2021 NFL Draft: Early, mid, and late-round EDGE targets for the Bengals

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 31: Jonathon Cooper #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action against Rasheed Walker #53 of the Penn State Nittany Lions during the second half at Beaver Stadium on October 31, 2020 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 31: Jonathon Cooper #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action against Rasheed Walker #53 of the Penn State Nittany Lions during the second half at Beaver Stadium on October 31, 2020 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Bengals
Jordan Smith (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

Bengals’ EDGE targets: Jordan Smith, UAB

Target round: Pick 70, Round 3

Carrying on with the theme of long, lean pass rushers, UAB’s Jordan Smith could be the most realistic target for the Bengals. It gives them a chance to address the need along the offensive line and take advantage of the top-end talent at receiver in the first two rounds. By round three, a developmental edge rusher like Smith appears to be an ideal match.

It hasn’t been a smooth path to the NFL for Smith. As a three-star recruit, he committed to Florida, only to be booted off the team following his involvement in a credit card scam. After a productive spell in junior college, he was given a second chance by UAB.

In that time, he had bulked up to 255-pounds after having begun his college career at 220-pounds, which, at just shy of 6’7, was too lean to be much of a problem on the defensive line. At UAB, he tallied 12.5 sacks and showed his ability to get into the backfield despite still being relatively raw as a pass rusher.

The off-field concerns paired with the lack of nuance at the position means that draft analysts have Smith tagged squarely as a fringe day two player. However, there is a clear upside to a player of Smith’s build.

While he wouldn’t be a day one starter for the Bengals, there is plenty to like about Smith from a defensive coordinator’s perspective. Not only can he be set loose off the edge but he has the ability and athleticism to drop into space. That allows the Bengals to build on a plan to become more multiple in their defensive fronts.

If the Bengals are comfortable with Khalid Kareem as their rotational piece and Lawson as a long-term solution, then taking Smith would appear to be redundant. However, the front office could feel that they can’t pass up on Smith’s potential in the third or fourth round.

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