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11 for 11 draft series: Jonah Williams can give the Bengals’ offensive line the boost it needs

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If the Bengals’ don’t draft a linebacker in the first round, they might go with an offensive lineman for the second year in a row.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals boasted one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL over the last two years, and it made a profoundly negative impact.

Thankfully, the Bengals line was better in 2018 than it was the year before, thanks to the addition of Cordy Glenn and Billy Price, as well as some work from Trey Hopkins and Christian Westerman. Even though it was improved, however, didn’t mean it was good.

The Bengals still had a bottom-tier offensive line when Zac Taylor came in to Cincinnati, so what did he do? He re-signed Alex Redmond and Bobby Hart.

And just like that, all concerns were gone.

Just kidding. The opposite, actually.

The Bengals did sign former Bills guard John Miller, so hopefully he will compete for the right guard spot with Redmond. Hopefully, this means they’re not done improving.

If the Bengals want to draft a lineman for the second year in a row, they should consider Alabama tackle Jonah Williams.

Williams is one of the most decorated players in the draft, which means a lot for a lineman. He started all 15 games as a rookie at right tackle and won a spot on the Freshman All-American team. He also earned two All-SEC selections, a third team All-American selection, a first team All-America selection, won a national championship, two SEC championship, and was a finalist for the Outland Trophy.

Projected as a first round selection, could Williams be the next starter on Cincinnati’s offensive line?

Why the pick makes sense:

  • The Bengals currently don’t have a backup tackle on the roster.
  • Given Williams’ versatility and potential at guard, he could replace Clint Boling if the Bengals choose not to re-sign him after this year (which would be a mistake, but that is a conversation for another day).
  • Williams has experience on both sides of the line, and even though he has only played tackle, he could very easily move to guard.
  • The best ability is availability, and Williams has proven durable over the course of his career. He has not missed a game in his three seasons at Alabama. The Bengals usually reward that kind of dependability on the OL (e.g., Bobby Hart, Billy Price).
  • During the 920 snaps of his junior year in 2018, he gave up no sacks.
  • He is a student of the game, and shows marked improvement every year.
  • Despite his lack of size, Williams overpowers those across from him in the run game.
  • In pass protection, he uses great hand placement to keep his leverage.
  • He has great tenacity and is usually able to recover if he is beaten initially.
  • Williams does a great job of moving to the second level on run plays and dominating those blocks.

Why the pick doesn’t make sense:

  • The Bengals have, by their standards, probably fully addressed the OL. Both starting tackles are under contract for the next two years.
  • Williams’ first instincts are wrong sometimes, so he gets beat pretty quickly. In college, he had the skill and wherewithal to recover, but that might not be the case in the NFL.
  • While his strength and power are top-shelf, he often got beat by quickness. This could be a problem going up against Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt twice a year.
  • In the running game, getting beat by quickness often meant giving up the running lanes.
  • Lacks mobility when pulling.

As bad as the Bengals’ offensive line is, they have bigger needs elsewhere on the roster. In the eyes of Taylor and the front office, the OL is “fixed” for now. The Bengals will only draft Williams if certain LBs and DLs are off the board. That said, Williams would still be a great pick if that was the scenario that played out on draft day.