Despite finishing with a 4-11-1record this past season, the Cincinnati Bengals showed plenty of promise. They found their franchise QB in Joe Burrow, who looked great before his season-ending knee injury. Cincinnati allowed 48 sacks, which tied for fifth-most in the NFL. The Bengals come into this draft with the fifth overall pick and in a perfect position to select an impact player to help their young franchise QB.
Some quick history — the following are the Bengals’ last five years’ worth of first-round draft picks:
- 2020: Joe Burrow (QB)
- 2019: Jonah Williams (OT)
- 2018: Billy Price (C)
- 2017: John Ross (WR)
- 2016: William Jackson III (CB)
This will be Cincinnati’s second straight season with a draft pick inside the top five. The last time this occurred was from 1999-2001, when they had the third, fourth and fourth overall picks in three straight drafts.
The following players mentioned below are players who could possibly be on the move, either through trade or being cut, due to their 2021 cap hit. Their age is in parentheses.
- Geno Atkins (32)
- Billy Price (26)
The Bengals have $35.6 million in projected cap space without making any of the possible cuts listed above.
The fifth overall pick could allow Cincinnati to get Joe Burrow help. They could either target a player along the offensive line to help protect him — after he was sacked 32 times in 10 games — or another play-maker for him on the offense, since WRs John Ross and A.J. Green are both free agents entering the new league year.
Possibility #1: Oregon Offensive Tackle Penei Sewell
Career: 20 starts, allowed 1 sack over 1,376 snaps; 2020 Opt Out
Why: Penei Sewell was seen as the consensus best offensive tackle in this year’s draft before the
start of the 2020 college season. After opting out of the season, some have looked at other offensive tackles as better options in the draft, but don’t get it twisted. Sewell is the best offensive tackle in this draft.
Sewell is one of the best offensive tackle prospects to come out of the draft in recent years. And he will be just 20 years old when he assumingly takes his first NFL snap. He’s a rare athlete for the position, having rare lateral quickness and change of direction. This will make him hard to beat in one-on-one pass protection at the next level. Sewell has all the tools to look for in a potential franchise offensive tackle and would instantly give Cincinnati a boost along their offensive line and another young, promising player at the tackle position to play across from Jonah Williams.
Possibility #2: Florida Tight End Kyle Pitts
2020 stat line: 8 games, 43 receptions, 770 yards, 12 TDs, 17.9 YPC
Why: Cincinnati struggled to find any production from the tight end in 2020. Their leading tight end finished with 349 yards on 40 receptions and had just one touchdown. Their tight ends accounted for just two touchdowns the entire season. Production was lacking severely from the position.
Insert Kyle Pitts. Pitts was one of the nation’s top play-makers for Florida in 2020. Pitts’ athletic ability will allow him to be utilized in many different ways in the NFL and becomes an instant matchup nightmare for most linebackers in the NFL, and even some cornerbacks, due to his combination of size and athleticism. Pitts would give Burrow a true No. 1 tight end and a player who can stretch the middle of the field.
Possibility #3: LSU Wide Receiver Ja’Marr Chase
2019 stat line: 14 games, 84 receptions, 1,780 yards, 20 TDs, 21.2 YPC
Why: The Bengals didn’t have a 1,000-yard receiver this past season, the first time since 2016. With the likely departures of A.J. Green and John Ross, the Bengals will be lacking options at the position barring any free agent acquisitions.
Ja’Marr Chase would instantly enter the Cincinnati offense as one of the top play-makers and arguably their best receiver. Chase and Burrow would have instant chemistry due to their history of playing together during their time at LSU. Although he opted out of the 2020 season, Chase’s 2019 season proved to be one of the best by a wide receiver in recent memory. Still highly regarded in this draft class, Chase brings play-making ability and reliability to an offense that needs both. His chemistry with Burrow makes this possibility more and more intriguing.
Possibility #4: Alabama Cornerback Patrick Surtain
2020 stat line: 13 games, 37 tackles (22 solo), 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, 9 PD
Why: Cincinnati allowed 32 passing touchdowns this past season, good for seventh-most allowed in the NFL. They allowed 6.9 new pass yards per attempt this season, which was also seventh-most in the NFL. Teams can never have too much talent in the secondary and the Bengals would benefit from acquiring a No. 2 or No. 3 cornerback in this draft.
Patrick Surtain has the size and physical tools necessary to play cornerback in the NFL. He’s technically sound and played meaningful snaps for Alabama since his freshman year. His intelligence paired with his physical tools give him the upside of becoming a true shutdown cornerback in the NFL.
Player to Watch: Northwestern Offensive Tackle Rashawn Slater
Carrer: 37 starts; 2020 Opt Out
Why: If Sewell is taken before the Bengals’ pick at 5, Slater is another top tackle in the draft. Slater is in the discussion for being the second-best tackle in the draft. Slater also opted out of the 2020 season after starting 37 career games while at Northwestern. Slater can fit into any scheme at the next level due to his fantastic physical tools. He can win with pure lower body strength and hand strength but will need to improve his technique at the next level. He would be another player who could step into the Bengals’ offensive line and be a huge contributor day one.