For the Cincinnati Bengals, Ja’Marr Chase and Evan McPherson have been lifesavers.
The team’s fifth-overall pick and the fifth-round pick from last year’s NFL Draft have been instrumental in helping the Bengals win the division, win two playoff games, and play for a chance to go to the Super Bowl.
But the Bengals’ draft class of 2021 featured more than just those two players, and from a overall standpoint, they haven’t gotten much out of their other rookies this year compared to the rest of the league.
At least that’s what Pro Football Focus says. This week, PFF ranked the 32 draft classes in order of first-year production. The Bengals came in at 23rd because of minimal contributions outside of Chase and McPherson.
After months of debate, you’re not going to find many who will argue against Cincinnati’s decision to draft Ja’Marr Chase. However, Chase’s preseason expectation was relatively high as the fifth overall pick, and the rest of the Bengals’ draft class didn’t live up to expectation. Fifth-round kicker selection Evan McPherson was their next most valuable player, per PFF WAR.
Chase did have high expectations as the fifth pick in the draft, and while he did meet them and then some, his production can’t make up for the rest of the class falling behind.
Jackson Carman started just six games as a second-round pick and for whatever reason can’t get his starting job back from Hakeem Adeniji, who has not impressed of late. That pick looks like a blunder as of now, and since this list is accounting for what went down this year, his minimal impact is emphasized.
Third-round pick Joseph Ossai getting hurt in the preseason doesn’t help at all. He and seventh-rounder Wyatt Hubert never played a regular season snap and two of their fourth-round picks, Tyler Shelvin and D’Ante Smith, barely played as well. Cam Sample found a role but hardly did much with it.
Then there’s the sixth-round picks. Chris Evans looks like a solid role player going forward, but again, he didn’t do that much this year. Trey Hill, like Smith and Shelvin, looks to be a project for future seasons.
It really has been just Chase and McPherson elevating this class from a short-term perspective. You could make the argument that those two alone should boost the Bengals higher in these rankings, but they’ll need more picks from 2021 to pan out for the class to be viewed as an overall success.