As of right now, the Bengals own the No. 5 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, set to kick off April 29th in Cleveland, Ohio. That is about the only thing we know for certain. But even that is subject to change.
The Bengals could decide to trade down in the draft in order to pick up another early-round selection and help shore up some of the gaps that remain from another year of free-agent frenzy that saw the defense almost completely re-tooled.
Or Cincinnati could stay right where it is and choose between a trio of “generational talent,” any of whom could help make the Bengals a contender sooner rather than later. Oregon tackle Penei Sewell, LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase and Florida tight end Kyle Pitts have all been mocked to Cincinnati by various pundits.
So, assuming the Bengals stay put, and assuming that all three are available when the Bengals’ number is called, who do they select?
Most experts agree that Cincinnati’s three biggest needs are offensive linemen, wide receiver and edge rushers. So that would appear to eliminate Pitts from the equation.
The Bengals did very little to upgrade its offense during the offseason, but they did pick up former Minnesota Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff, a first-round selection of the Detroit Lions in the 2012 NFL Draft who has started 127 of 135 games played in his career, to man the right tackle position. And Cincinnati did not address the wide receiver position at all in free agency, despite the loss of A.J. Green, return specialist Alex Erickson and John Ross.
Two factors, then, should go into Cincinnati’s selection. First, what is the position of greatest need? And, second, between offensive linemen and receivers, which position group is deeper in order to result in the smallest drop-off between first and second-round selections?
If the Bengals select Sewell in the first round, that would leave them searching for a wide receiver in the second round. The best of the remaining bunch is likely to be Mississippi’s Elijah Moore, who ran a blazing 4.32 40 at his pro Day. But at 5-9 and 178 pounds, questions about his durability abound.
Next up is probably Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, who, at 6-2 and 210 pounds, has the size the Bengals covet, and his 4.39 40 would give them the downfield threat they have been lacking.
If Cincinnati goes with Chase, then an offensive lineman would be on tap in round two, and that best of that remaining bunch would probably be Samuel Cosmi of Texas. Cosmi, who stands 6-5 7/8 and weighs in at 308 pounds, was named First Team All Big-12 in 2020. He ran a 4.84 40 at his pro day and put up an impressive 36 reps on the bench press.
Next on the list is likely Michigan offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield. Mayfield, who will not turn 21 until May, is young and relatively inexperienced and would be a developmental project. Which is probably not something the Bengals need at this point.
Time to choose.
With the fifth pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select: Penei Sewell, offensive tackle, University of Oregon.
Because of his unique combination of size and speed, Cincinnati then goes with Bateman in the second round. Bateman, a three-year starter for the Golden Gophers, finished his college career with 147 receptions for 2,395 yards (an average of 16.3 yards per catch) and 19 touchdowns.
Unless they don’t.
It is equally possible that the Bengals decide to select Chase at pick five and Cosmi, or another offensive lineman, at pick 38.
Either way, Cincinnati would have addressed its two biggest needs, and would have selected players that will be fixtures, and probably even All-Pros, in its lineup for the next decade or so.
Finally, a round without much drama. With pick No. 69 of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select Pittsburgh Edge rusher Rashad Weaver. Another three-year performer, Weaver bounced back from a torn ACL to record 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2020. At 6-4 and 265 pounds, Weaver finished his career with 17 sacks and ran a 4.85 40 at his pro day.