Bengals wrap up draft with more defense

Arkansas State running back Lincoln Pare (22) tries to get past Coastal Carolina defender Jeffrey Gunter (94) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, in Jonesboro, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

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Arkansas State running back Lincoln Pare (22) tries to get past Coastal Carolina defender Jeffrey Gunter (94) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, in Jonesboro, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

Cincinnati selects only one offensive player in three-day event

After signing three new starters for the offensive line, the Cincinnati Bengals have only one spot clearly up for grabs at left guard, but it was no surprise when they turned their attention on Day 3 of the NFL Draft to bolstering that competition.

Cincinnati selected North Dakota State offensive lineman Cordell Volson with the 136th overall pick in the fourth round Saturday, adding some depth to that position group following three straight defensive pickups to open their draft.

The Bengals went right back to defense with the next pick – trading up for a second time by swapping fifth-round picks with the Bills and giving up an early seventh-round selection to take Toledo safety Tycen Anderson at No. 166 overall. Cincinnati already traded its sixth-round pick Friday to move up in the second round and finished the draft with six total picks over seven rounds.

Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said he knew the team would add an offensive lineman at some point Saturday, despite the greatest needs being on the other side of the ball. He looks forward to seeing what Volson can bring to the competition.

“It’s something that Frank will talk about all the time is we’re trying to add guys every year that you think you can develop and help, and as you as you get competition, guys get better and guys rise,” Callahan said. “Those guys that we have in our room now are up to the task, the challenge of competing. ... We had kind of targeted Volson as a guy that would fit somewhere here in this last day in the draft, and it just came up that this was the spot for him. I don’t think he would have lasted much longer because I know a lot of people in the league were pretty high on him.”

A three-year starter and three-time All-American for the Bison, Volson started all 41 games the last three seasons, lining up primarily at the right tackle position but also seeing some time inside. Offensive line coach Frank Pollack said he expects the 6-foot-6, 315-pound lineman to start out at guard, and he very well could compete for the left guard job.

Volson, from a tiny town of less than 30 people in North Dakota, will join a group that participated in a carousel at right guard last year before the Bengals signed free agent right guard Alex Cappa to take that spot. The need just shifted to left guard with Quinton Spain heading into free agency.

“He’s tough,” Pollack said of Volson. “He’s physical. He’s a finisher. … He comes from a winning team, winning culture. You love his intangibles. I mean, he’s a worker. That’s kind of how he was raised, which is what you’re looking for.

“He’s a good solid player. He’s got good O-line traits like all those guys have. (There’s) nothing out of the ordinary (or) anything different, per se. (He’s) just a great guy to enter the room for competition. We’ve got a nice, young group we’ve starting to formulate (over) the last couple years, and it’s going to be great in that regard.”

Volson said he prides himself on being the “hardest worker in the room” and a “relentless, physical player.” He went into college at just 250 pounds but focused on building up strength with a “blue-collar mindset” about the weight room and making sure he was putting on two pounds a week the right way with what he was eating as well.

Now he looks forward to trying to earn a role with the Bengals, an offense he hopes to help take to another level as part of the rebuilt line.

“I think every team in the NFL is always looking for good offensive linemen,” Volson said. “Just having an opportunity to come into Cincinnati and contribute to the team in any way that I can and compete every single day and make those around me better and myself better, that’s the opportunity that I’m looking for.”

The Bengals continued their trend of picking versatile players with the selection of Anderson in the fifth round.

A three-year starter at Toledo, Anderson played free safety and nickel and also has a wide range of experience on special teams. After playing cornerback in high school, he moved to safety for the Rockets and played a hybrid role in the box and against the slot, receiving All-MAC honors his final two seasons.

Anderson, who says his football IQ is his biggest strength, clocked a 4.36-second 40-time at the Combine, joining first-round pick Dax Hill and second-round pick Cam Taylor-Britt as speedy additions to the Bengals secondary. He also was a rare three-time captain in college and needs three more credits to complete his Masters in Leadership.

“He’s a measurable guy -- height, weight, speed,” defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. “The way he plays the game, he’s smart, gives us, again, flexibility to do a bunch of different things so he was very intriguing to me. We did a great job going to get him.”

The Cincinnati Bengals concluded their 2022 NFL Draft with another defensive player, taking Coastal Carolina linebacker Jeffrey Gunter in the seventh round.

Cincinnati used five of its six draft picks on defenders.

A three-time All-Sun Belt Conference pick, Gunter can add depth at the linebacker or edge positions. He finished his college career with 40.0 tackles for loss and 18.0 sacks. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler had him projected as a sixth-round pick.

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