The 2021 NFL Draft is less than a month away, and after some massive trades, it’s time for an updated look at a Cincinnati Bengals mock draft.
Cincinnati is sitting at fifth overall in the first-round order, but this roster really needs to be rebuilt and could use some strong young contributors to make an instant impact. Otherwise, the Bengals don’t have much hope of contending in 2021.
Since the San Francisco 49ers traded up from 12th to the No. 3 pick to get their new quarterback of the future, and the Atlanta Falcons could wind up drafting a QB, too, there could be four signal-callers off the board to kick off the draft, which would give Cincinnati its pick of the best non-QB prospects in the 2021 class.
What an intriguing scenario. Let’s take a look at how the Bengals’ seven-round forecast shakes out with all this drama as the backdrop, and how it may impact their strategy. Our mock comes courtesy of The Draft Network’s simulator.
Cincinnati Bengals mock draft: Protecting Joe Burrow is top priority
First round, 8th pick: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
- Mock trade with Carolina Panthers: Bengals send 5th and 69th picks to Panthers for 8th pick, 39th pick and 2022 second-round pick
Why draft Oregon’s Penei Sewell when you can trade down a few spots and get a comparably good prospect in Slater?
But then again, Cincinnati needs multiple instant starters in the draft to compete this year. That mock deal with the Carolina Panthers gets them not only a strong 2022 asset, but also back-to-back picks in the second round.
As can be seen in the image to lead this section, Slater has held his own before against the likes of Chase Young. He received a 90.0 Pro Football Focus grade in 2019 before opting out this last year.
With the flexibility to play left tackle or move inside to guard if Cincinnati puts Jonah Williams or Riley Reiff there, Slater is among the safest, highest-floor picks in the 2021 class.
Second round, 38th pick: Landon Dickerson, iOL, Alabama
A knee injury suffered late last season is the only thing that’s probably preventing Dickerson from going off the board earlier. It doesn’t seem like it’ll have massive ramifications for the rest of his career, so Dickerson should absolutely be the play here for Cincinnati.
Dickerson primarily played center at Alabama for the last two seasons, but has experience at every single position on the line. He’ll be either a guard or center in the NFL. Where he lines up exactly is up to Bengals coach Zac Taylor.
Wherever he puts his hand in the dirt, Dickerson is going to get the job done. He’s a high-IQ player who played in a complex offense and knows how to deal with pre-snap situations and adjusting protections. That’s something that’d be invaluable to Burrow, whose o-line from 2020 was an absolute mess.
And with that 38th pick, the Bengals’ new starting five, from left to right, would probably be something like Slater, Williams, Trey Hopkins, Dickerson and Reiff. What an improvement that would be over what Burrow had to work with before.
The overhaul at this key personnel group would also help free up running lanes for talented tailback Joe Mixon, and give Cincinnati much better balance on offense.
Second round, 39th pick (via CAR): Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
There’s a good receiving corps in place for Burrow right now, yet that group is missing something. Tyler Boyd is a big slot who’s not particularly quick or fast, and Tee Higgins does some of his best work inside as well but is more of an outside target. Auden Tate is a decent third option who can play any spot on the field.
So, what the Bengals lack is a smaller, shiftier home-run hitter who can blow the top off the defense or take a screen 80 yards to the house. These types of prospects don’t grow on trees, and with Moore on the board here and Cincinnati armed with an extra second-rounder, he’s the pick.
Although Moore hasn’t played much football over the past two seasons, his pro day workout should’ve alleviated any concerns about his health or abilities, as PFF College highlighted:
Despite being 5-foot-7 and 180 pounds, Moore has a phenomenal strength-to-weight ratio, and his ability to high-point the football and his elusiveness in the open field makes his height less and less relevant.
Don’t get it twisted: Moore isn’t a diminutive, gimmicky gadget player whose targets come off either in-breaking routes underneath or on quick screens. He has more than enough muscle at the catch point and the skill set to beat press coverage to where he can thrive on the outside.
Burrow would love to have someone like Moore to throw to, and there’s a great chance the Purdue star, even as a rookie, would give the Bengals a new dimension on offense that’d make them much more difficult to defend.
Fourth round, 112th pick: Cameron Sample, EDGE, Tulane
The Bengals’ defensive line is still suspect, because they replaced Carl Lawson with arguably a worse player in Trey Hendrickson in free agency. They’ve also not adequately addressed the interior, because Larry Ogunjobi is frankly not a starting-caliber player next to D.J. Reader. Sam Hubbard is also suspect on the edge opposite Hendrickson, at least as a pass-rusher.
Enter Sample. This would be incredible value if Cincinnati is able to land him in Round 4 given what Cincinnati’s defense needs, and while it’s probably unrealistic to expect Sample to be a star right away, he’s the type of guy who could pop in Year 2.
At 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds, Sample is a load to handle at defensive end, yet he’s also had plenty of experience lining up inside at tackle. Sample is the ideal quick, explosive interior defender to complement Reader’s massive presence as a run-stopping specialist.
By providing insurance behind the likes of Hubbard and giving the Bengals more versatility up front, Sample would be a dream draft pick at this stage. He’d likely help Cincinnati’s young linebacker corps out too, as many players still on rookie contracts are being counted on to take big steps forward in 2021 and need better play in front of them to do that.
Cincinnati Bengals mock draft: Day 3 picks for Rounds 5 through 7
- Fifth round, 149th pick: Simi Fehoko, WR, Stanford
- Sixth round, 190th pick: Pooka Williams, RB, Kansas
- Sixth round, 202nd pick: Tay Gowan, CB, UCF
- Seventh round, 235th pick: Quintin Morris, TE, Bowling Green
Especially after bringing Moore aboard in the second round, one could argue the Bengals don’t really need any other pass-catchers. That said, someone like Morris is good to develop, as he was a converted receiver in his final year at Bowling Green.
Before him, though, Fehoko is an intriguing player. When you watch Stanford QB Davis Mills’ highlights, you see Fehoko making crazy one-handed catches and tracking the ball on downfield throws better than most prospects. At 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds, Fehoko is a passer-friendly target with a huge catch radius and better speed than you’d expect.
Burrow struggled on deeper passes as a rookie, partly due to poor protection and being under duress a lot. Having a back-shoulder guy like Fehoko could wind up being a steal, and it’d provide even more competition to a promising young receiver room.
The two sixth-round picks could go off the board sooner than they’re chosen here. Gowan in particular stands out. Overshadowed by fellow UCF defensive backs Aaron Robinson and Richie Grant, it’s possible Gowan slides to this late and ends up being a starting-caliber player.
Beyond Mixon, Cincinnati could use some insurance in the backfield since Giovani Bernard is entering his age-30 season, and Williams would fit the bill in that regard. He had two 1,000-yard rushing seasons at Kansas despite a bad team around him and had 60 receptions in that span, not to mention he has kickoff return experience.
With some depth additions on defense and a big emphasis on positioning Burrow for success, this Cincinnati Bengals mock draft is a great one.