The Cincinnati Bengals claimed former LSU tight end Thaddeus Moss to reunite him with his college quarterback Joe Burrow, per ESPN’s Ben Baby. Does that mean the team won’t take Florida’s Kyle Pitts fifth overall in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Well, the Moss signing points to that possibility, as Cincinnati may be content with Burrow’s former teammate and 2019 second-round pick Drew Sample atop the depth chart. However, that shouldn’t be the Bengals’ mindset at all.
While a top priority is to protect Burrow after he got pummeled behind a bad offensive line as a rookie, Pitts is a talented enough prospect to merit consideration in the top five.
What Thaddeus Moss’ signing means for Bengals
Moss has obvious, innate chemistry with Burrow. Even with a loaded array of weapons on that national-title winning LSU team from 2019, Moss carved out a significant role for himself, racking up 47 receptions for 570 yards and four touchdowns.
You might also be familiar with Moss’ last name. He’s the son of NFL legend Randy Moss, so he has plenty of knowledge about how to approach the pro game, how to prepare and how to carry himself. All that bodes well for his future in Cincinnati.
But let’s not forget that Moss was an undrafted player last year. An injury kept him out for all of 2020, yet even before that, he wasn’t necessarily a lock to make the Washington Football Team’s final roster.
Are Sample and Moss really good enough to get it done at the tight end spot, to the point where passing on Pitts would be acceptable? It’d probably depend on the rest of Cincinnati’s draft strategy, but as you’ll see,
Assessing Bengals’ 5th pick options beyond Kyle Pitts
It stands to reason Burrow had significant input on the Bengals’ decision to bring Moss aboard. That means they could bring in yet another pass-catcher in Ja’Marr Chase with the draft’s No. 5 pick.
Chase is definitely the consensus No. 1 receiver prospect at this point. That said, Cincinnati already has a pair of promising receivers in Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, and the position group is rife with depth in the middle rounds of the 2021 draft.
Again, Oregon’s Penei Sewell or even Northwestern product Rashawn Slater are intriguing options in the first round. Sewell is more of a pure tackle, of which the Bengals already have two starters in Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff. Slater has the flexibility to play anywhere up front, so his transition to guard might be smoother than Sewell’s.
Sewell is more a projection at guard and is more of a pure left tackle, a position the franchise spent a 2019 first-rounder to address with Williams. Picking Slater in the top five feels too early. Either way, it’s not going to leave Cincinnati fans super excited after Day 1 of the draft.
Kyle Pitts’ versatility leaves room for Thaddeus Moss to contribute
This high up in the first round, you’re looking for special traits, and perhaps no one among the top prospects fits that description more than Pitts.
With measurements, speed and athleticism more comparable to Calvin Johnson than any tight end, Pitts is the epitome of a “generational talent.”
Burrow has the ability to elevate players around him, as he proved during his rookie campaign in keeping the Bengals mostly competitive despite dire circumstances.
Imagine what Burrow could do with a group of pass-catchers featuring Higgins, Boyd and Pitts. That leaves Moss to be a potential No. 2 pass-catching option at the position behind Pitts, but still a significant contributor, because Pitts is so freakish that he can line up out wide and consistently beat even the best cornerbacks.
With three quarterbacks expected to fly off the board in succession atop the 2021 NFL Draft, and the Atlanta Falcons potentially trading the fourth pick to a QB-needy team or taking Matt Ryan‘s eventual successor, there’s a strong chance Pitts will be available when Cincinnati goes on the clock.
In a perfect world where the Bengals weren’t precious about future assets and wanted to build an absolute juggernaut around Burrow that’d attract tons of free-agent interest and booming revenue, they’d just sacrifice the required picks to draft Pitts, Sewell/Slater and Chase in succession. Unfortunately, that’s an alleged pipe dream that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
Pitts is No. 2 on Sportsnaut’s top-100 big board, because his chances of being a bust are as low as anyone’s in this class. In the event he’s available, he should be Cincinnati’s No. 1 target as the best player on the board. Moss shouldn’t have any impact whatsoever on that line of thinking.