The Cincinnati Bengals will head into the 2021 NFL Draft in an excellent position. With quarterbacks expected to be taken with each of the top-three picks, Cincinnati is standing in a perfect spot at No. 5 overall to find great talent.
Cincinnati already has its franchise quarterback. This offseason, amid Joe Burrow”s injury recovery, the Bengals have looked for pieces to help the face of their offense. While the team was disappointed by a four-win season, it landed them the No. 5 overall pick.
Now, with the draft just weeks away, Cincinnati might know exactly who it plans to spend its first-round selection on.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, the Philadelphia Eagles traded down from the No. 6 overall pick with the belief the Bengals will likely draft wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase at No. 5 overall.
Philadelphia’s thinking runs contrary to the previous reporting. Early NFL Draft rumors hinted Cincinnati was locked in on Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell. He is the best pass-protector in the 2021 draft class and would start immediately as a blindside blocker for Burrow.
Things may have changed. The Bengals recently signed offensive tackle Riley Reiff, who will start on the right side in 2021. A first-round pick in 2012, Reiff allowed just one sack and seven quarterback hits in 567 pass-block snaps last season, per Pro Football Focus. With Reiff and Jonah Williams at both tackle spots, Cincinnati might feel it can prioritize another position with the No. 5 pick.
Potential impact of Ja’Marr Chase reuniting with Joe Burrow
There’s no hiding that Burrow would love to reunite with his former LSU teammate. In one full season together operating in Joe Brady’s scheme, this quarterback-receiver duo took the SEC and college football world by storm.
- Ja’Marr Chase stats (2019): 84 receptions, 1,780 receiving yards, 20 touchdowns and 21.2 yards per catch
Chase, only a sophomore at the time, won the Biletnikoff Award and was voted a unanimous All-American selection. While he didn’t have overwhelming size at 6-foot-1, LSU’s top weapon consistently showed the ability to make highlight plays in space and over the top of defenders. Even after sitting out the 2020 season, he is a consensus top-10 prospect in this draft class.
Cincinnati let franchise icon A.J. Green walk this offseason, after the former perennial Pro Bowl receiver showed signs of age in 2020. While Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are quality wideouts, neither profile as the No. 1 weapon that defensive coordinators must create a game plan to stop. That’s something this offense needs, especially with how often Burrow was asked to throw in his rookie season.
- Joe Burrow stats (2020): 2,688 passing yards, 13/5 TD/INT ratio, 6.7 yards per attempt, 65.3% completion rate and 89.8 passer rating on 404 attempts in 10 games
The offensive line certainly isn’t one of the Bengals’ strengths and a strong argument can be made for drafting Sewell. Cincinnati could start him at left guard as a rookie, then kick him outside to left tackle in 2022. In a division with the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns, pass protection is crucial.
But Cincinnati seems confident in its plan and adding a player like Chase to this offense would make the star quarterback happy. Whether the Bengals ultimately decide on Sewell or Chase, they are landing a great talent who will help Burrow for years to come.