In the 2021 NFL Draft, the selection of Jackson Carman was the boldest move by the Cincinnati Bengals. The team seems to feel fairly confident in their selection, but many external outlets considered the pick a reach. Overall, it wasn’t the pick many predicted for the team, but they feel strongly about Carman. While his positional future is somewhat murky, the raw potential gleans. Still, of their ten-player haul in this draft, Carman’s future weighs heaviest.
Jackson Carman Success Is Key To Zac Taylor Era in Cincinnati
After using their first pick in this year’s draft on top-of-the-class receiver Ja’Marr Chase, the next move was clearly to address the offensive line. Then, the Cincinnati Bengals did just that, but not without a slight asterisk. Cincinnati moved back from the 38th pick, grabbing the New England Patriots pile of the 46th, 122nd, and 139th picks. Still, they grabbed the target that the player personnel department wanted in the second round, Clemson tackle Jackson Carman. Slated as a third-round target by many media outlets, the initial reaction was to call Carman a reach. However, the team indicated that they are aware of other teams who had a second-round grade on the 21-year-old lineman.
The pick of Carman came with heavy ties to the City of Cincinnati. For one, the former five-star recruit is a graduate of Fairfield High School, roughly 45 minutes north of downtown Cincinnati. This factor made for a wild celebration following the announcement of the pick at Carman’s draft watch part. Another factor, two key members of the organization’s past gave glowing reviews of Carman to team officials. Former offensive line coach Paul Alexander works with Carman and said he believed the young blocker had first-round talent. Another, perhaps more important voice, was future Hall of Famer tackle, Willie Anderson. Before the team keyed in on Carman, Director of Player Personnel, Duke Tobin, phoned Anderson for his opinion. Anderson, who also worked with Carman on his technique, gave the thumbs up and the Bengals aimed their bow. Seemingly, the organization liked the hometown product quite a bit.
Certainly, Jackson Carman Could Be Worth the Risk
Fresh off of a college career protecting Trevor Lawrence’s blindside, Carman must keep another first-overall pick, Joe Burrow, standing strong. The Bengals plan to kick Carman inside to guard, a position where he’s never played in a game, to start his career. In terms of immediate impact, the move might be the best thing that ever happened to the young blocker. At Clemson, Carman showed impressive foot speed and power on a regular basis. However, he struggled to manage the moves of opposing edge rushers. Kicking in to guard, he’ll be able to show what he does best, including getting out in screens and pulls.
Overall it's easy to see why the Bengals are interested in Carman. He has a very rare combination of size, power, and athleticism. He's raw in a lot of areas, but there is reason to believe that a move inside and some work with Frank Pollack could help him reach his potential. pic.twitter.com/uG5kObBvnz
— Sans (@bengals_sans) May 2, 2021
Plus, it’s not like Carman is a slouch at tackle. Standing 6’5”, 328 Lbs, he has the size, weight, and power for the position. In 2020, he earned a Pro Football Focus grade of 79.2, ranking 53rd among college tackles. Further, he earned an 81.5 grade for run blocking, which ranked 36th in college football. The run blocking grade, in particular, is good news for a player who’s kicking in to guard. With Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff occupying the tackle spots, Carman can use those movement skills in the run game. For someone like Joe Mixon, who hasn’t had much room to work in his career, a player like Carman is ideal.
Carman can carve out space in the secondary and simply rip open wide gaps for Mixon to ramble. Granted, Carman will need time to acclimate in the guard spot, which should be the focus of his training camp. The guard position was arguably the weakest spot on the roster last season and another year of that is unacceptable. After all, it was guards missing their assignments that lead to Joe Burrow’s season-ending knee injury. Carman, on paper, should be a sizeable improvement at the right guard. Still, the proof will be in the performance.
Why The Carman Pick Could Go Wrong for Taylor
There is no doubt that the Bengals need this pick to pay off, perhaps even immediately. This is a pick the Cincinnati Bengals organization had to get right. Further, it was emphasized after they passed on a few higher-rated tackles. Penei Sewell isn’t the only tackle they skipped in the 2021 NFL Draft. Before they traded the 38th pick, they had shots at Teven Jenkins, Liam Eichenberg, and Walker Little. Most outlets had all three of those players ranked ahead of Carman, with many giving Jenkins a first-round grade.
Still, the Bengals took their guy and will have the chance to prove their work. After all, offensive line coach Frank Pollack was very busy in the pre-draft circuits identifying the best round two and three blockers. On Friday, they showed that their evaluation of Carman came out on top of the rest of the pack. Their work is cut out for them; Carman’s transition to guard won’t be an overnight solution. In addition, they’ll leave people to wonder what the long-term plan at right tackle is, with Reiff on a one-year deal. Regardless, if Carman blows away expectations at the right guard, that’s a great sign for the organization.
2021 Offensive Line Picture Gives Carman a Chance to Grow and Impress
Doing some restructuring throughout the off-season, Jackson Carman is in a fair position to grow on the Bengals line. Reiff and Williams are good options at tackle. Hopkins is a dependable center. Left guard Quinton Spain is robust and should be better in 2021, given he’ll get a whole off-season with the team. Kicking inside to right guard, Carman is playing with a mostly-seasoned group who can help him keep it simple. Further, Pollack receives acclaim for his ability to develop young linemen. Carman started as a freshman at Clemson for a team that won a National Championship in 2018. Joining a Bengals team that won just four games in 2020, the pressure should be slimmed.
Carman is still a bit of a raw talent, but his ceiling makes him a promising pick for the Bengals. Certainly, the pressure is on for the organization, as they need to protect Joe Burrow at all costs. Carman gives the Bengals the potential for some power on the interior line, but he needs to play well almost right away. Seemingly, given the improved state of the group as a whole, Carman is set up to thrive. However, his performances on Sundays this fall will be key for the Bengals organization and the Zac Taylor era.
Main Photo: NEW ORLEANS, LA – JANUARY 13: Guard Jackson Carman #79 of the Clemson Tigers blocks during the College Football Playoff National Championship game against the LSU Tigers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 13, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. LSU defeated Clemson 42 to 25. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)