The Cincinnati Bengals have done a nice job this offseason of filling some major needs.
Improving the offensive line was the main goal for the Bengals this offseason and they did that by signing three offensive linemen to lucrative deals.
With the offensive line getting addressed in free agency, Cincinnati would be wise to fill other needs in the 2022 NFL Draft.
One of those needs is in the secondary. The Bengals need to add safety and cornerback depth.
Cincinnati has been trying to sign safety Jessie Bates, who received the franchise tag earlier this offseason, to a long-term deal since last summer. But it doesn’t feel like a deal is going to get done. The Bengals will need to find another safety in case Bates departs in free agency next season (depending on how Cincy uses the franchise tag next year) or gets traded.
The team also needs more cornerbacks. Two of Cincinnati’s top cornerbacks — Eli Apple and Tre Flowers — are free agents after the 2022 season. The Bengals could use an insurance policy (and an upgrade) at the cornerback position.
Unfortunately for the Bengals, the cornerback options at the end of the first round likely won’t be great. Cincinnati is picking in a slot where the top few cornerbacks will probably be gone in the top 20 or 25 picks. The next wave of cornerbacks won’t go until later in the draft.
If the Bengals have to wait until later in the draft to select a safety or cornerback (assuming they don’t trade up in the first round to select one), there’s a specific player they should target.
Tennessee Vols defensive back Alontae Taylor.
Taylor, who ran a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, played cornerback for four years at Tennessee, but some NFL teams have been evaluating him as a safety in the NFL.
So in other words, he has versatility.
Taylor is currently being projected as a third-round or fourth-round pick. If Cincinnati can grab him with the No. 95 overall pick in the third round, they’d be getting a player that could potentially be a solid NFL starter. And he wouldn’t be expected to step into that starting role until next year at the earliest (unless the Bengals suffer significant injuries).
The former Vol has first-round speed and he could fill two positions of need for the Bengals. This is exactly the type of player Cincinnati should be targeting in the middle rounds of the draft.
If the Bengals decide to go this route, it would make taking a “best player available” approach in the first round even more likely (which is usually the best approach).
Cincinnati is in a good spot right now where they already had a Super Bowl-caliber roster entering the draft, which gives the front office a bit more freedom in how they approach the 2022 NFL Draft.
Featured image via Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports