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Todd McShay has Bengals protecting Joe Burrow in 2021 mock draft

There may not be a better player in the 2021 draft for the Bengals than this guy.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl - Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Just to get this out of the way, this is a way-too-early mock draft from ESPN. This is purely just to see where college prospects are viewed at this point, and their value and NFL teams’ needs will probably be drastically different come time to actually hold the draft.

There is also the elephant in the room of the college football season being up in the air with the Big Ten and Pac-12 recently suspending its football season to try again in the spring. There have already been a handful of highly rated draft prospects who have opted out, and there could be more on the way with the pandemic going on.

With that all being said, this is just a post to look at how one national analyst views the prospects currently, and how he also views the Bengals’ needs. To say that this will probably change by the time the draft actually comes around is a drastic understatement.

Here is who Todd McShay views as the Bengals’ first round pick in 2021 (NFL Draft position determined by ESPN’s Football Power Index):

3. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon Ducks*

Remember how much I talked about Joe Burrow’s toughness and mobility in the pocket leading up to the 2020 draft? Well, those traits will be important in Cincy. The Bengals’ line surrendered 48 sacks and recorded a 46.5% pass block win rate, second worst in the NFL, according to ESPN’s pass-blocking metrics. When you invest a No. 1 pick in a franchise QB, you have to protect him. Yes, they get 2019 first-rounder Jonah Williams back from injury at left tackle this season, but that line is still a serious work in progress, especially at right tackle. Enter Sewell, the best player still on the board here and the most talented offensive lineman in the class.

Sewell is a very talented player. He could probably walk right in and solidify that right tackle position with ease. Then having Williams and Sewell on both sides of Burrow would solve the offensive tackle problems the Bengals have had for years now for the foreseeable future.

The obvious reaction here is that tacking a right tackle at third overall seems pretty extreme. That reality does exist, though. If Bobby Hart and Fred Johnson both struggle in 2020, that position will need the same attention that Cincinnati gave to linebackers this past offseason. This could easily change if Sewell decides not to declare for the draft or Hart or Johnson prove to be serviceable this season.

The best move in this situation may be to move back. In this mock, McShay still has Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields on the board. The Panthers would be picking after the Bengals, so any team looking to hop up and solidify that position would probably be highly motivated.

Another huge determining factor would be if the Bengals and A.J. Green were able to reach a long term deal following the season. If not, reuniting LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase with Burrow would also be very tempting.

Even with Green signed to a long-term deal, Chase could potentially be that next WR1 for the team with Green getting a little long in the tooth. Not to mention lining up with four wide receivers could be a huge mismatch for Burrow to work with.

Who are some players you are hoping the Bengals could end up with in next year’s draft?