Before winning two of their last three games, the Bengals seemed to be a shoo-in for in the third-overall pick, but the fifth-overall pick is still an ideal spot to be in. Pro Football Focus recently dropped their initial top 100 big board of the draft cycle, and the top three are all quarterbacks.
Trevor Lawrence (No. 1) is already looking at the Jacksonville real estate market, but it’d be great for Cincinnati if both Zach Wilson (No. 2) and Justin Fields (No. 3) were picked immediately after Lawrence. Assuming those two are also selected in the top four, let’s take a look at what the Bengals could be looking at.
It pretty much starts with PFF’s—and everyone else’s—top non-quarterback in Penei Sewell (No. 4). The 20-year old tackle out of Oregon will remain a top-five prospect so long as that athleticism on tape matches how he tests if he choses to do so. There’s bound to be some overthinking when it comes to Sewell, who did not play in 2020, but if the ceiling is someone like Trent Williams, it’s hard to argue against that.
The biggest challenger to Sewell’s crown as the top tackle is Rashawn Slater (No. 12), another opt-out from this past season. Some draft analysts have the former Northwestern tackle ahead of Sewell already, but with the size of what the NFL typically deems to be a guard, it’ll be interesting to see if he ends up going before Sewell. He’s the consolation prize at OL with Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw (No. 16) deservingly close behind him.
Once Sewell is off the board, the best players remaining will mostly be pass-catchers, which very much suits Cincinnati. Ja’Marr Chase (No. 5), and the Alabama duo of Jaylen Waddle (No. 7), and Devonta Smith (No. 8) are the consensus top three wideouts in this class, but former Florida TE Kyle Pitts (No. 9) has an argument to be picked ahead of at least one of them. There’s mixed history when it comes to drafting a tight end in the top 10, but everything about Pitts’ profile is exemplary.
Chase has to be the favorite to be taken by Cincinnati if he’s available and Sewell is not. The opportunity to reunite Burrow with his most productive receiver at LSU is too tempting and sensical to resist.
Offensive players are expected to fly off the board early and often since there aren’t many top-tier defenders in this class. The exceptions right now seem to be former Penn State LB Micah Parsons (No. 6) and CBs Caleb Farley (No. 13) and Patrick Surtain II (No. 17). Only Surtain played in 2020 out of those three, and after winning the College Football Playoff with Alabama, he’s entering the conversation inside the top 10. The Bengals have been known to not shy away at cornerbacks early in the draft and they might be inclined to take either Surtain or Virginia Tech’s Farley if William Jackson III is not retained.
We’re not sure what the next few months will look like in terms of the pre-draft process, but the Bengals are in an excellent spot to acquire a top-tier talent in April.