Top prospects Bengals could target in first couple rounds of NFL Draft

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Cincinnati Bengals spent their last two drafts prioritizing the defense. Now there could be big needs to address on the offense, and this week will be another chance to scout out the options in a unique setting.

Team representatives will be on hand at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this week for meetings, to watch players run through drills and to conduct interviews with potential prospects. Player workouts begin Wednesday and run through March 4.

Several offensive positions could be addressed in this year’s draft as free agency could open up multiple wide receiver spots and the right tackle position. The Bengals also remain in need of a starting tight end, and on defense, tackle would be the top position to target with other possible needs still in the secondary. The organization possibly could be looking for a more explosive running back if Joe Mixon becomes a salary cap casualty, but that seems like an area that might also be addressed through free agency.

The Bengals have the No. 18 pick in the first round of April’s draft and own all seven of their picks. Here is a look at some of the top prospects to watch at positions the Bengals could consider with their first- and second-round picks, based on projections of where they will land in the draft.


BRIAN THOMAS JR., LSU’s Consensus Top 100: No. 19’s Big Board: No. 23

With three of the Bengals’ top four wide receivers due to hit free agency, Thomas would be a great fit if available, as he’s a serious vertical threat both outside and in the slot and a yards-after-catch weapon. His athletic ability shows with explosion off the line of scrimmage, and he’s got great acceleration and top speed for a 6-foot-4 receiver.

KEON COLEMAN, FLORIDA STATE’s Consensus Top 100: No. 27’s Big Board: No. 39

Coleman could be viewed as Tee Higgins’ long-term replacement, though it seems the Bengals might use the franchise tag to keep him one more year. Coleman has outstanding size and length, possesses rare ball skills and the ability to excel on contested-catches and much like Higgins, he’s got an advantage in 50-50 situations and could be a premium red-zone threat.


J.C. LATHAM, ALABAMA’s Consensus Top 100: No. 12’s Big Board: No. 19

Mel Kiper Jr. predicted the Bengals would land Latham in his Round 1 mock draft, noting: “Latham started 27 games at right tackle for the Crimson Tide over the past two seasons. He can maul defenders in the run game, but he’s also light on his feet as a pass-protector. With Jonah Williams headed to free agency, Latham could slot in on the right side and be an instant starter.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

AMARIUS MIMS, GEORGIA’s Consensus Top 100: No. 18’s Big Board: No. 26

An ankle injury that required tightrope surgery took Mims off the field for a stretch in 2023, and injury history gives him a bit of an asterisk by his name, yet he remains a top right tackle prospect. He only has eight career starts, and the Bengals typically prefer more experience at this position, but he didn’t allow a sack in 377 pass-blocking snaps in college and that’s a hard stat to overlook. That, along with his 6-foot-7, 340-pound frame, is a big reason he’s considered a plug-and-play option for teams in need of bolstering protection for their quarterback.


BROCK BOWERS, GEORGIA’s Consensus Top 100: No. 4’s Big Board: No. 5

It seems highly unlikely Bowers will fall to the Bengals, but if there is a run on other positions, perhaps they get a chance to land the top tight end in the draft. Bowers could make the offense more diverse, as Cincinnati would no longer be locked into three-wideout sets. He is the SEC’s all-time leader for tight ends in catches (175), receiving years (2,538) and receiving touchdowns (26).

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

JA’VION SANDERS, TEXAS’s Consensus Top 100: No. 41’s Big Board: No. 41’s Joe Broback suggests Sanders would be a good pick for the Bengals. He wrote: “While Sanders hasn’t been in the spotlight as much, he’s still a great TE who can elevate the Bengals’ offense. He’s a reliable pass catcher who’s explosive with the ball in his hands, and his effort through the whistle jumps out on tape.”


BYRON MURPHY II, TEXAS’s Consensus Top 100: No. 19’s Big Board: No. 12

Murphy is among the best interior defensive linemen prospects in the draft and if available, it would be tough to pass on him, especially for a team that has needed depth inside and could be moving on from DJ Reader. He’s young, as he doesn’t turn 22 until the week of the opener, and he’s got just 16 college starts but played in 39 games, was the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year and also made Bruce Feldman’s “Freak List” because of his surprising speed for a player with his strength.

JER’ZHAN NEWTON, ILLINOIS’s Consensus Top 100: No. 23’s Big Board: No. 20

Newton is a high-motor interior defender who is able to provide pass rush. In fact, Kiper says he is the “best interior pass-rusher in this class.” He had 16.5 sacks in three seasons for the Fighting Illini and improved his pressure rate in every season, showing off an impressive combination of strength and natural talent while also proving to be versatile. Three of his sacks came from the nose tackle position.

T’VONDRE SWEAT, TEXAS’s Concensus Top 100: No. 46’s Big Board: No. 90 doesn’t rate Sweat as highly as many others, but if the Bengals don’t take a defensive tackle in the first round, he could be a solid second-round pick. He’s the “Consensus Top 100″ third-ranked defensive tackle.

About the Author