The Draft Network provides some insight and analysis into the Cincinnati Bengal’s many unknowns for April.
After a historical free agency period for the Cincinnati Bengals, the focus now shifts to the 2020 draft, where the team will look to continue to add talent and avoid another season in the NFL cellar.
For most, there’s no uncertainty that the Bengal’s should take Joe Burrow with the first overall selection. Still, how big is the gap between the cigar smoking Heisman trophy winner and the rest of the class?
The Bengal’s have quite a few unknowns surrounding the linebacker room, with only Germaine Pratt and Josh Bynes looking capable to start. Could one of the top prospects at the position fall to round two?
The offensive line has been the Achilles heel of the team for years. Are there any players who may be available in round three or later who could step in and start right away?
Q: How big is the gap between Joe Burrow and the rest of the quarterback class?
A: So, funny enough, I actually don’t think it’s that big of a gap. Burrow is just clearly the No. 1 guy. I think Tua Tagovailoa is a great passer when he’s healthy. I also think he’s a fantastic leader. And Justin Herbert might have the best arm in the class. He’s better than people give him credit for.
Burrow has limitations. He doesn’t have the strongest arm. He’s not super mobile when it comes to NFL speed. He’s not the biggest guy in the world. And his eye-popping production, while incredible, comes from just one year.
Now, all of that to say, don’t overthink this. Burrow may not be leaps and bounds more naturally talented than his peers in the quarterback class, but his preparation, his confidence, his leadership, and his success all make him the clear-cut No. 1 choice.
Q: With the way free agency played out, especially with the Raiders, who were expected to take an LB in round 1, do you think Patrick Queen or Kenneth Murray could fall to pick 33?
A: I do think there is a chance that happens, yes, but there are a gauntlet of teams in the back half of the first round that could all take their stabs at a linebacker of the caliber of Queen and Murray. You mentioned the Raiders as one of the options. Jacksonville is another in the top-20; the Eagles could be another team right there. Then the Ravens, Packers, and Chiefs could all go for either of those guys.
Possible, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Q: The Bengals have a glaring need at linebacker but at what point does the talent at wide receiver out-weigh the defensive need? What wide receivers would have to fall to 33 to take them over a defensive player?
A: In relation to the previous question, if Simmons (duh), Queen and Murray are off the board, the Bengals would be wise not to force a linebacker pick. After those three, the next in line would be Ohio State’s Malik Harrison and Mississippi State’s Willie Gay Jr., but not sure the Bengals would roll the dice on them at No. 33.
As for wide receivers, this could still be a sweet spot. With the Buffalo Bills trading for Stefon Diggs and the New Orleans Saints signing Emmanuel Sanders, there’s a good chance they won’t be selecting a wideout in the first round. Because of this, there’s a chance Clemson’s Tee Higgins could be had at the top of round two. If LSU’s Justin Jefferson is there, they should jump all over him due to how nuanced he is and how he could contribute right away with the already established chemistry with Joe Burrow. Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk is another player who could catch their attention, though he does need some work from a technical standpoint. A wildcard at 33 is Michigan’s Donovan People-Jones.
Q: Who are some under-the-radar linebackers Bengals fans should look out for?
If Bengals fans don’t know Ohio State’s Malik Harrison or Mississippi State’s Willie Gay Jr. (as previously mentioned), they should look them up. Harrison is a very solid player who controls the box well with play recognition and reliable tackling, and Gay Jr. is one of the most freak athletes the Combine has ever recorded for a linebacker.
After them, Purdue’s Markus Bailey brings plus attributes in coverage, though his injury history is concerning. Appalachian State’s Akeem Davis-Gaither is another player who brings a lot of athleticism to the position that I like as a mid-round linebacker.
Q: The Bengals need help at guard and tackle. Are there any prospects who may be available in round 3 or later who could step in and start right away?
A: It’s hard to say whether or not there would be starting-caliber offensive linemen outside of the top two rounds. With offensive line play being as paramount as it is, the good ones go quick. That being said, we see offensive linemen find their way to success from the later rounds all the time.
At offensive tackle, Ben Bartch from St. John’s is a player who might get picked later than he should due to his lower level of competition in college. Isaiah Wilson is a massive man from Georgia who needs some work but has a high ceiling. Saahdiq Charles from LSU has a ton of athletic upside to start in the NFL, but inconsistencies are rough, at times. On the interior, Nick Harris from Washington is super scrappy and has a great first punch, but his overall size might cause him to get bullied in the NFL; doesn’t have a ton of size to anchor, but knowns O-line play well. Finally, Damien Lewis from LSU brings a nastiness to the run game.
Those are some guys who would be worth taking a chance on.
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