With the injury to Joe Burrow, how the rest of the season plays out for the Cincinnati Bengals is up in the air. It is going to be a pivotal offseason for the team as they have plenty of star players set to hit free agency. With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at an early four round mock draft that will help propel the Bengals to the Super Bowl.
Round One- Jared Verse, Edge, Florida State
Ultimately, while the offensive line needs to be a focal point again to protect Burrow, as long as Jonah Williams is brought back, the tackle spot is fine, it’s the interior that needs improvement. At this spot, any interior linemen seemed like reaches, and with Brock Bowers off the board, Verse was the pick. The duo of Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson is great, but it’s when one or both aren’t on the field that it becomes concerning, just look at the recent Baltimore Ravens game. Since transferring to Florida State, Verse has been phenomenal with how quickly he gets off the line, uses effective hand counters, and gets pressure on the quarterback. Over two seasons with the Seminoles, he has 14 sacks, 73 pressures, and 41 stops. With Myles Murphy still showing he needs time, and Joseph Ossai not making an impact, it is time the Bengals add new juice off the edge. This even allows for Hubbard or Murphy to be rotated to the interior occasionally.
Round Two- Kamari Lassiter, Cornerback,
Sticking with the mindset of building the offense through spending in free agency, and building the defense through the draft results in the pick of Lassiter. Chidobe Awuzie has not looked the same since returning from his ACL injury, and while DJ Turner has shown flashes, the Bengals are still going to need someone who can line up opposite Cam Taylor-Britt and be reliable. Lassiter is precisely that. Over 36 targets so far this season, he has only allowed 16 receptions for 193 yards and zero touchdowns. Lassiter is a reliable tackler, something the Bengals desperately need, and plays with sharp instincts in both man and zone coverage to decipher plays and get to where the ball is going to be. His aggressiveness helps him win in contested situations as well as when coming down to help in run support.
Round Three- Brenden Rice, Wide Receiver, USC
With the idea that DJ Reader and Williams are brought back in free agency, that likely results in Higgins being franchise tagged and traded, creating a need for wide receiver. Andrei Iosivas could very well be the guy to fully take over, but to at least add depth and competition is Brenden Rice. In 2022, Rice started to make his name truly known with 611 yards over 14 games and 39 receptions. He has only improved his game and through 11 games this season has 37 receptions for 644 yards and 11 touchdowns. At 6’3, 210 pounds, Rice not only can win in contested situations but also has surprising quickness off the line to allow him to stun corners and get separation. His body control to haul in off-target throws is superb, and is able to turn around fluidly to get yards after the catch. With his ability to consistently elevate his play, Rice would be an impact player.
Round Four- Cade Stover, Tight End, Ohio State
Now to continue on the offense, it’s time to finally get Burrow a reliable tight end for the future to provide consistency. But to note first, yes the offensive line was passed up again, but hear me out. The Bengals have shown that drafting offensive linemen isn’t necessarily a strong suit, plus rookies take time to adjust to the NFL with the different blocking schemes, and Burrow needs a reliable starting option right off the bat. Now depth wise, that is another thing and will be included in further mock drafts, but right here it’s getting a tight end. At this point, Cade Stover is the top tight end available. Stover is what the Bengals need at the position, one that can block and receive at the same time to keep the offense unpredictable. Stover, over a career 799 blocking snaps, has only allowed four total pressures as his 6’4, 251 pound frame allows him to block effectively. He is able to excel as a receiver in contested situations as well because of his size, body control, and secure hands. Once he has the ball, can break through tackles and has a good burst not only off the line but to turn up field. This has led to Stover having 75 career receptions for 990 yards and nine touchdowns, with 514 yards after the catch.
For more NFL content, check out the following links:
-The Cleveland Browns Don’t Need Deshaun Watson to Win the Super Bowl
-NFL AFC Mid-Season Playoff Picture Prediction
-Joe Burrow Injured: 10 Takeaways as the Cincinnati Bengals fall to the Baltimore Ravens
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