Bengals address defense with first pick of third round

The Cincinnati Bengals added to their offense with their first two picks of the NFL Draft, then addressed the biggest need on defense in the third round.

Cincinnati selected Wyoming linebacker Logan Wilson at No. 65 overall to start off the third round on Friday night after taking Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins in the second round earlier in the evening and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow at No. 1 overall on Thursday.

Wilson was a first-team All-Mountain West Conference pick as a senior and a third-team Associated Press All-American after finishing the 2019 season with 104 tackles, 9.5 for loss, one sack, three interceptions and six pass breakups in 13 starts.

“He’s a guy we had highly rated,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “Our defensive staff certainly has been holding their breath all day because we got to know this kid at the Senior Bowl. He really impressed us playing on the other team there. … We followed him over the next four months and really just felt like he was a great fit. Again, all the things we’ve been talking about. He’s a three-down player, he’s physical, he can run, he’s got the right mentality. We’re just excited to add him to that side of the ball.”

Wilson was a three-year captain at Wyoming, and he brings the mentality of a former high school cornerback and wide receiver to the linebacker position.

The Bengals have been thin at that spot, despite adding veteran middle linebacker Josh Bynes in free agency, and Taylor likes that Wilson could play multiple roles for the Bengals. Getting a linebacker on Day 2 wasn’t necessarily a necessity, Taylor said, but it worked out that Wilson was available and they were able to fit a need with him on the board.

“We wanted to find the right value,” Taylor said. “There were some great players that were there, but we felt like he certainly fit. It was all about Tee Higgins at 33. It was all about Logan Wilson right here at 65. So we certainly identified linebacker as a position of need, something we needed to add at some point. If the right person wasn’t there, then we were comfortable taking another position if we needed to. Fortunately, Logan was there and we jumped all over it. And it worked out well for us.”

Wilson said he was aware the Bengals were in need of linebackers and likes that he is going somewhere he could make an impact right away. He was a 14-game starter as a redshirt freshman at Wyoming in 2014, earning Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year recognition, and has been a productive contributor to the Cowboys’ defense ever since.

“I’m very (much) looking forward to the opportunity to coming in and earning the respect of the guys in the locker room and then just be able to fly around and make some plays,” Wilson said. “I’m going to play at a very high effort. Bengals fans can count on that. So, I’m going to give Cincinnati everything I have.”

The Casper, Wyoming, native said the draft process was somewhat stressful, but he felt like being a hybrid linebacker would make him more valuable in today’s NFL. He wasn’t personally hearing from a lot of teams as the draft got underway because his agent was handling most of that but he was hopeful he would go somewhere in the first three rounds.

“I wasn’t really sure where I was going to go,” he said. “I was kind of expecting to go today at some point. I’m just a matter of when, you know, just it’s hard to say we’re going to go at a certain time and because there’s so many things that can happen with the draft but I’m very thankful to be a Bengal.”

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