There has been a lot of focus on the Bengals selecting Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell or another player at the position in the 2021 NFL Draft. The majority of draft projections have Cincinnati selecting LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase or Sewell with the fifth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft later this month.
Upgrading the interior of their offensive line is equally if not more important for the Bengals in the draft. Cincinnati signed former Minnesota Vikings OT Riley Reiff to a one-year contract with an option for a second year last month. Nothing has been done to upgrade the interior of the Bengals OL since the end of the 2020 season.
Trey Hopkins has provided Cincinnati with quality play as the starting center over the last two and a half seasons. An upgrade is needed at guard. Michael Jordan and Alex Redmond were the primary starters at guard for Cincinnati in 2020. The Bengals drafted Jonah Williams in the first round in 2019 as a guard in 2019.
Williams has primarily played tackle for Cincinnati, but could potentially be moved inside, especially if the Bengals chose Sewell in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Selecting an interior OL is critical for Cincinnati by no later than the middle rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Pro Football Focus suggests the Bengals should select Illinois guard Kendrick Green. Green was the sixth-highest ranked guard in college football in 2020. Green was the fourth-highest ranked guard in run blocking in 2020, but did not finish in the top 50 at the position in pass blocking nationally
Pick 69: G Kendrick Green, Illinois
The Bengals could probably go in a few different directions here, but one thing we’re not talking about enough is that their interior offensive line doesn’t look great on paper. Hakeem Adeniji played like a rookie last season, posting a 51.6 grade on only 233 snaps coming off an injury.
Cincinnati signed Quinton Spain, who has been slightly below average over the past three seasons with his 59.9 grade. Kendrick Green is a superb athlete who can move and reach players in the run game. While he has some learning to do in pass protection, there is a lot of upward mobility for him in that facet.
The Bengals drafted Adeniji 180th overall in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Spain is entering his sixth season in the NFL. A below-average grade by Spain in three straight seasons on the OL is a position the Bengals need to upgrade with quarterback Joe Burrow still on his rookie contract.
The 2021 and 2022 NFL Drafts are critical for the Bengals. Cincinnati can build a young core over the next two drafts with the importance of correctly drafting on the OL critical. The Bengals could draft a playmaking WR, an OT and interior OL in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft to all help Burrow thrive at QB.