Perfect Picks: Cincinnati Bengals
With the NFL Draft approaching we will be looking at each team and evaluating where they need to improve. In this particular series we will run a seven round mock using the Draft Network Mock machine and find the ‘Perfect Picks’ for each franchise.
We will highlight four players that could help each team. This will feature picks 1 and 2, a mid round gem and a late round sleeper.
The 2020 season couldn’t have gone much worse for the Bengals. While they gained hope for the future in the early season glimpses they had of Joe Burrow, those feelings were short lived. A crushing knee injury to their rookie signal caller highlighted the shortcomings of the Bengals roster.
The Bengals must build around Burrow and that includes enhancing his protection. The only bright side from a gloomy season was that the Bengals have the fifth overall pick. They have significant holes on the roster meaning that draft weekend will be vital in finding starting talent.
Round 1 - Pick 5 - Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Bengals first pick has become a contentious issue. The fanbase has been split between selecting Oregon’s left tackle Penei Sewell or reuniting Joe Burrow with college teammate Ja’Marr Chase. Over recent weeks it appears the front office is leaning to the latter option. Seemingly, the depth in the offensive line class is allowing Cincy to consider making a splash on the former LSU playmaker.
You can hardly blame them either. Burrow and Chase linked up for a record shattering, National Championship run that ended with the receiver claiming the Biletnikoff award. His twenty touchdowns and 1,780 receiving yards all came at the tender age of 19. While Chase isn’t the biggest and needs refinement in his route running, he projects to be an elite wideout in the NFL. With the departure of AJ Green and failure to secure a big name in free agency, the Bengals make the move to grab a true no.1 outside receiver.
Round 2 - Pick 38 - Jaylen Mayfield, T, Michigan
Considering Cincy avoided addressing their most pressing concern in this scenario, it becomes a priority in round 2. Burrow’s injury only confirmed what most fans thought about the offensive line going into the year. They were simply not fit for purpose and o-line coach Jim Turner paid the ultimate price. They added the reliable Riley Reiff in free agency and under the tutelage of the returning Frank Pollack, the vibes are encouraging. That said they still need a serious injection of talent in the position room.
Although the class of offensive tackles is deep, the Bengals may need to cross their fingers that someone falls to them at this pick. Either that or they take a projection. Michigan’s Jayen Mayfield falls into that category. Having only made 15 starts for the Wolverines it’s fair to say Mayfield is wet behind the ears. As a right tackle he showed plenty of athleticism and ability to get to the second level. The drawback, his size. With an arm length of 32 ⅝ inch, a lot of teams will have him pegged as a guard at the NFL level.
That might not put off the Bengals. They need help on the interior as well as at tackle. Mayfield could plug straight in at right guard in year one but also has the potential to ultimately prove to the coaching staff he can be the long term solution at right tackle.
Mid Round Gem - Pick 111 - Aaron Banks, iOL, Notre Dame
The lack of depth on the offensive line means that selecting a lineman in the first two rounds won’t prevent the Bengals from returning to the position on day 3. Quinton Spain helped midway through last season and returns on a one year prove it deal. Currently the other starter projects to be Xavier Sua-Filo. With that in mind adding further depth is a necessity.
In most years locating a starter in the fourth round would be a stretch, however the depth of this offensive line class suggests it is possible. If Notre Dame’s Aaron Banks was on the board at this point then he could fit the bill. Banks posted a PFF grade of 81.3 in 2020, working inside of left tackle Liam Eichenberg. The 6’5, 330lbs guard was only responsible for conceding 2 sacks in the last three seasons. If Mayfield started 2021 at guard before sliding to tackle, you could expect Banks to be a back-up in year 1 and then hopefully a reliable future starter.
Late Round Sleeper - Pick 190 - Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech
The Bengals recently released long-time running back Gio Bernard. Bernard was a solid back up, receiving back and special teamer. That takes some replacing but it would be unlikely to see the front office dip into the running back class until the later rounds. Having invested heavily in Joe Mixon, any draftee would likely see limited action so long as Mixon stayed healthy.
Despite Virginia Tech’s Khalil Herbert’s age (23) he could come into consideration at the right spot for the Bengals. Herbert didn’t breakout until last year when he tallied 1,182 yards, averaging 7.7 yards per carry. He is a well-rounded back who can break holes in the defensive line but also has enough wiggle to get into open space. He has seen limited action in the passing game but of that small sample size he appears proficient. He has the profile of a back who could give Mixon the breaks needed to maintain his freshness.
Draft In Full:
5. Ja’Marr Chase, LSU (WR)
38. Jaylen Mayfield, Michigan (OT)
69. Carlos Basham, Wake Forest (Edge)
111. Aaron Banks, Notre Dame (iOL)
149. Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas (CB)
190. Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech (RB)
202. Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Iowa (WR)
235. Tarron Jackson, Coastal Carolina (Edge)
formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at stripehype.com.