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It's "Dawand Jones No Matter What" To Kick Off This 2023 Cincinnati Bengals 7-Round Mock Draft

Seven-round mock drafts are no joke. I raced through 10 different scenarios (shoutout PFF's TURBO setting), and came to the inescapable conclusion that Ohio State right tackle Dawand Jones needs to be a Cincinnati Bengal.

Jones was the 28th overall pick in three of 10 simulations. Sure, Cincinnati can fuck around and try to put a Band-Aid on that position of dire need. However, given the mind-blowing move to sign Orlando Brown Jr. and the proactive approach to protect Joe Burrow over the past two offseasons, it'd be weird if right tackle wasn't addressed early in the draft.

The learning curve can be steep for tackles transitioning to the NFL. Look no further than how bad Andrew Thomas was out of the gates for the Giants, only to ascend to elite status by Year 3.

Jones is such a man mountain (6-8, 374) with an athletic background in basketball and experience at an elite program that he should be able to make the adjustment. Plus, the Bengals' o-line is so solid at the other four spots that it can handle whatever growing pains Jones needs to go through.

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So let's get into this properly. I'll provide a couple alternatives for each pick based on who was available across the 10 mock scenarios I ran through. To be clear: I'm down to clown with Bijan Robinson if he's there. Don't think it's realistic to hope for. Bijan was off the board in nine of 10 mock sims.

[Top 100 Big Board] | [Latest 2023 NFL Mock Draft]

Round 1, Pick 28 Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State

Covered him pretty well in the intro above, but seriously, Jones is an absolute monster. The dream is to move La'el Collins back to to his original NFL position of left guard once he's healthy. 

With his immense size, the Ohio State tackle is a mauler in the running game, with a nasty streak that fits nicely into the Bengals' group of self-described glass eaters. It's not like Jones is super raw, either. He's going to have to make some refinements of course when dealing with speed rushers off the edge, yet he's got such power, excellent hands at the point of attack and, honestly, has some margin for error in pass protection because of how elusive Joey B is in the pocket. Just getting around Jones is a task in and of itself. Good luck going through him. Come on, Duke Tobin. Make Dawand Jones a Bengal!!

Other options: Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma / Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

Round 2, Pick 60: DJ Turner, CB, Michigan

How about going Ohio State-Michigan in consecutive picks! Columbus' Who Dey Nation faction is squirming at this one. But it makes sense, as the Bengals just selected former Wolverines star Dax Hill in Round 1 last year. You never want to go off Combine numbers as the only reason you draft someone. While DJ Turner's 4.26-second 40-yard dash was stupid fast, it's more to do with his multiple years of successful starting experience in tandem with the tantalizing physical tools. You put a freaky, smart athlete like Turner in a complex scheme under the tutelage of Lou Anarumo, and it's hard to fuck it up too badly. Turner gives Cincinnati some insurance at a key spot with incumbent CB1 Chidobe Awuzie entering a contract year off a torn ACL. Cornerback is a premium position. Not the biggest need for the Bengals, but worth the 60th pick nonetheless.

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Other options: Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State / Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M

Round 3, Pick 92: Jammie Robinson, S, Florida State

Anarumo seems to like speedier guys. The fact that Jammie Robinson isn't an elite athlete comparatively speaking and is undersized for a safety make him a seemingly unlikely fit. That said, Vonn Bell wasn't a speed demon sensation, just a versatile, savvy football player who shined in the Bengals' scheme. I could see a similar path unfolding for Robinson, who can handle tight ends in the slot a la Tre Flowers, hold his own on split safety looks at either spot, or just tee off on opponents as a box safety. Versatility is paramount for Anarumo, and at this point, no defensive back of Robinson's caliber and ability to play multiple spots is on the board.

Other options: Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane / Wanya Morris, RT, Oklahoma

Round 4, Pick 131: Zack Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion

Irv Smith Jr. feels like a stopgap starter until further notice. In all the sims I ran, I agonized over Darnell Washington at 28th overall but had to go with Dawand. Washington wasn't there at No. 60 in any of the 10 sims. Thus, Cincinnati kicks of Day 3 with a developmental, high-upside weapon in Kuntz who could make an immediate impact with a QB like Burrow throwing him the ball and defenses needing to account for so many other Bengals pass-catchers.

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Other options: Anthony Johnson Jr., S, Iowa State / Juice Scruggs, OL, Penn State

Round 5, Pick 163: Keaton Mitchell, RB, East Carolina

This was actually going to be a double-dip on corners with UAB riser Starling Thomas V until Joe Mixon was recharged in a legal case on Friday. Mixon's future is very much up in the air. Although the Bengals have some capable backfield depth in Trayveon Williams and Chris Evans, Keaton Mitchell brings an explosive element the running back room lacks right now. Mitchell is undersized (5-8, 179). To me, that's part of his appeal. Behind such a huge line and with an excellent passing attack to support him, it's easy to see how Mitchell could rip off some big chunk runs. Already some connections to the Bengals, by the way!

Other options: Starling Thomas V, CB, UAB / Jalen Redmond, DL, Oklahoma

Round 6, Pick 206: Jonah Tavai, DL, San Diego State

Concerns over length, 'tweener size/status and level of competition will hurt Jonah Tavai's draft stock. I can't stop thinking about him, though. Tavai lined up pretty much everywhere for the Aztecs and dominated from wherever he was. It's hard to luck into Tavai's level of production. Eighty-six QB hurries and 22 sacks in the last two seasons, per PFF.

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Other options: Jason Taylor II, S, Oklahoma State / Matt Landers, WR, Arkansas

Round 7, Pick 246: Justin Shorter, WR, Florida

Coming out of high school, Justin Shorter was the No. 1 wide receiver recruit from the class of 2018. And let me tell you, it was a loaded group. Ranked well ahead of fellow Penn State commit and eventual first-round pick Jahan Dotson, Shorter also outclassed Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Chris Olave, and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Just to name five. The Gators wasted Shorter's potential and he's underachieved in a big way given his blue-chip, 5-star prep status. He'd be a fun project to groom as a potential WR4. Another option: Bulk him up — at Florida's pro day, Shorter was 6-4, 234 — and possibly try him at tight end. Could be a mismatch maker.

Other options: Brett Neilon, C, USC / Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok