When a team heads into the NFL Draft not needing a quarterback and picking top-five, the world is its oyster. There are plenty of prospects that are worth the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals first round draft pick. With potentially three or four teams ahead of Cincinnati taking quarterbacks (who knows what the Miami Dolphins will do), the Bengals will have its pick of the litter at the fifth pick.
I’ve done this for 2019 and 2020, but never have I felt that they really couldn’t go wrong with a number of guys. Fans bemoaned that winning late would mess up the draft position, but it really hasn’t, so let’s enjoy the few victories and the potential momentum into 2021.
Options for the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals First Round Draft
Despite not playing in 2020, Penei Sewell looks to be the consensus OL1 in the draft. The 6’6″, 325 lbs. monster decided to opt out of 2020 to prepare for the NFL Draft, and why not? He was a day-one starter and played every game up until his injury. Despite that, he was an Honorable Mention All-PAC-12 player and a Freshman All-American.
His sophomore year was near perfect. He started 13 of 14 games and did not allow a single sack. PFF graded him at 95.8 overall, easily the best at his position. That consisted of 91.1 pass-blocking and 95.7 run-blocking grades. He never allowed more than two pressure in a single game.
Therein lies the possibility that Sewell is not there at the five pick. The New York Jets could decide to stick with Sam Darnold and swipe Sewell at two. Regardless, Sewell will be the top name on the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals first round draft pick board. They have a need at tackle and he will easily be the best player available (BPA).
Where the fandom begins to split is within the wide receiver position. Ja’Marr Chase has been considered the best wide receiver prospect in this draft ever since he broke out in 2019.
“But Cincinnati needs offensive line, they don’t need a receiver!” This mentality is very popular in the Bengals fandom, but it’s only half-right. The Bengals need offensive line, yes. But they also need at least two receivers as of the end of Week 17. Chase will be a day-one starter, no questions asked.
One massive issue with rookie wide receivers is their chemistry with the starting quarterback. Good thing he and Joe Burrow played on the same magical team. So, one less thing to worry about.
Due to his opting out, many people have forgotten what he can do. Chase went off for 84 catches, 1,780 yards, and 20 touchdowns. He led the nation in both yards and touchdowns. That is doubly impressive considering his teammate and current Minnesota Viking, Justin Jefferson, was third and second, respectively.
Chase is the real deal. The only possibility of him being selected before Cincinnati will lie in Miami. If he falls and Sewell is gone, the Bengals had better write Chase’s name in Sharpie and sprint that card to the podium. Chase broke out young. There’s a strong correlation between breaking out young and NFL success.
Why is the Bengals fandom split? That will be due to the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, DeVonta Smith. Fresh off of royally torching Ohio State in the CFP National Title game, Smith will be a hot commodity. He did injure his right index finger in the win, but this won’t stop him.
A stud who could have come out last year (I was lobbying for the Bengals to pick him in the second round if he did), Smith has been great. It wasn’t until 2019 where he actually broke out. This is even with the fact he caught the game-winner in the CFP National Title game in 2017 against Georgia.
He is a massive home-run threat every time he touches the ball. This year, he led the nation in yards with 1,856 and 23 touchdowns. The next closest receiver in terms of yards logged 1,193. Absolutely dominant. If he didn’t get hurt, it’s not outlandish to think he would have added 150 yards and two more touchdowns.
Smith is about as smooth of a route-runner as you’ll find. Of the two receivers on this 2021 Cincinnati Bengals first round draft pick options, Smith would be a magnificent consolation prize if the team misses out on Sewel and Chase. He will also be a day-one starter and could make an immediate impact. Could we see a link-up of back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners? Recency bias aside, it would be enough to generate even more hype.
No matter the year, one would be daft to not even entertain trade back options. This draft is very deep at the top and, should a certain quarterback fall, Cincinnati could get a decent haul to drop back a few spots. Since at least one of the aforementioned athletes will be there at five, it would have to be quite the haul to make Mike Brown/Duke Tobin/Katie Blackburn (or whoever is calling the shots) consider.
If they do and miss out on Sewel, Chase, and Smith, there are still plenty of great options if they were to trade back:
Kyle Pitts, Florida
Plenty of Talent for the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals First Round Draft Pick
Every fan, expert, and analyst has their own preference for what their team should do. The Bengals have more holes and issues than a single draft could remedy. They could help a lot of issues by utilizing free agency. Sure, just about every prospect that isn’t a quarterback is on this list, but it just shows that there are plenty of players worth a look.
If BPA can fill a hole, then go for it. If it doesn’t, you can still pull the trigger. The draft doesn’t end after the first round. Many of the Bengals’ best players were taken later (Tee Higgins: 2nd, Tyler Boyd: 2nd, Jessie Bates: 2nd, etc.). If they miss out on a sure-fire guy like Sewell, don’t panic! The draft is long and is full of talent.