NFL Combine: ‘A lot of opportunities’ in deep draft for Bengals to improve OL

Credit: Chris O'Meara

Credit: Chris O'Meara

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah doesn’t doubt the Cincinnati Bengals will be able to address their needs on the offensive line throughout the draft, even if they go with someone at another position in the first round.

With the Bengals picking at No. 31, they could be looking at the best player available across all their position needs, rather than locking in on an offensive lineman first. Jeremiah, speaking in a conference call with media to preview the NFL Combine, said this draft class is strong enough at the offensive line position that good options will be available on Day 2 and 3 as well.

Teams will be taking a look at draft prospects this week as the Combine begins Tuesday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“The good thing with the Bengals where they are right now, they’ve had all this success,” Jeremiah said. “We know they have the needs on the offensive line. They’re going to be able to find upgrades to the offensive line throughout this draft. They’re going to get players in the third, fourth round in this draft that are better than the guys, some of these guys that they trotted out there and started in the Super Bowl. They’re going to have a lot of opportunities to address that position.”

The Bengals used the draft last year to add a deep threat at wide receiver in Ja’Marr Chase and then mainly focused on depth on both the offensive and defensive lines, but starters on the offensive line and depth in the interior defensive line remain needs as well as a shutdown cornerback.

Two years ago, the Bengals got quarterback Joe Burrow in the first round, wide receiver Tee Higgins in the second and linebacker Logan Wilson in the third and all three are starters. Wilson showed just how solid of a pickup he was when he finished the 2021 season, his first as a full-time starter, playing with a torn labrum and still made a big impact in the team’s run to the Super Bowl.

ESPN senior NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler reported Sunday that Wilson underwent successful surgery last week to repair the tear, which originally happened in Week 13 against the Chargers, causing him to be carted off and to miss three games. He returned to play in the Week 17 win over the Chiefs when the Bengals clinched the AFC North, recording eight tackles and playing every single snap.

While playing every snap of the playoffs, Wilson made 39 tackles (four for loss) and had one interception on the final defensive play of the team’s 19-16 win at Tennessee in the divisional round before Evan McPherson won the game on a last-second field goal.

Wilson is expected to make a full recovery, and linebacker isn’t a big need for a team that picked two others at that position behind Wilson in 2020.

As for this year’s draft predictions, Jeremiah originally had the Bengals taking former Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum in his first mock draft, but in his most recent update last week, he moved Linderbaum up to the Titans at No. 26 and the Bengals taking Central Michigan offensive tackle Bernhard Raimann.

Even if the top five or six interior lineman go before the Bengals pick, Jeremiah said there should still be options at guard or center that won’t be “reaches.”

“Just in terms of my personal list, they would be probably taking somebody outside of that range, but you’re drafting starters, so I don’t want to necessarily say they’re reaches,” Jeremiah said. “I’ve kind of gone through some of those guys.

“The one name I had going I think right before them, I think I had him going to the Dolphins ... but the Tyler Smith train is getting ready to take off. I think that probably takes off as we get to the combine, from Tulsa. Again, he’s 6-5, 332 pounds. He’s somebody I think could play guard if he wanted to and be hell on wheels as a guard but play tackle. That’s one I think that’s really, really intriguing.”

Jeremiah said Linderbaum is “really one to watch on draft day.” He still believes if the Bengals want a center and he’s available, Linderbaum would be a solid pick for them even if other teams shy away from him.

“While I think he’s a fantastic player, it’s hard to slot him in. To say there’s no way, he’s too good, he wouldn’t slide down to where the Bengals are picking, I don’t think we can all say that’s a lock. He’s one to keep an eye on.”

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