The Cincinnati Bengals are in a not unfamiliar position this year. They again hold a top 10 draft pick. They have been in a similar position numerous times over the course of the past 20 years. Sometimes, they opt to trade back. Others, they sit tight.
Last year, after going 2-14 the previous season, they knew all along exactly what they were doing. After earning the first overall pick, they used it to bring in quarterback Joe Burrow out of LSU. Burrow was coming off of one of the all-time great college football seasons.
The Bengals hold the fifth overall pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft after posting a 4-11-1 record a year ago. They are a team that is in major need of an influx of blue-chip talent on both sides of the football. But the Bengals are open to possibly trading back in the first — if the price is right.
“We have discussions with teams all the time about potentials and are you willing to talk about it,” director of player personnel Duke Tobin told the team’s website recently. “It has to be right. I don’t anticipate going down to a point where we’re losing the level of player we’re looking at right now. I think we’re in a good spot in this draft to get one of the guys who is a premier talent.”
Cincinnati can potentially score some major pieces if they sit tight at five. Players who are likely to be available — especially given that each of the first three picks are all anticipated to be quarterbacks, which they don’t need — include tackle Penei Sewell, tight end Kyle Pitts, and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
This is a deep draft class at tackle and wide receiver. But Pitts is head and shoulders above the rest of the 2021 tight end class, which is not especially deep. The Bengals are likely in the market for one, with a recovering C.J. Uzomah and Drew Sample heading up the depth chart.
And they need to get Burrow more weapons. While they drafted Tee Higgins in the second round last year and he had a promising rookie season, and Tyler Boyd is one of the league’s premiere slot receivers, they are very thin at wide receiver after losing A.J. Green and John Ross, a pair of former first-round draft picks. But will Burrow have input on where that first pick goes?
“There is no active lobbying for one or the other,” Tobin said. “I do think he’s aware of the universe and on board with anybody we choose from that universe. We’re going to do what we think is best to make Joe as successful as we can because the more successful he is, the more successful the Bengals will be.”
The Bengals did use a first round pick on a left tackle a couple of years ago in Jonah Williams. They signed tackle Riley Reiff in free agency, so they’re not necessarily forced to go tackle early. In reality, they might need more help along the interior. But improving the blocking for your franchise quarterback is never a bad idea.