The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the best rosters in the NFL. Savvy moves in free agency mixed with good draft picks have them in a position that every NFL team wants to be in: They have a roster loaded with young talent in key places and veteran leadership/production in others.
The Bengals return just about every single starter from last year’s roster. There are just a couple of position groups that underwent change during the offseason. That’s a rare feat in today’s NFL, but they’ve made it work.
One of the groups that stayed together was the cornerback group. The Bengals return their top-3 corners in Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton, and Eli Apple. All three were a big reason why the Bengals defense saw such a vast turnaround in 2021. The Bengals even return backup corner Tre Flowers for the 2022 season, which rounds out the group, for the most part.
So, they’re set, right? There’s no reason to take another corner, especially early in the draft.
Not if defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has anything to do with it. The Bengals’ fourth-year DC was asked Tuesday if he thinks adding cornerback depth is a priority during the upcoming draft and he didn’t hesitate one bit in his answer.
“In my mind, I think you always need to add quality depth at each position,” Anarumo told reporters. “That position, for sure. The good news is I don’t think we have to reach and say, ‘We have to have this.'”
Anarumo’s statement confirms what many have suspected about the Bengals’ draft plans. Many, including The Athletic‘s Dane Brugler, have released Bengals mock drafts that have the team taking a corner in the first two rounds.
It makes sense. Apple had a solid season, but the jury is still out on him. He has not been good for the majority of his career. He’s also on a one-year deal and Awuzie only has two years left on his deal. A top cornerback prospect would not only give the Bengals added depth, but a possible solution in case Apple’s play falls off or if he doesn’t return in 2023. And it gives them a solution if Awuzie fails to return in 2024.
The key with Anarumo’s statement is the fact that he said not just depth, but quality depth. You don’t immediately find that outside of Round 3 and even then, it’s a stretch to find it in the third.
Which makes it even more likely the Bengals will in fact take a corner early in the upcoming draft.
Featured image via George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK