A parametric study was carried out to investigate the hydrodynamics of a cylindrical wave energy absorber. Established methods of hydrodynamic analysis were applied to the case of a damped vertically oriented cylinder pivoted near the sea floor in intermediate depth water. The simple geometry provides a canonical reference for more complex structure shapes and configurations that may be considered for either wave energy conversion or wave energy absorption. The study makes use of the relative velocity Morison equation, with force coefficients derived from radiation and diffraction theory. Viscous effects were accounted for by including a drag term with an empirically derived coefficient, CD. A non-linear first-order formulation was used to calculate the cylinder motion response in regular waves. It was found that the non-linear drag term, which is often neglected in studies on wave energy conversion, has a large effect on performance. Results from the study suggest a set of design criteria based on Keulegan–Carpenter (KC) number, ratio of cylinder radius to water depth (a/h), and ratio of water depth to wavelength (h/L). Respectively, these parameters account for viscous, wave radiation, and water depth effects, and optimal ranges are provided.