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Where potential Bengals targets stand in new NFL.com draft rankings

Penei Sewell is not the top-ranked offensive lineman in this ranking.

Arizona v Oregon Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Despite the Cincinnati Bengals not having a winning season since 2015, there’s a lot of optimism that this offseason could propel the franchise back to happier days going forward.

While much of the offseason focus thus far has been on landing a franchise tackle like Oregon’s Penei Sewell, there’s going to be several offensive prospects on the board at pick No. 5.

Over at NFL.com, Daniel Jeremiah has updated his top-50 big board, which actually has Sewell not ranked as the top tackle. That distinction went to Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater.

Here is what Jeremiah offered up on Slater, who is ranked seventh overall.

Slater is a slightly undersized tackle prospect. He plays with outstanding knee bend, foot quickness and balance. He explodes out of his stance in the passing game and does an excellent job of re-working his hands to maintain inside position. Slater gives a little ground versus power before dropping his weight and anchoring late. His best trait is his ability to recover when he finds himself in a bad position. In the run game, he plays with quickness and urgency when working up to the second level. He takes great angles and is one of the best I’ve seen when it comes to cutting off linebackers. He doesn’t have elite power to knock back defenders over his nose, but he does a good job of running his feet and staying attached. He has excellent awareness. Overall, Slater might lack ideal length, but it doesn’t hinder him and I believe he can excel at left tackle. If a team chooses to play him inside, he should quickly develop into a Pro Bowl guard.

And here is what Jeremiah had to say about Sewell, who is ranked ninth overall.

Sewell has a huge frame, quick feet and strong hands. He has the foot quickness to kick out and cover up speed rushers in the passing game. His hands can get too wide at times, which allows defenders to get underneath him (see: matchup against then-Auburn DT Derrick Brown in 2019). However, he stays connected and usually wins when he locks on. He has the ability to bend and drop his weight, but he gets too upright on occasion. Sewell does some special things in the run game. He can uproot defenders over his nose and he is explosive as a puller. The more I watched, I did have some concerns about his balance. He lunges at times and ends up on the ground more often than you’d like. Overall, Sewell isn’t the most polished blocker in this class, but he does offer the most upside.

Unfortunately, both Slater and Sewell opted out of the 2020 season, so they’ll be two of the tougher first-round prospects to evaluate for the 2021 draft. That may have had something to do with why Jeremiah didn’t have either of them projected as top-five prospects.

If the Bengals go in a different direction, LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase (second overall) and Florida’s Kyle Pitts (third) both checked in as top-five prospects. While receiver isn’t a big need, it’s going to be hard to pass on a game-breaker like Chase if he’s there at No. 5.

The same is true of Pitts, who’s already been tabbed one of the best tight end prospects in decades.

Other potential Bengals targets include Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley (fifth), Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle (sixth), fellow Bama receiver Devonta Smith (eighth), and Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons (10th).

Go here to check out the full top-50 big board.