Bengals Draft grades: “Joe’s bringing his crew”

Logan Vaughn, Braeden Guthrie, and Lukas Moore

Well, it finally happened. Months of debate and sleepless nights culminated in a three-day festival of anxiety, anger, and hope. Ten players later and there is a lot to sift through regarding the 2021 Bengals draft. The Bengals certainly showed belief in themselves, taking risks that could vault this team into the playoffs.

The draft is always a fickle thing to evaluate, nobody actually knows if this was a good draft, and won’t know for two to three years. That doesn’t mean we weren’t excited enough to give our best effort in grading these selections.

Excuse any over the top optimism, we try to be hopeful whenever the Bengals allow us to.

Round 1

Pick 5: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Logan Vaughn: A

We all knew deep down Chase was going to be the pick. They took the road that nobody in the national media wanted them to take, and I absolutely loved it. Penei Sewell would’ve been a great pick here, but the draft played out exactly how it was expected to in terms of the depth of this year’s offensive line class. Chase fills a major need and should step in on day one and see 100+ targets in his rookie campaign. With the chemistry he and Burrow already share, he’s a contender for Rookie of the Year. 

Lukas Moore: A+ (and a call to the parents about how good they’ve done in class)

I want every Bengals fan to watch this video of Justin Jefferson dominating the NFL. Impressive isn’t it? The Bengals get the guy that was better than Jefferson at only 19-years old. Chase checks every box imaginable and fixes the biggest flaw in Burrow’s rookie campaign. There’s no stopping Ja’Marr Uno Chase and the NFL is about to find that out.

Braeden Guthrie: A-

Should be an A, but A- due to the 2nd round, which will be talked about in a minute.

Going to Chase, he is an elite prospect. In the 2019-2020 season where he won the championship with Joe Burrow, Chase had 84 receptions, 1,780 receiving yards, and 20 touchdowns. He stretched the defense vertically and consistently wins 50/50 balls. He can make big plays and obviously has pre-existing chemistry with Burrow. He needs to work on his route tree and separation. However, his metrics suggest he should be able to develop that with no issue. Chase is a great pick and fits for the Bengals.

Round 2

Cincinnati trades pick 38 to New England for picks 46, 122 and 139

Pick 46: Jackson Carman, T/G, Clemson

Vaughn: C+

Whoa. The Bengals received a haul from New England Patriots and moved back just 8 spots to do so. I wasn’t a big fan of Carman when the pick was made, and I’m still uncertain of the value at pick 46. But Frank Pollack got himself a guy with good size and strength that has a ton of upside after watching more of him. He played tackle at Clemson, but his measurables and movement skills point to him being more suited for guard in the NFL. I think he’s the Bengals starting RG in week 1. 

Moore: C-

If the Bengals were actually planning to draft Carman at 38, it’s a good thing they moved down and acquired more capital. The problem is I’m not convinced of that narrative, I think the Bengals were shocked at a run of tackles taken in front of them. I think they panicked, and I think they reached. Carman has never played guard at any level. He’s coming off a herniated disk and was sitting in the low 90’s on a lot of big boards. The Fairfield native has a ton of size and upside and I believe he will be an eventual upgrade on the line. If Carman is a hit, then this pick and the trade were incredible moves, that upside is why I gave a passing grade to a questionable pick.

Guthrie: C

This grade could be lower but was raised a little thanks to the trade down where the Bengals received two 4ths. The biggest argument then for Bengals taking Chase over Penei Sewell was there would be an offensive lineman with better value in round 2 than wide receivers. Which there was. However, instead of taking a lineman such as Dillon Radnuz, the Bengals reach for Carman. Many analysts have called this a reach, especially with the other lineman available.

However, former offensive line coach Paul Alexander and former offensive lineman Willie Anderson gave their stamps of approval. Even with that, it’s hard to be excited about this pick. However, with raw athleticism, Frank Pollack will have the potential to develop him. Expect Carman to start at right guard.

