PFF projects Bengals taking Ja’Marr Chase as Penei Sewell falls in NFL Draft

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 28: (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 28: (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

The early 2021 NFL mock drafts most often projected the Bengals to select Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell in the first round. With the fifth pick, Cincinnati will be reliant on who is available when they draft. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is expected to be selected first by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The New York Jets are second on the clock. When the J-E-T-S select anyone is possible. New York selected QB Sam Darnold third overall in 2018. Consensus thinking is that none of the QBs beyond Lawrence in the 2021 NFL Draft have a significantly higher upside than Darnold. Miami and Atlanta draft third and fourth.

The Bengals biggest needs are cornerback and the offensive line. Another playmaker on offense at the top of the draft is a direction Cincinnati could go. If Sewell and LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase are still on the board at five, Pro Football Focus projects that the Bengals would select Chase over Sewell.

Chase led LSU during the 2019 National Championship season with 1,780 yards and 20 touchdown receptions on 84 catches from Bengals franchise QB Joe Burrow. Chase opted out of the 2020 season. PFF likes the impact that Chase can have at WR over Sewell at OT. PFF projects Chase to the Bengals at five.

"5. CINCINNATI BENGALS: WR JA’MARR CHASE, LSUThe city of Cincinnati — the home of PFF HQ — and I have some strong disagreements about taking Penei Sewell with the fifth overall pick no matter what.It’s not because I don’t think that Penei Sewell will have success at the next level, but rather because I think that Chase’s ceiling is significantly more valuable than that of an offensive tackle.The Bengals have a clear path to fix their offensive line in free agency, and this would reunite one of the best QB-WR connections in college football history…The former LSU receiver opted out of the 2020 season but was dominant alongside Burrow and Justin Jefferson in 2019.Chase and Burrow teamed up for more deep catches (24) and touchdowns (14) than any other QB-WR connection in the PFF College era in their championship run in 2019.Chase still ranked second among all college wide receivers over the last two seasons in total explosive receptions of 15-plus yards against single coverage despite not even playing this year. He was that good.Chase’s physicality and release package are NFL-ready, and those two strengths equated to massive success against press coverage. Since 2019, Chase ranks first in total receiving yards against press coverage, with 1,048. Again, he did not play a down this season.He easily has the potential to become one of the best wide receivers in the game."

Adding Chase to young Bengals WRs Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins would provide Burrow three playmakers to throw to. Boyd led the Bengals with 79 receptions and added 841 yards and four TDs. Higgins had 67 receptions and led Cincinnati with 908 yards and six TDs as a rookie. Higgins and Burrow developed a good rapport.

The Bengals have to upgrade the offensive line to protect Burrow. The 2021 NFL Draft is deep in OT. PFF projects that Cincinnati can draft an OT in the second round. Oklahoma State OT Tevin Jenkins is the 25th ranked player on the PFF big board. If Jenkins is on the board with the Bengals second-round pick they would be fortunate.

Next. PFF analysts projects ideal Bengals offseason. dark

Drafting Jenkins with the 37th overall pick in the draft would be an extreme value pick. Expect Cincinnati to pursue OL in free agency beginning in March. Signing a veteran or two on the OL would allow Cincinnati to draft the best available player at five. Experience upfront would help the Bengals roster overall.