The Cincinnati Bengals should attempt to trade up for C.J. Stroud and trade Joe Burrow before he signs a record-breaking contract extension. Do I have your attention? Good, let’s talk 2023 NFL Draft and possible landing spots for now-former Buckeyes... Although, once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye, am I right?
For the record, there is no validity or truth to the statement/opinion above. I am a Bengals fan and would be elated if “Joe Cool” is the team’s franchise quarterback for 15 years. Hell, make it 20, as I’ll gladly sign up for the Tom Brady experience right here and now.
Also, as great as I believe Stroud will eventually be, NFL teams are very hesitant to swap a proven commodity for a complete unknown. And QB seems to be the one position where money is not an object, provided said QB is elite.
But both the Bengals and Cleveland Browns do have team needs, many of which they will look to address by acquiring cheap, young talent in the upcoming draft. In all likelihood, Stroud, Jaxson Smith-Njigba, and Paris Johnson Jr. will be off the board before either Ohio team is on the clock, but that still leaves a handful of Scarlet and Gray draftees to choose from, beginning (presumably) with Cincinnati’s pick at No. 28 overall.
Remember, Cleveland traded their 2023 first-round pick – and organizational dignity – in the Deshaun Watson deal. They then traded their second-round pick for a slot receiver who failed to reach 500 yards (in 16 games) last season, but that’s too good a deal to pass up, right?
Not every Buckeye fills an immediate need for either of these professional teams, nor would they be a realistic option at certain points throughout the draft. Dawand Jones, for example, projects as a right tackle. The Browns have two-time All-Pro Jack Conklin at that position, on a recently signed $60 million dollar contract. Even if Jones were available when the team finally picks at No. 74 overall, “Big Thanos” does not make a ton sense. Let’s see who does, and where.
Team needs: Right tackle, tight end, secondary
Current picks (overall): 28, 60, 92, 131, 163, 206, 246
Each team will have additional needs, but I am only going to settle on a few. The Bengals have appeared in back-to-back AFC Championship games and have a talented young core. But they also lost four important players to free agency, creating a void at key positions. Fortunately, there are a few former Buckeyes who could replace the departed (via FA) and potentially even contribute right away.
Dawand Jones — Right tackle
How about that for foreshadowing? Jones plays a huge position of need, despite Cincinnati having Jonah Williams, La’el Collins, Cody Ford, and others currently on the roster. Williams recently requested a trade, Collins tore his ACL in December of last year, and Ford is simply not good.
The 6-foot-8, 370+ pound Jones has not really worked out for NFL teams but is still expected to go somewhere in the first 40 picks. At No. 28, the Bengals could land a cheap strong side protector for Burrow and add yet another Buckeye to their squad.
Zach Harrison — Defensive end
Defensive end is less of a need for Cincinnati, but I find it hard to justify another Ohio State player being targeted (at the positions above) before Harrison. The Bengals have two solid ends in Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard, another former Buckeye. They have also invested in the position with recent draft picks. But if Harrison is available at No. 92, his selection would be a no-brainer in my book.
He does not provide the speed Cincinnati needs off the edge, but does offer a well-rounded skillset. I could see him developing into a longer version of Hubbard.
Ronnie Hickman, Safety
Admittedly, I was not enamored with Hickman’s play in 2022. But I am willing to believe that his dip in production was the result of playing in a new defense which did not showcase his strengths. Hickman is never going to be a sticky cover safety. He is more of a see ball, get ball player, who I think could become a useful Von Bell-type in the right situation... Look at me just using OSU comps all over the place.
Lou Anarumo, who coached Bell in Cincy and is the Bengals’ defensive coordinator, is also a wizard who has gotten the best out of many defensive backs during his coaching career. If Hickman were on the board at No. 131, I think Sweet Lou could get some use out of him in the Queen City.
Team needs: Defensive line, linebacker, Chubb insurance
Current picks (overall): 74, 98, 111, 126, 142, 144, 190, 229
I am not as familiar with the Browns as I am the Bengals, but I know enough to tell you their defense stunk last year. But then again, so did the Buckeyes’ when it mattered most. Which means Cleveland’s most glaring weaknesses do not match up with the strengths of this 2023 Ohio State draft class. But we’re going to give this a shot anyway.
Zach Harrison — Defensive end
Drafting Harrison with pick No. 74 would not be the wisest decision in my book, but I am looking for guys who could provide solid value for the Browns. The team has thus far not re-signed Jadeveon Clowney, instead opting to move forward with Ogbannia Okoronkwo as their starting DE opposite Myles Garrett.
Okoronkwo is 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, played primarily outside linebacker prior to 2022, and has a total of 9.5 sacks in four professional seasons. He may ultimately flourish as a late bloomer, but Harrison would give Cleveland a traditional DE body type to try and develop.
Luke Wypler — Center
Center is not a need listed above, but the Browns’ current starter is a former guard who had multiple void years added to his recent contract extension. This means the team could get out from under his deal rather cheaply in the future. Or they could choose to draft and stockpile depth, which is where Wypler comes in.
I have seen the former Ohio State center mocked as high as 65, which seems ludicrous. But at No. 98 he makes a great deal of sense. Wypler’s addition would give Cleveland depth along their solid yet costly offensive line.
Cam Brown — Cornerback
Hear. Me. Out... The Browns have to good-to-great starting corners. Martin Emerson Jr. is a solid young third. But the rest of the team’s CB situation leaves a ton to be desired. Brown could add depth while also learning from BIA brother Denzel Ward. At the very least, he brings solid experience and special teams potential. No risk with pick No. 229.