Over the past couple of offseasons, the Cincinnati Bengals have diligently worked at overhauling many positions on their roster. They’ve successfully bolstered the quarterback, linebacker and wide receiver spots, as well as having done some recent good work along the offensive and defensive lines.
Yet, one position that continues to shape many NFL offenses is looking a little thin—both in the short and long-term. After losing CJ Uzomah and facing expiring contracts in 2022 with Drew Sample, Thaddeus Moss, Mitchell Wilcox and Uzomah’s immediate replacement, Hayden Hurst, the tight end position has a lot of questions.
While the holy wideout triumvirate of Tyler Boyd, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are immense weapons for Joe Burrow, having another big, athletic chain-mover and red zone weapon would make this Bengals offense even more formidable. It so happens that the top tight end in the 2022 NFL Draft class—Colorado State’s Trey McBride—fits the bill.
Age: 22 (Turns 23 midway through 2022 season)
Position: tight end
Projected Round: Late First-Late Second
After being a highly-touted high school athlete in the state of Colorado, McBride joined the Rams and began playing immediately as a true freshman. McBride suited up for every game over three years and produced—even in the Covid-shortened 2020 campaign where Colorado State played just four games.
McBride fought through quarterback inconsistencies to log 10 career receiving touchdowns and a top-five receiving yardage campaign (1,121) in FBS history last year. He grew from a First-Team All-Mountain West selection as a sophomore to the 2021 Mackey Award winner, as the nation’s top tight end.
The Rams’ coaching staff nominated McBride as a team captain over the past two seasons. He was also privileged to have his brother, Toby, as a teammate at CSU.
McBride is a guy who has a mean mentality—in the best of ways—when the football is in the air and in his hands. He finds soft spots in defenses and always seems to come down with the football in the middle of the field—be it in a contested catch situation or not.
You’re going to need some pretty good hands if you’re going to log 90 catches in 12 games. To boot, McBride averaged a 100-yard receiving game once every other contest.
When he’s lumbering downfield with the ball in his hands, he has been known to occasionally carry defenders, or leap over them for a big play. He’s a physical guy who isn’t afraid of contact and spent most of his time with the Rams as a true inline tight end.
Additionally, McBride is a guy who seemed to continuously improve and produce more, as more was asked of him. “Team captain, you say? I’ll go be an All-American. First team designation? Mackey Award win it is!”
Goofiness aside and to bring at least some points of data here, McBride had an excellent 95.1 overall Pro Football Focus score as a senior at CSU. As John Sheeran notes in the video above, McBride also performed in the 98th percentile at the position, in terms of positional market share.
And, while there have been some athleticism questions, his very good 40-yard dash time of 4.54 at his Pro Day quelled a lot of concern and rose his stock.
Even with the good 40 time, McBride isn’t known as being overly-explosive or an athletic freak for the position. He has functional athleticism for the NFL, but we aren’t talking about the Jimmy Graham/Tony Gonzalez basketball background, uber-athlete.
And, if you’re the Bengals you have to be a little bit concerned of the lack of touchdown receptions by McBride, given their own late-season red zone issues. Yes, a lot of that had to do with erratic CSU quarterback play, but if the Bengals are to make a high investment in this position, they need a guy who can get the ball in the end zone with some frequency.
McBride’s blocking isn’t known as outstanding, though it is passable. And, while he occasionally lined up in the slot and out wide, the vast majority of his snaps were as the inline tight end. In today’s NFL, a lot of teams would like a little more versatility from a high pick at the position.
Really, the weaknesses of McBride aren’t glaring, but rather stem from the hoping of more “wow” traits from the consensus top tight end in the class.
McBride should become a good NFL tight end. He’s proven to be durable, is seemingly a high-character guy and continues to rise to the occasion when responsibility is added to his plate.
For a team looking for a perennial All-Pro and/or the next Travis Kelce, they may be disappointed, but not every team needs that right now. Such is the case with the Bengals and their All-Star receiving corps. It’s more about having another above-average weapon in the arsenal for Burrow.
While that may seem like a luxury utility for a premium pick, it would be an addition that would make the Bengals’ offense that much more formidable. Cincinnati often selects players with whom they meet and/or workout, so connecting the dots with tight ends coach James Casey personally working out McBride at his Pro Day is an easy task.
We’ll see if it comes to fruition, but with the Bengals taking care of the offensive line in free agency, cornerback and tight end and few others remain atop the needs scale.
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