Starting around January and lasting all the way up until late April, the NFL Draft is seemingly always on my mind. And to be completely honest, as a Bengals’ fan, I probably start looking forward to it months before January. That’s just been the sad, underlying effect of watching the team that plays in Cincinnati, Ohio over the last handful of seasons.
This year, more than any other year in recent memory, I find myself constantly flipping back and forth between who I want the Bengals to select with the 5th overall pick. If you’re a Twitter person, you’ve probably seen that Cincinnati fans are essentially in an all-out civil war with each other right now. One side being Team Sewell at 5 and the other being Team Chase at 5.
To me, there’s no wrong answer when picking between the two. But since fans seem to be so split on the decision, you can bet on a meltdown from half the fanbase when team doesn’t do what they want. The guys over on the Locked On Bengals podcast have discussed the two prospects a lot recently, and James Rapien put out a very engaging poll to get an idea of what the fans want.
As I write this, the poll leans 55% to 45% in favor of Penei Sewell. The argument – how can Burrow throw the ball laying on the ground? The rebuttal – what good is an offensive line when you have limited playmakers? Here’s where I chime in: Stay open to trading back!
Over the weekend, a couple of trades were made that completely shifted the top end of the draft. Miami, who was not likely to select a QB, traded out of the 3rd overall pick. Sitting there now is San Francisco, who seems to be moving on from QB Jimmy Garoppolo. The scenario in which the top 3, or even 4 picks in the NFL Draft are QBs got a lot more real.
The Bengals need to take advantage
The consensus top pick in this year’s draft is Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. It’s all but done. Number two? Zach Wilson, presumably. At 3 though, things get interesting. According to Peter King of NBC Sports, 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch reportedly skipped Justin Fields’ Pro Day to attend Mac Jones’ instead. Teams don’t generally give up the draft capital that SF did to *not* select a QB. The question is which one they take, not if they take one. That leaves Atlanta at 4, who could move on from Matt Ryan although he has two years left on his deal. The whispers around the league are that they could draft Trey Lance or Justin Fields 4th overall, and have their guy waiting in the wings for when Ryan’s days are up.
Finally, there’s the Bengals. If four QBs go off the board, everyone they want will be sitting there for the taking. But wait – there’s 5 highly touted QBs in this draft, and only 4 of them have already come off the board. Carolina and Denver sit at 8th and 9th respectively and are both in the market for a QB of their own. I’m not breaking any news here, but the Bengals have more than a couple holes to fill even after a busy free agency. Sewell and Chase sound awesome, but adding 2, 3, or maybe even more picks while only moving down 3 or 4 spots sounds so much better to me.
Of course, this all depends on how the Bengals pre-draft big board falls in line. They could just run to the podium for Joe Burrow’s old buddy Ja’Marr Chase. They could also say enough is enough and take Penei Sewell. Odds are though, one of these guys falls to 8 or 9 and if one of them is selected before the team picks, they just made the front office’s decision a lot easier. If they’re both gone, there’s guys like Rashawn Slater, Jaylen Waddle and Kyle Pitts (I could go on for days) that all improve the team and allow flexibility from adding draft picks.
So at least for now, I’m all for trading down to add more picks. Maybe tomorrow will be different, and when the Bengals are on the clock in April, it’ll surely be an extreme mix of emotions. The NFL Draft can not come soon enough.