There is plenty of intrigue in the 2021 NFL draft. It’s looking more certain that the first four picks in this year’s draft will all be quarterbacks.
The order and the teams selecting in those spots is still a little up in the air, but it has created a great problem for the Bengals sitting at five to select one of the best players in the draft.
There has been plenty of debate on who that player should be for Cincinnati this offseason, but it is also interesting to see draft experts insight into the situation.
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network just released his latest mock draft, which has the Bengals giving Joe Burrow one of the most dangerous weapons in the draft.
5. Cincinnati Bengals - Kyle Pitts, Florida TE
The Bengals still have holes on the offensive line, but this is a deep draft in the trenches, which allows them to take the best player available with the fifth pick before adding O-line help in Round 2.
We’ll start by talking about Pitts who absolutely deserves to be talked about as the best overall player in this draft. He is a hair under 6’6” while weighing 245 pounds, which aren’t unheard of measurements for a tight end. However, he has all of the skillset of a wide receiver. He is a fantastic route runner, great at the point of attack, soft hands and all while clocking in a 4.44 second 40-yard dash time.
Even if you called him a wide receiver, we are still having this same conversation right now. He will be an absolute nightmare for defenses who try to matchup with him in the NFL.
The first thing that may come to fans’ minds is “how does this help protect Burrow?” That is a fair question that Jeremiah himself tries to answer when pointing to the depth of this class. There are PLENTY of offensive linemen who will be available in the second and third round of this draft. The addition of Riley Reiff may not be a long-term solution at right tackle, but it gives them enough of an excuse to pass on a guy like Penei Sewell for whoever the best available tackle is in Round 2.
It is also interesting to note that in Jeremiah’s last mock draft he had the Bengals selecting Sewell with the idea the team couldn’t pass up protecting Burrow. A lot has changed since that mock. The Dolphins took Ja’Marr Chase with the third pick, and it was almost two months ago before any Pro Days. Even then he said how tempting it was to have Cincinnati select Pitts.
It is pretty clear that some draft experts are getting the idea that clubs in offensive line need are a little more willing to wait since this isn’t like past drafts where there were very few options at offensive line to fill their needs. It obviously has a few teams picking higher in the draft thinking they can select difference makers at other positions early while still being able to fill their protection needs later. Jeremiah doesn’t have an offensive tackle off the board until eight with the Panthers selecting Rashawn Slater, and even then he notes that edge is a very tempting way to go as well. Sewell goes a pick later to the Broncos.
The other question fans may have is why not select Chase instead of Pitts, and at that point you can probably chalk it up to personal preference. Pitts and Chase have both shown they have premiere talent, and they should have huge impacts in the NFL. The temptation to reunite Chase with Burrow who both lit it up at LSU in 2019 is tempting, but you also don’t often have an opportunity to add tight ends as talented as Pitts very often, if at all.
There is a growing consensus that Cincinnati could wait to add more protection for Burrow until Day 2 of the draft. It may just be a matter of which offensive weapon the Bengals are looking to pair with Burrow.