This may be the strangest offseason the NFL will ever go through, and we’re fresh off of experiencing 2020.
It is only fitting that the 2021 NFL draft may end up being more unorthodox compared to recent years before COVID-19. Notable pre-draft events have already been cancelled, which will add difficulties for teams and prospects to interact with one another in person. The Senior Bowl this week is probably the best look many of these parties will have.
With that in mind, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. came through with a scenario that shows just how strange this draft could be, and how the Bengals could end up being winners with Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell as the prize. Kiper also slides in a comparison that many Cincinnati fans will enjoy:
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
This is all about protecting quarterback Joe Burrow, who will spend the offseason recovering from the torn left ACL and MCL he suffered in November. Burrow started 10 games, but it was clear that he wasn’t comfortable behind a mediocre offensive line. The Bengals can take a step toward improvement by picking Sewell, an opt-out who was the 2019 Outland Trophy winner. He’s the clear top offensive tackle in this class. Sewell could stay at left tackle while 2019 first-rounder Jonah Williams moves to the right side or to guard. I have compared Sewell to Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz, and Cincinnati should be thrilled to get another foundational player.
The Munoz comparison is a lofty one for Sewell, who has been called the best overall player in this class. This isn’t even the first time Kiper has mentioned the two names in the same breath.
Many fans certainly wouldn’t turn down a player of Munoz’s caliber protecting Joe Burrow’s blindside. Munoz started 184 games with the Bengals while playing for 13 seasons and remains the only Bengal in the Hall of Fame. You can see why such a comparison has such massive weight to it.
Sewell looked like the top offensive line prospect in the country at the end of the 2019 season. The 20-year old chose to opt-out of the 2020 season with COVID-19 casting a shadow over the season to prepare for the draft. There is no doubt he would be a wonderful addition to the offensive line, whether or not he ends up anything like Munoz, and he could ultimately end up as the franchise left tackle this team has needed. Jonah Williams would be free to to take the right tackle spot or move inside, which would be a huge improvement to either position.
It is also worth noting the scenario the Kiper lays out includes the Jets taking Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith and the Dolphins taking LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. The Falcons ended up as the only team aside from the Jaguars to take a quarterback, BYU’s Zach Wilson, which left Cincinnati with an easy choice to select Sewell.
There have also been ample rumors of teams positioning themselves to move up for a quarterback inside the top-five picks. Obviously, Kiper didn’t project trades, but let’s say those four picks play out; the Bengals phones are likely lighting up with offers from teams still in the early teens and even the top 10. Cincinnati could potentially move back and still end up with a player like Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater as well as pick up some extra picks to help speed up the rebuild under Burrow.
It looks like the Bengals are sitting in a prime position to let the picks before them play out and choose from a few blue chip players or move back for some serious value while still ending up with talent. It is a great draft to not need a quarterback.