Grading the Bengals 2023 Draft Class

The Bengals had a draft loaded with athletes. Cincinnati is banking on huge upside and play making to take their roster to the next level, not only in 2023 but beyond. They may not get immediate impacts from several of their rookies this season, but they’ve invested in the long game.

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Round 1 Pick 28: Myles Murphy

Grade: A (93/100)

By the time the Bengals were put on the clock on draft night, there weren’t very many prospects better than Myles Murphy left on the board. Murphy was surprisingly available at 28th overall. Murphy was Dane Brugler’s 22nd-ranked player and 6th-best available at the Bengals pick. His unteachable size, speed, and athleticism make him a polarizing prospect at such a premium position as a pass rusher.

Murphy is much-needed help to a defensive line that only sacked the quarterback 30 times last season, near the bottom of the league. Having Murphy allows Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard to be more well-rested and, in return, creates a fierce rotation at defensive end. Murphy will be asked to relieve Hendrickson and Hubbard on certain snaps and eventually replace one of them altogether. The Bengals will need to get cheaper and especially on the defensive line. They’re spending the third most in the NFL on defensive linemen. Murphy is the future.

Murphy is a stout run defender with a 90.9 run defense grade since 2020 from PFF. His length and strength make him a scheme fit in the AFC North. Murphy has room to grow as a pass rusher but the tools are all present. He needs to put it together with more decisiveness and a true pass-rush plan. But it’s easy to see why that will come together when you see him beating up on NFL offensive lineman Ickey Ekwonu as a 19-year-old.

The Bengals have one of the “safer” picks in the first round. Murphy has no medical or character red flags, and his age (21) and production suggest there is more development yet to come.

This pick hit on a need while still taking the best player available, at a premium position, a perfect combination.

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Round 2 Pick 60: DJ Turner

Grade: B+ (89/100)

The Bengals follow up their first-round selection with another defensive pick at an important position. The Bengals were in need of better cornerback depth and DJ Turner certainly raises the floor of the cornerback room. You can never have too many defensive backs when you have to face Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and many more among the AFC gauntlet of quarterbacks.

Turner was the best corner available that fit what the Bengals needed. Turner is a well-experienced zone coverage corner and graded out well by PFF. He’s an explosive athlete with the fastest 40 time at the combine with a 4.26. He’s got elite deep speed with light, quick feet. The Bengals love speed in their secondary:

The most important aspect of this pick is the future. Chidobe Awuzie is coming off a torn ACL and entering a contract year. There is no guarantee he is on the roster beyond 2023. Having two starting outside cornerbacks under rookie contracts is huge for a team with multiple big contracts coming up. Cam Taylor-Britt and DJ Turner are one heck of a young, athletic duo.

However, one of the few knocks on DJ Turner is his size. 5’11 (42nd percentile) and 30¾” arms (26th percentile). This with Cam Taylor-Britt’s 5’10⅝ height (31st percentile) and 31½” arms (54th percentile) make for a short outside cornerback tandem. They’ll be susceptible to size matchups. Still, Turner’s size and instincts offer versatility in the slot if needed.

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Round 3 Pick 92: Jordan Battle

Grade: B (83/100)

Draft picks like Jordan Battle are how you sustain a winning program and the culture within. The Bengals strictly followed their board and selected the best player available. Battle was ranked 89th (safety 4) on Dane Brugler’s big board and the Bengals got him at 92.

“Voted a 2022 team captain, and his coaches said they had to force him off the practice field … played in every game (54) the past four seasons, finishing his career with 37-straight starts.”

Via Dane Brugler’s “The Beast”

You’re able to sustain success when you don’t panic, follow your draft board, and select the best player available. Especially when that player is an experienced leader on the team with high character. You can count on that player to be stable and dependable in your locker room.

Battle’s play style is similar to Vonn Bell’s. Battle is a stout run defender in the box with a high IQ, plus level speed, and a willing tackler. It seems they’ve found their Vonn Bell replacement, right away both on the field and in the locker room.

The upside of this pick cannot be understated. If the Bengals do indeed hit on Battle, they’ll have a very cheap secondary, mostly on rookie contracts. Dax Hill, Cam Taylor-Britt, DJ Turner, and Jordan Battle can all turn into quality starters.

Jordan Battle seems to be the final stamp on the safety position for 2023. With Battle there is added security. Dax Hill is practically a rookie and Nick Scott is an average starter. There’s potential there for that position to become a liability. Now with Battle and his 2,690 snaps across three seasons at Alabama, he eases some of those concerns.

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Round 4 Pick 131: Charlie Jones

Grade: B- (82/100)

Charlie Jones will be stepping into one of the best wide receiver rooms in the NFL. Older than both Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. Jones may be a rookie, be he is nuanced in route running, and his ball skills are some of the best in this class.

Jones led all of college football in 2022 with 22 contested catches. He plays confident and physical when attacking the ball at its highest point. Jones plays with adequate play strength and is competitive in all phases of the game. Charlie Jones is an NFL slot receiver.

