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The First-Round Options for the Cincinnati Bengals are Wide Open

At 18th overall, the Cincinnati Bengals first-round options are wide open and they can walk away with a star.
cincinnati bengals first-round

The Cincinnati Bengals are in a weird spot. On one hand, they are coming off of an incredibly disappointing year and have a few holes on the roster. On the other hand, Joe Burrow is still the starting quarterback and the team has the 18th pick.

While the overwhelming feeling within the Bengals fandom is to grab an offensive lineman no matter what, there is a small faction that believes Cincinnati should add another weapon. Either way, no matter what the Bengals do, they will be getting a bona fide player. Rookies in the NFL make impacts and become stars year in and year out. They can capitalize their stardom into endorsements and can even make brands for themselves or trademarks a look. They can go from eccentric cleats (hopefully the NFL won’t fine them) or even make custom-made mouthguards.

With anywhere between three and five quarterbacks expected to be off the board by the time Cincinnati makes its pick, paired with the inevitable insanity that is the NFL Draft, there’s a great chance a player the team has a top-10 grade on will be available. The options are a plenty.

There is still an outside shot that the team could trade up. However, of the 12 pick-for-pick trades in Bengals history, six were trades up. Trading up would be unprecedented because the highest the franchise has ever traded up to was 60 (Cam Taylor-Britt in 2022).

Options for the Cincinnati Bengals First-Round Pick

Protect Joe Burrow

Despite improvements on the offensive line over the last few years, it was still a liability. Jonah Williams is more than likely done in Cincinnati and will sign elsewhere in free agency. Additionally, the club could look to upgrade the left guard position. While Cordell Volson has been admirable in his time, if the Bengals can improve the position, they should.

Guard is not likely the avenue at 18. Positional value and draft capital dictate they wait. Tackle, on the other hand, is more than in play. Taliese Fuaga has been a name Bengals fans have gravitated towards. It’s only natural as Fuaga is a physical specimen and will rocket up boards as he tests.

Full Taliese Fuaga Scouting Report

Another slightly more likely option will be JC Latham out of Alabama. Latham is a large, large man who has serious power in both the run and pass game. Recency bias will have fans lock on to his performance in the College Football Playoff but he has a complete body of work worthy of the Bengals first-round pick.

Full JC Latham Scouting Report

A high-upside but potentially risky pick would be Amarius Mims out of Georgia. Mims, in very limited playing time, showed he was an NFL-worthy player. However, he only started six games and suffered a serious ankle injury. Despite that, he’s gaining serious traction and will likely continue moving up draft boards as he tests.

Full Amarius Mims Scouting Report

Nuclear Arms Race

You can’t have too many toys and if the Bengals even attempt to address the hole at right tackle in the offseason, all bets are off. Even though the Bengals elected to place the Franchise Tag on Tee Higgins for the 2024 season (and, barring an incredibly unprecedented tag-and-trade for this franchise, he will be suiting up for the Bengals), Cincinnati could add to the weapons arsenal for Burrow.

Quite possibly the most exciting prospect who could land anywhere between fifth and 20th overall, Georgia’s Brock Bowers is a rare breed. Cincinnati fans have been foaming at the mouth just thinking about a Burrow/Bowers connection for the last three years when the talented tight end broke out. He’s the complete package and could be a Sam LaPorta type of rookie to make a massive impact right away.

Full Brock Bowers Scouting Report

Another option is to continue to retool the receiver corps. While it’s fairly unlikely, the Bengals do like to draft a year ahead. They did with Jessie Bates for Shawn Williams, Tee Higgins for A.J. Green, and could do so again. A name to watch in this range is Brian Thomas, Jr. Thomas, Jr. is yet another LSU product and was WR2 in an offense with Malik Nabers. Thomas, Jr. led the nation with 17 touchdown catches and added 1,177 yards. Again, while sharing the field with Nabers.

Full Brian Thomas, Jr. Scouting Report

What Wins Championships?

Last year, the Bengals defense was disappointing for a number of reasons. Injuries were everywhere but even when healthy, Cincinnati had to rely too much on the defense due to the early-season anemic offense. Going the defensive route would not be surprising, of course. Ever since the team double-dipped with Ja’Marr Chase and Jackson Carmen in 2021, the Bengals have spent six picks over the first three rounds of the last two drafts. Could they do more in 2024?

There are a few defenders who could end up in stripes and the franchise could break a 30-year drought in selecting first-round defensive tackles. Jer’Zhan Newton and, quite possibly, Byron Murphy are options.

Newton was a force at Illinois and has positional flexibility. With D.J. Reader’s future uncertain, the Bengals have a serious need at interior defensive line. Newton can do whatever is needed and has an elite get-off. He is also a great athlete despite his size.

Full Jer’Zhan Newton Scouting Report

Murphy has been a player that many expect to rocket up draft boards as he works out for the Combine. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year is a bit on the shorter side but has all of the other tools the Bengals would love. He’s also quick off the snap and is often not out-leveraged.

Full Byron Murphy Scouting Report

Stockpile Capital

Trading back and stockpiling draft capital is always an option for the Cincinnati Bengals. At 18, the Bengals are in prime position to trade back and still get a top player. The board could easily fall in a way that has multiple top-tier players and Duke Tobin could trade back and still get the likes of Jackson Powers-Johnson, the interior offensive lineman from Oregon while netting more picks.

If the offensive line is not the target, there are still a number of receivers who will receive first-round grades if the Bengals want to get a Higgins replacement plan in place. Xavier Worthy from Texas is an option, depending on how far they trade back.

Quinyon Mitchell could dazzle at the Combine and end up as the Bengals pick as they trade back to the mid-to-late 20s.

Cincinnati is going to take the best player available no matter what. The board is wide open for the Bengals and they’ll need to make sure they hit on the pick. Since Dre Kirkpatrick signed his deal, only Joe Burrow signed a multi-year extension with the Bengals as a first-round pick. There were plenty of fifth-year options picked up but none were brought back. In order to maximize the Super Bowl window, Cincinnati has to nail each and every pick and that starts with the 18th overall pick.

Main Image:  Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports


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