Bengals’ scouts reveal details about Cincinnati’s 2024 NFL Draft class

CINCINNATI BENGALS — Moments occur in the life of a scout all the time. Sometimes they come at predictable instances, like when a 6-foot-8, 345-pound athletic behemoth walks out the door of the interview suite at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Bengals’ scouts reveal details about Cincinnati’s 2024 NFL Draft class
Bengals’ scouts reveal details about Cincinnati’s 2024 NFL Draft class

Others are less predictable. There’s a double take during one of the most physical practices in college football, being sent a speech a prospect gave to the team on the first day of training camp or a surprising conversation that peels back the onion of what makes a player tick.

Everyone watches the games and anybody with a stable WiFi connection can rank players.

But these details, uncovered during thankless months dissecting every angle of every player, drive conversations and determine draft paths.

For the Bengals personnel staff, that was the case in a 10-player class where they didn’t once trade a pick — and only once really considered it — but trusted these details and opinions gathered along the way.

Here’s a look behind the curtain at the details that drew the Bengals personnel staff to the 2024 draft picks.

First round (18): Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia

The process leading to Mims meant sifting through one of the deepest collections of first-round tackles in recent draft history.

The options were apparent as the top tackles made their way through the Bengals’ interview suite during the scouting combine. But observing and listening to Mims left one predominant thought for Bengals director of pro scouting Steven Radicevic when he walked out the door.

“I said, ‘There is no chance he’s getting to us at 18,’” Radicevic said. “Tackles, first of all, are always overdrafted. It’s rare to have as many good tackles as there were in this draft class for a guy like that to fall to us.”

Six tackles went in the first 20 picks, along with six quarterbacks in the top 12. A small sample size of eight starts for Mims and it created the ideal recipe to make what felt like an impossibility land in their laps.

Cincinnati Bengals 2024 Draft Grade | PFF

In 2020, director of college scouting Mike Potts stated he knew on the drive from Tuscaloosa to the Atlanta airport after watching LSU win at Alabama that Joe Burrow was the No. 1 pick in the draft. That came 22 starts and a transfer into Burrow’s career.

He believed in Mims after start one.

“Watching that Ohio State playoff game last year as a young, true sophomore, he’s out there playing in the first start of his career shutting down some really impressive guys on the edge at Ohio State in a national semifinal,” Potts said. “That’s really where he jumped out.”

Potts remembered spotting Mims as a massive, true freshman and being impressed by how he held his own, specifically in pass protection, in practice against Georgia’s collection of top draft picks on defense.

“Watching him against high-end guys that have been as high as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft that he’s blocking every day,” Potts said. “He makes a heck of an impression going against some of the best competition in the country there.”

After the pick on ABC, former Alabama coach Nick Saban offered comments suggesting there’s a motivational issue with Mims and accused him of pulling himself out of the SEC Championship Game due to injury.

“Yeah, a lot of people are talking about it, it is what it is,” Mims said the day after the selection. “Everybody has their own opinions. I don’t really care what he said or had to say, honestly. I’m just glad to be a Cincinnati Bengal. I have a lot of respect for Coach Saban, he’s one of the greatest college coaches. It is what it is. I’m just glad to be a Cincinnati Bengal.”

Mims at one point was verbally committed to Saban and Alabama but switched to Georgia. All of the details were far from breaking news inside the Bengals’ draft room.

“I feel like most of the time they are going to try to give you more of the negative just so you are aware of it than the positive,” Radicevic said. “It’s rare to find somebody squeaky clean. Somebody has to have something they can say negative about a player.”


Second round (49): Kris Jenkins, DT, Michigan

If ever there was a challenger to the idea that there’s always something negative to be said about a player, it might be Jenkins.

Zac Taylor talked about how Jenkins sat down in his office on a 30 visit and the head coach didn’t know what to talk to him about because his background is so squeaky clean. A charismatic captain at Michigan, he won a national title, he’s the son of a former Pro Bowler, growing up around the game, he comes off as a professional in every way imaginable, on the field and off.

The question as the Bengals watched their board whittle away was whether they should trade up and grab him or merely hope slid.

“We talked about what to give up to move up, we still had guys there in the second round that we liked that were hanging around so we felt like we would be able to get one of the few guys we had at the top of our board in the second round,” Radicevic said. “We didn’t feel pressed to give up a real asset to go get that guy. The second round worked out.”

This was the most tempting moment — in terms of a move — all draft, which is remarkable considering there were 10 picks and an abundance of options throughout the three days.

“There were definitely conversations we had moving up in the second round and really every round, moving up, moving back,” Potts said. “There were probably over 100, if I had to guess, phone calls, texts about trades, but the way it worked out we did a really good job staying patient. There were at least one or two guys there where we didn’t feel like we were dropping down a level of player.”

Michigan Wolverines

Kris Jenkins could be a solution for the Bengals at defensive tackle after the departure of D.J. Reader in free agency. (Ben Jackson / Getty Images)

Potts talked about how Jenkins’ personality was magnetic at the combine interview and on his 30 visit, noting that left a lasting impression beyond that of a single quality interview.

“The best thing is that aligns with the way coaches (at Michigan) talk about him,” Potts said. “Strength coaches, position coach, trainer, academic people. They describe that type of personality and you see it for yourself face to face, look him in the eye, you feel his presence.”

They think teams will feel his presence as well. He excelled stopping the run for Michigan, but Potts sees even more possibilities with his game.

“He’s a really versatile guy. We like how well-rounded his game is,” Potts said. “We think he has some more untapped potential in his body and as a pass rusher.”


