Although fans and the media views offensive line as a big need for the Cincinnati Bengals, the team may be fine with addressing the unit on day three.
The Cincinnati Bengals offensive line struggled last year, that’s no secret. Although there was improvement towards the end of the season, understanding the reasoning behind the up-tick in play is important.
The coaching staff made adjustments to better suit the personnel. Also, the defensive fronts they were facing during this stretch were some of the weaker units in the league, which must be considered.
Now, that being said, the coaching staff should be commended for the adjustments they made. Even against weaker competition, progress is progress. Although the offensive line has improved, they are far from a finished product, especially in the run game, where Zac Taylor and staff want to run a zone scheme.
There are bright spots in the unit as well as hope for the future. 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams comes back from injury this season and shows the athleticism and intelligence to be a cornerstone for years to come. Trey Hopkins was a pleasant surprise at the center position and was signed to a long term deal after the season, bringing stability to the middle of this unit.
Michael Jordan showed flashes at the guard position and even though he was inconsistent, he did show enough athletism and potential to deserve a deeper look going forward. Then there is Billy Price, the former first-round pick has also been inconsistent at best. However, first-rounders will get a chance as long as they are under contract.
There seems to be hope for the left side of the line and Hopkins has the anchor locked down. The biggest question mark is on the right side. Newly signed Xavier Su’a-Filo is a better fit for what O-line coach Jim Turner is looking for as opposed to John Miller at right guard. He is athletic and nasty. However, he is not the long term answer.
Even though the coaching staff likes Bobby Hart at the right tackle position, at some point this position must be upgraded as far as a starter. Hart would make a fine swing tackle in spot duty but is not the long term answer. That brings us to the draft.
A first-round talent could be available for the Bengals at 33. However, it is far from a certainty. There are plenty of good offensive line prospects with first-round grades and they include the following:
- Jedrick Wills
- Triston Wirfs
- Andrew Thomas
- Josh Jones
- Mekhi Becton
If one of these names were to fall, then the Bengals should give them strong consideration. One other name that could be considered is interior offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz, who would make sense early on in the second round. However, another thing that must be considered is how the Bengals have their board prioritized.
Either way, if none of these guys are available at 33 or the Bengals prioritize another position, all hope is not lost. There is talent and tremendous value in round 4 and beyond. Although there is no way of saying for certain that the following prospects will be available on day 3, here are some names to be aware of.
St. John offensive tackle Ben Bartch, tackle Matthew Peart of UConn, as well as LSU guard Damien Lewis could be future starters. Bartch, in particular, can compete right away at right guard with the ability to be the right tackle of the future. Each of these guys fit the profile of what Cincinnati is looking for in their blockers and could even make a case for day 2 with little argument.
Other offensive line prospects that have the potential to contribute and possibly start at some point include
- Jonah Jackson
- Robert Hunt
- Matt Hennessy
- Logan Stenberg
- Ben Bredeson
- Tyler Biadasz
- Netane Muti
- Darryl Williams
- Nick Harris
- Saadiq Charles
- Hakeem Adeniji
- Terrence Steele
- Jack Driscoll
Once again, there is no guarantee that all these prospects will be available on day 3, they are simply players that could. Of course, these are also not bonafide future superstars, but they are prospects with the upside and potential to develop into, at least, solid starters.
This is a deeper draft than originally thought. The Bengals could address offensive line on day 2 of the draft, but if they don’t, there will be more than enough talent available on day 3 to make up for it.