Round 3

Pick 69: Joseph Ossai, DE, Texas

Vaughn: A+

Nobody thought Ossai would be sitting there waiting to be picked at 69th overall. He’s easily the best pick value-wise for the Bengals in the entire draft. Ossai is relentless in run defense, and it’s been noted that he has the bend and length to cause offensive tackles trouble in the NFL. He should complement Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard nicely.

Moore: A

When Carl Lawson decided to sign with the Jets, I thought it would be a haunting mistake for Cincinnati. I think Ossai helps ease that transition a ton. This is an explosive athlete who is just learning the game, he never saw a snap of football while living his early life in Nigeria. In another universe, Ossai is a UFC Champion. Luckily for Cincinnati, he chose to fight in the Jungle instead of an octagon.

Guthrie: A

Despite signing Trey Hendrickson, the Bengals still needed to add more defensive ends. They started that by drafting the former Longhorn Joseph Ossai. Many analysts labeled him as a late 1st/early 2nd talent, and the value here is incredible. Ossai is an athletic freak, as he scored a 9.49 on the relative athletic score. 

Ossai is still relatively new as an edge, as he was previously played at inside linebacker. The 2020 season was his first full season as an edge. He is still learning the position. He has a high mirror, violent moves, and a nice swim move.  

Round 4

Pick 111: Cameron Sample, ED, Tulane

Pick 122: Tyler Shelvin, DT, LSU

Pick 139: D’Ante Smith, OT, ECU

Vaughn: B

I loved the selection of Cam Sample at the top of the round and it shows the team is serious about forming a better pass rush. He can pass rush from the inside as well as on the end and probably plays meaningful snaps right away. 

Tyler Shelvin was the one that confused me here. Listed at 6’2, 350 pounds, Shelvin is a monster of a human being. More of a developmental prospect, I think it’ll be some time before we see Shelvin produce. Keeping his weight in check and learning from D.J. Reader could really help his future.

D’Ante Smith will provide depth from day one. He was a 3-year starter at ECU and has the arm length and agility to become a good NFL player. I think he fits what Frank Pollack wants to do in Cincinnati and his progression will be fun to watch.

Moore: A+

When the Bengals drafted Cameron Sample my friend who covers the AAC called me immediately and raved about his pass-rushing ability. The numbers on PFF certainly back that up (42 pressures), as Sample was one of the most productive pass rushers in the country. Possibly the most impressive thing about Sample is his sheer size. Some would consider him to have a “smaller” frame for a linebacker/defensive linemen. Standing at 6’3″ he packs 280 pounds of pure explosiveness. In three years of starting from his sophomore to senior season, he had 10.5 sacks and 18.5 more tackles for loss.

Tyler Shelvin would be a bad pick for any organization other than the Bengals. Shelvin matured late at LSU after being suspended for weight issues in 2018. Then came a full offseason of Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase leadership and inspiration. Just like the rest of the 2019 LSU team Shelvin maxed out his talent. Now that he’s rejoined with the man he carried off the field, I think he can be an impactful LARGE human. I love this pick, and I know I’m in the minority.

Guthrie: B

Bengals add another defensive lineman with Cameron Sample. He has the potential to play the edge and kick inside. Will he start?  No. But he will be a rotational player for a defensive line that needs it. He has a variety of pass rush moves and will be an impact player for the Bengals. He is exactly what Lou Anarumo is looking for.

Many have labeled Shelvin as a “DJ Reader clone”. Shelvin is a huge player, as he is currently 350 lbs. It takes two linemen to block him, which frees up another defensive lineman. Due to athleticism, he is limited to nose tackle in the NFL. He will play primarily play in goal-line formations and short-yardage situations. He lined up next to DJ Reader will be a nightmare for offensive lineman  

They add another offensive lineman with their final pick in the 4th round. Smith had a strong senior bowl, and his fairly athletic. There were some medical flags, as he had an undisclosed injury. He has good arm lengths at 35 inches. However, he has a lot of technical issues and doesn’t have a lot of natural strength. There is a potential upside, but there is a lot of works that needs to be done.

