Cincinnati Bengals Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Zachary Carter, DE, Florida – Round 3
The Bengals were said to be eyeing George Karlaftis with their late first-round pick, and while they just barely missed on Karlaftis, they landed a more productive player from the best competition short of the NFL. Carter was a steady and reliable defender for the Gators across the past few seasons. He started out by recording 30 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2019 and then improved in 2020 to 36 tackles and five sacks. In 2021 Carter had his best season, recording 31 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and eight sacks.

In the pass rush, Carter has the ability to fire his gap. He uses some functional strength to shed blocks and can close quickly on the quarterback. He can line up over the outside shoulder of the guard and is good at getting penetration into the pocket. Carter also can beat right tackles with quickness around the edge. He has a nice lean and the ability to sink his hips toward the quarterback. Carter could be a nice asset to line up over a variety of offensive lineman and go after the signal-caller. He may never produce huge sack numbers in the NFL, but he could be a quality pass rusher who contributes to the rush package.

Carter still has room for improvement with his run defense. He plays the run on the way to the quarterback, and he does not like to fight blocks at the point of attack. Carter could stand to add weight to improve as a run defender. If he were to play five-technique in a 3-4 defense, he would have to become a better run defender because that is essential for that position. Because of his run-defense limitations, right now, he is a heavy edge setter who can bump inside to tackle in the sub package.

As a pro, Carter (6-3, 285) could fit best as a heavy defensive end who slides inside to tackle in the sub package. If he gets stronger and tougher against the run, Carter could become a full-time three-technique defensive tackle. By the end of his rookie contract, Carter could emerge as a solid starter for the Bengals.

2021: Jackson Carman, G
2020: Tee Higgins, WR
2019: Jonah Williams, OT
2018: Sam Hubbard, DE
2017: John Ross, WR
2016: William Jackson, CB
2015: Paul Dawson, LB
2014: Darqueze Dennard, CB
2013: Tyler Eifert, TE

Most Likely To Bust

Cam Taylor-Britt, CB, Nebraska – Round 2
The Bengals needed more help at cornerback, so it made sense that they addressed the position in the early rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft. However, I think Taylor-Britt has some flaws for the NFL. He was a solid college cornerback, but he faces some limitations for the NFL. Taylor-Britt looks stiff and grabs too much. As a pro, he will have to work on using his feet rather than grabbing, as that habit will lead to a lot of penalties. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder has enough size to play on the outside, but he could struggle running with NFL receivers. While Taylor-Britt timed well before the 2022 NFL Draft, he did not play that fast in college. Of the Bengals’ early-round picks, Taylor-Britt looks like he has the most bust potential.

2021: Joseph Ossai, LB
2020: Logan Wilson, LB
2019: Drew Sample, TE
2018: Malik Jefferson, LB
2017: Carl Lawson, LB
2016: Nick Vigil, LB
2015: Tyler Kroft, TE
2014: Russell Bodine, C
2013: Shawn Williams, S

Potential Boom Pick

Daxton Hill, CB/S, Michigan – Round 1
If it weren’t for makeup concerns, Hill could have been a top-25 pick, based on his film and position flexibility. Hill did not do well in the the pre-draft interviews, but if the Bengals can work with him to stay focused on football, he could end up being a really nice value pick for them late in the first round.

Hill’s best trait for the NFL is his ability to line up and cover slot receivers. His quickness, flexibility and fluid athleticism allow him to come up to them at line of scrimmage or pick them up in off-man coverage. Hill will be a real asset to Cincinnati’s defense when going against dangerous slot receivers. In nickel, he is a phenomenal cover corner to run the route and prevent separation. He shows good instincts to play the ball and is very active in the middle of the field.

The tape of Hill as a safety was not as impressive compared to when he plays nickel corner. Hill was decent at safety, but he is a tweener. He has the mentality of an aggressive strong safety with the body of a deep free safety. Hill is not a true rangy deep safety for the NFL, and he lacks the size to be a strong safety.

