How Big of a Reach Was the Cincinnati Bengals’ Pick of McKinnley Jackson?

The Cincinnati Bengals dove into one of their go-to moves Friday, but the back end of the double dip at defensive tackle was a bit of a surprise.

CINCINNATI – Former Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle D.J. Reader expressed his disappointment with the team in the free agency process because they didn’t reach out to him.

As a result, the Bengals had to reach for another run-stopping nose tackle.

Cincinnati wrapped up Day 2 of the NFL Draft by selecting Texas A&M defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson at No. 97, its second of two third-round picks.

Bengals Select McKinnley Jackson in Third Round

How big of a reach it was depends on the analyst.

Pro Football Network lead draft analyst Ian Cummings had Jackson pegged as a third-rounder and ranked No. 112 on his big board.

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler had sixth/seventh-round grade on Jackson.

NFL Network’s Lance Zierlein put a sixth-round grade on Jackson.

Jackson himself said he had no idea what to expect.

“I didn’t know where I was gonna get drafted,” he said. “I just knew I was going to get drafted. I put the work in, and what I got right now is what I earned.”

The Bengals selected Michigan defensive tackle Kris Jenkins in the second round with Pick 49 earlier Friday, touting his run-stopping skills.

But Jenkins is smaller at 6’2” and 299 pounds. Jackson is 6’1”, 326 pounds.

“You add a big nose that we needed. You added the athletic guy in Jenkins earlier,” Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. “So we just really added some depth to that room, which we needed. We feel good about both players. They both have different skill sets, but they fit us very well.”

“(Jackson) is really a two-down nose,” Anarumo continued. “He’s played across the board, but his home is closer to the ball — shade, nose, zero nose, those type of things.”

Jackson was a two-year starter at Texas A&M and a two-time captain.

In another division, Jackson might have been closer to a sixth-round pick. But a year after getting trampled in the run game, especially in games against AFC North opponents, the Bengals went into this offseason with bulking up in the middle of the defensive line as a top priority.

They had hoped interest in Reader would be tepid after he suffered a quad injury in December that likely will keep him sidelined until close to the start of the season. But the Detroit Lions swooped in and banked on Reader’s recovery, signing him to a two-year, $22 million deal.

Drafting Jackson was the Bengals’ answer to letting Reader get away.

“I don’t think you’ll ever go wrong adding to your defensive line,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “As a head coach, as an offensive play-caller that faces these guys every week, depth at defensive tackle, defensive end is critical. If you don’t have it, if you all of a sudden come up short, it doesn’t matter what you have behind it.

“So I think that’s the No.1 thing to take the pressure off the back seven, is to continue to add to your defensive line. We had the opportunity to do that today, and it makes me sleep a lot better at night.”

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