Cincinnati Bengals’ Case for Trading Back into the First Round

Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

After an offseason packed with action, the Cincinnati Bengals are in a unique spot to rebuild their roster at an unprecedented pace. Trading back into the first round could accelerate that rebuilding process.

It is no secret that the Cincinnati Bengals are going to select Joe Burrow with the number one overall pick. The question remains, what will they do to build a future around the Heisman-winning quarterback?

Cincinnati boasted an offseason that signaled a change of times for the Bengals. For starters, it was reported that D.J. Reader signed a four year, $53 million deal to make him the highest-paid free agent that the Bengals have ever signed. Moments later, Trae Waynes agreed to a 3 year, $42 million contract. By the end of the free agency frenzy, they had signed several players at key positions, franchised tagged A.J. Green, and released three starters, including former first-round selection Dre Kirkpatrick.

With the Reader signing, Cincinnati immediately upgraded their defensive line. Vonn Bell, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander were added to bolster a secondary that desperately needed help. Xavier Su’a Filo may not be a star signing, but he adds a cheap replacement or competition at either guard position.

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As Cincinnati improved at every level of their defense, they filled out their board to draft the best available player at pick 33 and beyond. They also opened up the door for a potential trade up into the first round to grab one of the remaining needs on the team: linebacker and offensive linemen.

The 2020 NFL Draft class is loaded with first-round talent on the offensive line. Some mock drafts predict six to eight offensive linemen could be selected in the first round, with the majority landing in the top 15. However, if any of the linemen begin to fall, the Bengals could pounce to land their guard or tackle of the future.

Josh Jones of Houston has had an up and down draft process. After starring at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, Jones’s stock skyrocketed. As of late, he has been predicted to fall to the late first or early second. Other players such as Cesar Ruiz, Ezra Cleveland, Andrew Thomas, and Austin Jackson could also fall. Unfortunately for the Bengals, there are many linemen needy teams towards the end of round one. The Dolphins (26), Seahawks (27), Titans (29), and Packers (30) could steal the Cincinnati’s thunder by drafting Jones or any of the other highly coveted offensive linemen.

At linebacker, the draft is unusually thin at the top of the board. Patrick Queen and Kenneth Murray are the only two names who are consistently mocked in the first round, usually in the last ten picks. A run on quarterbacks, wide receivers, or offensive linemen, could push these two closer to the end of the first or be available for pick 33.

The Bengals must not hesitate to build for the future if they rank any of the above players highly enough on their board and those players begin to fall. Cincinnati has leverage in draft negotiations as they have the opening pick for each round. Not only that, but they also have valuable players that could help win-now teams. Andy Dalton could compete for most starting jobs in the NFL. The team has other veterans as well who will eventually cost more than they’re worth. At what point are the Bengals willing to part ways with players who are past their prime?

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If they are committed to winning and competing for certain players, the Bengals would most likely have to trade ahead of the Dolphins’ 26th pick, and definitely before the Ravens’ at 28. However, Cincinnati should not draft strictly for need, but they should pair team needs with a “best-player-available” mentality based on their draft board. If the Cincinnati Bengals are serious about rebuilding at the 49ers’ speed, they should jump at any opportunity to solidify their biggest needs and round out their 2020 depth chart.