Every fan has their own version of what their favorite team should do. While this Cincinnati Bengals mock draft is an option, there are plenty of options out there. At fifth overall, behind a number of teams who need quarterbacks, the Bengals just might have their pick of the litter. Cincinnati must build around Joe Burrow, so why not go get his favorite LSU receiver?
2021 Cincinnati Bengals Mock Draft 2.0: Ja’Marr Chase Edition
Round 1, Pick 5: Ja’Marr Chase, Wide Receiver, LSU
The best all-around receiver in this draft was Burrow’s favorite target, Ja’Marr Chase. Due to the fact he opted out in 2020, many fans have forgotten what an absolute force Chase was for that record-setting LSU offense. He’s got special talent plus he’s already got chemistry with the franchise quarterback.
In 2019, Chase led the nation in yards receiving (1,780) and touchdowns (20) off of 84 receptions. The fact he was able to legitimately dominate college football with another first-round receiver opposite him in Justin Jefferson is mind-blowing.
Chase is only 6’1″, about 200 lbs but his athleticism and ability to make plays are what set him apart. He has 4.4 speed, but it’s what he can do with that speed that’s the difference. Guys like John Ross or Henry Ruggs have top-flight speed, but it’s just sprinter speed. Chase looks faster because of how well and how quickly he can run his routes, creating space.
Ja’Marr Chase is an elite receiver prospect. In order to be picked top five, you have to be transcendent. Half of all Cincinnati Bengals mock draft lists you’ll find will have Chase coming to Cincinnati. With Tyler Boyd doing Tyler Boyd things plus the solid rookie campaign of Tee Higgins, defenses will have a tough time defending all three of these receivers.
Round 2, Pick 37: Alex Leatherwood, Tackle, Alabama
Atop the Bengals’ needs is offensive line. If Cincinnati doesn’t use one of its first two picks on an offensive lineman, the city would burn to the ground. They are expected to spend some money in the off-season on free agent linemen, but if you want Burrow to succeed, you ramp up that protection. Enter, Alex Leatherwood.
Alex Leatherwood (#70)
OT from Alabama
— Blake Jewell (@BlakeJewellNFL) January 13, 2021
Leatherwood could have declared after the 2019 season and be selected high. Instead, he returned to school only to continue a strong career. Starting his last three years, Leatherwood played at guard, right tackle (opposite of current Bengal, Jonah Williams), and left tackle. That versatility will be crucial for a team eager to revamp the line.
This pick is an extremely safe one, according to scouts. Leatherwood’s experience and versatilty are massive plusses. He’s got plenty of length which helps with pass protection, but he was also shown to open lanes for the Tide’s potent rushing attack. With the Bengals embracing Burrow’s football IQ and running RPO sets, Leatherwood would be a great pick.
Round 3, Pick 69: Deonte Brown, Guard, Alabama
Last time around in my Cincinnati Bengals mock draft 1.0, I had Brown to Cincinnati with this exact pick.
According to Pro Football Network, Brown didn’t allow a single snap during his time at Alabama. I went into more detail in that aforementioned mock draft.
Another option at this point could be Josh Myers, a center from Ohio State.
Round 4, Pick 109: Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma
The Bengals could not generate pressure on the quarterback in 2020. As of the end of the year, only Sam Hubbard and 2020 rookie Khalid Kareem are under contract. Regardless of whether or not they bring back Carl Lawson (the only guy who could regularly get pressure), the Bengals need another EDGE.
As a player, Perkins routinely showed out. As a freshman in 14 games, he recorded five sacks. As a sophomore, 13.5 sack in 12 games. His junior season, marred by off-the-field issues, resulted in 10.5 sacks in only six games.
Off the field, Perkins was suspended for the CFP semi-final in 2019 as well as Oklahoma’s first five games of 2020. Why was he suspended? Marijuana. So, at least it wasn’t a heinous, real crime.
Perkins is an explosive defender and would make an immediate impact in the EDGE rotation. He is lighter than most NFL defensive ends at about 247 lbs, but he never let that stop him. He lives in opposing backfields.
Round 5, Pick 148: Brady Christensen, Tackle, BYU
The third offensive lineman in this Cincinnati Bengals mock draft is one for depth, though he could contribute as a starter if needed. Brady Christensen was the BYU left tackle and was a big contributor to that offense’s success.
