2021 NFL Draft Grade: Cincinnati Bengals
Round 1 Pick 5: WR Ja’Marr Chase
Round 2 Pick 46: OT Jackson Carman
Round 3 Pick 69: EDGE Joseph Ossai
Round 4 Pick 111: DT Cameron Sample
Round 4 Pick 122: DT Tyler Shelvin
Round 4 Pick 139: OT D’Ante Smith
Round 5 Pick 149: K Evan McPherson
Round 6 Pick 190: C Trey Hill
Round 7 Pick 235: EDGE Wyatt Herbert
The Bengals had two choices in the first round: get Joe Burrow another weapon or provide him with some protection. Ultimately, they chose to give him former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase. Many have criticized them for landing on this choice rather than picking Penei Sewell, including myself. However, after thinking on it some more over the past couple weeks, I like the pick a little more than I did. While protection for Burrow is a concern after last season’s ACL tear, this certainly isn’t a bad pick. Cincinnati signed Riley Reiff in free agency and picked Jackson Carman in the second round, so it’s not like they completely ignored the o-line.
Of course, it would have been nice to pair the veteran Reiff with Penei Sewell, especially since Carman seems destined to be a guard in the NFL. Carman just doesn’t have the speed to keep up with pass rushers off the edge, but he will thrive in run blocking for a healthy Joe Mixon. At any rate, the group will immediately get thrown to the wolves as their season starts with matchups against the Vikings, Bears, and Steelers, all of who should have very good defensive fronts.
Cincinnati has also set up their o-line for the future by picking both D’Ante Smith and Trey Hill. Both are developmental pieces, but by year three they should be able to compete for starting jobs. The Bengals just have to hope Burrow holds up that long.
Back to Ja’Marr Chase though, this guy is almost certain to be a stud. The last time we saw him on a football field, he was outperforming Justin Jefferson who just had a historic rookie season. The connection between Burrow and Chase is undeniable; the two connected for an astonishing 20 TDs in 2019.
Cincinnati needed to address the defensive line as well after recording the fewest sacks in 2020 and giving up the fourth-most rushing yards. They managed to accomplish that by taking Joseph Ossai, Cameron Sample, and Tyler Shelvin. Both Ossai and Sample should have the opportunity to immediately contribute. Ossai is undersized but has an endless motor while rushing the passer. Sample is extremely versatile and should have reps all across the defensive line.
This is a conservative grade for the Bengals that has the potential to go up significantly depending on Chase’s production. That said, it could also come crashing down if Burrow is under duress all year or finds himself injured. It’s hard to confidently say that a rookie is going to come in and put up historic numbers; especially when we haven’t seen him play football in a year and a half. Because of that, my gut is still telling me Sewell was the way to go. If Reiff and Carman can prove effective though, the protection may be good enough to get by.