NFL Draft: Bengals add to defense in Round 3

Credit: AJ Mast

Credit: AJ Mast

After using their first two picks of the 2022 NFL Draft on defensive backs, the Cincinnati Bengals selected another versatile defender in the third round.

They picked up Florida defensive tackle Zach Carter at No. 95 overall.

A two-year starter at Florida, Carter filled various roles on the Gators’ defensive line, including on the edge, but spent most of his time as either a three-technique or five-technique, and Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said he will start out as a tackle.

Carter had 11 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 2021, finishing his four-year career with 17.5 sacks over 46 games, and he can help fill the void left by Larry Ogunjobi’s departure.

“I think his skill set when you look at the numbers coming out of college, guys don’t typically have that many sacks on the interior,” Anarumo said. “Some were from the outside, but the majority inside, so I think when you add a guy like this, he brings that level of right now we’ve got this extra inside push and ability to beat guards and he’s showing he can beat tackles as well.”

Although The Athletic’s NFL Draft Analyst Dane Brugler didn’t have Carter going until the sixth round, Bengals coach Zac Taylor said he was in the conversation all day Friday. He was a player the Bengals had talked about a lot over the last couple of weeks, and Taylor said the coaches “feel really good about him.”

Carter wasn’t aware Cincinnati was so interested, though. He was thinking he was most likely to go to the Bills or 49ers.

“What’s crazy is I haven’t heard from the Bengals, not much,” Carter said. “I mean I’ve heard from them a little bit but they haven’t really reached out to like my agent as much, so I was surprised, honestly.”

Despite his surprise about going to Cincinnati, Carter said he knew he would go on Day 2. It “aches” to have to wait until the end of the third round – the pick came in at 11:03 p.m. on NFL Network – but Carter said once he got the call his “life was made.”

Carter said he followed the Bengals throughout their run to the Super Bowl and looks forward to playing on a defense like theirs with “a lot of fire and energy.” He thinks he will be most effective inside because he is a “mismatch on guards” with quickness and a first step that separate him from his opponents.

“I feel like Bengals fans should be excited because I’m a versatile playmaker,” he said. “I can line up pretty much anywhere. And I feel like I can make plays from pretty much anywhere rushing the passer in the run game. I’m a disruptive defender. I like to disrupt plays in the backfield I like to penetrate, so I think there’s a lot to look forward to.”

Taylor said although the team’s first three picks were on defense, the Bengals aren’t necessarily out of the market on offensive linemen. That was an area the organization addressed in free agency, and it just worked out there was more of a need to add depth on the other side of the ball through the first three rounds of the draft.

“We are really happy with the three guys who walked away from so far,” Taylor said. “I think that we feel very good, especially this last pick. We walk out of there feeling like, ‘Okay, we accomplished not only good value with the right players, but hit some spots that we knew we needed some depth.’ We weren’t going to reach for guys. It’s just some guys that we felt good about, were there and we took them and so you walk away feeling like you’ve hit some needs and you got the right value there. So I think it’s been a successful first two days for us.”

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