Highest career pass-blocking grade in the 2021 Draft class
1. Brady Christensen, BYU: 94.5
2. Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC: 91.9
3. Samuel Cosmi, Texas: 89.6
4. Penei Sewell, Oregon: 89.3 pic.twitter.com/Ne9dOERfbF
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 26, 2021
As stated before, the Bengals need to re-tool the offensive line. That likely means they will get rid of expensive back-ups like Bobby Hart. Getting a cheaper option with more versatility would be a no-brainer.
In the Bengals’ offense, football IQ is a need. Christensen has a high IQ and has even more size and strength. While he could be an option at right tackle, should Jonah Williams not be ready for Week 1, the Bengals could kick Christensen inside to guard.
Add at least one free agent and draft these three, the Bengals will look significantly better and will be able to protect their quarterback coming off of ACL rehab.
Round 6, Pick 186: Jermar Jefferson, Running Back, Oklahoma State
The Bengals signed Joe Mixon to an extension before the 2020 season. They would save more than $4 million if they cut Giovani Bernard. Cincinnati has a decent-sized need at running back. Enter Jermar Jefferson.
• 2021 Under The Radar Rookies •
Jermar Jefferson – RB (Oregon State)
Career stats (Rush/Rec)
2018: 12 – 239/1380/12 – 25/147/0
2019: 9 – 142/685/8 – 9/85/2
2020: 6 – 133/858/7 – 9/67/0
27 games – 514/2923/27 – 43/299/2
— Matt FF Dynasty 🏈 (@MattFFDynasty) January 28, 2021
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Cincinnati Bengals mock draft that goes without picking a running back at some point. Jefferson would be able to replicate Bernard’s production for significantly less.
In six games, Jefferson nearly went for 1,000 rushing yards to go with seven touchdowns in 2020. Even as a freshman, Jefferson tallied 1,527 scrimmage yards and 12 total touchdowns. He’s a fast, strong runner and has an agility that makes him dangerous after the catch. The Bengals love to run running back screens or angle routes. Jefferson would thrive when Mixon is out.
Round 7, Pick 229: Frank Darby, Wide Receiver, Arizona State
With only Boyd, Higgins, and Auden Tate under contract for 2021 with any legitimate playing time, selecting a late-round receiver to go with Chase would be a smart move, even if the Bengals go get a free agent. Arizona State has two first-round receivers in the last two drafts, so why not take a flier out on a guy who dominated opposite Brandon Aiyuk?
Darby had a less-than-stellar 2020. Considering that ASU only played four games, nobody truly lit it up for the Sun Devils. The issue with Darby’s game is his speed or lack thereof. He’s not a burner, but he’s got size and an ability to make contested catches.
It was evident with last year’s draft class, the Bengals are looking for leaders. Darby’s greatest qualities are his work ethic and leadership abilities. In 2020, the Bengals ran three wide receiver sets out of 11 personnel 76% of the time, good for most in the NFL. Even if the first line is Chase, Higgins, and Boyd, having a guy like Darby could alleviate some pressure on others in the red zone.
Round 7, Pick 247: Bryan Mills, Cornerback, North Carolina Central
I expect the Bengals to bring back William Jackson III and Mackensie Alexander, but Cincinnati needs more defensive backs. The final pick of this Cincinnati Bengals mock draft is Bryan Mills out of the HBCU, North Carolina Central.
Really impressed at this top of route rep by North Carolina Central CB Bryan Mills. Locked on to Shi Smith’s hip, anticipated the break and located the ball. Pass breakup #SeniorBowl pic.twitter.com/0xRQvV0GEm
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) January 27, 2021
Mills opted out of the 2020 season, though it mattered not because they did not have a traditional season. As one of the top FCS corners, Mills finished 2019 with five interceptions and 13 passes defensed.
He’s got length to him, so his ability to break up passes drives his game. As we saw with Senior Bowl practices and game film, he also possesses some serious speed. Due to the fact he opted out and his FCS schooling, it’s not too outlandish to think that he would drop in the draft.
The Bengals’ corners, for the most part, are known for having a physicality to them. Mills has that part of his game down. He can track the hips of the receivers and close if they shake him.
One Draft Won’t Fix the Bengals
Before free agency, the Bengals have needs at receiver, offensive line, tight end, defensive tackle (3 tech), EDGE, corner, and kicker. We have reason to believe Cincinnati won’t sit on its hands during free agency, so their draft needs will be shaped in the coming months.
We have one more Cincinnati Bengals mock draft coming, featuring Penei Sewell. Free agency and NFL draft season is so much fun!