A disruptive presence on the interior can wreck an offense, and to have that sort of player on a unit that includes Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson -- not to mention a criminally underrated secondary -- would spell trouble for the rest of the division. Ika is a house but moves like someone 50 pounds lighter than his listed weight of 350.
The Jessie Bates III contract situation may have blown over for the 2022 season but I would expect we will be hearing about this again come the winter. The good news? Brandon Joseph seemed to have taken a step toward rehabbing some of the negative reps he put on tape in 2022 with a strong first performance against the Ohio State Buckeyes as the man patrolling the back end of Notre Dame's defense. I thought the tackling and range looked as they should, and that pairs with high-level ball skills to create a promising package.
The Bengals have come to terms with the fact they won't be able to afford to keep Jessie Bates beyond the franchise tag in 2022. They need to save their resources for key contracts ahead for Tee Higgins, Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase. So it makes sense, like the Ravens did in their own division, landing a premier playmaker at the position from down the road in South Bend.
The Bengals had tremendous success reuniting Joe Burrow with former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase in 2021. A top-five national recruit out of high school, Gilbert had 35/368/2 receiving as a true freshman at LSU in '20. Gilbert sat out '21 for personal reasons and he now joins a loaded tight end depth chart in Athens, but his combination of size and athleticism makes him a true mismatch that could vault him into the TE1 spot in '23 if he breaks out this season.
What a steal this would be for Joe Burrow and the Bengals. I'm not sure we can say there are 20 better prospects right now than Mayer, a terrific young tight end (and No. 15 on Dane's preseason board). This is definitely an interesting group of tight ends, overall, but — as is often the case at the position — it's hard to say this early how high the top guys will land. Everyone in Cincinnati surely would love this, though. Mayer is cut from the prototypical your-quarterback's-best-friend cloth. He does a bit of everything well.
Cincinnati has sneakily built a defense that is tough as nails. Players like Trey Hendrickson, Jessie Bates III, Dax Hill, and Chidobe Awuzie are all absolute dogs and bring a physical temperament to the roster. All they are missing is a true difference-maker in the second level of their defense and it just so happens one falls to their laps.
Noah Sewell is a big-bodied linebacker who plays downhill and is excellent at defeating blocks. His ability to play physical against the run while also having the athletic ability to play in space and cover will allow him to be a difference-maker on all three downs.
The next great Oregon defensive back to make the leap to the NFL could very well be Colorado transfer Christian Gonzalez. Standing 6'2" and 200 pounds, Gonzalez hit 23.3 mph on the GPS last season and jumped 42" in the vertical jump.
He is fluid on the outside and maintained proper leverage against every receiver he faced last season. Similar results with the Ducks on a larger national stage will see Gonzalez contend for a first-round pick.
The Bengals are searching for more depth and young talent at cornerback, and Smith has length, aggressiveness and a great demeanor. He has to play with more control in his press-man technique, but his ball skills are one of his better traits, as displayed by three picks and 11 passes broken up in 2021. A person on South Carolina's coaching staff told me Smith "is poised to take the next step and has looked unbelievable during camp."