The Bengals have actually drafted quite well since Zac Taylor and company were brought in. That can be attributed to their ability to find players that fit their scheme and their culture to maximize their potential. Looking through the previous four drafts was a pleasant trip to the past, especially in the first round. Not something you could always say about Bengals draft classes in the past. Here, we can look at who they took and why they did in order to determine where the team may be going next in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
2019: Jonah Williams, 11th Overall
The first-ever draft pick for Zac Taylor was highly touted left tackle Jonah Williams out of Alabama. The Bengals selected Williams 11th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft in hopes he’d become their franchise blindside protector. While Williams has been far from a bust, he hasn’t exactly lived up to that franchise tackle billing. Still, Williams is an upgrade from the years after Andrew Whitworth when the team had Cedric Ogbuehi and Cordy Glenn. The Bengals recognized a big need at a high-value position and were successful in addressing and upgrading.
2020: Joe Burrow, 1st Overall
Zac Taylor goes Quarterback at 1st overall. This makes back-to-back years on offense in the 1st round. I mean, how could you blame him? Everyone knew Joe Burrow was the right pick, and the Bengals land their franchise quarterback. This selection could easily go down as the best draft pick in franchise history. Two years, two premium positions on offense taken in the first round that fill huge needs.
2021: Ja’Marr Chase, 5th Overall
Don’t get me wrong, Penei Sewell is a good tackle but…PHEW. The Bengals made the right decision in taking Ja’Marr Chase and reuniting the LSU connection. Undoubtedly, the offense would not be the same if Chase is not a Bengal.
This pick is interesting. Unlike before with Williams and Burrow filling big needs, wide receiver wasn’t a big hole on the roster. Yet the front office decided to make one of their position groups elite by taking Chase instead of filling a need at OL. They chose the best player available (BPA) over need here. Mark this as three years in a row an offensive player at a high-value position was selected by the Bengals in the first round.
2022: Daxton Hill, 31st Overall
It is far too early to judge Daxton Hill, especially on the very limited, out-of-position snaps he received his rookie year. This selection marks the first time the Taylor-led team took a defensive player in the first round. Not only that but the first time they drafted a player who wouldn’t have an immediate impact on the field. With contract negotiations with safety Jessie Bates III stalling out, the team drafted for the future and selected Bates’ eventual replacement.
1st Round Recap
In the four first rounds of the Zac Taylor era, we have seen the Bengals operate a few different ways. Using three different methods of selecting a prospect. Filling a need (Williams), taking the best player available while filling a need (Burrow), choosing the best player available over a need (Chase), and finally, drafting for the future (Hill). Historically, with Zac Taylor, the Bengals have drafted offensive players that start right away.
Potential Selection: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Michael Mayer is the only tight end the Bengals should feel comfortable with taking in the first round. Mayer is among the safest prospects at tight end who does everything well. Mayer is a proven blocker, has no medical red flags, and has the production and tape that no other tight end can put together in their pre-draft profile. Mayer doesn’t have the injury risks of a Dalton Kincaid or Luke Musgrave. Mayer does not lack production, unlike Darnell Washington. Mayer has been one of the top tight ends throughout college football and the pre-draft process.
If his tape and testing don’t win you over, maybe this will. Everybody loves a hometown hero. Michael Mayer’s favorite team growing up was the Cincinnati Bengals. His favorite player? The man who could be throwing him touchdowns in September, Joe Burrow.
No one would look twice if the Bengals call Michael Mayer’s name on draft day. Cincinnati has already met with the Notre Dame prospect recently at the NFL Combine.
This would be an on-brand pick if it’s a tight end in the first round. It could mark the third time since 2010 the Bengals got their safety blanket in the 1st. Despite signing Irv Smith Jr. He does not move the needle at tight end due to injury concerns and his 1-year contract. He is not a long-term answer, and he is not a deterrent for selecting a tight end at 28th overall. The Bengals can avoid a big hole on offense, and this would be yet another day one offensive impact starter taken by the Bengals in round one that fills a huge need.