The Cincinnati Bengals are in a prime position to significantly upgrade franchise cornerstone Joe Burrow’s protection this offseason. The club has already boosted the potential of the offensive line unit by making a well-received hire, deciding to reunite with Frank Pollack. Now, their attention will undoubtedly turn to utilizing their draft capital and cap space to infuse talent into the trenches.
The most logical fan-favorite routes for shoring up the offensive line are well documented. Joe Thuney, Brandon Scherff, and Taylor Moton serve as the ideal targets on the open market, while Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater look to be too enticing to pass up in round one.
Plucking players in any combination from those two groups would go a long way in easing the minds of WhoDey Nation. However, the front office could even target an offensive lineman at the start of day two, either to reinforce the gains they make in free agency/round one of the draft or as a fallback option if their plans in the first two phases fall through.
Thankfully for those residing in the Queen City, the prospect pool is shaping up to allow for one or numerous quality prospects to fall to the Bengals’ second pick. The players projected to be available could likely serve as quality day one starters.
The deep OT class falls on a perfect year for the Bengals
In last year’s draft, Cincinnati took full advantage of historical wide receiver depth in the prospect pool. The team wisely selected Tee Higgins in round two, a player that would have gone in the first round any other year. The selection has worked out tremendously well, giving the Bengals a terrific young weapon that will keep the offense churning for years to come.
This year, they’re in a position to take advantage of the great depth offered at a position of even greater need: offensive line. It’s the deepest class the NFL has seen in quite some time.
Both the previously mentioned Sewell and Slater are projected to go within the top-ten. From there, Christian Darrisaw, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Samuel Cosmi, Teven Jenkins, Jalen Mayfield, Liam Eichenberg, and Alex Leatherwood will all be sitting on the board. That’s before even getting to a guard prospect like Wyatt Davis.
In all, that’s a whopping ten offensive lineman with first-round grades in one form or another. In 2020, only seven offensive linemen were selected in round one. Only six were taken in the 2019 draft. Ditto for the 2018 class. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 2013, when nine offensive linemen were taken, to find a draft that even came close to having double-digit offensive linemen selected.
However, that year, only one quarterback heard his name called on the first night. Teams that have a need at quarterback often times have a need along the offensive line as well. Due to the lack of signal-caller talent in the 2013 class, more organizations opted to draft the OL position instead.
This year, as many as five quarterbacks (Larence, Wilson, Fields, Lance, Jones) could go within the first 32 selections, almost guaranteeing one of those ten offensive linemen falls into round two.
That gives the Bengals fairly good odds to see a first-round offensive lineman on their board when they come on the clock for their second selection. Current mock draft projections back up this assessment as well.
No matter how the offseason to that point plays out, it’s comforting news for any fan that remains optimistic they’ll see a significant talent upgrade in the ranks tasked with protecting Burrow.