Hill was a good run defender in college, as his tackle totals suggest. He tackles well and does a nice job of weaving through blockers. He is smart about how he tackles by taking the legs out from underneath backs. However, Hill is undersized, so he could have some issues with power backs. While is tough and aggressive, Hill’s slight build could lead to injuries as a pro.

For the NFL, Hill (6-0, 192) looks like a starting nickel corner who could play some safety in the base defense. Teams are in nickel at least 70 percent of their snaps, and sometimes they play nickel the entire game. Hill can move around from nickel corner to safety, but in the pre-draft workouts, he showed the speed and flexibility to get consideration as an outside corner.

The Bengals have nice flexibility in the secondary, where Hill could play nickel corner with Chidobe Awuzie at corner, Jessie Bates III at free safety and Vonn Bell at strong safety. If Cincinnati has one more outside corner emerge, the team could have a tough secondary. Hill’s flexibility allows him to be a Swiss Army knife defender and potential boom pick for Cincinnati.

2021: Ja’Marr Chase, WR
2020: Joe Burrow, QB
2019: Germaine Pratt, LB
2018: Billy Price, C
2017: Joe Mixon, RB
2016: Tyler Boyd, WR
2015: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT
2014: Jeremy Hill, RB
2013: Giovani Bernard, RB

Future Depth Player

Cordell Volson, G, North Dakota State – Round 4
Cincinnati’s offensive line issues were widely known over the past few seasons, and the franchise used free agency dollars to beef up its line led by adding Alex Cappa at right guard and La’el Collins at right tackle. That allowed the Bengals to not use an early-round pick on offensive line help, but Volson was a solid third-day pick who could back up the starting guards, Cappa and Jackson Carman. Volson (6-6, 315) has good size, and while he may not have the speed and athleticism to become a starter, he could be a solid backup for Cincinnati.

2021: Tyler Shelvin, DT
2020: Akeen Davis-Gaither, LB
2019: Ryan Finley, QB
2018: Mark Walton, RB
2017: Ryan Glasgow, DT
2016: Andrew Billings, DT
2015: Josh Shaw, CB
2014: A.J. McCarron, QB
2013: Margus Hunt, DE

Walt’s 2022 NFL Draft Grades:

31. Daxton Hill, CB/S, Michigan – A- Grade
The Bengals really wanted George Karlaftis, but they’ll settle for Daxton Hill to fill a big need. The Bengals have a weak group of cornerbacks, and Hill can be used everywhere. He easily could’ve been drafted 10 picks earlier than this, so the value is certainly there.

60. Cam Taylor-Britt, CB, Nebraska – B+ Grade
The range is exact for Cam Taylor-Britt. I mocked him 60th, but to the Buccaneers. He makes sense for the Bengals as well. Cincinnati brought in so many cornerbacks for top-30 visits because the position was such a weakness. Taylor-Britt, the last of the remaining second-round cornerbacks, should provide an upgrade.

95. Zachary Carter, DT, Florida – A- Grade
The Bengals were hoping for Devonte Wyatt in the first round, but they’ll take another interior pass rusher at this selection. Zachary Carter can get pushed around in the running game, but he has an explosive ability to get to the quarterback, which Cincinnati will need when they combat all the talented quarterbacks in the AFC. I like this value.

136. Cordell Volson, OT, North Dakota State – D Grade
This pick neither fills a need nor provides any value. I didn’t have Cordell Volson in my mock draft in any update, though I considered him in the seventh round. The Bengals signed so many offensive linemen, so it didn’t seem like they needed another one.

166. Tycen Anderson, S, Toledo – A- Grade
It’s no surprise that Tycen Anderson is the pick here for the Bengals, given that they were dead set on upgrading their secondary entering the 2022 NFL Draft. I had Tycen Anderson in the fourth round of my re-draft, so he could have been chosen earlier than this.

252. Jeffery Gunter, DE, Coastal Carolina – B+ Grade
This is a decent value pick for the Bengals, who wanted to address their pass rush in the 2022 NFL Draft. I had Jeffery Gunter slotted in the fifth or sixth rounds of my mock draft on a consistent basis.

2022 NFL Draft Team Grade: A. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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