Perfect Picks 2024: Cincinnati Bengals

The injury bug struck once more for the Cincinnati Bengals and Joe Burrow in 2023. While, stand-in Jake Browing kept the dream alive for a few weeks, ultimately the Bengals came up short in a competitive AFC North.

Now, having lost some significant pieces, the Bengals will need to draft well to replace starters. Taking the hot seat for us today to do his finest Duke Tobin impression is long-time Bengals fan Peter Dadswell. Would his perfect picks be enough to bring home Cincinnati’s first Super Bowl?

Round 1 - JC Latham, Offensive Tackle, Alabama

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The expected departure of Jonah Williams, and the less-than-expected failure to sign a vet in free agency (at the time of writing) has made it almost a lock that the Bengals will go O-Line in the 1st round (pick 18). That “desperation” is not a good foundation for effective drafting. Fortunately, the draft is stacked with quality offensive tackles. However, the depth falls away rapidly after round 1. Realistically, Joe Alt, Fashanu, Fuaga, and probably Troy Fautanu will have gone, which makes (potential) OT5 JC Latham, a perfect pick for the Bengals to replace one Alabama OT with another. 

Latham is not as flashy as most of the other first-round OTs, but that takes nothing away from his effectiveness. He certainly has the measurables: 6’5 3/4 (48th percentile), 342 lbs (95th%), with 35 1/8 arm length (82nd), he will more than fit the bill. Having played every snap at RT in the last two seasons, Latham would very much be a position-specific pick. He will only be 21 in his rookie season, which makes him a younger prospect. 

Equally effective in the run game as pass protection, Latham is athletic for his size and shows a good, strong punch. At times, he doesn’t show the strength his physique would suggest, but I would expect to see work in an NFL weight programme improve his anchor. Most of all, he has performed well at the highest college level in the SEC during his 3 years, credited with just two sacks given up and 6 QB hits (3 as a starter). There may be some early teething issues, but I would expect Latham to come in, perform reasonably in year 1, and improve to a very good level over years 2 and 3. 

Round 2 - T'Vondre Sweat, Defensive Tackle, Texas

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The unexpected departure of fan-favourite NT DJ Reader and the less-than-expected failure to sign a vet in free agency (at the time of writing) has made it almost a lock that the Bengals will draft an NT early in the draft. That “desperation” is not a good foundation for effective drafting. The draft is well stocked with 3-Techs this year, but there aren’t so many Nose Tackles. This alone may make teams draft the true NT T’Vondre Sweat earlier than he might otherwise go. The Bengals’ need for him is accentuated by a look at the AFC North running backs they will (potentially) face – Chubb, Harris, Henry and Lamar Jackson. 

Sweat is a man-mountain at  6’4 1/2 (83rd percentile), 366lbs (99th percentile), with 33 1/4″ arm length (52nd ). He plugs the gaps and blocks out the light! What I like about him is that he is still an ascending player. He has continued to develop in his college career enough to believe there is more to come. This last year, he developed more aggressive use of his hands and good counter moves. He can get off single blocks, and that is key to encouraging double-man blocks, which open space for his pass-rush teammates. He is remarkably light on his feet for one so big. Historically, Sweat had issues with his conditioning, but that also improved in 2023. Again, a year in an NFL weight programme will improve that. 

I would be very happy if the Bengals pulled the trigger at #49, plugged him in on running downs (especially) and let him disrupt from the interior. 

Mid Round Gem - Elijah Jones, Cornerback, Boston College

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The Bengals drafted two CBs last year, DJ Turner and DJ Ivey. The former was drafted to replace fan-favourite Chido Awuzie, who left in free agency. However, the Bengals traditionally draft a CB just about every year. This year, I like Jones from Boston College. 

Jones is a tall CB (6’1 3/4) who uses his size to good effect. He is a physical man-to-man CB (just like Cam Taylor-Britt), which is what the Bengals like (90.8 man coverage grade in 2023), quick enough without being a blazer (4.44s 40), but very explosive (vertical and broad jumps exceeding 90th percentile). Jones is a sure tackler (3 missed tackles in 524 snaps in 2023) which again is what the Bengals like.  He is very experienced, a 5-year player who has started every year of his career. I would expect him to be a solid outside CB3-4 in year one and a good special-teamer. 

Late Round Sleeper - Luke McCaffrey, Wide Receiver, Rice

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The expected departure of fan-favourite Tyler Boyd increases the need to draft a slot WR. McCaffrey, younger brother of Christian (49ers stud RB), fits that bill. He has decent size 6’1 5/8, 198lbs, to stand up to the rigours of playing through the middle. At the Combine he ran a 4.46 sec 40 metre, which was plenty quick enough, a  3-cone and 20 yards shuttle in the 87th percentile or better. However, it was at the Senior Bowl where he turned heads, showing excellent handling and route running. 

Until his last season, Boyd’s strength was that he never dropped a ball. He was often the go-to 3rd down receiver because he earned the QB’s trust. In 2023, McCaffrey had a paltry 4.1% drop rate, which is exceptional, and ranked tied 2nd in contested catch rate. He would fit well in the WR room, and Darrin Simmons would make great use of him on special teams. 

Draft in full

Round 1 – JC Latham, OT, Alabama

Round 2 – T’Vondre Sweat, DT, Texas

Round 3 – Blake Corum, RB, Michigan

Round 3 – Elijah Jones, CB, Boston College

Round 4 – Maason Smith, DT, LSU

Round 5 – Beaux Limmer, OC, Arkansas

Round 6 – Luke McCaffrey, WR, Rice

Round 6 – Nathaniel Watson, LB, Mississippi State

Round 7 – Brevyn Spann-Ford, TE, Minnesota

Round 7 – Brennan Jackson, Edge, Washington State

Peter Dadswell

NFL Draft Contributor

Peter has been a Bengals fan since it came to uk screens around 1984. First selecting the bengals to follow due to their distinctive helmet he has followed them through thick and very thin ever since! With an interest in scouting his love for the draft reinvigorated his passion for the nfl.