Round 5

Pick 149: Evan McPherson, K, Florida

Vaughn: B+

The only reason this pick isn’t an A+ is that I wish the Bengals could have taken him a bit later. I talked to a friend of mine who is an avid Florida football fan and he said, “The kid has a hell of a leg on him.” Anyone who watched the 2020 Bengals knows kicker was a huge need and it sounds like the job is his to lose.

Moore: C+

They better not cut him is all I have to say.

Guthrie: A

While many find taking a kicker round 5 a non-valuable pick, I have to disagree. If you can find a day you be a starter in the 5th round, that’s a helluva pick. And that what the Bengals got with McPherson. McPherson was a consistent kicker at Florida and can pick past 50 yards at ease. On his pro day, he kicked a 60 yarder.

If you don’t like the pick because the Bengals took a kicker round 5, that’s fine. But kicking was a huge problem last year. As long as McPherson has healthy calves, he’s a great pick.

Round 6

Pick 190: Trey Hill, C, Georgia

Pick 202: Chris Evans, RB, Michigan

Vaughn: B

Trey Hill plays at a huge position of need with the uncertainty revolving around Trey Hopkins and Billy Price heading into the 2021 season. I would have opted for Trey Smith out of Tennessee here, but Hill played in the SEC against good competition and holds his own in both pass blocking and run blocking. At times, he can struggle to get to the second level and finish blocks.

Chris Evans was a home run pick at 202. He’s a very good pass catcher out of the backfield and as someone who watched every single game of his in college, he was probably held back by coaching (Yes, I’m a Michigan fan). He’s sometimes hesitant to hit the hole and can do a little too much bouncing around but his change of direction and explosiveness can provide a nice change of pace for the offense.

Moore: B+

The Bengals say they aren’t worried about Hill’s two knee surgeries, which makes me worry about his knee surgeries. This is an SEC starter with good size and some upside, about what you’d expect at this point in the draft.

Someone of Chris Evans athletic ability probably shouldn’t be available at this point of the draft. But for some reason Michigan never played him. He struggled with academics and couldn’t find the field in 2019. Good thing you don’t have to show up for English 1001 in the NFL. If he finds the field in Cincinnati he could be an explosive player. An excellent pick to replace Giovani Bernard.

Guthrie: B+

The Bengals took center Trey Hill with their first pick in the 6th round. Last year, he was projected to be a 1st rounder in this draft. So what happened?

Back in December, he had Meniscus tear in both his knees that require surgery. That is a huge concern for any offensive lineman. One of his biggest flaws before the tears was knee bend, so that can be an issue. Hill has experience at guard and center. He plays aggressively but needs work on techniques such as hand placement, footwork, and his explosiveness. If he is fully healed from his Meniscus tears, the potential is there, and Pollack could very well develop him into a starting guard.

After releasing Giovani Bernard, the Bengals taking a running back seemed inevitable. They did that with their 2nd pick in the 6th round with Chris Evans. Evans was a top 15 running back recruit coming into Michigan, and had a string impact for them in the 2016 and 2017 season. He was suspended for the 2019 season due to poor academic grades. However, he worked his way back onto the team, which shows a string will to play football. Though his 2020 season was was lackluster, he still received an invitation to the Senior Bowl. He fits the Giovani Bernard role, as he can make impact in the fun game and the pass game. He’s a versatile running back that the Bengals need.

Round 7

Pick 235: Wyatt Hubert, DE, Kansas State

Vaughn: A

For the second straight year, I think the Bengals found a quality player with potential in the 7th round. Last year it was Markus Bailey, who likely fell due to past knee surgeries. This year, it’s Wyatt Hubert and he was the 3rd edge rusher taken by the Bengals in this draft. The team clearly had a plan to bolster the depth within the trenches on both sides of the ball and did just that.

Moore: B

Hubert is one of those ‘I would die for football’ guys, which is a theme of Bengals draftees. Zac Taylor certainly has the type of personality he prefers and this draft fit that at every pick. Maybe this is the year Taylor’s culture breaks through.

Guthrie: B

Another defensive lineman, why not?

This was a good value pick for the Bengals, as many did not expect him to go round 7. He is a high motor guy, who produced in college. He is very active in the run game. With the current state of the defensive end group, there is a strong chance he makes the team.

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