The Cincinnati Bengals came into this offseason knowing that they had to find some help for their young new franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow, whom they selected first overall in last year’s draft. There are multiple ways of going about that, and they had their pick of options, selecting fifth overall last night, with the first three picks being all quarterbacks.
Presumably, the decision ultimately came down to taking the top tackle or the top wide receiver. The Bengals chose the latter, drafting Burrow’s LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell, whom many see as one of the best tackle prospects in years.
“It ended up he’s a guy that can make a difference in our offense. He’s so explosive,” Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said after the pick. “To me, he’s the best receiver that’s come out in the last three years. He’s worthy of that spot where guys like A.J. and Julio were drafted. It’s hard to pass up that kind of talent.”
The Bengals drafted A.J. Green fourth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, who would spend the next decade in Cincinnati, though he did leave this offseason. Green was pretty much automatic for most of his career, but in recent years had been hampered by significant injuries.
Chase now reunites with Burrow for the Bengals, and pairs with last year’s 33rd overall pick, Tee Higgins, as well as Tyler Boyd, who is established as one of the top slot receivers in the league, giving Burrow a pretty strong stable of wide receivers with which to work as he gets back on the field.
The question remains outstanding, however, as to how well they will be able to protect him. They signed Riley Reiff in free agency to play right tackle. For now, I suppose, they’re still counting on 2019 first round pick Jonah Williams to fulfill the left tackle role. He played in and started 10 games there last season, but finished the year on injured reserve — where he also spent all of his rookie season.
Of course, there are still six rounds of the draft to go, and there are more tackles available. The Bengals pick early in the second round, so they have a good shot of still landing a potential day one starter at left tackle, or at least somebody who can compete there.
Callahan admitted that it was “not an easy decision” to pick between some of the top players in the draft at their respective positions once the quarterbacks went off the board, saying that “we’ve been back and forth on these guys.”
The Bengals went 4-11-1 last season, an improvement upon their 2-14 record from Zac Taylor’s first season in 2019, which was bad enough to land them the top pick in the draft and enabled them to take Burrow. Needless to say, their expectations will be higher for 2021.