Bengals: 3 sleeper prospects to target in 2024 NFL Draft

As the 2024 NFL Draft approaches, the Cincinnati Bengals are keen to turn the page on a 2023 season that fell short of expectations. Finishing with a record of 9-8, they missed the postseason and secured a third-place finish in the AFC North. Yet, they do have a young, talented roster and an upcoming draft class brimming with potential. As such, the Bengals are well-positioned to make significant strides in 2024. This piece shines a spotlight on three underrated prospects Cincinnati could aim to draft: Brandon Dorlus, Dominick Puni, and Jacob Cowing.

Cincinnati Bengals’ 2023 Season Recap

The previous season was fraught with challenges for the Bengals. It was marred by an inconsistent start and significant injuries. The most pivotal moment came in Week 11 against Baltimore. That was when Joe Burrow sustained a severe injury to his throwing hand. Despite a momentary spark of brilliance with a touchdown pass following the injury, Burrow’s season was abruptly ended. Backup Jake Browning stepped in as his replacement. Despite his efforts, though, Cincy was unable to enter the playoffs. This led to a bottom finish in their division. The Bengals missed the playoffs after back-to-back postseason appearances in 2021 and 2022.

Offseason Context

In the offseason, the Bengals have been proactive. They notably enhanced their roster through free agency. In particular, the acquisition of Geno Stone stands out as a pivotal move. With a young secondary already in place, the addition of a seasoned safety like Stone is a strategic win for Cincinnati. This is even more pronounced especially because he came from division rival Baltimore. Stone enters off a career-best year, too. He had seven interceptions and nine passes defensed in 2023.

The Bengals also made strategic adjustments in the backfield by signing Zack Moss and trading away Joe Mixon. Sure, Mixon was productive. However, his ability to generate explosive plays had diminished. Moss, on the other hand, demonstrated exceptional efficiency with the Colts. He ranked fifth in rushing yards over expectation per carry last season.

Of course, the signing of Mike Gesicki addresses a critical gap from last year – the absence of a reliable receiving tight end. Gesicki’s potential to thrive in this role could significantly bolster the Bengals’ offense.

Here we will look at the three sleeper rookie prospects that the Cincinnati Bengals have to target in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Brandon Dorlus, DL, Oregon

Brandon Dorlus might not have wowed scouts with his combine performance. He did measure at 6’3 and 283 pounds with less-than-stellar athletic testing results at Lucas Oil Stadium. Yet, his on-field performance tells a different story. Over the last three seasons, Dorlus has tallied 23 tackles for loss. He also led all college defensive linemen with nine passes defended in 2023. These show his knack for disrupting plays. Unlike the prototypical defensive lineman who relies on sheer power, Dorlus demonstrates a finesse and strategic approach. He makes good use of his timing and a keen eye for the quarterback’s movements to deflect passes. Because of this, he can create a lot of turnover opportunities for his team.

Dominick Puni, OL, Kansas

Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin recognizes the crucial role of the offensive line in protecting star quarterback Joe Burrow. As such, the Bengals could greatly benefit from a versatile lineman like Dominick Puni. With experience at multiple positions across the line during his time in college, Puni has proven his adaptability. His performance at the Senior Bowl highlighted his potential to provide the Bengals with much-needed versatility. This is particularly true of his work as a center and guard. As Cincinnati prepares for the possible departure of key linemen to free agency in 2025, Puni’s ability to fill various roles could make him an invaluable addition as early as his rookie year.

Kansas offensive lineman Dominick Puni (OL59) during the 2024 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jacob Cowing, WR, Arizona

Keep in mind that the Bengals’ receiving corps will potentially undergo significant changes in 2024. As such, the addition of a dynamic player like Jacob Cowing could inject vitality into their offensive strategy. Yes, there are concerns about his size and strength. That said, Cowing’s impressive speed makes him a threat in the vertical passing game. This was evidenced by a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the combine. In addition, he can become a slot receiver capable of generating substantial yards after the catch. Cowing’s agility and playmaking ability could offer a fresh dimension to the Bengals’ passing game. This is especially true in scenarios that demand quick, impactful plays. Burrow would love having this kid around.

Looking Ahead

At the 2024 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals will try to identify and secure under-the-radar talent who could be the key to a successful season rebound. We’ve talked about unheralded prospects like Brandon Dorlus, Dominick Puni, and Jacob Cowing. With them, the Bengals have the opportunity to address critical areas of need while adding depth and versatility to their roster. Each of these players brings a unique set of skills that could complement the existing core and provide immediate impact. That’s whether it’s bolstering the defensive line, strengthening the offensive line, or adding a new weapon to the receiving corps. By targeting these sleeper prospects, the Bengals could lay the groundwork for a strong and more competitive team. This could signal a return to prominence after a season of disappointment.

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