Bengals: Prospects to watch during the National Championship
As two college powerhouses vie for a national championship, fans of the Bengals will get to see plenty of prospects capable of donning the orange and black.
Unfortunately for the Cincinnati Bengals, the offseason has begun early once again this year. As WhoDey Nation has been forced to watch the NFL’s elite compete in the first round of the playoffs over the past weekend, the attention of both the fanbase and front office has undoubtedly turned towards the draft.
There’s plenty of work to do before Duke Tobin and co. can decide what to do with the fifth overall pick, but before flipping on the tape to dive into evaluations, tonight’s National Championship offers one final contest for fans to enjoy. Plenty of the prospects suiting up for the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide should be of interest to Bengals fans.
Bengals should be rooting for both quarterbacks to put on a show
Although the Bengals are set at quarterback with Joe Burrow under center, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t root for both Justin Fields and Mac Jones to put together strong performances.
In Fields’ case, another impressive performance against a stout Alabama defense would likely ensure he goes within the top-five picks by the time late April rolls around. That should be music to Cincinnati’s ears. The more quarterbacks that are selected ahead of them, the more likely they are to land one of the top prospects at a different position.
On the other hand, no matter how well Jones plays tonight, it almost certainly won’t be enough to put him in the conversation to go at the top of round one. However, he could do enough to hear his name called before the opening night of the draft is over, benefiting the Bengals in round two.
The orange and black faithful are well aware of how much this could benefit their squad. Just last year, the Packers opted to select quarterback Jordan Love instead of addressing their need at receiver, allowing Tee Higgins to fall into the Bengals’ lap. Could a similar outcome involving Jones push another star into day two for Cincinnati?
Prospects that could be playing for the Bengals this time next year
The Bengals, like many other franchises, love spending their draft capital on players that spent their collegiate days at the powerhouse programs and this year should be no different. Both Ohio State and Alabama are home to prospects that have the potential to further bolster some of the team’s biggest strengths or shore up their most glaring weaknesses.
Starting in the offensive trenches, Ohio State’s Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers, along with Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood could go a long way in ensuring Burrow doesn’t fall victim to the same kind of punishment he saw in his rookie season.
The trio of star linemen will have plenty of competition to face as well. Haskell Garrett of the Buckeyes will look to show off his impressive interior rushing capability while Christian Barmore will attempt to prove he’s continuing to live up to his expectations as a complete defensive tackle. Both players could add to the Queen City’s defensive line unit that took a big step backward this year.
There’s plenty of exciting playmakers to keep an eye on as well. After winning the Heisman, DeVonta Smith could easily be in the conversation for the Bengals’ first pick of the draft. After all, he’s drawn comparisons to A.J. Green, a guy Cincinnati didn’t hesitate to take with the fourth overall selection.
Beyond Smith, wide receiver Chris Olave and Jeremy Ruckert bring plenty to the table too. Olave’s smooth route running would allow him to serve as the deep threat the Bengals were clearly lacking a season ago.
In the case of Ruckert, he’s a solid blocker with loads of potential in the passing game. Imagining the 6’5 tight end exploiting mismatches up the seam for Burrow seems too good to be true.
Of course, you can’t forget about lockdown corner Patrick Surtain II either. the Bengals have an affinity for drafting first-round defensive backs and with William Jackson III set to hit free agency, the position could turn into a dire need quickly.
All in all, there’s a good chance at least one of the players suiting up tonight will be trading in their collegiate uniforms for stripes in a couple of months. If Bengals fans weren’t already planning on tuning in, that fact alone is enough to watch two of college football’s best battle it out.