Third round (80): Jermaine Burton, WR, Alabama


Third round (97): McKinnley Jackson, DT, Texas A&M

The list of accolades rolls off the tongue as Bengals area scout Christian Sarkisian discusses the background of the 330-pound Aggies defensive tackle.

“He’s a five-star kid coming out of high school,” Sarkisian said. “In 2020, as a freshman, he’s all-freshman SEC, 2021 he won the team’s toughness award, 2022 defensive leadership award, ‘23 defensive MVP award, ‘23 strength and conditioning award, then he’s a two-year captain in ‘22 and ‘23. The guy is such a high achiever.”

Those all sound nice, but aren’t the hammer selling point when he talks up what Jackson could bring to the Bengals.

Sure, start by turning on the tape of the Southwest Classic between Texas A&M and Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“The game he put together, he was embarrassing guys,” Sarkisian said.

The kicker was what he witnessed at practices.

“Consistent intensity,” Sarkisian said. “He plays the way you want that position to be played: mean, strong, physical. Going to a practice there and seeing how he operates was special.”

McKinnley Jackson tackles future Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels on a two-point conversion attempt during a 2022 game against LSU. (Jerome Miron / USA Today)

Fourth round (115): Erick All, TE, Iowa

Very few questions exist about the potential of All, a former captain at Michigan and transfer to Iowa, perhaps the most impressive background for a tight end in college football. Cornerback DJ Turner came in with All at Michigan and said he clearly was a “first-round tight end” back then. A back injury followed by a torn ACL last year at Iowa made his evaluation challenging.

The Bengals’ process of handling injury concerns allowed them to find value.

“We grade everything A-F medical grade at the top line,” Potts said. “Scouts also have a medical grade from the trainers and those guys at the colleges they visit in the fall … You put a grade on the guy, you have a timeline, in this case, a current injury he is rehabbing and coming back from, you put that timeline on when our doctors project him to be ready and go from there in terms of grading him. End of the day, you have to put the value on it. Grade the tape, you think his tape is a little bit better than a guy you can get in the fourth round. We are fortunate to get him there because of those other factors.”

Sarkisian started working in the Big 10 at Northwestern and swears by his sources in the Big 10 West. So, when he specifically heard what was being said about All at Iowa, he went in deeper.

“They talk about him the same way they do all the other Iowa tight ends (Sam LaPorta, George Kittle, etc.),” Sarkisian said. “He was a captain at Michigan, he would have been a captain there if he were there longer. He was really the only offense on that Iowa team this year. He’s a dynamic playmaker, physical run blocker, we are getting a pretty darned polished player once we are ready to roll with him.”

One of the observations from practice visits for Sarkisian revolved around the joy he saw in All playing the game. There was a genuine excitement like you’d expect to see from a high school kid.

“Iowa practices are some of the most physical you will find in college football,” Sarkisian said. “They go live every day during camp it feels like. Every time I’ve been there it’s late whistles and full-speed tempo stuff. This kid is having a dominant practice. It is fun to watch him play football because the energy he plays it with.”

Fifth round (149): Josh Newton, CB, TCU

The video lives on as an urban legend of sorts at TCU. On the first day of training camp kicking off what turned out to be a dream run to the national championship game, Josh Newton stood before his new teammates as a transfer from Louisiana-Monroe and told his story.

“They rave about him at the school,” Radicevic said. “High character, really battled through adversity throughout his playing career, throughout his life.”

Newton could have entered the draft following that 13-1 season that concluded with a demoralizing 65-7 loss to Georgia in the national championship. Sarkisian viewed him as an easy Day 2 pick at that point.

“But with this kid, he felt the love from TCU that they took a chance on him,” he said. “He felt like it was his team. He was voted captain so he felt like he was part of the core of that team. He wanted to come back. He had faith they lost all those offensive guys but they could have gone back and won the national championship. Get that taste of losing out of his mouth. It’s rare to find these days. He’s an old-school dude, tough guy that has that approach about him that it’s loyalty-first and team-first.”

He was a wide receiver when recruited to Louisiana-Monroe out of high school but found his football home after transitioning to cornerback. Sarkisian points to his ball production with four interceptions and 24 passes defensed the last two years at TCU and the profile felt familiar.

“His love of football and his transition from an offensive player to a defensive player, it’s really similar to Cam Taylor-Britt, just doing both their backgrounds, in terms of the edge those guys play with, the level of competition those guys play with,” he said.

What hurt Newton this draft cycle was his timed speed, specifically a 4.47 and 4.51 at the combine. Not awful, of course, but looking around the Bengals’ cornerback room full of 4.2s and 4.3s, there’s a knock.

“His speed, I don’t worry about there,” Radicevic said. “I didn’t see a speed-deficient player on tape.”

He played faster than he timed. A quote from the TCU strength and conditioning coach stood out in how Sarkisian viewed it.

“He’s going to test fine, but you put him up against the fastest guy and he always finds a way to win,” Sarkisian said, relaying the analysis. “He’s one of those guys who he’s faster (when he’s) chasing something.”

Sixth round (194): Tanner McLachlan, TE, Arizona

Sixth round: (214): Cedric Johnson, DE, Ole Miss

Seventh round (224): Daijahn Anthony, DB, Ole Miss

Seventh round (237): Matt Lee, C, Miami

Potts on sticking and using all the late picks rather than trading, consolidating with a deep roster: “Football is a violent game. There is going to be injuries. Our roster right now after the draft isn’t what our roster will be a month from now, our training camp roster and certainly not October, November, hopefully into January and February. A guy that doesn’t have a clear fit to make it right now, you are going to be glad you had that guy later. You can have competition to push other guys to do better as well. It’s a great thing. You can never go wrong adding competition to the roster.”

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