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Bengals 7-Round Mock Draft 2023: Keeping Super Bowl Window Open

  • Jack McKessy
  • February 15, 2023
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One postseason appearance after quarterback Joe Burrow’s “the [Super Bowl] window’s my whole career” comments and one year after their first Super Bowl appearance since 1989, the Cincinnati Bengals seem poised to live up to those lofty expectations in the years to come. They returned to the AFC Championship Game for the second straight year and nearly took down the Kansas City Chiefs in the game for the second year in a row. It really does feel like the Bengals’ Super Bowl window is just opening as Burrow continues to develop and shine in his team’s biggest moments.

Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some work to be done on their roster, especially with a septet of notable free agents set to depart this offseason: running back Samaje Perine, tight end Hayden Hurst, linebacker Germaine Pratt and secondary defenders Eli Apple, Tre Flowers, Jessie Bates III, and Vonn Bell. As Cincinnati approaches the 2023 NFL Draft with all of their original picks—no more, no less—they’ll have to address some existing and potential future roster holes once the initial wave of free agency is over.

With that being said and with plenty of moves still to come ahead of April’s draft, here’s what a seven-round draft for the Bengals might look like if it happened now.

(Note: I completed this mock draft using the Beta version of our Mock Draft Machine 2.0, which you can access by becoming a TDN Premium member!)

Round 1 (No. 29 overall): Luke Musgrave TE, Oregon State

Hurst is likely on his way out of Cincinnati as a free agent after one year as a Bengal. Given the way Burrow and the Bengals’ offense likes to get their tight ends involved in the passing game (behind their leading receiver trio), finding a quality option to replace Hurst should be a priority. 

Musgrave was one of the biggest risers in the latest edition of the TDN100 big board, rising from No. 76 to No. 23 among our scouts after a standout performance at this year’s Senior Bowl. The way Musgrave is able to move at his size—6-foot-6 and 255 pounds—alone is enough to get excited about him as a tight end prospect. Add in his reliable hands and developmental upside, and he becomes even more exciting. With Musgrave, the Bengals would be adding another excellent pass-catching option with a very bright future to their offense.

Round 2 (No. 61 overall): Antonio Johnson SAF, Texas A&M

Between Bell and Bates, the safety position was one of the best overall groups the Bengals had on their roster. They may be able to keep one of the pending free agents around but definitely won’t be keeping both. 

Johnson is a physical defender who has established himself as one of the top safeties in his draft class. Along with the physicality and tackling ability he can bring to each play, Johnson has the versatility to play a variety of positions including slot corner (where he has proven capable of defending even tight ends and big slot receivers in college), split-zone safety, and even linebacker. 

The Texas A&M product’s versatility and high-level tackling would be a fantastic addition to Cincinnati’s defense, particularly if one or both of their current starting safeties head elsewhere.

Round 3 (No. 93 overall): Tyrique Stevenson CB, Miami (FL)

Another standout from this year’s Senior Bowl, Stevenson made his TDN100 debut this month at No. 90 overall. Thanks to the great length, high motor, and physicality he brings to the cornerback position, he could be a great fit for a Cincinnati team that likely will be in need of cornerbacks with Flowers and Apple hitting free agency this offseason. The greatest asset Stevenson would bring to the Bengals’ defense is his skill in press-man coverage, something he excelled at with the Hurricanes and showed off all week in Mobile.

Round 4 (No. 132 overall): Steve Avila IOL, TCU

Just like Stevenson and Musgrave, Avila maximized his Senior Bowl invite with an impressive showing all week in practice. He played both guard and center in Mobile, two positions that, as the Bengals learned the hard way, could always use some extra depth. 

All week at the Senior Bowl, Avila showed off mobility that wasn’t as apparent on his film—the Horned Frogs featured more of his power as a blocker. That seems to indicate he could fit both the zone-blocking scheme the Bengals leaned on in 2020 and 2021 as well as the gap-blocking scheme they started using more this year. Thanks to his scheme diversity, strength, and 30-plus games of experience, Avila could be an excellent addition to the Bengals’ offensive line group.

Round 5 (No. 166 overall): Sean Tucker RB, Syracuse

Cincinnati’s starting running back, Joe Mixon, took something of a step back after his first Pro Bowl year in 2021. Perine, the backup, is a free agent. With Tucker, the Bengals would get a great (and younger) complementary piece to Mixon in their backfield. 

With Mixon finding more success in gap and power run schemes this year, Tucker has the chance to become something of a change-of-pace back as a guy who thrived in outside-zone rushes during his college career. He has great vision, footwork, and explosiveness that allow him to navigate through early traffic and take the ball to the house if he breaks away into open space. The Syracuse product could provide just the “2” to the “1-2 punch” that the Bengals would need if Perine ends up elsewhere.

Round 6 (No. 207 overall): Jaxson Kirkland OT, Washington

As a guy that played both right guard and left tackle for the Huskies during his college career, Kirkland could provide the Bengals with an extra bit of depth for their offensive line. His five years (48 games) of college experience and the potential versatility he could bring are a couple of reasons to buy in, even if he will be a 25-year-old rookie when he makes his NFL debut.

Round 7 (No. 249 overall): Zakhari Franklin WR, UTSA

One year after setting UTSA program records for receptions (81), receiving yards (1,027), receiving yards per game (79), and receiving touchdowns (12), Franklin went out and broke all of his own records in 2022. He finished this year with 94 catches for 1,136 yards, averaging 81.1 yards per game with 15 receiving touchdowns. Franklin has excellent hands, phenomenal ball skills, and dominant playmaking ability. Should the Bengals part ways with Tee Higgins in the offseason, Franklin has the traits to be a starting X receiver that can step up and replace him.

Written By

Jack McKessy