The 2022 NFL Draft is nearly upon us, and the Cincinnati Bengals will have a difficult decision to make with the 31st overall pick. Good thing they already have a franchise quarterback, a No. 1 receiver, and a Pro Bowl pass-rusher, yeah?
Really, the Bengals are in solid shape. Unlike most of the teams we’ve covered thus far, the reigning AFC champions already have an established core in place. Although we’re not suggesting Joe Burrow and friends are guaranteed a spot in Super Bowl 57, at least they don’t need to completely rehaul their team through the draft.
So, who should the Bengals draft at No. 31? As with our mock drafts, we picked players based on need and team fit. Also, all prospects are ranked alphabetically as opposed to preference or potential.
Based on consideration of the aforementioned prerequisites, we believe the Bengals should target the following players with the 31st overall pick:
Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Although the Bengals’ defense mostly played well throughout the 2021 season, they’re in need of fresh blood. Elam, who will play his entire rookie season at 21, earned second-team All-SEC honors in 2020 and tallied five interceptions and 20 pass breakups during his three seasons with the Gators. He’d bring size (6-foot-2), speed (he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine), and impressive vision.
Kaiir’s father, Abram, played for five teams in seven NFL seasons. Matt, Kaiir’s uncle, was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2013 and currently plays for the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Elks.
Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M
The 6-foot-4, 325-pound Green is a brawler who started at four different positions during the 2021 season. Most of his action over the last two years has come at left guard, although he started all 13 games as a true freshman at right guard in 2019.
“He possesses adequate foot quickness to operate in a variety of run schemes but needs to eliminate his tendency to grab when his opponent is slipping away from the block. He has pop and anchor in pass protection but lacks recognition and mirror technique needed to be at his best against athletic interior rushers. While Green has some areas to improve, his run blocking can be dominant, which gives him a chance to become a good starter very quickly.”Lance Zierlein
Even if he’s not a complete pass-blocker, Green’s ceiling and versatility could make him the Bengals’ pick here — and we’d be perfectly fine with that move.
Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
Call me boring (I am) or old-fashioned (I also am), but I like a proven SEC cornerback who held his own against some of the nation’s most talented receivers. McCreary, who checked in at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds at the NFL Combine, isn’t the biggest cornerback. However, he’s aggressive and physical, the type of player who should perfectly fit the Bengals’ culture.
And, as the likes of Burrow and Chase proved, the Bengals love their SEC prospects. Don’t be surprised to see McCreary be the pick here.
Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
Is this a reach? Yes.
Should the Bengals care? Nope.
The 6-foot-3, 249-pound McBride is a strong blocker and an athletic vertical weapon who totaled 157 catches, 2,011 yards, and nine touchdowns from 2019-21. Don’t read too much into him only catching one touchdown for the Rams last year. Think about how many players put up gaudy scoring numbers, especially at the lower levels, and go unselected in the draft.
According to the NFL Mock Draft Database, McBride is projected to go midway through the second round. Something tells us the Bengals won’t care if Burrow believes he and the Colorado State standout can make magic happen.
We wish the other three AFC North teams all the best next season in stopping the Bengals’ offense. Sorry in advance.