised and they may have solved some of the slot puzzle when they signed vet pass-catching tight end Mike Gesicki.

So it gets back to the big guys. Doesn't it always? Just how deep is that offensive tackle class? If they want one, it may have to go six or seven deep. Four are gone in this one and Arizona, New Orleans, and the Colts seem to be mulling them, too.

In this scenario, the big boards would give the Bengals a shot at Georgia's Amarius Mims, Oklahoma's Tyler Guyton, and Alabama's J.C. Latham. But if the tackle crop is that deep, can't they wait until the second round and grab that D-tackle first who won't be there then?  

In the last Media Mock, we did pick a three-technique in Texas' Byron Murphy II and he's available. And, it seems many, if not most, draft gurus rate Murphy over Newton.

But it's close and we wanted to mix it up, as well as emphasize Newton's prowess against the run.

Two things working against the 6-2, 304-pound Newton are his size and he's recovering from a slight foot fracture and didn't work at the combine. But, gee, it sounds like he's got that mindset they seek. He's not sure which game he did it, but it was somewhere in the middle of the year and he kept playing and still made All-American.

"I forgot, but I've been feeling it for a long time," he's quoted as saying.

That's tough. Plus, you have to like he what does against the run. According to Pro Football Focus, since 2022 he's got a better grade against the run than Murphy. And Newton played 633 snaps on the run, nearly double what Murphy did, although Murphy compiled better pass-rush numbers.

But Newton is well-rounded.

"Newton finished with top-five marks in each stable metric category," PFF said of his past two seasons. "In large part due to an elite 2022 season in which he earned a 91.5 overall grade, a 91.9 run-defense grade, and an 84.7 pass-rush grade. While those numbers did decrease slightly in 2023, Newton delivered eight sacks, doubling his 2022 season total."'s Daniel Jeremiah adds, "Against the run, (Newton) generates knock-back at the point of attack and gives effort to chase plays down the line … he's a very skilled rusher and holds up versus the run."

Maybe Newton's a better fit because of his experience against the run. Maybe not. Maybe your guy is Murphy.

It's just food for thought. Offensive or defensive tackle? It may be neither because with the signing of Brown, it's so much easier to take their much-coveted best player available.

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