The Cincinnati Bengals enter the 2021 NFL Draft with hopes of rebuilding a roster that has several holes. After a season that saw rookie and potential franchise quarterback Joe Burrow go down with a big injury, the offensive line looks to be the priority in the draft.
Luckily for the Bengals, the offensive line class is shaping up to be a very good one in 2021. There is a definite top group of tackles, led by Oregon’s Penei Sewell, and a great number of day two talents who could end up starting on day one for NFL offenses.
Adding more talent all along the offensive line is the right call for the Bengals after watching what went down last season. However, rumors are swirling that the Bengals could actually use the fifth overall selection on LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Those rumors, which include Burrow clamoring for the front office to select Chase, have been deemed rumors without truth. But, in a season that is built on smoke, it’s hard to imagine that option isn’t on the table.
So, should the Cincinnati Bengals draft Sewell or Chase at 5 in the 2021 NFL Draft?
The answer for many is simple: prioritize the position whose failure ultimately led to a major injury to your franchise quarterback. But let’s look at everything from a broader scope before we reach the conclusion.
Let’s go, for devil’s advocate’s sake, with the option to potentially pass on Sewell first.
One thing to consider regarding the Bengals selection is how the NFL views Sewell. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, who is very tuned in to the league and partially ranks his board accordingly, has stated that many teams have Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater higher than Sewell on their boards. If one of those teams is the Bengals, perhaps they view the Chase selection as more valuable to them.
Not to mention, the Bengals still do believe in 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams as their left tackle of the future.
The other factor is Burrow’s familiarity with Chase. Burrow struggled a great deal with accuracy past 20 yards as a rookie, and when turning back to the college tape, he relied heavily on his pass catchers to win in contested spots down the field to maximize his accuracy there. That familiarity alone, combined with how Chase wins, could be a recipe for success. In that scenario, the Cincinnati Bengals would likely shift their attention to players like Liam Eichenberg, Dillon Radunz, and Alex Leatherwood on day two of the draft.
The flipside, though, is that another teammate of Burrow’s has a chance to be available early on day two of the NFL Draft. Terrace Marshall Jr. possesses a similar skill set to Chase in that he has reliable hands, is a very good tracker of the football, and has the size to win through contact. If the Bengals are that desperate for Burrow to be as comfortable as possible in year two, they can always make a move to get back into the first round for Marshall.
As much as it would be entertaining to see a player like Chase play with Burrow again, selecting a 20-year-old in Sewell who has limitless upside in the NFL. Select Sewell to play left tackle, and move Williams to guard or center, where he has the All-Pro upside. Maybe even right tackle is something they can consider.
A pair of Sewell and Marshall is a far better decision for the Cincinnati Bengals than rolling the dice on a day two tackle, regardless of how deep the class is. Play the odds with a high hit rate at the receiver position on day two and get your franchise tackle.