1.31: Daxton Hill, Safety
Dax Hill was always selected as a long-term answer at safety rather than immediate starter, but his lack of playing time was disappointing. After playing everywhere in the secondary at Michigan and being billed as a versatile chess piece, Hill only played 150 defensive snaps. Lou Anarumo did not incorporate him into the weekly game plan like fans hoped. Whether that is a matter of development (safety is a position that takes time to acclimate to in the NFL) or schematic necessity, Hill will need to show more in year two. He will be counted on heavily if Jessie Bates or Vonn Bell does not return next season. Hill can quickly change the narrative of his selection with a breakout season, but for now, the pick can’t be graded highly.
2.60: Cam Taylor-Britt, Cornerback
Once he was activated off the Injured Reserve in Week Five, Cam Taylor-Britt was a difference maker in the Cincinnati secondary. When Chidobe Awuzie suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week Eight, Taylor-Britt was called upon to be a full-time starter. He stepped up to the challenge and played the most snaps from a rookie Bengal defender since Jessie Bates in 2018. He had his growing pains at times, as should be expected from a rookie corner, but really developed into a reliable player by the playoffs. Taylor-Britt is in line to be a starter next season and was arguably the team’s most impactful rookie.
3.95: Zach Carter, Defensive Tackle
Carter struggled to start the year, but really picked up his play after the bye week. He had a PFF grade of 64 or higher in five of the last seven games, serving as a rotational three-technique defender. Carter showed some juice as a pass rusher and improved strength against the run from his college tape. He still has a ways to go, but with continued development, Carter can be a meaningful piece for the defensive line, giving DJ Reader and BJ Hill much-needed rest.
4.136: Cordell Volson, Offensive Guard
After several years of a revolving door at left guard, Cordell Volson brought stability to the position. Was he a consistent standout? No, but he was also rarely a liability. You can’t ask for much more from a fourth round rookie offensive lineman. His status and upside as a long term starter can be debated, but Volson did his job in year one. Many, including myself, questioned the selection as a reach on draft day, but Volson has proved doubters wrong and looks like a solid mid-round find.
5.166: Tycen Anderson, Safety
Like they did with Taylor-Britt, Cincinnati traded up to grab Tycen Anderson in the draft. The tall, speedy, and athletic safety rarely saw the field due to injuries but has a lot of upside both on defense and special teams. I was very high on Anderson coming out of the draft due to his athletic traits and playmaking instincts. Expect Anderson to be a key special teamer in 2023 after a healthy offseason and also see some time as a dime defender, particularly if two of Bates, Bell, and Flowers do not return in free agency.
7.252: Jeffrey Gunter, Defensive End
It is difficult to accurately grade a seventh round pick, especially one that struggled with injuries at times like Gunter did. However, he stayed on the roster and flashed potential as a rotational edge rusher in the preseason. Making the team is really all that can be expected of a seventh round rookie, and Gunter’s true tests will come this offseason as he fights to earn more of a role on game days.
Overall Class: B+
The draft class is shaping up to be full of contributors across all three days of the draft. Dax Hill’s lack of an immediate impact dings the grade a bit, but that can be expected from a competing team that relied on veterans. The instant payoff from the Cam Taylor-Britt and Cordell Volson picks help the group, especially at their respective draft capitals. Zach Carter, Tycen Anderson, and Jeffrey Gunter all have the potential to develop into important depth/rotational players for the team, and Hill should grow into a larger role in the next few seasons. It’s a group that helped the team right away, but more importantly has the ability to improve and fill in roster gaps as the roster turns over. Hill or Taylor-Britt developing into a stud would raise this class from good to great.