There is no doubt that the Cincinnati Bengals will be committing a few assets to improving their offensive line this offseason.
This team doesn’t have a ton of holes outside of the offensive line to worry about, and they will have plenty of cap space and draft picks to put towards that effort.
Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
There’s no way the Bengals would take back their choice of wideout Ja’Marr Chase over offensive tackle Penei Sewell in last year’s draft, but you saw this season why so many of us thought they would take Sewell. Joe Burrow was sacked 55 times — third most in the league — and the offense averaged 4.0 yards per rush, which ranked 26th. It ranked 30th in ESPN’s pass block win rate metric. This is a below-average offensive line. Luckily for the Bengals, this is a deep tackle class at the top.
The 6-foot-7 Penning towered over defenders at the FCS level, and he was rarely challenged. He makes things look easy. Yes, it’s a big leap to the NFL, but I think he has the traits to be an early starter. If Cincinnati wants to keep 2019 first-rounder Jonah Williams on the left side, Penning could easily slot in at right tackle, where free-agent-to-be Riley Reiff played for most of 2021.
Penning not playing against NFL caliber talent certainly points towards early struggles. However, the combination of height, weight and speed is too good to pass up for where the Bengals are drafting (sometime after pick No. 24).
Penning showed up at Northern Iowa as a tight end that was nearly 100 pounds lighter. The idea that he is still raw at the tackle position isn’t a huge negative though. Offensive line coach Frank Pollack should be able to get quite a bit out of the young tackle, even if he is forced out there sooner rather than later. It is hard to ignore that his biggest hurdle will be the huge gap in competition. He would likely see plenty of preseason snaps to get him closer to NFL speed.
This pick comes before free agency where Cincinnati may do more damage along the offensive line with established free agents. If their line is closer to stable come the time of the draft, the best available that Kiper had left includes cornerback Trent McDuffie, defensive tackle DeMarvin Leal, cornerback Kyler Gordon and tight end Trey McBride. Any of those players also give a nice boost to areas that are either good but not great or have aging talent that need a long term solution in place.
If for whatever reason the Bengals make it to the draft without adding much to the offensive line then landing a guy like Penning is a great consolation. Having him being able to grow alongside this young offense would probably be a fruitful endeavor for all involved.