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ESPN makes ‘daring offseason move’ for Bengals

Not sure if it’s a smart one.

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

When the 2021 NFL Draft rolls around, the Cincinnati Bengals will have a great chance to land someone capable of changing the fortunes of a franchise with no winning seasons since 2015.

Armed with the fifth-overall pick, Cincinnati will have a host of instant-impact players to choose from like LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, and possibly Oregon tackle Penei Sewell.

But could the Bengals actually trade out of that pick?

ESPN just released an article in which ‘daring offseason moves’ were made for all 32 NFL teams. When it came to the Bengals, ESPN’s move was actually trading out of the first round.

As fun as it is for Bengals fans to daydream about stud prospects such as Penei Sewell or Ja’Marr Chase in stripes, the team is not one or two stalwarts away from title contention. A battalion of young talent is needed to fill in the roster around Joe Burrow.

Trading from the No. 5 hole all the way out of the first round would likely require multiple willing partners, which of course are not always so easy to find. But if deals were available, the Bengals could flip that No. 5 choice into half a dozen or so of the top 100 prospects, plus future premium draft capital, which would hopefully hit when the team indeed is just a player away. Dealing for depth also plays into the strengths of this draft; Cincy’s needs are mainly in the trenches, where the 2021 class is very deep on both sides of the ball.

Meanwhile, being drafted in the first round by Cincinnati is like donning chain mail and venturing out into an electrical storm. The team hasn’t had a first-round pick survive an entire season since Kevin Zeitler in 2012. Cincy’s last seven first-rounders have combined for all of 20 starts in their rookie years, half of those coming from Burrow before he went down with a season-ending knee injury in 2020.

On the other hand, second-round picks like Jessie Bates, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd form the spine of the team’s core. Cincy should lean into its strength and amass a raft of Day 2 selections at the cost of the fifth pick.

Yes, the Bengals have a lot of holes to fill, but what better way to fill one of them than with a top-five pick? After all, when it comes to having top-five picks, the Bengals have done very well at landing instant-impact players who went on to have great careers.

Since 2001, top-five picks the Bengals have landed include Justin Smith (fourth in 2001), Carson Palmer (first in 2003), A.J. Green (fourth in 2011) and Joe Burrow (first in 2020).

And while the Bengals have had some nice success in the second round recently, they’ve also taken guys like Drew Sample, Jake Fisher, Jeremy Hill, Margus Hunt, Devon Still, Rey Maualuga, Jerome Simpson and Kenny Irons since the 2007 draft.

And don’t get me started on the first-round busts they’ve made outside the top five, including John Ross, Billy Price and Cedric Ogbuehi since 2015. And guys like Tyler Eifert, Darqueze Dennard, Keith Rivers and Jermaine Gresham can’t exactly be considered great success stories either.