Cincinnati Bengals NFL Draft Picks & Grades 2022: Bengals Go Big on Secondary After Fixing O-Line in Free Agency

The Bengals had two significant needs entering this offseason – the offensive line and the secondary. In free agency, they added offensive tackle La’el Collins and interior offensive linemen Alex Cappa and Ted Karras to shore up that unit. With their elite skill position talent returning and a solid group of talent in the front seven, they turned to the draft to address their secondary and found a few great players to boost their pass defense. While the AFC continues to get stronger, the Bengals have done enough to reload their roster and challenge for another deep playoff run.

Cincinnati Bengals Draft Picks 2022

Round 1 No. 31 S Daxton Hill
Round 2 No. 60 CB Cam Taylor-Britt
Round 3 No. 95 DT Zachary Carter
Round 4 No. 136 OT Cordell Volson
Round 5 No. 166 S Tycen Anderson
Round 7 No. 252 DE Jeffrey Gunter

Overall Draft Grade: B

Analysis: There’s one major issue hanging over this draft: the contract situation of star safety Jessie Bates. The team’s defensive captain was one of the most integral parts of their run to the Super Bowl last year, and locking him up long-term should be a top priority. However, Cincinnati has a reputation for being stingy with top talent in the open market, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see them let Bates walk. If the Bengals are drafting Hill and Taylor-Britt to help replace Bates in a year’s time, this draft wouldn’t receive the same grade for me as I see that as a flawed process.

Still, it would be unfair to hold a potential hypothetical with Bates against the Bengals with what is overall a really solid draft class. Daxton Hill was a clear first-round talent to me, and his versatility and athleticism help raise the floor for Cincinnati’s pass defense. Cam Taylor-Britt is an enticing talent with the potential to replace Eli Apple as a starting cornerback as soon as this season. The rest of the draft provides some solid depth at crucial positions, and overall, this is a strong draft with critical needs addressed for the Bengals.

Cincinnati Bengals Draft Grades 2022

Round: 1 Pick: 31 / Daxton Hill, S, Michigan

I love Hill as a prospect, not just because I’m a Michigan guy, although I got to watch his elite athleticism in full force plenty of times. At Michigan, Hill had excellent ball production with four interceptions and 15 pass breakups across 32 career games. He’s also an elite athlete with a 95th percentile or better grade in the 40-yard dash and 3-cone drill, arguably the two most essential drills at the combine. However, this grade gets just a B+ for me as I’m confused by his fit in the Cincinnati defense. He has two main roles he can fill as a deep safety or as a slot defender. The Bengals already have Mike Hilton, one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL, and a very talented free safety in Bates. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo is very capable of using all of the team’s secondary talent in creative ways. Still, if Hill is only a part-time player, I wonder if the team would have been better off taking a high-octane edge rusher with this pick.

Grade: B+

Round: 2 Pick: 60 / Cam Taylor-Britt, CB, Nebraska

Cam Taylor-Britt played safety and cornerback in his first two seasons at Nebraska before finding a home as a full-time boundary cornerback. He displayed excellent ball skills and physicality at Nebraska – his 18 interceptions and forced incompletions rank as the most among Big Ten cornerbacks since 2020. However, with that ball production came some frustrating mental lapses and poor anticipation in coverage that saw him get burned at times. Taylor-Britt ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the combine, so he has more than adequate recovery speed, but the margins only shrink for mistakes in the NFL, and there could be a steep learning curve for him. I can see him as a capable physical press cornerback in time.

Grade: B

Round: 3 Pick: 95 / Zachary Carter, DT, Florida

The Carter selection was my least favorite draft pick by the Bengals this year, as I don’t love his profile. Carter has a below-average first step and isn’t a particularly explosive athlete, so I wouldn’t expect him to be a consistent pass-rushing presence. At just 282 pounds and with a tight base, he struggles to maintain leverage inside. The Senior Bowl wasn’t kind to him either, and I wonder if the Bengals went into the draft with the express plan of drafting a defensive tackle on Day 2. Carter was selected at least a round too early for me, and while he can be a decent rotational piece, I struggle to see the upside here.

Grade: C-

Round: 4 Pick: 136 / Cordell Volson, OT, North Dakota State

While the Bengals have their starting five on the offensive line fairly set, it’s always good to have depth, especially in a player like Cordell Volson, who can fill in at guard or tackle. Volson was a three-year starter at left tackle with consistent pass-rushing production – PFF charted him with just 14 total pressures allowed and no sacks over 906 pass-blocking snaps. However, Volson will turn 24 years old before the start of the season, and neither possesses the athleticism of Zach Tom or the strength of Darian Kinnard. I had those versatile offensive line prospects rated higher than Volson, and both were still available with this pick.

Grade: C+

Round: 5 Pick: 166 / Tycen Anderson, S, Toledo

Believe it or not, the Bengals trading up eight spots to get Anderson was the third-largest trade-up in franchise history. With Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell both projected free agents in 2023, the Bengals continued to add to their depth at the safety position with one of the best athletes in this draft class in Anderson. The Toledo product tested with a 9.49 RAS featuring a 97th percentile 4.36-second 40-yard dash and 93rd percentile 6.64-second 3-cone drill. Anderson’s instincts need work, but he can fill a number of roles in Anarumo’s defense that features varied looks in the secondary.

Grade: B+

Round: 7 Pick: 252 / Jeffrey Gunter, DE, Coastal Carolina

I expected Gunter to be more of a fifth or sixth-round pick with his elite athleticism at a premium position – he had a 9.75 RAS. However, he struggles to set the edge with inconsistent footwork and below-average hand strength, so he’s best suited for a part-time pass-rushing role for now. That’s just fine for the Bengals, who have Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard set in place and have high hopes for Joseph Ossai this year after missing his rookie season. Gunter’s diverse pass-rushing skill set and high-energy play make him a valuable depth piece for the Bengals’ edge rotation.

Grade: A

I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. With my educational background in the sports business and a strong knowledge of the inner workings of professional and collegiate sports, I hope to tell enthralling stories about the world of sports as it unfolds around me.

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