Perfect Picks 2023: Cincinnati Bengals

With the NFL Draft approaching we will be looking at each team and evaluating where they need to improve. In this particular series we will run a seven round mock using the Pro Football Network Mock Draft Simulator and find the ‘Perfect Picks’ for each franchise.

We will highlight four players that could help each team. This will feature picks 1 and 2, a mid round gem and a late round sleeper. 

Round 1 - Darnell Wright, (Offensive Tackle, Tennessee)

The Bengals’ offensive line crumbled once again at the end of 2022. After stabilising through the middle section of the season, injuries derailed the group late, highlighting a lack of depth.

La’el Collins is set to return after an up-and-down year, but there is a slim chance he will become a cap casualty leaving a hole once more at right tackle. Even if he is retained, his injury history means a backup and eventual successor needs to be found.

Tennessee’s Darnell Wright has thrived on the right side of the Vols line. While he has struggled when placed in the premier left tackle spot, he would be a solid option late on Day 1. A pass blocking grade of 80.2 last year in the competitive SEC is not to be sniffed at. It would hopefully give the line a young, foundational tackle going forward.

Round 2 - Daiyan Henley (Linebacker, Washington State)

Germaine Pratt developed into one of the better linebackers in the NFL last year. The problem is that it came in a contract year. With Logan Wilson in line for a big-deal down the pipeline, it’s unlikely that Pratt will find the payday he wants in Cincy.

Akeem Davis-Gaither should get the first shot at filling in for Pratt but adding further reinforcements is likely. Washington State’s Daiyan Henley put on an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl. His coverage ability and athleticism would mesh nicely with the all-action Wilson.

Mid Round Gem - Eric Gray (Running Back, Oklahoma)

The next potential cap casualty on the Bengals roster is running back Joe Mixon. Second contracts at that position are a risky business, and the Mixon deal was designed with that in mind. Releasing him would save around $7M, and after a downturn in usage at the sharp end of the season, finding a new back is a real possibility.

In this scenario, they return to the Oklahoma well. Both Mixon and Perine are former Sooners, and Gray would likely pair with whichever one the Bengals chose to bring back. For a mid-round selection, Gray has three-down potential. He rushed for 1,374 yards last season. More importantly for Bengals fans, he broke off 44 big plays (10+ yards). Introducing a more explosive element to this offense could be devastating.

Late Round Sleeper - Jay Ward (Defensive Back, LSU)

We all know the connection between LSU and the Bengals and versatile Jay Ward strengthens those links at this pick. Earlier in this mock, we took Jaylon Jones who would compete for an outside corner role, while Ward offers a more versatile secondary piece. 

He has played outside cornerback and has the athletic traits to offer depth in that position. Perhaps, his best role would be in a hybrid safety/nickel role, akin to that played by Tre Flowers. Flowers became the tight end eraser in Lou Anarumo’s system but was only on a one-year deal. Ward is a strong tackler with plenty of experience. He offers much needed cover in multiple spots.

Draft In Full:

Round 1 – Darnell Wright (Offensive Tackle, Tennessee)

Round 2 – Daiyan Henley (Linebacker, Washington State)

Round 3 – Jaylon Jones (Cornerback, Texas A&M)

Round 4 – Eric Gray (Running Back, Oklahoma)

Round 5 – Josh Whyle (Tight End, Cincinnati)

Round 6 – Justin Shorter (WR, Florida)

Round 7 – Jay Ward (Cornerback/Safety, LSU)

Mock Draft

Rory-Joe Daniels

Cfb contributor

formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at