A 4-11-1 season earned the Cincinnati Bengals the No. 5 pick in April’s draft. But they were also missing quarterback Joe Burrow (torn ACL) for the final six games, going 2-4 in his absence highlighted by a Monday night win over the Steelers in Week 15. Five of their losses game by five points or less.
In many mock drafts right not, Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell has been a mortal lock to be taken by the Bengals at No. 5. The recent signing of Riley Reiff might alter that equation at a glance. But the release of right tackle Bobby Hart and Reiff’s quick assertion he’ll play right tackle, still seems to make Sewell the easy pick for the Bengals. Some aggressive mock drafters may give them Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater or Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw at No. 5 to fill left tackle. And that works on the assumption former first-round pick Jonah Williams will kick in to left guard.
But in a big picture sense, the Bengals have a lot of options with the fifth pick. These three options stand as intriguing.
3. Trade Down
A team that has its franchise quarterback is in an enviable position. But the Bengals have plenty of holes to fill, and what might be perceived as relatively few draft picks this year (eight, three in the top-70). If a team below them gets motivated to trade up for a quarterback that falls some, the Bengals could take the offer., move down a little and add some extra draft pick capital.
2. Florida TE Kyle Pitts
Along with finding a suitable left tackle, adding weapons around Burrow is another draft tentacle for the Bengals. If Sewell is off the board when they go on the clock, which is possible, a turn that direction should be easy.
Even taking into account six games Burrow didn’t play, Bengals’ tight ends combined for 53 receptions, 9.2 yards per catch and two touchdowns last season. Over his last two seasons a Florida, Pitts had 17 touchdowns (12 in 2020). He is more than a traditional tight end, able to be moved all around the formation to create mismatches.
1. LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase
Chase opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, but he still may be the first wide receiver drafted in April. In 2019 he had 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns for the national title-winners at LSU. Those yardage and touchdown marks led the country. His quarterback? Some guy named Joe Burrow, of course.
Chase is not an incredibly likely pick for the Bengals at No. 5, with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd as their top wide receivers and a late free agent signing possible. But taking him shouldn’t be ruled out, if the board falls that way and they stay put at 5.