Things will be really interesting when the draft kicks off in less than a month.
After the Dolphins, 49ers and Eagles did some moving around, the stage seems set for the first four picks in the draft to all be quarterbacks. That leaves the Cincinnati Bengals at five to be able to pick the best available non-quarterback player, which according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., isn’t Oregon Ducks tackle Penei Sewell.
The long-time draft analyst has an interesting update to his big board. He now has four pass-catchers following quarterback Trevor Lawrence before Sewell lands eighth on the list. The young offensive linemen has been pegged as the best player in this draft since late in 2020. Here is what Kiper has to say about Sewell:
I wrote in September that Sewell could be a top-five pick even if he never played another snap at Oregon. And I still think that’s going to happen. He announced just days after my preseason Big Board was released that he was opting out of the season and entering the 2021 draft. He’s the clear top offensive tackle in this class and dominated as Justin Herbert’s blindside protector in 2019, winning the Outland Trophy as college football’s best lineman. In a class with outstanding quarterback and wide receiver talent, Sewell won’t be the sexiest pick, but he’ll be an instant starter and upgrade for the team that picks him.
Kiper still notes that Sewell could still end up being a top-five pick. The four players in front of Sewell that aren’t quarterbacks in order are Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith, LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, and Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle.
Pitts being the best player after Lawrence is very interesting, but it really does speak volumes about the caliber of player Pitts will likely be at the NFL level. When you combine the fact he is 6’6” and runs almost a 4.40 second 40-yard dash, it is easy to see why Kiper is so high on him.
It is hard to ignore the Chase is also viewed as the third best of these pass catchers. He has been linked to Cincinnati more often recently after rumors of quarterback Joe Burrow speaking very highly of his former receiver could mean the Bengals aim to make their franchise quarterback happy by reuniting them. Here is what Kiper had to say about the LSU product:
We shouldn’t forget how good Chase was in 2019, when he caught 84 passes and led the country with 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. And after opting out of the 2020 season, he still has a chance to be the top wide receiver picked in April. He’s stellar after the catch, breaking tackles and running away from defenders, and he can separate on routes. As I mentioned last summer, Chase consistently beat first-round pick A.J. Terrell in the national title game, catching nine passes for 221 yards and two TDs. He’s a legitimate No. 1 wideout. Chase will work out for scouts on Wednesday.
There has obviously been a debate raging among Bengals’ fans recently with what the Bengals should do at five now that it looks like they may have their pick of several blue chip players. The debate is focused around whether the team should add Burrow’s preferred weapon or give him some much needed upgrade in protection with the first pick.
What this ironically supports the most is trading back. If the Bengals were able to move back to eight (the Panthers) or nine (the Broncos) they should still be in great position to land a player like Sewell or one of these four pass catchers while picking up some extra picks in a draft that is deep in areas of need like receiver and offensive line.