The Bengals could have waited to address wide receiver a round later and drafted perhaps a more pressing need at Running Back or Tight End. 20-year-old Israel Abanikanda out of Pitt has one of the highest ceilings in this class and would have been a homerun pick in this Running Back class.

On the opposite end of the age spectrum from Abanikanda is Charlie Jones, who is already 24 years old. Fair questions will be raised about his room to grow and his upside. Age, size, and athleticism are all working against his future projections. But the Bengals don’t need a third all-pro at wide receiver. They need a reliable pass catcher from the slot to replace Tyler Boyd, and that’s who Charlie Jones is.

Charlie Jones ultimately raises the floor of the wide receiver room and projects to be a future stable in this offense. Landing a sure-handed receiver who had top-end production in 2022 in the 4th round is good value.

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Round 5 Pick 163: Chase Brown

Grade: A- (90/100)

Chase Brown was my 11th-ranked running back and the Bengals drafted him as the 10th back to go off the board. The value matches there. Cincinnati desperately needed a new running back in the room after unexpectedly losing Samaje Perine in free agency. With Joe Mixon slowly declining with his contract coming up, Chase Brown may be the future.

There wasn’t much on the board in the 5th round that the Bengals could justifiably take over finally landing a new running back. Fans were starting to get anxious, but now that Brown is a Bengal we can all take a deep breath.

Brown is a better pass protector than Mixon despite being smaller. He also has the production Mixon is losing. Including forcing missed tackles, yards after contact, and big chunk plays. This could be a big boost to Cincinnati’s offense.

What’s keeping Chase Brown from an A+ homerun pick here is his size concerns when holding up in pass protection and attacking the box. Not to mention two of the biggest pet peeves of running backs, Brown received a heavy workload in college and had fumbling issues. I worry about the wear and tear and his ability to hold onto the ball.

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Round 6 Pick 206: Andrei Iosivas

Grade: B- (82/100)

Andrei Iosivas was a rare find in the 6th round. Iosivas has a rare combination of size and speed at 6’3 205 pounds and a 4.43 40-yard dash. Iosivas is a threat down the field and in the red zone.

Aside from his uncoachable physical abilities, Iosivas is a very raw prospect, and much of his stock is a projection. For now, Iosivas projects well in special teams. Which is fine for a team currently loaded at wide receiver. Iosivas will have the opportunity to learn from some of the NFL’s best.

The Bengals could’ve used a new tight end or continued to bolster the offensive or defensive line. But the team was sticking strictly to their best player available strategy. In this case Andrei Iosivas was the lottery ticket the Bengals are hoping to cash in.

Taking a big swing on such a big project can be risky. But when you find a prospect with the amount of potential as Iosivas has, you’re willing to step up to the plate and take a swing. Especially as late as the sixth round.

Some may question the Bengals strategy of double dipping at the wide receiver position when they’re already one of the best at that spot. The Bengals are slated to have five wide receivers set to become free agents after 2023, including Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. Iosivas is added wide receiver depth and potentially a Tee Higgins insurance policy if he pans out.

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Round 6 Pick 217: Brad Robbins

Grade: B- (80/100)

Is drafting a punter worth it? There are several key factors a team must consider:

Is your punting situation bad enough to warrant a draft pick on a new punter?

Yeah, it’s pretty bad. The Bengals need to be able to pin opponents and flip field position.

Is your new punter a clear upgrade?

The Bengals desperately needed an upgrade at Punter after a low-hanging punt by Drue Chrismas helped lead to their downfall in the AFC Championship game. The Bengals need more hang time out of their punts, and they knew it:

Robbins had zero touchbacks in 2022 and only three in 2021. His average punt distance in 2021 was 46.3 yards before that number dipped down to 42.3 yards in 2022. However, he was dealing with an injury and often punted from plus field position, not always having room to show off his leg.

Do you have a roster good enough for a “luxury” pick at Punter?

The Bengals are able to take a punter late in the draft. They can afford to do so because they have no glaring holes on the roster.

The Bengals checked all the boxes here and drafted Robbins at an appropriate part of the draft. For that, they get a passing grade.

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Round 7 Pick 246: DJ Ivey

Grade: C- (72/100)

Bengals fans may get tired of hearing their team draft a defensive back. DJ Ivey makes for the sixth(!) defensive back drafted by the Bengals in the last two years. Perhaps this is an over-investment in the secondary when picks can be used elsewhere. But you can never have too many defensive backs, especially when they come at the size and athleticism Ivey does.

Besides, this seventh-round selection is more about depth and special teams rather than the expectation to start on game day. DJ Ivey is a well-experienced corner with great special teams value.

The Bengals get points for special teams contribution and potential but the repetition at the position and talent aren’t going to warrant too high of a grade.

Cincinnati did not hit on all of their potential needs such as tight end, interior pass rush, and chose to roll the dice on La’el Collins’ health or a 2024 right tackle. However, the Bengals didn’t let their needs define their draft board. And that’s how talented teams stay talented. Taking the best player available. The Bengals never reached this draft and, in return, received tremendous value on a lot of their picks.

Overall draft grade: B (84/100)

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