2021 NFL draft: Four teams the Bengals could trade with in the first round

Feb 25, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor speaks to the media during the NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 25, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor speaks to the media during the NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cincinnati Bengals, owners of the fifth overall pick in the 2021 draft, could very well find themselves in a position to pull off a major transaction on opening night. Clearly, the hope should be that one of the top-tier non-quarterback prospects, offensive tackle Penei Sewell or wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, will fall into their laps.

However, as more information becomes available, it seems that there is a decreasing chance Zac Taylor and co. will net one of the coveted stars previously mentioned. If the club indeed misses out on both Sewell and Chase, the best option is clearly to trade down. With numerous holes to fill on the roster, acquiring more picks trumps reaching for a player at a position of need.

Thankfully for the Bengals, the draft offers four prospects that could cause quarterback-needy teams to cough up substantial draft capital. The class contains Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance, all of which possess the potential to turn a franchise around.

At least one, and likely multiple, of those signal-callers will be available once Cincinnati is on the clock, putting the franchise that calls Paul Brown Stadium in the driver’s seat when it comes to potential trades.

Panthers could be Bengals’ earliest trade partner

If the Bengals want to play things safe in a trade down scenario, the best option would be to dial up the Carolina Panthers, owners of the eighth overall pick. The Christian McCaffrey led squad showed flashes in their first year under Matt Rhule, but they could clearly stand an upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback.

Moving back just three spots could potentially land Cincinnati Carolina’s second-round pick (#40), and likely more. That extra selection could go a long way in securing another edge rusher to boost the pass rush, a guard to shore up Joe Burrow’s protection, or even another offensive weapon.

Broncos could come calling for Bengals’ pick

Just one selection after the Panthers, the Bengals could find another trade partner. The Denver Broncos have some intriguing pieces, but they’re still missing the quarterback play they need. While Drew Lock has shown some flashes, they’re going to need an elite signal-caller to compete in a division that houses Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert.

Cincinnati could capitalize on Denver’s need to keep up in the gun-slinger arms race that exists in the AFC South. In doing so, they could acquire some serious draft capital to fill out their roster.

A call from out west, the San Francisco 49ers

Prior to the 2020 campaign, the 49ers were widely expected to be serious contenders in the NFC. After all, they employed one of the brightest young coaches in the league, a highly regarded defensive coordinator (now the Jets’ head coach), and a number of outstanding defensive linemen.

Unfortunately, injuries hit San Francisco hard, causing their entire operation to collapse. However, if they get their key contributors back healthy and dump Jimmy Garoppolo for a young playmaker like Fields or Wilson, they could easily launch themselves back into Super Bowl contention.

From the Bengals’ perspective, moving back this far is enough reason to demand not only serious draft capital in return immediately, but potentially even a first-round pick in 2022. That kind of return is something that must be considered.

Should the Bengals risk a trade with the Patriots?

If Cincinnati is really trying to rack up a number of picks, a move all the way down with the Patriots could be in order. While unlikely, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Fans of New England are suffering through their first losing season in 20 yearsTo make matters even worse, they’re watching Tom Brady make another masterful run through the playoffs. Simply put, those residing in Boston aren’t used to this feeling.

That fact alone could be enough to spur the Patriots into an aggressive gameplan. Giving Bill Belichick another star quarterback could set the franchise up for another dynasty down the line, but it would cost them. To move down a full 10 spots, Cincinnati would likely need a second and third-rounder this year plus a first-round selection in 2022, if not more.

While it would sting for the Bengals to miss out on one of the high-profile prospects in the 2021 draft class, it appears they would still be in a position to grab a quality player like Rashawn Slater, Christian Darrisaw, Kyle Pitts, Caleb Farley, or Gregory Rousseau. Certainly not a bad consolation prize.

Not to mention, the cupboards would be filled for years to come. If the Patriots come calling, the Bengals should, at the very least, hear them out.

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