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Cincinnati Bengals 2022 NFL Draft Review

The theme of the Cincinnati Bengals 2022 NFL Draft class? Speed and versatility. The reigning AFC champions got better over the weekend.

The Cincinnati Bengals 2022 NFL Draft is complete! The reigning AFC champion Bengals went into this draft with fewer glaring holes than they have in recent memory. With six picks, Cincinnati looked to bolster the lineup and add depth, so they could try to get back to the Super Bowl.

In a collaboration, fellow Bengals writer Scott Dougherty joins me to break down and grade each of the newest additions. Picking at 31st and coming off of that Super Bowl loss, there were not many glaring holes on the roster. Regardless, the Bengals came into the draft with eight picks, traded up twice, and finished with six brand-new Cincinnati Bengals. If there were two words to describe this class they would be speed and versatility.

In total, the Bengals draft finished with the following players:

Cincinnati Bengals 2022 NFL Draft Grade: 7/10

Cincinnati Bengals 2022 NFL Draft Review

The Best Player: Daxton Hill

Scott Dougherty: Daxton Hill was a monster for the Michigan defense last season. Versatility is the name of his game, as he was used at both safety and slot cornerback. The Michigan defense utilized him as a deep coverage safety, as a blitzer, as a tight-end neutralizer, and more. Hill’s elite athleticism and high football IQ allowed him to be a jack of all trades.

Coming into Cincinnati, Hill should see instant playing time as a third safety, filling the role vacated by Ricardo Allen. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo wanted to spend even more time in three safety sets last year, and now Hill can help him unlock that formation. Expect Hill to also move around the field and see snaps at slot and perhaps even outside cornerback as Anarumo continues to seek positionless, athletic players to move around the field and make lives harder for opposing quarterbacks.

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The Head-Scratcher: Trading up for Tycen Anderson

Drew Crabtree: To this point, the Bengals draft had consisted of a safety, a corner, and an offensive lineman. The feeling around town was that Cincinnati was going to grab a tight end or a receiver to help fill out one of those units. But by this point in the draft, both positional groups had thinned out, so Cincinnati traded up to select another safety, Tycen Anderson out of Toledo.

The selection itself is not much of a head-scratcher, aside from the obvious: the Bengals had already selected two other defensive backs. The head-scratching part is the fact they trade up to make this selection. Anderson, continuing the Bengals trend of the past few years, was a three-time team captain. Anderson comes into Cincinnati with 51 career games at Toledo, racking up 233 tackles, nine for loss, two sacks, 16 passes defended, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles. 

He projects as a center-fielder type of free safety and posses ridiculous 4.36 speed. The Bengals secondary got deeper and significantly faster with the additions of Hill, Taylor-Britt, and Anderson. Coach Taylor and the Bengals front office wanted Anderson badly enough that they shipped off their seventh-round pick that they earned in the trade with the New York Giants in the Billy Price-BJ Hill trade. Realistically, he is insurance and depth just in case Jessie Bates and/or Von Bell do not return in 2023.

The Surprise: Daxton Hill

SD: Projections for the Bengals first pick were all over the map. The team had attacked their greatest weakness in free agency with the signings of Alex Cappa, Ted Karras, and La’el Collins. Without a glaring weakness, the team was free to go for the best player available at 31. Many thought they would continue to add to the offensive line with center Tyler Linderbaum. But as the draft season wore on, mocks started to focus on them selecting someone on the defensive line or a cornerback.

Safety, however, was not an often seen option. After all, the team had two quality starters in Bates and Bell. So the selection of Hill was quite the surprise for many. However, the pick made a lot of sense, considering both Bates and Bell are not signed past next season, and Hill brings the versatility to fill in at slot corner and potentially outside corner as well if injuries necessitate. 

The Steal: Cam Taylor-Britt

DC: With the first of two draft-day trades, Cincinnati moved up three spots and gave up their sixth-round pick in order to select uber-athletic outside cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt from Nebraska. The former ‘Husker broke out as a sophomore, logging 49 tackles, four for loss, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), four passes defended, and four forced fumbles. Along with Hill and Anderson, Taylor-Brill has blazing speed, clocking in at 4.38 in the 40-yard dash.

Taylor-Britt, at Nebraska, played in multiple schemes and was asked to do many things due to his speed and versatility. He can play both man and zone effectively, though he is most skilled in press man coverages. In the physical AFC North, this will come to play especially considering how the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers have filled out their wide receiver rooms.

Taylor-Britt has a legitimate shot to head into Week 1 as the starting CB2 opposite Chidobe Awuzie. He is extremely athletic, has elite closing speed, and brings another level of leadership to the Cincinnati locker room. He and Awuzie, along with that crowded and athletic safety corps, look to lead a very capable secondary. It became even more paramount that Cincinnati be able to adequately defend the air with the arms race happening in the AFC. Getting a potential starter and playmaker in the second round is great value for Cincinnati.

Most Likely to Turn Heads in Training Camp: Cordell Volson

SD: Volson was the first “who?” pick of the draft for most Bengals fans. The North Dakota State product was not an often talked about name among the offensive line class. But Volson fits in perfectly with offensive line coach Frank Pollack’s desire for glass-eaters on his line. Volson is a tough, strong blocker who can plow defenders in the run game.

He needs some development and is not a top athlete, but he has a competitive drive and an aggressive mentality on the field. Expect him to give 110% at camp as he fights for a backup position on the line. He projects as a guard, but spent time in college at both guard and tackle, on both sides of the line, so he should be in the mix for any of the depth positions. It would not be surprising for him to become a fan favorite after seeing his fight and determination. 

The Rest

On Offense

DC: Cincinnati had eight picks heading into the weekend, traded a pair away, and finished with six, five of which were on the defensive side of the ball. Volson was the lone selection on the offensive side of the ball but he will have his opportunity to show what he is made of. He will have the small-school chip on his shoulder and will battle for that vacant left guard position.

On Defense

DC: Hill, Taylor-Britt, Zachary Carter, Anderson, and Jeffrey Gunter. Cincinnati came into this draft wanting to get depth and youth on the defensive side of the ball and they succeeded. Hill, Taylor-Britt, and Anderson have all had their time in the light, so who are the other two?

Carter played at Florida for five years, racking up 107 tackles, 28.5 for loss, 17.5 sacks, eight passes defended, two forced fumbles, and he recovered a fumble which he turned into a touchdown. He is a versatile (there’s that word again) defensive lineman who has played inside and outside. Cincinnati needed to find a replacement for Larry Ogunjobi and it seems Carter might be that guy. The third-rounder will be part of the rotation with Hill.

The final selection of the Bengals 2022 NFL draft was Jeff Gunther out of Coastal Carolina. Gunther was a hybrid linebacker/EDGE in college and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo stated that Gunther will likely be developed into a stand-up edge rusher to come in on obvious passing downs. Gunter is an athletic project who comes into Cincinnati with a chip on his shoulder “the size of a boulder.” He is a gritty athlete who could have been taken significantly earlier in the draft. He is going to start the year behind a handful of players, so it is likely that he spends time on the practice squad and could earn playing time if anything happens to any of the guys in front of him. In terms of EDGE depth, the Bengals could have done significantly worse than Gunter. Do not be surprised if he works himself into the rotation at some point in the future.

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