The Cincinnati Bengals 2021 NFL Draft class is on the books and the Director of Player Personnel stacked picks. After several trades in the pre-draft process, with the Houston Texans and New England Patriots. They wound up selecting ten players throughout the seven-round process. Their final collection of players included the following:
- First Round, 5th Overall: Ja’Marr Chase, Wide Reciever, Louisiana State
- Second Round, 46th Overall: Jackson Carman, Offensive Guard, Clemson University
- Third Round, 69th Overall: Joseph Ossai, Edge Rusher, University of Texas
- Fourth Round, 111th Overall: Cameron Sample, Defensive End, Tulane University
- Fourth Round, 122nd Overall: Tyler Shelvin, Louisiana State University
- Fourth Round, 139th Overall: D’Ante Smith, Offensive Tackle, East Carolina
- Fifth Round, 149th Overall: Evan McPherson, Kicker, University of Florida
- Sixth Round, 190th Overall: Trey Hill, Interior Offensive Lineman, University of Georgia
- Sixth Round, 202nd Overall: Chris Evans, Running Back, University of Michigan
- Seventh Round, 235th Overall: Wyatt Hubert, Defensive End, Kansas State
Cincinnati Bengals 2021 NFL Draft Grade: 9.0/10
Cincinnati Bengals 2021 NFL Draft Review: Rebuilding Around Burrow
The Best Player: Ja’Marr Chase
Without a doubt, Ja’Marr Chase is the biggest Cincinnati Bengals 2021 Draft grab. The prolific LSU wide-out gets to play with his teammate Joe Burrow in Cincinnati. Obviously, the pick pleases Burrow and gives him a top deep-ball target. During his outstanding 2019 at LSU, Chase compiled 1,780 yards, 20 touchdowns, and averaged 21.2 yards per catch. Further, he won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as college football’s most outstanding receiver, in addition to a National Championship.
Important to note? He did all of that at just 19-years-old. Now at 21-years-old, he joins an elite young receiving core with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, plus Joe Mixon in the backfield. Still, most expect Chase to be the biggest playmaker outside of Burrow in the Bengals offense.
Even following college teammate Justin Jefferson’s dominant rookie season, most experts expect Chase to be the best Tigers receiver. Some inside the league have called Chase the best receiver in either of the last two classes, both quite deep. Others call Chase the most talented receiver in the draft since Julio Jones. Out of the gate, Chase’s previous connection with Burrow could allow for quick success. With Zac Taylor desperately needing to win some games, Chase gives them a way to run ahead of the competition. Plus, the Bengals struggled to get separation in 2020 and clearly needed a faster deep ball target for Burrow. Chase provides the perfect dose of what the Bengals need to take their offense to the next level.
The Head-Scratcher: Only Adding One Pass Catcher
After adding plentiful line depth in the early rounds, the Bengals used their final pick on defensive end Wyatt Hubert. While the team needed to re-stock the trenches to accommodate for past draft misses, another area could’ve helped. The Bengals used their first pick of the draft on Chase and then did not add another pass catcher in the draft. After not adding another receiver in the draft or free agency, the team has left their room top-heavy. Certainly, Higgins, Boyd, and Chase make a thrilling top group. However, Auden Tate is next on the depth chart and there’s a big drop off after his spot.
Granted, the team is giving Thaddeus Moss, the LSU teammate of Burrow and Chase, a shot at tight end. Moss is a close friend of Burrow and struggled with foot injuries after going undrafted last year. The Bengals snagged Moss on waivers from the Washington Football Team this spring and he makes sense as a developmental prospect. Further, the team could grab an undrafted free agent they covet and work him into the pipeline.
The Surprise: Trey Hill
Not a heralded draft prospect, but a well-rounded blocker from Georgia, the Bengals picked an interesting name in Trey Hill. There were still some higher-rated blockers still on the board, but the Bengals picked a gritty and physical interior player. Hill showed the team’s commitment to offensive linemen, being the third of his kind on the team’s draft sheet.
Earning a solid Pro Football Focus grade of 76.2, the ranked 14th among college centers this season. He also earned a 73.8 grade in 2019 while starting at right guard. A coveted prospect out of high school, Hill does fit with the Bengals mold. Still, they left some of the lengthier tackles on the board and may have wound up with three interior blockers.
The Steal: Joseph Ossai
Somehow still on their board with the 69th overall pick, the team landed a tantalizing edge talent in Joseph Ossai. Many analysts had a first-to-early-second round grade on Ossai, who presents a high ceiling in Cincinnati. He picked up 5.5 sacks during both the 2019 and 2020 seasons with the Longhorns, creating tons of pressure. In Ossai, the team grabs an instant solution to one of their biggest questions remaining for the 2021 off-season.
According to coach Zac Taylor, the team believes Ossai is ready to compete for the third-down edge-rushing role. While he might need to add some weight to compete in the pros, Ossai looks ready for combat next season. The Texas native and Longhorn pass rusher is exactly what the doctor ordered after the team lost Carl Lawson in free agency.
Most Likely to Turn Heads During Training Camp: Chris Evans
Picked up in the sixth round as a solid lottery ticket, expect Chris Evans to put on a show in training camp. After the departure of Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati had an obvious hole at running back. Still, the team does expect Joe Mixon to take over Bernard’s former third-down role, providing value on his contract. In Evans, the Bengals have the chance to take a high-level player and give him a pass-catching offensive role.
Seemingly misused at Michigan, the running back did display the ability to play in the passing game, averaging 9.8 yards per catch. Evans underwent a series of academic-related suspensions during his final two seasons at Michigan. Therefore, he picked up just 73 rushing yards on 16 rushes during the 2020 season. He actually had more receiving yards in 2020 than rushing, with 87 yards on 9 receptions, further proving his receiving talent. Posting a 9.85 relative athletic score on his pro day, Evans proved his impressive agility and quickness. If he locks in on football, Evans might blow away expectations in camp.
In all, it was a pretty big haul for the Cincinnati Bengals 2021 Draft class. They checked a lot of boxes and gave themselves flexibilities with their second-round trade-back. Solving a pain point on special teams market a big draft moment. Fans ired over recently departed kicker Randy Bullock and in McPherson, they land a consistent player with a big leg.
In college, McPherson hit 85% of his field goals, hitting five of eight kicks from beyond fifty yards. Further, he missed just one of his 150 extra point attempts at Florida. Importantly, they used a trade back with the Patriots to gain extra picks, knowing they could slide for Jackson Carman. Immediately, Carman provides an exciting solution at guard. He earns great praise from acclaimed offensive line coach Paul Alexander and franchise great Willie Anderson, who advised the pick.
Another swing on the line was the offensive tackle, D’Ante Smith from East Carolina. Needing to add some pounds and learn better technique, Smith has some powerful hands and good foot speed. Working with offensive line coach Frank Pollack could be a great chance to develop the tackle.
Prior to Smith, the Bengals landed a big haul with their first two of their three fourth-round picks. They landed the undersized, but explosive Cameron Sample from Tulane. Then, they landed the big-bodied and run-stuffing defensive tackle, Tyler Shelvin from LSU. The two are somewhat opposite swings for the Bengals, the payoff for both is enticing. Sample was the MVP of the Senior Bowl and shows the ability to provide explosion in the pass rush. Shelvin, on the other hand, is a run-stuffing nose tackle who doesn’t give much in the passing game. Instead, he could provide a fit in the hole Domata Peko left on the roster a few seasons ago.
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