NFL draft: Bengals take Alabama safety in third round

Credit: Butch Dill

Credit: Butch Dill

The Cincinnati Bengals lost both their starting safeties in free agency, but they’ve added another one with their third-round draft pick.

Taking a third-straight defensive player to open the NFL Draft, they selected Alabama safety Jordan Battle at No. 95 overall Friday after trading down three spots with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs gave up the final pick of the sixth round (No. 217) to move up and take offensive tackle Wayna Morris from Oklahoma.

Battle, who was in a math class at St. Thomas Aquinas High School with Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo’s son, played 54 games for the Crimson Tide, finishing with 37-straight starts, and emerged as a leader on a talented defense. As a team captain in 2022 and someone who was known to linger on the field long after practices ended, Battle fits a lot of the “A-plus” traits the Bengals seek, coach Zac Taylor said.

“We had high regard for this guy as a safety,” Taylor said. “Again coming from Alabama, winner, went there to compete, went to one of the best high schools … in all of America, competed there and went to Alabama, competed there with a number of great safeties in order to win championships. So, he’s not afraid of competition, and he gets a chance to come here and help us win championships as well. So, we think this guy fits everything that we’re about, what we sit up here and talk about all the time. This guy’s A-plus character, leader on a great team, and he’s going to be valuable for us as a safety and special teams player in the coming year. So we’re excited to have Jordan.”

Anarumo added that Battle’s positioning stood out on tape, as he showed a knack for being in good spots to make plays and was rarely out of position. He’s also a good communicator and someone his teammates can trust, and he gets opponents on the ground.

Battle, at 6-foot-1, 209 pounds, adds depth to a position where the Bengals lost their two veteran starters in Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates, and he could play either spot. Cincinnati signed Nick Scott in free agency, and the Bengals drafted Dax Hill in the first round anticipating a future need, but Battle could be a plug-and-play starter if needed.

Taylor said he feels good about the competition in the safety room with Battle joining Hill, Scott, 2022 fifth-round pick Tycen Anderson, who is coming off an injury that sidelined him his rookie season, and veteran Michael Thomas, who re-signed this offseason.

Battle said while he was limited to the strong safety position at Alabama, he wants to show his versatility in the NFL.

“I’m a guy who wants to who wants to play both, whatever I can to help the defense, whether that’s in the box, a deep part of the field or in the slot,” Battle said. “I just want to show my versatility on the next level, that’s something I didn’t get a chance to do in college. I played only strong safety, either dropping or coming down covering the slot. I was just playing the box, but one thing coming into the league is I want to show my versatility and my ability to play football to my full capabilities.”

Battle said he’s already working on his gritty dance moves to show Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, and he looks forward to competing against a high-powered offense those two are such a big part of in practices.

The 2022 second-team All-American was glad to be joining a winning organization like Cincinnati after his background at Alabama and St. Thomas Aquinas. He also was elated to get drafted on Day 2 after waiting all night to get a call. Some projected him going in the second round, but he fell into the Bengals’ lap with the last pick of the third round.

“I was playing UNO cards with some guys, and then I got the call and then everybody just dropped everything and then just went into straight excitement,” Battle said. “And it was just an amazing moment for my family, for my friends, everybody was here, my support system, and I can’t ask to be joining a better team.”

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