Skip to main content

Quick Hits: 2024 NFL Draft Energizes Bengals Depth Chart; Seeking A Repeat of The Joe Burrow Trade-less Draft

Arizona tight end Tanner McLachlan (84) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Colorado in the first half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Arizona tight end Tanner McLachlan (84) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Colorado in the first half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Thanks to a draft where the best available player met team needs, the Bengals came out of last weekend's 10-pick expo with depth for their three thinnest position groups.

"I think in the spots that we had needs also aligned with players that we really liked and were very high on our board and we weren't reaching just to fill a position," says director of college scouting Mike Potts. "It lined up very well that way.

"There are always spots where it gets very thin and you're down to one or two players right before your pick that you feel good about to fill that need and are highly-graded players. It worked out with all ten picks in that regard."

If you count Dax Hill the way cornerbacks coach Charles Burks counts him as a first-round addition to his room, then the Bengals added two highly-graded players at each cornerback, tight end, and defensive tackle.

"I feel we have quality players in all three of those rooms," Potts says. "But just in terms of the pure depth and numbers, we were maybe a guy or two short in some of those places. Now we feel pretty deep in some of those spots."

Which is why keeping all ten picks isn't a negative even though they went into the last Opening Day as the third youngest team in the league.


"We think we've got more than 53 players that can make our club," Potts says. "We envision a competitive (training) camp. A lot of these guys are going to have to compete for their spots, whether it's a starting spot or whether it's a spot in the rotation, whether it's a spot on the 53. Or if somebody ends up on the practice squad.

"You know what our needs may be right now. But you never know what they may be later on. So a guy that maybe has less of a quote unquote clear path to the roster right now, we may be glad that we had that guy later and that goes into the argument for taking the best player on the board."

MORE BPA: Here's an example where they took the best player available but didn't have a need to match. In the sixth round they took Ole Miss edge Cedric Johnson even though they're stacked at defensive end.

Another example: The Bengals talked about drafting a punter late to get some competition for Brad Robbins. They were also looking for some interior offensive line depth, where backup center is a bit thin.

So with their last pick of the day at No. 237 in the seventh round, they grabbed Miami center Matt Lee, a player they would have taken in the fifth. If Lee had been gone, maybe a punter would have been the call because reports have them signing one in free agency.

DEPTH CHARGES: If you look at the meat of the draft, between picks 49 and 149, the Bengals went to town filling depth with players they had starter grades on, starting with two defensive tackles who figure to get into the rotation right away in second-rounder Kris Jenkins and third-rounder McKinnley Jackson.

At No. 49, they weren't sure Jenkins was going to get to them. But they also didn't want to give up value picks in the late third, fourth or fifth rounds, thought to be a strength of this draft.

"We had Kris Jenkins in a group that got picked right in front of us. And we didn't feel like we had to drop down a level player. We're very happy that Kris was their at 49."

"They're both long. They play physical, they play the run violently, so there would be some similarities in there. In terms of McKinnley Jackson, he's more of a true nose tackle. Not having DJ Reader leaves a hole in your roster there and that's something that we wanted to address. We felt really good about getting him in the bottom of the third round."

Jenkins and Jackson are dueling with incumbents Zach Carter and Jay Tufele for time behind B.J. Hill and Sheldon Rankins at a spot they usually keep four.

THE REWARDS: The rewards for staying put were presents for tight ends coach James Casey: Fourth-rounder Erick All and sixth-rounder Tanner McLachlan. Potts says they have comfort in the medical staff getting All back from his ACL.

"We had starter grades on Erick and we think McLachlan is an explosive, dynamic weapon in the pass game," Potts says. "We think he can be a potential difference-maker going into the future. We were really glad with how the value played in the sixth round. We thought he was going to go higher than that."

Even if All starts on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), there are still battles with McLachlan in a room with vet Tanner Hudson backing up Mike Gesicki and Drew Sample at a position they keep three or four.

Same thing with TCU cornerback Josh Newton hanging there in the fifth. The guy played all over the place in a secondary that made the 2023 title game.

"We had a higher grade on him," Potts says. "He's competitive, has played a lot, and got his hands on the football."

Newton and Dax Hill are backing up Cam Taylor-Britt and DJ Turner with DJ Ivey coming off an ACL tear. Potts says they could add another veteran cornerback, but he says he likes the way it sits today.

MIMS CALL: The Athletic reported Monday night that the Chiefs tried to trade up in the first round to take Georgia tackle Amarius Mims before the Bengals took him at No. 18

"It's not surprising because I think Mims was highly coveted around the league," Potts said. "Obviously, the Chiefs know what they're doing having won three of the last five Super Bowls, but I don't think they would have been the only team that was coveting Mims."

The Chiefs may do a lot of things right, but trying to find a homegrown tackle hasn't been one of them. They've had six different starting tackles in their winning Super Bowls and the only one they drafted was Eric Fisher from that first championship team. It shows you how important it is that KC was ready to give up that much to get one.

TRADE TALK: Just because the Bengals didn't make a trade doesn't mean they didn't try.

"Our trade chart was worn out. We used it an unbelievable amount," Potts says. "I feel like we always make at least one or two trades every year and it felt like there were 100 calls and texts discussing trades and different scenarios. And we were just lucky enough to stay patient and it hit us in every round.

"There were a ton of calls. It just didn't work out. There was probably at every single one of our 10 picks, there was some sort of discussion. Whether it was move up or move back, internally, externally teams reaching out to us, us reaching out to other teams."

As they say, stuff happens.

"For whatever reason the compensation didn't work out for a guy that was being targeted by us or another team ended up getting pulled off the board before we were on the clock," Potts says. "There's a lot of different reasons why trades don't work out. Teams getting a deal with another team in front of us before we even get on the clock."

The last time the Bengals didn't pull a trade, they went Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, and Akeem Davis-Gaither to start all three days of the 2020 draft. And they grabbed Logan Wilson the same night they got Higgins.

"That draft worked out pretty well without a trade," Potts says. "Hopefully this one works out the same way."